I just wanted to pass along a few quick things I had learned directly from Constant Contact at a seminar they did recently:
1. They suggested addressing the email "from" a real person - someone who will be the spokesperson for the organization... people are more apt to open an email from a person vs. a company because people buy from people NOT companies. :)
2. The subject line is one of the most critical parts of the email... they say that in the first 3-5 words someone is going to decide whether they open the email and so you have to give them a headline that makes the email interesting to them and if possible stresses some sense of urgency to open the email now... People get inundated with email and so they pick and choose which to open. Give them a reason to open yours now. If they put it off until later, they probably won't ever open it.
3. The day of week and time of day of course is very important and can vary from one customer base to another. So test different days of the week and different times to see if this makes a difference. I normally suggest sending at 10am or 2pm... once your customers have cleared the morning deluge of email... and I don't like to send on Monday morning or Friday at all...
4. Make sure the email has some type of call to action - what are you wanting the recipient to do up on receiving the email. And most likely the action you want them to take would be something they should do at your website. In other words, in your email marketing, blogs, etc, you want to continuously drive them back to your website. And of course the website needs to have the same focus to get them to take some action... all of this can be done effectively without being too "pushy" or "salesy"... but if they do want to participate, make it super easy for them to...
5. Testing - I suggest changing one thing at a time and testing to see how it affects your open rates.
Keep in mind that the typical response in the old snail mail days was a 1-3% response. If you get a 15 - 25% open rate consistently, you are doing good. If you are getting higher, then let us know your tips and tricks!