Kissmetrics Blog

A blog about analytics, marketing and testing

Built to optimize growth. Track, analyze and engage to get more customers.

How to Make Your Email Open and Click-Through Rates Skyrocket

Are you getting what you want from email marketing?

Many people who run an online business don’t have a great understanding of how email marketing works, nor do they know what they really can achieve with email marketing.

And that’s not to mention the fact that everyone and their mother is engaged in email marketing these days, resulting in stuffed inboxes crowded with competition. Unfortunately, email marketing is harder now than it ever has been.

These are the reasons you’re not getting as many opens and click-throughs from your emails as you wish. I know it feels pretty bad when you launch an email campaign and you don’t get the number of openings you want. I’ve been there many times myself.

Let’s get into how to solve these problems!

First Things First: Write Magnetic Headlines

Ok, I know you’ve heard this countless times, but before we can talk about innovative solutions, you need to master the basics. If you don’t pay enough attention to your headlines, you are killing your email campaigns before they get the chance to blossom.

Here is an example: changing the headline “How to Make a Best-Selling Product” to “Make Your Product Sexier than Nicole Kidman” doubled the openings for one of my emails. It went from a very poor 17% to 33%…not bad for 2 minutes of headline brainstorming!

Writing magnetic headlines is a huge topic, and I can’t treat it in a few sentences, but I can highly recommend a killer post by Jon Morrow about headlines.

Ok, now that you understand how important it is to get your headlines polished, let’s talk about something new.

The Best Email Frequency: It’s Not What You May Think

You may have seen the infographic on The Science of Email Timing:

Science of Email Timing

Let me ask you this: what’s the best autoresponder frequency?

Once a week? Once a month? Once a day? If you quickly glance at that infographic, you’ll say “1 to 4 emails per month”.

And that’s probably a good starting point. But that answer is most likely wrong. Because the truth is, you’ll have to test to find out what YOUR best email frequency is…AND the best campaigns will change frequency in between each email that is sent out.

Let me explain…

One thing that few people know is that email marketing is about building relationships with the people on your list. The ultimate goal of those relationships is to sell your products while simultaneously helping your customers.

Knowing this is the key to determining which is the best autoresponder frequency.

Now, let me ask you this: how crucial is the first impression when you meet a person?

There are tons of studies about first impressions, and they prove that it’s really hard to make a bad first impression better.

The same applies to online business: the first contact with your brand is the most important, especially in email marketing. It’s important that you provide a lot of value to your email subscribers as soon as you can.

Additionally, People need multiple exposures to your business to take action – to buy a product, subscribe to your email list, or whatever it is that you’re trying to get them to do.

Chet Holmes, one of the best business coaches in the world, says that only 3% of your audience is ready to buy now, and another 6% is open to that chance (watch this video at 0:13:00). If you want to get a bigger percentage of customers, you need to interact with them multiple times.

The same applies to relationships. If you want to connect with a person, you need to interact with him or her many times. When it comes to email marketing you need to provide value to your subscribers over time.

Those concepts led me to a very interesting email strategy.

The Smart Autoresponder Frequency

Here are the stats about the openings and clicks from my emails.

email Opening and clicks

As you can see, my first emails get opened by over 70% of the people. The lowest opening rate in my whole autoresponder series is 52%. And the click-through rate average is about 40%.

The autoresponder frequency I use is derived from a study on the natural formation of relationships. It’s divided into 4 stages, each with a different frequency.

Stage 1: Value Addiction

In this stage, you want to provide awesome content within a very short time frame. The reason for this is that you need to hook your subscribers from the beginning. If you provide low level content in this stage, your autoresponders open rate will suffer a lot later on.

The same applies if you don’t provide emails in a short amount of time. Your subscribers don’t know you well enough yet, so you need to give them a reason to deepen their acquaintance with you.

I send one autoresponder every 2 days, which works perfectly for me, but you should use what works best for you. I tried to send one autoresponder every 3 days, but I noticed a drop of about 10% in the opening rate.

This stage should last about 10-15 days. A shorter stage won’t be very effective for connecting with people, and a longer one will bore your subscribers.

Don’t sell anything until the end of this stage. It’s too soon. Not only will you not sell anything, you will be perceived as a “hardcore salesperson”, which, of course is a turn-off.

value addiction stage

Value Addiction Stage: Send many useful emails in a short amount of time. One email every 2 days is perfect.

Stage 2: Sticking

In this “Sticking” stage, you want to deepen the relationships with your subscribers. All you have to do is continue providing great content.

In this stage, you want to slow down the frequency of your autoresponders a little. Slowing down the frequency of the autoresponders will give your readers just enough of a feeling that they are “missing” your content to enable you to keep a high open rate.

I send one autoresponder every 3-4 days, and it works well.

I found good results using a 12-18 days period for this stage, but you can try different things to see if you can do better.

