How to Optimize Mailchimp Open Rates: 7 Actionable Tips

14 min read

How to Optimize Mailchimp Open Rates: 7 Actionable Tips

Are you sending out killer email campaigns but struggling to optimize your Mailchimp open rates?

Look, I don’t care what anyone says: email marketing isn’t dead.

It’s hands down the most consistent, reliable, and direct way of communicating with your customers or leads on a regular basis. And one of the most popular email service providers is without a doubt Mailchimp.

It’s intuitive, easy to set up, and charges a fair price for what it delivers.

Ok, so you have the strategy and you have the tool. But why is it so hard to get people to actually read your campaigns? That part’s simple:

Email marketing has become totally saturated.

And since so many companies send out email campaigns every day, it can be hard to get your audience to open your messages, let alone click through to the content.

That’s why, in today’s post, I’m going to teach you 7 concrete ways to improve your Mailchimp open rates. But before I get there, let’s make sure you understand why email open rates are so important in the first place.

Why Are Email Open Rates Important?

Email open rates are incredibly important to your email marketing success for 2 reasons: first, because it can have a negative impact on your deliverability rates; and second… well, we’ll get to the second point in a moment.

Let’s look a bit more at the deliverability issue.

When your email campaigns start getting a low open rate, it can send a signal to your email service provider (ESP) or your internet service provider (ISP) that your customers aren’t engaged with your content.

As a result, your emails end up in your audience’s spam folders or, even worse, get flat-out blocked.

Then what happens? You guessed it: your open rates will start tanking even lower.

It’s a vicious cycle that can be hard to get out from under. But let’s talk about the real problem with low open rates:

It means your audience isn’t reading your awesome content.

Which really means that you have a hugely important weak link in your marketing strategy. And that’s what you should really care about.

Because if you’ve done your homework, you’re creating smart KPIs, and you’re attracting the right audience to your contact list in the first place, everything else will be set up to fall into place.

So let’s check out 7 tips for how you can optimize your open rates with Mailchimp.

7 Ways to Optimize Mailchimp Open Rates

1. Make Open Rates a Priority

If you’ve kept up with Metrics Watch in the past, then you know I’m a little biased here. I can’t help it… I like data.

So tell me if this sounds like you:

You set up an account with Mailchimp. You created a few weekly or monthly email campaigns. You see the open rates come in and you think they’re OK, but you keep making yourself a promise to improve them.

Then you close the campaign, get distracted by Facebook or Instagram, and don’t think about anything again until you open Mailchimp the following week.

And the cycle continues.

Open rates are funny because they’re something that every marketer knows they should track, but few take the time to be aggressive about it. I get it. Tracking and tweaking your email campaigns to optimize open rates is tedious and time-consuming.

But it’s also really important to get as many leads and customers as possible from your email marketing strategy. Which is why I added an integration for it with Metrics Watch.

The goal is to bring valuable data, like open rates, to your marketing reports so it’s fresh on your mind. That way, you don’t only think about your Mailchimp open rates when your account is open.

Instead, you get an email sent to your inbox with all the key metrics and data you need for your marketing goals.

Including open rates in a daily, weekly, or monthly report helps break the cycle of passively contemplating open rates without ever taking any action.

To test this out, sign up for a free demo of Metrics Watch (no credit card required).

2. Qualify Your Contacts from the Start

An email list is a lot like web traffic: high numbers are awesome, so long as the audience is interacting with your brand.

If you have tons of traffic but get no leads or sales, you’ve just got a vanity metric on your hands. And it’s the same with your email list.

If you have 100,000 contacts but no one ever opens, reads, and buys your product, how is that list helpful?

The best way to get higher open rates is by qualifying your new leads right away. There are a couple of ways you can do this:

  • Add a double optin form
  • Use reCaptcha on your optin forms

Both of these methods are totally optional and aren’t right for every business. But, if you’re struggling with your open rates, it might be because the wrong people are signing up for your contact list in the first place.

A double optin will make sure that you’re only getting people who are seriously interested in your content. They work by adding one extra small step to the optin process:

When a user signs up, they’ll have to go confirm that they want to receive emails from you before they’re added to your list.

