Who isn’t looking for a quick shortcut or hack to improve email response rates? Marketers are constantly on the hunt for ways to improve the success of their email program. On this quest, it’s important to never lose sight of your subscribers’ wishes. Keeping them happy and engaged is the ultimate key to your success.

Recently, I’ve heard about two shortcuts that I think might hinder this happiness: ignoring inactives and implementing “Re:” and “Fwd:” in your subject lines. I want to dig into why these could be potentially harmful to your email program and how you can turn them into wins.

Myth #1a: Ignoring Inactives

The first shortcut is ignoring your inactive subscribers and re-sending the same emails to those who haven’t opened it. I’ve heard arguments that the fact that a subscriber signed up to receive your emails in the first place should be reason enough to keep sending to them, even if they’re not opening or engaging with that email.

I would argue that the thinking here should be the exact opposite. Monitoring your engagement data, and adjusting your sending frequency (and content) based on that data is one of the best things you can do to optimize your email program. Gone are the days when you can assume that someone wants to receive email from you because they said that wanted to at some point (sometimes years ago!). Preferences change, email addresses change (!!), and priorities change. So your email sending has to change along with it.

If you keep sending to recipients who are not opening or engaging with your emails, your deliverability will suffer. The quality of engagement with your emails far outweighs the quantity of subscribers you’re sending to.

Myth #1b: Re-sending Unopened Emails

Another trend that coincides with ignoring inactives is re-sending your email to those who haven’t opened it. So essentially double-sending your email. According to this Forbes article, some senders are seeing increased open rates as a result of this tactic. Seems a little spammy, no? There has to be a better way to earn an open (optimized send times, higher quality content, more actionable subject lines, decreased frequency, etc.) than re-sending an email that you’ve already sent.

To confirm, I checked in with my colleagues, Kurt and Ryan from our deliverability and compliance teams to get their take, and these were their reactions:

“This approach isn’t sustainable, and will likely lead to fatigued recipients and lower delivery rates. It’s better to focus on when your clients are reading their mail and focus on sending during that time. If you are sending to someone who just doesn’t want to read your email you risk them flagging your mail as spam or risk algorithms picking up on that you are sending duplicate email messages.

  • Instead consider:
    • Personalizing the email (subject and body).
    • Sending at the right time.
    • Setting proper expectations about content and frequency during opt-in.
    • Actively resting recipient addressed if there is a lack of engagement, then following up with relevant, wanted content.
    • Offering a preference center and batching.”

Sending the right message, at the right time, to the right person, at the right frequency is key. To help with this, our blog post drills down into nine different ways that your users are engage with your emails and our partner, Embarke, allows you to time your sends based on personalized open data.

Myth #2: Subject Lines: Use “RE: and Fwd:”

The next shortcut I’ve been hearing about is using “Re: and Fwd:” in the subject lines of your marketing emails. This walks a very fine line between being spammy and being helpful. I believe the argument here is that as long as you’re providing more detailed information in response to another email, you’re being authentic.

While that may be true, because there is great risk (losing subscriber trust if your content doesn’t reflect the subject line, confusing your subscriber if they can’t see the connection between the “Fwd:” email and the one before it, etc.) involved in this tactic, I think the potential reward (opens) isn’t worth the potential punishment (unsubscribe or spam complaint).

There is plenty of room for experimentation with subject lines, so instead of using “Re:” and “Fwd:” how else can you be creative and compelling without potentially misleading your subscribers? Test it to find out!

Win: Put Your Subscribers’ Needs First

With these two shortcuts, remember to always put your subscribers’ needs first. If your subscribers aren’t opening or engaging with your emails, listen to that behavior and make adjustments. And if you’re looking for higher open rates, have fun with your subject lines and test multiple messages, but be sure you aren’t getting too gimmicky. Keeping your subscribers trust is your top priority, so air on the side of caution when it comes to pushing boundaries with your content.

For more tips on how to avoid potential roadblocks in marketing program, read our guide: Highway to Hell: Top 7 Fastest Ways to Land In the Email Underworld

Jillian Smith
As SendGrid's Director of Content, Jillian is responsible for ensuring that SendGrid provides valuable thought leadership content through the blog, whitepapers, webcasts, and more. When not writing and editing, you can find Jillian frequenting Denver restaurants in search of the best queso.