Grow Your Business

3 signs your email marketing is leaking sales (and how to fix it)

It’s no secret that not building your email list right away is a HUGE mistake. Ask any online entrepreneur what their biggest business regret was, and you’ll hear a common theme:

“I spent years blogging without an email list. That cost me millions of dollars.”
– Ramit Sethi, New York Times bestselling author & founder/CEO of GrowthLab
“When a publicly traded company approached me to buy my blog, I could have asked for 7-10 times more than they offered if I had an email list.”
Derek Halpern, founder of Social Triggers
“When I started my site, I made the newbie mistake of not collecting emails. No newsletter. No opt-in form. Nothing.”
Pat Flynn, creator of Smart Passive Income

Consider yourself warned.

But once you get going, how do you know if you’re on the right track? Are you doing better or worse than others? What do you do if you send out emails and hear nothing but crickets on the other end?

Today I’m going to walk you through the key email marketing metrics to focus on when starting out. I’ll show you exact steps you can take to get more opens and clicks. I’ll even show you the little-known ABC Rule that’ll ensure you won’t hit a brick wall with your sales.

Let’s get started.

Pay attention to this number before you do anything else

I remember when email was just becoming popular for business and personal use. People would say, “I have so many emails in my inbox I need to check!”

The funny thing is, they had only 8 messages.

Oh boy, how times have changed…

Today, people get hundreds, or even thousands of emails a day. I’m not talking about busy executives, either. Ordinary people get flooded with promotions, updates from their favorite sites, and messages from friends, Nigerian scammers, and everyone under the sun.

If nobody is opening your emails, you’re losing this war for attention. And it’ll show in your open rates.

Your open rate is the number of people who open, divided by the number of delivered messages. (Multiply by 100 to make that a percentage.)

According to data from MailChimp, the average open rate across all industries is 22%. (That’s for your entire list, not emails to targeted different segments).

At GrowthLab, we’ve found that open rates can be as high as 50% among customers. And they can dip down to 10% for people who’ve never bought from us.

Whatever your open rate, if you’re not hitting that average figure, you’ve got some work to do.

Boost low open rates with these 3 proven templates

At GrowthLab, we have 3 subject line templates that have produced open rates 60% and above.

As we go through them below, see how they hit on your readers’ burning desires in a way that’s (1) compelling and (2) overcomes a major barrier.

Subject line template #1

Notice the specifics. We could have gone with a vague subject line like these:

  • How to skyrocket your business without launching a new product
  • How to make more money without a single new client

But we mention 44% and $8,000 specifically. Why? Because those details make the claims more believable.

The more you can do that with your subject line, the more likely it is that people will click to open your email. They think, “Wow, that sounds like a great story. I want to hear how to do that.”

Subject line template #2

This template works well because it addresses shortcomings that people have.

In the first example, anyone who hates selling (which is a lot of people) wants to know how someone overcame the same hang-up.

With the second example, most wannabe online business owners assume a website is the first thing you need. This subject line is a counterintuitive twist. Anyone who has this belief will click to learn how this business consultant did it.

Subject line template #3

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, lists are popular because they work. People find them irresistible because they’re great for skimming, easy to read in chunks, and promise a solution to a problem.

“The 3 best ways to get traffic” implies that you can ignore any other way out there. “The 100 things you need to know to start a business” promises a tell-all guide.

Make people take the next step after they open your emails

Getting people to open and read your emails isn’t enough. You must be able to make people click on any links you send them. This is what drives people to your sales page to eventually become customers. And it’s what gets them to check out that cool video you just made.

Which is why your click through rate (CTR) is the next important number you want to look at. This is the number of people who click the links in your email compared to the people who open them.

According to MailChimp, the average CTR is 2.71%. But that’s not the entire story.

Just like I mentioned above with open rates, your CTR will be higher among your fans. We’ve found our CTR can be in the 30%-50% range for our most loyal customers. And it’ll be in the low single digits for people who’ve never bought from us.

So an overall CTR of 3% is a good number to shoot for.

Get more clicks with stronger calls to action

In many cases, you can improve your CTR just by adding a few lines of copy in your email. Let me show you how to entice more clicks with 3 techniques.

Technique #1: Sell “FREE”
This is one of the most powerful words in advertising. But it’s so overused now that it beads off people like raindrops on a brand new North Face jacket.