The part of your audience that is willing to take on this extra step is much more likely to be interested in your content in the future. That means higher open rates for you.

Fortunately, Mailchimp lets you do this with all your new audiences. You can read about how they do that here.

The other step is using Google’s reCaptcha to confirm that your contact list isn’t getting loaded with spam bots.

Sometimes, having a large number of contacts on your list but extremely low open rates can be an indicator that not all of your new contacts are real. By adding reCaptcha to your form, you can ensure that everyone joining your email list is an actual human being interested in your product or service.

Click here to learn about how to add Google’s reCaptcha to your optin forms.

3. Create Better Subject Lines

This one is a no brainer that’ll make its way onto every article on email rate optimization you’ll ever read.

Make better subject lines.

This is the heart of every good email marketing campaign. If you don’t have good subject lines, people won’t open your emails. If they don’t open your emails, they won’t click through to your content. If they don’t click through to your content, they won’t buy your products or services.

And then you’ll be broke, homeless, and hungry.

Ok, maybe it’s not as dramatic as all that, but it’s not as far off as you may think. Now, here’s the real challenge you’ll face:

Creating subject lines that engage your audience.

One of the big problems with a lot of advice on writing subject lines is that none of it is universal. By that, I mean subject lines that work for one company may not have the same results for another.

You need to continuously test and refine subject lines that work well for your audience instead of relying on hacky templates. That said, there are a few traits of good subject lines that tend to do better than others.

Clickable subject lines usually:

  • Offer a specific value
  • Foster curiosity
  • Promise to solve a problem

But, again, you won’t know how to craft the right subject line for your audience until you do some testing. Remember, good copywriting (and yes, this is copywriting), means using a language and voice that your target audience responds to.

If your open rates are low, the problem could be that you haven’t found a way to connect your subject lines with your audience’s interest.

4. Make Sure the Email Is Valuable

Similar to the last tip, the content of your email needs to be something that your target audience finds valuable.

Too often, marketers send out 1 weekly email that finds a creative way of saying the same thing:

Hey, go check out or buy something that I created.

In the early stages of your marketing plan, this can be OK. Especially as your email list is growing. But at a certain point, you’ll need to offer more.

Develop a well-rounded email series that you can put segments of your audience into (we’ll get to segmenting in just a minute).

Some of these emails should include content that nurtures the relationship between you and your client. This could be just sending something you think they’d find interesting (that you didn’t create) or sending a special offer for your products and services.

Vary the message of your email with storytelling and emotionally connect your readers with your brand. If you can really nail this part of your content marketing plan, then you can actually get your email list looking forward to your name showing up in their inbox.

It’s tough and takes a ton of effort, but it’s worth it.

Look at it this way: we’ve all had friends who only text or call when they want something from us. And, eventually, we just stop responding altogether.

If you want higher open rates from your contact list, then don’t be like that friend.

Remember, you’re building a relationship. And like any relationship, you need to consistently give something back to your readers if you want them to stay engaged.

5. Personalize Your Emails to Your Audience

Ok, so here’s the thing: your target audience is totally unique.

And you know that.

But there are even unique subgroups within your audience. And there are subgroups within those audiences… and subgroups within those

Well, you get the point. And, again, you probably know that.

The problem is that most marketers don’t take the time to personalize their emails for their readers. You can do this in a lot of ways, but the 2 that are the most effective are:

  • Segmenting your audience
  • Using merge tags

The first one can be done with Mailchimp (or most email service providers) with tags. These tags help you send specific content to people who you’ve previously added labels (known as "tags") to.

So let’s say you had tagged a certain segment of your audience "eBook." These are all the people who downloaded one of your eBooks when they signed up to be a part of your contact list.

You can create a special email campaign and send it to people with "eBook" as the tag. How does this help?

It lets you personalize the message so you can address the eBook’s content which you know is something of interest to them.

This is obviously just one small example in an ocean of ways you can use tags to personalize your content. The main thing to remember is that you shouldn’t be blasting generic emails to everyone on your list because they won’t all react the same.

