How to get a 71% open rate for your newsletter


Phil Bray

Phil Bray is founder and director of adviser consultancy The Yardstick Agency.

‘Build it and they will come’ is an optimistic view to hold when creating content, but it isn’t necessarily true. In many ways, the hard work starts when you distribute your content, and try to persuade people to interact with it.

Many advisers are creating relevant and engaging content in the form of podcasts, blogs and in some cases, even video. It’s an excellent way to share your knowledge with your current clients. And with a bit of luck, prospective clients too. There are numerous ways to distribute your content, such as:

  • Email newsletters
  • Social media posts
  • Word of mouth
  • Press releases
  • Paid advertising
  • Offline methods, such as leaflets, mail shots etc.


With plenty of methods to choose from, how do you cut through the noise and ensure that people interact with your latest piece of content?

Email newsletters

They can be extremely effective, but your efforts will only pay off if the recipient opens your email.

According to figures from email marketing provider Mailchimp, the average open rate for email newsletters in the Business & Finance sector in 2016 was 20.97%. The latest newsletter that we produced for our latest Yardstick member achieved an open rate of 71%, which was good news for both our client, and the people who got to read a piece of quality content.

So, how was this possible? A number of ways actually, which we’ve laid out below as easily actionable methods to improve your own open rate.

  1. Track your starting point

You don’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been, so you should take stock of your current open and click-through rates. Once you’ve got that magic number, you can track your future progress against that as a way to measure performance.

  1. Use the right tools

Having the right software for bulk emails will:

  • Provide stats about your campaign
  • Automatically customise your message
  • Save you many hours and a sore finger from using Outlook


We use Dotmailer, but there are many options available to suit all budget and functionality needs.

  1. Send it to the right person, from the right person

If your message is tailored to the recipient, they are more likely to engage with it. Using ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ won’t make anybody feel valued, so why should they give up their time to read your content?

Equally, sending it from an address that the recipient recognizes will instil a little more confidence, and will increase your open rate significantly.

  1. If you don’t like what is being said; change the conversation

A subject line can tempt people in or put them off, so it’s important to give as much thought to it as you would your content itself.

An element of trial and error will accompany your foray into choosing subject lines, but testing different ones over time will help you to understand what is working, and more importantly, what is not. If you are using a bulk email system, you can test variations on a portion of your recipient list, and use the more effective ones on the rest.

  1. Timing is everything

The trial and error approach to getting your subject line right will also apply to the time that you send out your emails. There will be a small window of opportunity for maximum engagement, so try different things and keep notes. Sending an email out at 9:00am when you start the day will likely get buried under a pile of other messages, so think like your audience and try to predict when they will have a moment to engage with your content.

  1. Don’t get clogged in the spam filter

A well-written blog post, a perfectly shot video and an entertaining podcast are all worthless if they get trapped in your recipient’s spam filter. A spam filter is designed to keep your inbox free of clutter and junk, but every now and then something important can fall foul of it. You can test your newsletter against a spam checker, but basic steps to ensure you don’t get marked as spam include:

  • Consistent formatting and design
  • Stick to simple HTML, and not including Flash or JavaScript elements
  • Don’t include any attachments, including PDFs. Emails with attachments over a certain size will get rejected, and the ones that do may get flagged as spam.
  • Edit, edit again and then edit one final time for good measure. Spelling errors can be a red flag for spam, so a casual misspelling could be a costly one!
  • Talk, but don’t shout. Anything written in capitals or followed by hundreds of exclamation marks will be lucky to land in an inbox


  1. Have something worth saying

Your open rate will rise if the people receiving it find the content interesting, so ensure that you remain relevant to the people you are sending it to. Having weak content will not only affect your open rate, but could see your unsubscribe rate rise too.

  1. Remember why you are sending the email

Your newsletter should always have an end-goal, and diverting traffic to your website is a recommended way to go. Rather than including a full piece of content on your email, consider showing a few different pieces laid out that can be accessed in full on your website. Including an attractive image and a brief but engaging description will encourage people to view your site, and while they are enjoying your content they are more likely to browse your website and your services too.

Holding engaging and bespoke content on your website will also help to raise your rankings on Google, as it will improve your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

  1. If at first you don’t succeed…

Unless you are exceptionally lucky (or your database only includes yourself), your open rate will never be 100%. Many bulk mailing systems have the facility to resend to anybody who hasn’t yet opened the email, which in our experience can add another 30-50% onto your open rates.

Yardstick can help

Producing newsletters can be a struggle, especially when you aren’t seeing the results that you’d like to. Allocating the time to create emails and the discipline to make them consistent can cause you to lose momentum, but our free online (accessible here) guide can be a great place to put you on the right track.

Our Yardstick membership is also available to those wishing to dip their toes into the world of email marketing on a monthly or quarterly basis. Information on our Yardstick membership is available here.

If you would like to know more give us a call on 0115 815 7770 or email