How to improve B2B email open rates

How to improve B2B email open rates

There’s no escaping it – email is still a big channel in B2B. With the right campaign into the right audience, and with the right follow-up, you can get some great results for – relatively – little investment and effort.

That being said, email is and always will be a bit of a dark art. In many people’s work and personal life – unless they live in a shack in the middle of the woods – they are inundated daily with emails from companies trying to sell them stuff. Standing out and grabbing their attention is a challenge.

Email marketing can dance around the line between being an art and a science. On the one hand, it’s all about the numbers, and on the other, it’s about using all the tricks of language and design you know to harness human eyeballs and keep their attention for more than 10 seconds.
With that in mind, here are some tips for improving B2B email open rates.



If you’re using an email marketing or marketing automation platform like HubSpot, ActiveCamaign, Mail Chimp (I could go on for a while) – which chances are, since you’re well into this article now, you are – then you’re probably familiar with a “from name” and “from email address”. Within these platforms you usually have some flexibility around who the email comes from. It’s considered best practice in B2B for a number of reasons to use a named person within your business, rather than your business name, to appear as the sender of your emails. The campaign and the size, shape and configuration of your business will dictate who this should be. For example, if you divide your sales team by verticals, and Joe Blogs looks after the legal sector, if you’re sending a campaign into the legal sector, send it from Joe Blogs. Chances are that the contact has already spoken with Joe at some point, and seeing a name they recognise will add credibility to the message and hopefully make them more likely to take notice.


The art of the email subject

Ah, this is where the murky side of emails comes in. The email subject is honestly a dark art – do you go punchy, a little bit shocking and intriguing? Do you go for detail so they know what’s inside?

My main recommendation here is trial and error – until you put it out there, you’ve no real way of knowing what’s going to work best. A more scientific way to approach this to run an A/B split test. Most email marketing platforms will allow you to split test two email subjects, sending option A to some and option B to another. Once the results are in, it’ll then send the most successful option to remainder of your list. This is very handy if you’re not sure how best to approach your subject line, and it gives you concrete evidence to make a call going forward.

As a bit of bonus guidance, I’m going to dig into my inbox and quick fire critique some email subjects.


Shutterstock – Free template: background images for standout designs

Verdict: Good. Uses the word free, isn’t too long, gets to the point, I know exactly what’s inside, and I know that it’ll help me stand out.


Litmus – The ROI of email marketing is… [Free Report]

Verdict: I like it. The ellipses makes it intriguing, and it’s a question most marketers would want to know the answer to. The only thing I might change is the [Free Report] bit – I think it causes the subject to lose a bit of impact, as you know there will be additional steps to follow. I’d be interested to see a split test of success with and without that addition.


B2B Marketing – The time is now

Verdict: Meh. The time is now for what? This doesn’t really intrigue me or pull me in. It’s just too vague. It’s a good example of the importance of balance between being punchy and y’know, context.



If you’ve got high quality data which includes details like first names and company names, then personalisation can be a neat little way to grab someone’s attention and get them to open your email. A nice example might be asking the contact if they have a particular challenge you think your service/product could solve. For example, if we were sending an email from Inflowing about our marketing services to a prospect whose name and organisation we had in our system, instead of approaching it like this:

Are you getting the most out of your marketing?

We might want to try this:

Michael, are Dunder Mifflin getting the most out of their marketing?

The question directed at the contact with the mention of their organisation’s name can often get them to sit up and take notice. It causes the subject of the email to hit closer to home – and they’re much more likely to ponder that question.


Final thoughts

The bottom line here is something I touched on earlier in the article – no two email campaigns, no two industries and no two businesses are the same, so it’s all about testing, learning and refining your approach to grow your email open rate. If you’d like more guidance on email marketing and how to get the most out of it, get in touch.