4 Steps to Increasing Your Open Rates WITHOUT Changing Your Subject Line

In this article, we’ll outline a basic 4-step strategy for getting to know your subscribers, tailoring your campaigns based on their habits, and increasing your open rates.

Alright, let’s talk open rate. Mention open rate to an email marketer and the first thing they’ll tell you is that you need to work on your subject line. Unfortunately, that’s where a lot of the advice stops and if you’re like most of us… you want more.

You aren’t happy with being slightly above your industry’s average. You’ve mastered the art of writing a really great subject line and you’re ready for your next challenge. For you, the question keeping you up at night sounds something like, “How can I increase my lists’ open rates without changing the subject line?”

Good question, friend. Let’s talk about send time optimization.

The Story That’s Rarely Told

Marketers don’t talk about send time enough— especially when it comes to increasing your email marketing open rate. We talk about subject lines a lot:

increasing your open rates - screenshot

Send time? Not so much:

increasing your open rates - screenshot

What’s more, when send time is talked about, articles often have a cryptic footnote along the lines of, “Adjust based on your subscriber behavior.”

increasing your open rates - screenshot

Ok, great. But where exactly do you go from there? How do you optimize your send time based on your audience? Isn’t it time we learned how to do that?

We sure think so. So in this article we wanted to share a simple strategy for determining the best time to send your emails.

A Note About Data

There have been countless articles written and studies performed trying to determine the best time to send email marketing. The general consensus is, Tuesday at 10AM.

increasing your open rates - open rates graph

Got it? Great. We won’t go into how that information has come about, if you have an hour and you’d like to read all the studies yourself, click here.

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to assume that information is true. And with that out of the way, let’s put together a basic 4-step plan for segmenting your list based on your subscribers’ habits. Ready?

The 4-Step Send Time Optimization Process

step 1 – getting your initial data

Create an email campaign in your email marketing tool of choice (it’s Sendlane, right?). Schedule this email to go out to your entire list at 10AM and wait for the results to pour in.

Once you’ve got all your juicy open rate data, continue to step 2.

step 2 – who opens email on tuesday, anyway?

Write your next email campaign, and schedule it to go out:

  • On Tuesday (10AM) to subscribers who did open the previous email; and
  • On Thursday (10AM) to subscribers who didn’t open it.

This is called “segmenting” your list and is possibly the most useful tool in your marketer toolbelt. Wait for your campaigns to send, gather your data, and move on to step 3.

step 3 – you can see where we’re going with this

Write your third email campaign. Schedule it to go out:

  • Tuesday (10AM) to subscribers who opened the email in Step 1.
  • Thursday (10AM) to subscribers who opened the Step 2 email.
  • Wednesday (10AM) to everyone else.

Congratulations! Your email list is now segmented based on when your subscribers engage with your emails. You could continue doing this, sending emails at different days/times until you have the whole week segmented.

Of course, how granular you get is going to depend on your own patience and the size of your list (this strategy works best on larger, 1000+ subscriber lists). If you’re working with a smaller subscriber base, or simply don’t want to segment your list for each day of the week— move on to the fourth and final step.

step 4 – cleaning your list (optional & scary)

For email marketers trying to increase the effectiveness of their campaigns, a clean list is crucial. As the final step of this strategy, create a plain-text email and schedule it to go out:

  • On Tuesday (10AM) to people who didn’t open any of your emails.

To this list of inactive subscribers, write a final email asking about their inactivity. The point isn’t to be nasty or to tell them how hurt you are when they ignore your campaigns— be personable.

Show them the human being behind the marketing machine. Ask them if they’re no longer interested and, if so, if there’s anything you could be doing better. Finally, ask them what time they’d prefer to receive your content.

This accomplishes two things. One, it will show you who’s actually interested in your emails and who’s just on the list because they wanted your initial lead magnet. The first group of people are worth keeping around. Segment your future campaigns based on their responses and the time they prefer to receive your emails.

The second group of people, the ones who don’t bother to open or respond… remove them.

Yes, you read that correctly. Remove them. It’s a scary thought— after all, isn’t the point of this whole marketing thing to add subscribers? Aren’t we trying to build 100,000 subscriber lists?

Well, not quite. As a marketer, you want an email list with engaged subscribers. These inactive folks are messing up your data, decreasing the effectiveness of your campaigns, and are—for whatever reason—not interested in your emails. You don’t want them on your list and they probably don’t want to be there. Do the right thing and clean them from your list.

Your open rates will thank you.

A Marketer’s Work is Never Done!

Compare your open rate percentages before and after segmenting and cleaning your list. By sending emails based on your subscribers’ habits, you’ll notice that they’re much more likely to open each message than ever before.

Your next challenge becomes thinking of ways to monetize your list, increasing clickthrough rates, and increasing your overall list size. For more lessons on email marketing (and special tips we would never share on the public blog) join the Sendlane newsletter by clicking here.

Good luck out there!

Sendlane Users Only…

If the 4-step strategy above sounds like too much work, try using our Optimized Timing tool. This tool will do a lot of the hard work for you, analyzing your subscribers’ habits and sending email when they’re most likely to engage. (Reminder: This feature is only available in the Campaigns module. It cannot be used for Autoresponders!) Optimized Timing is an exclusive tool only available to Sendlane users (if you don’t have an account, click here to start a free 14-day trial).


Jerrik Neri

Jerrik Neri

Jerrik is a Sendlane warrior by day and an avid and aspiring Web Developer ninja by night. His passion for programming and technology which has cultivated since he was young, has landed him in this company - helping people and fixing code.
When he’s not helping out and fighting for Sendlane’s cause or staring hard at long lines of code, you can find him at the gym trying to lift heavy things, or at home, trying to be the next E-sports gaming professional.
Jerrik Neri