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A few days ago i've launched my first cold email campaign for my website.

I've sent 359 cold emails to a group of community garden clubs across America. Of these, 9 had bounced and 136 were opened after 5 days. I've received 4 replies in total, so the reply rate was a bit more than 1%.

I had hoped that the reply rate would be higher because the emails were highly targeted and most of them were also personalized. But i got no more than 4 replies. Before I send more emails to other community garden clubs I need to know how i can improve on both the email subject as well as the email message itself. I've done research on this before sending those 359 emails but the information that's available on the web contradicts a bit with my own findings.

In the campaign i've used five different subject lines and personalized the subject line with the first name of the contact person if it was available. I've posted the results of my email campaign below: The first table shows the subject lines with personalization the second one with no personalization.

A total of 80 emails with personalized subject lines were sent. Here are the open rates for each email subject line.

Subject line Count Percentage (%)
[Name], Want to take your community garden to the next level? 9 11.3
[Name], Can I have your feedback on my community garden website? 9 11.3
[Name], Your community garden can benefit from this latest gardening website. 8 10
[Name], You're invited to try out the latest community gardening platform. 5 6.3
[Name], Here's an invitation to discover the newest community gardening platform. 2 2.5

A total of 270 emails with unpersonalized subject lines were sent. Here are the open rates for each email subject line.

Subject line Count Percentage (%)
Want to take your community garden to the next level? 19 7
Can I have your feedback on my community garden website? 20 7.4
Your community garden can benefit from this latest gardening website. 16 5.9
You're invited to try out the latest community gardening platform. 26 9.6
Here's an invitation to discover the newest community gardening platform. 21 7.8

From these findings I've concluded that in general adding the first name to the subject line can help increase the email open rate.

But the fourth and fifth listed subject lines are two exceptions to this assumption. Notably the fifth subject line Here's an invitation to discover the newest community gardening platform. is performing very badly when the first name is included as a personalization. The open rate in that case was only 2.5% but the open rate was 7.8% for the emails that used the same subject line but without the first name added to it.

Can anyone tell me what could be causing this from a user experience perspective? Is it because the subject line becomes too long when I add the first name to it? Or is it because I use the words 'invitation' and 'invited' in the subject lines?

I also have a question about the cold email itself. I've determined that the total open rate of the email is about 38% which is near the industry average. But the click-through rate is rather low. Here's the email:

Greetings,

As a fellow gardening enthusiast, I wanted to reach out to you and share an exciting new resource that I believe could greatly benefit your community garden. Have you heard of XXXXXXX.com?

XXXXX.com is a community-driven website where gardeners like yourself can come together to share planting information, exchange tips, and collaborate on building planting calendars tailored to your specific location. It's a platform designed by gardeners, for gardeners, and we believe it could be a valuable tool for your community garden.

We would be thrilled to have you and others of your community garden participate in this brand new online community. We would also value your feedback and suggestions, particularly on how XXXXXXX.com could improve on serving the needs of your community garden.

Joining is easy. Just visit www.XXXXXX.com, create an account, and start connecting with other local gardeners. You can also take a quick website tour via the website’s landing page to learn more about what XXXXXX.com has to offer.

Thank you for your consideration, and we look forward to your participation in the XXXXX.com community! Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions or want to give feedback.

Best regards, Maurice

PS: If you're not interested and want to stop getting my emails then please follow this link to opt-out of them.

Greetings is replaced with Dear Name if the first or full name is available. I also reference the name of the community garden club if that's available. Is their anything i could add to this email message that could increase the click-through rate or even the reply rate?

Thank you

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  • 1
    I’m voting to close this question because is about marketing suggestions
    – Danielillo
    May 28, 2023 at 0:30
  • What are you using for the sender? Is it a person/organization they might have heard of, or no?
    – Izquierdo
    May 28, 2023 at 17:30
  • While the percentage of the first group if marginally better, the median is way higher in the second option. It's difficult to say without using similar scales (well, not sp difficult but I'n not in the mood for maths), but I wouldn't be so sure that adding names will improve opening or CTR. Personally, when I see and unknown sender using my name I know it's spam and/or they they stole my info from somewhere. Hence, I automatically mark them as spam.
    – Devin
    May 28, 2023 at 21:03

2 Answers 2

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Given these subject lines:

  • [Name], Want to take your community garden to the next level?
  • [Name], Can I have your feedback on my community garden website?
  • [Name], Your community garden can benefit from this latest gardening website.
  • [Name], You're invited to try out the latest community gardening platform.
  • [Name], Here's an invitation to discover the newest community gardening platform.

The highlighted words (Greetings is another) immediately tell me it's spam and I ignore it.

No one I know would ever send me a message with any of those words in the Subject line.

It doesn't matter how you rearrange the words, I know you want some of my valuable time, and I'm simply not going waste it by reading your message.

It is easier to deal with a footpad [mugger] than it is with the leech who wants "just a few minutes of your time, please — this won't take long." Time is your total capital, and the minutes of your life are painfully few. If you allow yourself to fall into the vice of agreeing to such requests, they quickly snowball to the point where these parasites will use up 100 percent of your time — and squawk for more!

So learn to say No — and to be rude about it when necessary.

— Robert Heinlein

The more the Subject sounds like spam, the more people will ignore it. All these Subjects sound like a sales pitch, and clearly indicate that you want us to read the message and visit your web site.

Neither the Subjects nor the Message offer anything to interest us, much less educate or entertain us. We would have to read the Subject, read the Message, visit the web site, and then have to create an account before we see anything that even might interest us.

We have better things to do; it's just not worth our time.

Promote the message, not the medium.

This mail message is promoting a web site; it should be promoting what that site provides.
And requiring that people open an account before they can see what it is you are offering is committing suicide by shooting yourself in the foot.


Assuming that this site has been in use for a few years by your local community garden group with the communications and scheduling working well, and it is currently being used by a small number of other groups, so that the wider scale sharing of knowledge has proven productive, I'd suggest that the mail message contain:

  • Short excerpts from the most viewed pages.
  • Small photographs from the nicest looking pages.
  • Example tips for gardening and organizing.

That way, the message is implicitly saying "Look at all this interesting stuff you've been missing out on! Here's how you can get it!".

A message that shows something and makes people immediately want it is much more likely to get responses than a message that says nothing but "Give me some of your valuable time and there's a chance that you might eventually see why it was worth the effort, maybe.".

I.e. "Show, don't describe." and "Sell the sizzle, not the steak.".

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  • how is this answer useful?
    – Maurice
    May 28, 2023 at 6:22
  • @Maurice, I've added more details. May 28, 2023 at 13:03
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Plug this into ChatGPT on the one end, to come up with alternatives, into an AB testing tool on the other, and find the winner. In general both AI and A/B testing should be used with extreme caution because most people expect them to do things that they can't really do well, but this is a classic case for both.

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