The subject line of your email marketing campaign is much like the headline in a newspaper. Like a newspaper headline, it will often be the deciding factor in determining if the article/email is read.
At EBUK we often find that clients spend a great deal of time creating the perfect email body, send out the campaign then ask us why not many people read their email.
Nine times out of ten we find that disappointing open rates are let down by a poor subject line that has not really been thought out. The subject line of your email campaign is as important as your email body itself. You may spend 2 hours designing your campaign, but take 10 seconds to write your subject line. The subject line of your campaign should be carefully planned.
So what makes the perfect subject line? Sadly, there is no simple answer. Depending on your industry/email marketing content and mailing list, different approaches will be required.
There are several general rules which as an email marketeer you may wish to consider:
1. Keep your email marketing subject line short and to the point
Going back to our newspaper headline example, short and punchy headlines are generally more successful.
The Sun newspaper in the UK are well known for their short punchy headlines. A great example of this is the Sun headline from the 11th April 1992, It’s The Sun Wot Won It. This referring to the newspapers claim that they won the 1992 election for the Conservative party.
This is a great example of a headline. It is short and to the point. The use of six short words clearly convey the message after the 1992 election. This headline is not watered down with a long statement – that is the job of the attached article (your email body).
Relating this back to your email marketing, use the newspaper headline rule of thumb. To grab attention, you don’t need to write an essay in your subject line. Keep it short and to the point – like the famous Sun headline it often will not hurt to add some light humor or something that will grab attention.
2. Test, test and test
You should always test your subject line before broadcasting your email marketing campaign. There is no such thing as too much testing – this is an area which we have covered quite extensively inside the email marketing uk blog.
Why should you test your subject line?
Unless you are an email marketing guru, it will probably take you a few attempts to write the perfect subject line. The only way to find out what works best for your business is to test your subject line as much as possible – always set aside plenty of time for testing. Experiment with different subject lines over a period of a few days/weeks to see how this impacts your open rate.
How to test your subject line?
A/B or split testing is a great method to quickly test your subject line. We normally advise that you take several small sample groups from your email database.
To each sample group send the same email body, but vary your subject line. When using this method you will be able to compare and establish which was the more successful subject line. Did subject line A receive a better open rate for your email newsletter than subject line B?
It may take you a few attempts with split testing to establish a subject line which works for your business – however it is well worth taking the time.
3. A call to arms!
Imagine this, you are an insurance company and decide to email a recent visitor to your website. The visitor to your website most likely requested the same quote from several of your competitors – your competitors may email this visitor also.
As a result, the recipient is sent an email promotion from you and 5 other competitors. The common misconception is that you have sent your email and if it does not get opened thats not your fault – something must have gone wrong. Thats incorrect.
With other competitors most likely emailing your recipient – the recipient may only open one or two of the 6 emails sent. Will your email be one of those? The subject line will often decide this.
You should spend time writing what we name a ‘call to arms’ subject line. Ask a question, make the subject line interesting. The subject line should prompt thought and interest – make the recipient interested in your message and give them a reason to open it.
What subject line would look more interesting: ‘bob smith car insurance’ or a subject that asks a question prompting the recipient to read your actual message inside your email body.
4. Don’t make the obvious mistakes
If you are a regular email marketeer you are most likely already familiar with the common mistakes in subject lines and know to avoid using; block capitals, and common spam words such as FREE and OFFER etc. However it is still worth mentioning this point; as it can be surprising the amount of people who ignore or are not aware of this advice.
Email marketing subject line: summary
Through experience with our email marketing uk system, we have found that a great subject line can increase open rates substantially. It is often estimated that great well thought out subject line can increase open rates by up-to 30%.
It is crucial that your subject line is planned, tested, thought out and gives a reason for the recipient to open your email body.
When designing your next email newsletter, remember the newspaper headline rule of thumb. If your email campaign subject line was a newspaper headline – would you read the article? Also ask yourself the question, would you open this email based on the subject line if it was from someone else?
As previously stated, there are no hard and fast rules for creating the perfect subject line. Depending on your industry and the desired outcome of your email marketing different approaches will vary in success. However via experience, we have found the general rules discussed in this article are applicable to most industry sectors.