Whether you’re sending welcome emails to new members, important announcements, or dues reminders, your content is worthless if your emails aren’t getting opened.

Don’t get discouraged. A good open rate is about 20%, a great one anything above that. If your open rate is less than you’d like, check out these ideas for improving it:

Use a play on words benefitting your audience

One of the most successful email campaigns I’ve been involved in was an email containing information about dues. Instead of the straightforward:

Important Information about Dues

I suggested a play on words. I knew the Beatles were popular among the demographic that would receive the email, so we used one of their songs as inspiration and created:

Love, Love Me Dues

Give it a deadline

Another effective means of getting attention and clicks is giving the recipient a deadline and an idea of how long it will take. Often people don’t open emails because they expect yet another request of their time and attention — and who knows how long the sender will demand. Try something like:

Before You Go Home Tonight, One More Thing

While this is an effective way to get clicks, use it sparingly and only when the response you’re looking for is quick. If every one of your emails comes out with this subject line, your members will see it for what it is – a gimmick.

Keep the subject of expected emails specific 

If you send a particular type of email to your members on a consistent basis, such as a newsletter, events update, or announcements email, don’t go cute with your subject line. Open rates for consistent emails, like newsletters, have a tendency to drop over time. To avoid this natural fall off, be specific about the content, something like:

In this Issue: Dues Update and Publication Deadlines

If your members have an interest in those subjects, you can bet they’ll open it. If they don’t, well, now you know.

Go for short

As most email inboxes truncate subject lines, keeping them under 50 characters is best. If you can’t, place the most important information up front so that it won’t be hidden from the opener. Keep in mind mobile users may see even less than 50 depending on settings.

Even the author of the Great American subject line can still run into members who just don’t want to be disturbed. Don’t try to guess at your members’ communications preferences. Ask them directly and have them opt-in to email communications, giving them options for different types (such as online community digests, newsletters, etc.). That way they’re able to agree to your communications and you have a better understanding of their preferences, which should increase your open rate.