The more you can personalize your content, the higher your open rates should be.

Then you can also use merge tags. Have you ever gotten an email that addressed you by name? You probably thought it was both weird and kinda cool at the same time.

That’s because it’s both.

Using data that you have on your subscribers to personalize emails is really effective. And you can use Mailchimp’s merge tags to address each individual by name in either the content or the subject line.

As you can imagine, this is super powerful at getting your readers’ attention.

Check out this resource to learn how to use merge tags with Mailchimp.

6. Optimize for Mobile Users

It’s no secret that most people visit their inbox from a mobile device. Frankly, the whole digital world should’ve started thinking "mobile-first" three years ago. If not sooner.

Now, it’s always surprising to see marketers who think that mobile optimization should be:

  1. An afterthought
  2. The same for all types of mobile devices

That’s crazy.

You need to test your emails across a wide-range of devices to make sure your campaigns look great for your audience. To do that really well, you should be relying on some basic data from your Google Analytics (GA) account.

In GA, you can get a good idea of where your audience is finding your website and signing up for your contact list. Just head to the left-hand side menu of your GA account and click Audience » Mobile » Devices:

Screenshot of Google Analytics' mobile device list report

Then, once you understand how your audience is viewing your content, you can test your campaigns on different devices.

Mailchimp does let you test on mobile devices which you can learn about here.

But it’s a pretty generic overview and doesn’t account for differences in screen sizes among various smartphones. The best is to find real people that you know (like friends and family) to send a few test email templates to.

Then get their feedback on how your email looks and adjust accordingly.

7. Scrub Your Email List

We’ve already talked about how useless it is to have contacts on your list if they aren’t engaged.

I know it hurts to cut ties with your 5 or 6-figure email list, but you should be removing inactive users on a regular basis.

That’s because the smaller your audience is, the easier it is to personalize your campaigns. And if large portions of your audience aren’t responding to anything you do, then you’re just wasting time and energy trying to capture their interest.

You’d be better off nurturing the relationship you already have with engaged users because those are the ones most likely to become lifelong customers.

As a result, you should see open rates go up (because you’ve removed people who became inactive), which means deliverability rates will go up, too.

Also, keep in mind that Mailchimp now charges for unsubscribed users. That means if you’re hanging on to 500 unsubscribed contacts in your list in the hopes that they come back, then you’ll be paying for those unsubscribed accounts.

So how do you go about effectively scrubbing your list? Do you just start hacking away at subscribers who haven’t opened your emails for a while?

Kinda. But not as aggressively.

Send a campaign to people who haven’t opened your emails in the last few months. Just a friendly note that says something along the lines of, "Hey, I noticed you haven’t been super engaged lately, would you mind telling me what’s up."

You should obviously change your email copy, but you get the point.

Then send out a few more warnings to let the person know that you’ll take them off your email list soon as a courtesy, and wait another month.

Now you can remove people who haven’t engaged with or responded to your email campaigns.

For some more details on how to do this with Mailchimp, check out this post on how to remove inactive contacts.

Final Thoughts

And there you have it! 7 ways that you can improve your open rates with Mailchimp. Now, I know what you’re thinking:

"I already knew some of that stuff."

Fair enough.

But let me respond with a question: "How many of those tips are you actually keeping up with on a regular basis?" Because that’s typically the problem I see with marketers.

You know what to do, you just don’t know how to find the time to do it.

One quick hack is to go back and start with tip #1. Really make sure that you’re testing your email campaigns and tracking the results. Open rates should be one of the top priorities in your email marketing strategy.

That means you need quick access to the data.

For that, try out Metrics Watch’s Mailchimp integration. We’ll take key metrics from your Mailchimp account (like open rates, for example) and send you a daily, weekly, or monthly report.

This report goes straight to your inbox, and includes other KPIs from your marketing efforts from various sources.

No PDFs. No messy dashboards. Just the KPIs you need at your fingertips to make better, smarter decisions about your marketing strategy.

Sign up for a demo account of Metrics Watch today, totally free! No credit card required.

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