Today at 2:15pm, I sent a marketing email. At 4pm, the open rate was 100%. Fun!


How did it happen?

This was totally a case of that old marketing cliché about “the right message to the right person at the right time.”

  • The right message: The email itself contained an attractive message: an invitation to a breakfast with industry leaders. Naturally, the only messaging element that impacts open rate is the email’s subject line, as it’s the only thing the recipients sees before deciding whether to open the email (and sometimes one preview line from the email itself). The subject line was “personal invite.”  I can write an entire post about subject lines, but overall, this one exemplifies a lot of our subject line principles: It’s short and intriguing, making the recipient want to read the entire email. At the same time, it’s not misleading, not clickbait-y, and reads like something written by a human, not a copywriter or a sales person. It’s not “five things you must know about breakfast” or “Adam, check this out.” We also usually avoid humor or puns in subject lines. Instead we keep it short and to the point.
  • The right person. The email was sent to 75 people. The list included active customers, churned customers, and leads in active sales conversations. It was built in collaboration with the sales and customer success teams, by pulling a few hundred relevant contacts from Salesforce and whittling them down to the final list of 75 who know us, have heard about us, and in some cases, have worked with us.
  • The right time. All recipients are based in the NYC metro area. We were fortunate (or unfortunate?) to have a big snowstorm in NYC the day of the email send, which made a lot of people stay home that day. It’s hard to prove, but I think it contributed significantly to the email’s success. Snow day = working from home = lots of cancelled meetings = a calmer day = more time to read emails.

Obviously, it’s hard to schedule snow storms. So what can you do? Be thoughtful about days and hours that typically results in high open rate and engagement with your target audience, and implement your learning with important emails. There are a lot of nuances here, but here’s one example: We noticed that Friday is a good day for emails with lots of content – people (in the US) have a bit more time to read on the last day of their work week. Of course, it shouldn’t be too late on Friday – because they might have left the office already. Also, remember that if most of our audience is in the East Coast, they’ll go home three hours earlier than West Coasters.


The bottom line

Tight targeting, thoughtful timing, and a subject line that’s short & to the point can get you to a 100% open rate.