From this stage, you can start selling your products, but notice that few people will buy from you in this stage.

sticking stage

Sticking Stage: Slow down your autoresponder frequency. I send one email every 3-4 days.

Stage 3: Rapport

If your subscribers reach this stage, then you have built a good connection with them.

You gave them a lot of value, and you have been interacting with them for a certain amount of time, so the relationships are well established.

However, you must keep providing great content to strengthen your relationships.

The autoresponder frequency can slow down to every 4-5 days.

This stage should start 20 days out or more. The idea is to deepen the connection with your subscribers, so you need longer intervals and fewer pieces of content. They already like you, so it’s about time, and less about value.

Rapport Stage

Rapport Stage: Slow down again your email frequency: you want to spread your content over a long time. I send one email every 4-5 days.

Stage 4: Loyalty

The subscribers who continue reading your emails in this stage are loyal readers, your fans, and usually your customers. You just have to keep the relationships by sending them your content.

In this stage, I send one autoresponder email every 5-6 days.

This stage lasts until you send all of your autoresponders or as long as subscribers keep reading your emails.

Loyal Stage

Loyal Stage: You just have to provide content to keep your relationships with your subscribers. Send one email every 5-6 days.

So, to reiterate – here is an overall view of the entire process:

Overall View

The Second Lead Magnet

If you work on the frequency of your autoresponders, you’ll see good results. But you want to get the best. To get the best results, you need a second “lead magnet.”

These days everyone offers an ebook for free to their email subscribers. However, as you know, you have to do something different to stand out from the crowd.

The solution is to offer a second lead magnet to people who subscribe to your email list. But this is nothing special. Many people offer more than one lead magnet to their subscribers. This strategy works well. In fact, those marketers are getting higher opt-in rates than others. But you may want to do even better than that.

What you can do is break the second lead magnet into many pieces, and then give away one piece on each email. In this way, people who want the entire lead magnet have to open every email that you send them.

For example, I give away a 12-part email course.

Be sure to mention that you are giving away your second lead magnet within your email series, so people will understand that they need to open your emails to get your content.

Remember that you have to break your second lead magnet into as many parts as you need to cover the time of your smart autoresponder frequency. So, in my example, I had to break it into 12 or more parts.

You may wonder why you should add a second lead magnet instead of breaking your first lead magnet into many pieces. The reason for that is purely empirical: I tried that, but the opening and click rates dropped down brutally. The fact is you need to instantly give your first magnet to subscribers because you want to provide a huge amount of value very soon. Remember that it is essential for starting off the relationship strong.

In Conclusion

Email marketing is becoming more competitive every day. Because of that, you need to develop new solutions to get good results. This was my approach, and it’s working perfectly now. Who knows? Maybe in one year, this will be the standard, and we’ll have to figure out another strategy.

You can try my process as a baseline, but ultimately you will need to tailor your content, offers, staging and frequencies to a tune that works best for you. Test, test, test!

Your Turn

Let me hear your opinion. What do you think about this strategy? What email marketing strategies are working for you?

About the Author: Mauro D’Andrea is the founder of Blog Growth, the blog where he helps people to reach their internet marketing goals. If you want to succeed online, get his book “Increase Your Conversions” for free.

  1. Once a person opts in do you have a specific order of emails that you send or does the auto responder just send the next email?

    • Hi Steve, I have a specific order of email because I deliver an email course – to effectively teach you I have to follow some steps.
      Anyway there are many people who just send “random” advice.
      I advise you to find what works best in your case.

    • Hey Steve! That’s a good question, as Mauro told concentrate on what works the best for your type of campaign, to find out what works best you have to experiment a lot with your autoresponder frequency. Also make sure that the subject and the heading of the mail are compelling and entices the people to click on it. Have compelling call for actions and a very good template and more importantly very good content to market. Thanks Mauro for great piece of content.

  2. David Gadarian Jan 03, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    Nice work on this post Mauro. I really appreciated you breaking out the process with your “phases.” Happy 2013!

  3. Thanks a lot for the very useful and well documented post.
    Do you have any specific suggestions for creating an autoresponder for a downloadable software product?
    I’m currently sending a 5-day course on using the software when the user downloads the software. Does it make sense that the tutorial is focused only on learning how to use the software?
    Thanks a lot.

    • You are welcome, Andrea.
      Of course!

      Your idea is good: you give tutorials so people learn how to use the software, and then they buy it.
      And I think that you can take your idea to the next level.

      Here’s my advice: give all your tutorials as soon as people subscribe and then send useful information to them. Let me explain.
      When I take a software, I want to learn to use it immediately; even 5 days can be too much to learn to use it.