In short, free isn’t “free” at all. It costs people time and effort. You’re also competing with others offering the same thing.

It can still be a powerful word, though. The secret is that you have to sell “free.” You have to go the step further and show people why the effort is worth the reward.

Here’s a great email that Ramit Sethi sent to his IWT readers:

Notice he doesn’t just say, “Here’s an interesting, free video for you.”

No way. Ramit tells people that this video isn’t available to the public. Then he explains why you should care. He challenges people’s beliefs that sacrifice is a myth and so is work/life balance.

Finally, he ends the email talking about the reactions of CEOs and senior executives. This proves his point that the video is exclusive.

Technique #2: Build up massive value
When it’s time to make the cash register ring, you need to shift into sales emails. But to make people click on an obvious sales pitch, you need to pack on value before you give them a link.

Let me give you an example from Neil Patel, a marketing consultant and co-founder of Crazy Egg, KISSmetrics, and Hello Bar.

He sent a series of emails giving advice to readers about getting more traffic. A few days later, he sent a sales email. It was long, and it was clear he was making a pitch. But read through the copy leading up to the sales page link below. Pay attention to the lines highlighted in yellow.

Highlighted lines
How they build value
I’m no longer in the SEO game…which is why I’m now willing to share my best stuff. If you’re thinking, “Why would he give away his best material to me?”, he’s answering that objection.
But I’ll be honest, I’ve saved my absolute best stuff (the top 1% of material) for my premium clients. If you enjoyed the material in his free emails up until now, you’ll love his premium content even MORE. Neil tells you he’s holding some stuff back.
It’s for the folks who are super serious about their business and willing to invest in themselves. Are you a serious business owner? Or a hobbyist? He’s being selective and telling you who this course is for.
It took me the better part of 2 years to put this program together in a way where it would simple for you to take action on. Yes, you can probably figure it out on your own. But why do that when there’s a better way? Neil put it altogether for you.
If you’ve made it this far, I have a sneaky suspicion you’ll do really well with it. You’ve already put in the effort so far, at least do yourself a favor and check it out. He’s not hard selling, just telling you to click and learn more.

Remember, the email’s only job in this situation is to get people to click — not to make the sale. Neil’s emailing is telling people, “Hey, at least do yourself a favor and check this out.”

Technique #3: Tease out the clicks
The key here is to not give everything away in your email. Make people click to get what they want.

One of my favorite examples of this comes from 1-800-PetMeds. Here’s a recent email they sent:

In this email, they list 4 problems that dog owners can face. Then they twist the knife just enough to make people care, then they link to the solutions.

One person might read about heartworms and click. Someone else might want to learn about joint problems.

Another way to do this is to turn the ordinary into extraordinary. Here’s an example from celebrity menswear stylist Ashley Weston:

Overall, the topic of how t-shirts should fit is ordinary. Maybe even downright boring.

But then she mentions how her clients get compliments from random strangers. Whoa! That’s something you can expect when you wear a suit or tuxedo. But to get that with t-shirts? I want to see what that’s all about.

This is a great example of making an everyday item seem extraordinary.

The ABC Rule of email marketing to keep sales high

I was talking with a friend in the retail industry about email marketing once. He told me that open rates and CTR stay high among his best customers, but sales eventually come to a trickle.


Because people only have so much money they can spend on shoes, coats, and belts. As a result, the customers still love to open and read the emails, but the buying slows down.

Your best customers are the same way. While they might love your stuff, they only have so much money to spend. They’ll keep engaging with you, but they’ll buy less and less until they have more cash on hand.

To make sure that doesn’t happen to you, follow the ABC Rule of email marketing: Always Be Collecting.

The only way to keep sales up is to add more names to your list. And that’s why you want to pay attention to your subscriber growth month to month.

You want to maintain a steady climb:

If you’re following the ABC rule, this is what your list growth should look like.

If growth starts to flat-line, you might be in for a rough road. It’s time to find more raving fans.

At GrowthLab, we recommend:

Once you take a step back and understand these email marketing metrics — open rate, click-through rate, and growth — you’ll be in the driver’s seat of your business. Instead of reacting to problems as they come up, you’ll be building a bulletproof system to keep problems from happening in the first place.

You’ll continue to grow, and your business will keep profiting and never stall.

See the 5-day email funnel that generated $400,000

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