• Tristan

Improve your email open & reply rate

Email has been the main method of business communication for decades now and really there has not been that much innovation in the way we use it. However, there are some key learnings we can extract from how you can make the most of this method of communication with current, internal and prospective customers.

In 2017 there were estimated to be 269 billion emails sent ... per day! That's over 98 trillion emails send each year. Impossible to fathom really. So here's a slightly easier number: 3.1 million emails a second. On average office workers receive 121 emails a day.

Spam accounts for 45% of all emails sent. That's a lot of spam. Since GDPR has come into action I do feel like I personally have a much cleaner and more organised inbox.

Considering all these large numbers, how on earth are you as an email marketer, or someone writing business emails in general, supposed to catch someone's attention in an email subject line, and then more importantly, entice the reply?

In my time doing CRM management and email marketing I've managed to reliably hit 80%+ open rates with 20%+ reply rates on cold email campaigns. So I'm hoping I'll be able to give you some tips I've learnt when sending emails.

Here are some tools, extensions, tips and tricks you can use to increase open & response rates:

Subject lines

  • Less is more. Between 1-15 characters gets the best open rates, with open rates steadily decreasing the more characters are added, according to Mixpanel.

  • Personalisation works. Using your CRM or software like Mixmax you can send large campaigns with personalised tokens such as the person's name or company in the subject.

  • Don't fill it with !!!??? or words like "free" or lots of CAPITALISATIONS - you won't even get past the spam filters.

  • Emojis, exclamation marks, words like "child"/"number"/"best" all negatively impact open rates.

Sender name

  • If the sender does not come across as a person or as relevant, the email will not get opened.

  • Emails from people are more likely to be opened than from companies. I use Tristan Gillen as this comes across like a personal email. Some people add @Company, as this ensures recipients have a better clue about what the email is about (therefore more likely to open it)


  • Always be testing and learning what content gets better engagement (measured in click, multiple open and reply rates). Continue to rigorously refine and optimise your email templates.

  • In my experience ditch design and focus on short, relevant, to the point written content. Sorry MailChimp. Of course this changes between industry and target audience.

  • Make the receiver feel special and make it seem like you have taken the time to sit there and write the email personally to them. "{{$FirstName}}, as {{$CompanyName}}'s Head of Sales I wanted to send you this 1 month free discount to try out the latest version of our software."

  • Ask questions. People don't reply to statements in real life. Why would they in an email?

Timing and Frequency

  • Continuously be testing what day and time your respondents open and reply to emails. Apparently Tuesdays in late morning (around 10am) is the best time to get replies.

  • If you're sending a sequence of emails test what frequency works best. In my experience 3 email campaigns to cold leads works best (after that open rate drops off a cliff and people will get annoyed).

  • Use tools such as CRM systems or neat tools like Mailbutler that work as Apple Mail extensions to remind you to follow up on emails or chase a reply, as well as template successful content.


In my experience the biggest factor for getting high open, click and reply rates is the audience you send it to. Send irrelevant content to people and of course they won't reply. In fact 77% of ROI from email came from targeted, segmented, triggered email campaigns. So before sending make sure:

  • The email data you have is correct, clean and has a personal email - no info@ (Hunter.io is a great tool for finding personal emails, as are Lusha and FindThatLead)

  • Your list is segmented to be relevant to the content you are sending out - aim precisely and accurately at your decision maker

  • Segment by whatever means possible to make sure the content is as relevant as possible: job type, buying frequency, last purchase, persona, geography, industry...

So there we go, some of my hints and tips on improving your email open and reply rates. I'm always interested to hear other peoples' thoughts on this subject, so feel free to drop me a line at contact@tristangillen.com

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