      Anyway, the major improvement isn’t about the tutorial, is about the autoresponder series. Giving useful information, you take advantage of the full power of content marketing and your sales will increase a lot.
      In your case, you can send information about emails:
      – How to write outreach emails
      – How to write a perfect formal/informal email
      – How to enstablish a connection with an influential person by emails

      There are people who could pay for that information. You give away them for free, but you’ll get more customers for your software.

      Does it make sense?

  4. Great article. What kind of frequency would you expect to send emails if you have a long sales cycle … for instance, a custom and expensive product that takes an average of 6 weeks to make a knowledgeable purchase?

    • Thank you Miranda.

      That’s an interesting question that deserve an interesting answer :)

      If you count the total of days from my first email to my last one, you’ll notice that there are about 8 weeks. The truth is that many sales cycle are long, but there longer ones.

      Here’s my advice.
      I would start with a high email frequency in this case too – one email in 2-3 days.
      The reason is that the first part (the value addiction phase) it’s crucial.
      Then I’d drop down my frenquecy fast – a little faster than in the article – untill you send one email each 6-9 days in the end.
      You goal is to increase the time of the last part of your autoresponder series.

      Here’s an example of a 10-week 14-emails autoresponder series:
      Value Addiction Phase:
      – 3 emails
      – days between emails: 2-2-3

      Sticking Phase:
      – 3 emails
      – days between emails: 3-3-4

      Rapport Phase:
      – 4 emails
      – days between emails: 5-5-6-7*

      Loyal Phase:
      – 4 emails
      – days between emails: 8-6-7-9*

      The emails with * are the emails where you can try to sell to your subscribers expecting good results.

  5. Michael Martine Jan 04, 2013 at 8:41 am

    Thanks for such a helpful article. In addition to autoresponders, what if you are sending out regular emails to notify of new blog posts or otherwise a regular newsletter? Can these two coexist without hurting results?

    • You are welcome, Michael.

      If you send both newsletter and autoresponders, many people will unsubscribe because of the high number of emails.
      You don’t want to overwhelm them.

      You can insert two different kinds of optin form: one for the autoresponders and one for the newsletter.
      In this way people who choose both of them know what they can expect.

      Anyway, the ideal solution, in my opinion, is to send your newsletter to people who received all the autoresponders.

  6. Great post Mauro, I am probably being really dense, but what do you mean when you talk about autoresponders?

    • Hi Robert, autoresponders are the emails that you send X days after subscription – to every subscribers.
      For example if you set your first autoresponder at 10 days after subscription, every new subscriber will receive that email after 10 days.

  7. Nathan Peters Jan 04, 2013 at 10:14 am

    You guys have some great content on your site.

    I would like to ask your permission to publish your RSS feed on in the Internet Marketing niche. Nichespot provides dofollow backlinks and rel=canonical protection from the duplicate content penalty. It also has a voting system where the most popular posts remain visible at all times.

    Let me know what you think.

  8. Jason S. Lewis Jan 04, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    Great post! We run a commercial real estate brokerage business that works with office tenants. This can be a 3-5 year sales cycle, all depending on when their lease is up. So the traditional email is sent monthly with no phases or changing frequencies. My fear with sending more could annoy those prospects who still have several years remaining on their lease. Any suggestions, tips, or people who could specifically help with such a sector as real estate?

    • Hi Jason, real estate is out of my experience but maybe you can find useful information from this:

      Anyway, speaking about the email marketing, in your case I would just send a newsletter that makes subscribers now about your latest post on your blog (if you haven’t a blog, build one because it’s crucial nowadays).

  9. Lori Lynn Smith Jan 04, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    Excellent, this is a brilliant concept that I definitely need to try !

  10. Andreas Pazer Jan 05, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    Nice work on this post Mauro. I really appreciated you breaking out the process with your “phases.”

  11. Yes before read out this article i don’t know what i the best use of email rates.i defiantly find this type of concept.


  12. Mauro —

    Quick question. If you site is not necessarily niched down enough that the autoresponder can be ultraspecific, e.g. “dating guide for women,” how do you choose what topic to go into with your autoresponder?

    Do you base it on the most popular content? Based on what product you have to sell? Whatever you research and figure out is the audience’s biggest problem?

    Fantastic article.. thank you!

    • Hi Alexander, the best solution is to make an autoresponder series related to your product(s).

      Anyway, if you haven’t a product yet, you should make autoresponders about your audience’s problem(s).

      You are welcome!

  13. Email marketing has many benefits and you want to be in your potential customers’ email box. But, over-filled inboxes can make email newsletter marketing tricky and difficult, especially when you’re trying to increase click through and open rates.

  14. When it comes to email marketing, two things work really well and defy the test of time:
    1. Great offers i.e. webinars, freebies, and irresistible deals.
    2. Top those off with a standout/wacky headline and you can’t go wrong.

  15. Is a provokating or funny Headline allways so good?


Please use your real name and a corresponding social media profile when commenting. Otherwise, your comment may be deleted.

← Previous ArticleNext Article →