Email Marketing: Subject Line Secrets And Strategies


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White Paper on writing engaging email subject lines for your email marketing campaigns.

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Email Marketing: Subject Line Secrets And Strategies

  1. 1. E-Mail Marketing:Subject Line Secrets & Strategies By Nathan Isaacs Seven G Media 503-810-7013
  2. 2. Web: www.sevengmedia.comPhone: 503-810-7013Email: nisaacs@sevengmedia.comEmail marketing is an affordable, and measurable marketing tool for businesses looking to attract, retain,and grow loyal customer bases. The Direct Marketing Association reports email marketing returns morethan $40 for every dollar spent. Businesses all around the world use email marketing to: @ Increase Sales Revenue @ Generate Sales Leads @ Strengthen Customer RelationshipsAs a result, more than 294 billion e-mails are sent every day.* That would suggest there are also 294billion e-mail subject lines flooding inboxes every day (including blank subject lines).Nearly everyone has an email account and uses it on a regular basis. A report by Exact Target found 93percent of e-mail users will subscribe to at least one commercial email per day. The report revealed 42percent of those subscribers were likely to buy a company’s product after first signing up for apermission-based email. That should be great news for your email marketing efforts, right? The study alsofound that 17 percent of those receiving a permission-based email did not even bother opening the mail.Research suggests email marketers have between 1 to 5 seconds to get the readers’ attention and inducethem to open the email to read more (and more importantly respond to your call to action).Are you doing everything you can to make sure your emails are opened?A subject line should be thought of as the headline of a news story. Look at these examples from the ABCNews website:† @ Charlie Sheens Top 15 Craziest Quotes @ Sheen Ordered to Stay 100 Feet From Twin Sons @ Woman Survives 100 MPH Ride on Car Hood @ Court OKs Protests at Military Funerals* “Internet 2010 in numbers,” Royal Pingdom († ABC New website: March 2, 2011 1
  3. 3. Web: www.sevengmedia.comPhone: 503-810-7013Email: nisaacs@sevengmedia.comI don’t know about you, but I am tempted to click on the links to read more. I suspect you are, too. Anengaging subject line – like a newspaper’s headline – will draw the reader into opening and reading theemail. “When the subject lines works, good things happen,” said Alex Williams, senior digital strategistwith Trendline Interactive in Portland.‡ What follow’s next is a break down to the process of writing anengaging subject line.LengthThe length for subject lines allowed by Gmail on a web browser (85 characters) varies from the lengthseen on Apple’s iPhone display (31 characters). So making your subject line succinct is imperative. Thiswill especially be true as consumers move more and more to using their smart phones, even when they arenear a desktop or laptop. There is no hard-fast rule, but keeping your subject lines between 5-7 words (45-50 characters) will help avoid text being cut off. In the newspaper industry, back when space was at apremium and printing press type was set by hand, there was an expression that you shouldn’t use an M’sworth of space when an N would do. For your email marketing, you should compensate for the lack ofsubject line space with strong, active words that offer the reader value. This includes avoidingunnecessary words, including branding that may or may not be needed. You should get to the point,perhaps even start with the point (Save $100 on your …). If your subject line was too long and you’vewere building to a climax, the reader’s browser may turn that $100 to an ellipsis (…) so the recipientnever gets to see it.ContentThe subject line should clearly state what your reader can expect from your email, how they will benefitor what action you want them to take as a result of reading the email. State a clear benefit.Williams, who lectured on this topic to American Marketing Association professionals in late February,suggests a subject line’s benefits typically have two of the following characteristics: @ Curiosity @ Urgency @ Relevance @ Value = CURVE @ EmotionAnd Williams contends that successful subject lines have at least one of either the relevance or valuecharacteristics.SegmentWhen possible you should segment your emails and their subject lines, too. We come in contact with somany people and products on a daily basis that it is difficult for your message not to get lost in theshuffle. According to one market research firm, someone living in a city is estimated to see more than5,000 ad messages per day. So brush up on your database skills and use what you know about the readerto personalize the subject line. This could be as simple as sending a female-centric email (and subjectline) to only females in your email databases. Research shows that the more personalized an email is, thehigher the response rates.‡ Williams spoke to the American Marketing Association’s Oregon chapter on Feb. 23, 2011 in a lecture entitled “The Art & Science of EffectiveEmail Subject Lines." 2
  4. 4. Web: www.sevengmedia.comPhone: 503-810-7013Email: nisaacs@sevengmedia.comAvoid TrickeryYour subject line should be honest and direct, reflecting the content inside the email. Don’t trick thereader into opening your email. This is illegal in some states. It can also anger the reader to unsubscribefrom your messages, report you as a spammer, and then tell about the experience to their friends via socialnetworks. Along these lines, avoid trying to be funny. You may be funny and have a great idea for ahumorous idea, but such attempts too often are misinterpreted or walk too fine a line between humorousand bad taste. See the Kenneth Cole example below. If you insist on a humorous subject line, test it firstinside the office and with a test sample of readers. And finally, don’t ask yes or no questions in yoursubject line unless the answer is a definite yes.KISS (Keep it simple stupid)Your subject line should be written with language that the reader can quickly digest. This includes howyou format the subject line or use punctuation. Subject lines in all caps can be hard on the eyes, while alsobeing labeled as spam by filters. Be judicious in the use of punctuation such as exclamation points,question marks or using + or = and other symbols as either shorthand or fillers/spacers. Finally, proofreadyour subject line before hitting the send button. Incorrect grammar or misspelled words in a subject lineeasily damage your credibility and your offer.InspirationTo help inspire your creative juices, you can tap intoGoogle’s keywords services, including the WonderWheel function you can use (found on the left side of thebrowser on the search engine results page.You can use your website analytic tool, such as GoogleAnalytics, to see what keywords drove people to yourwebsite and specific pages on your site. You also can tap Googles Wonder Wheel toolinto what has worked in past email campaigns.You can track Google or Twitter trends and, when appropriate and relevant to your business, integratesuch a trend with your campaign. For example, referencing directly or indirectly a vuvuzela (thoseannoying horns popular during last summer’s soccer World Cup) may work if you are selling sportinggear, but not if you are selling flowers or realestate. Below is an example of when the trend(#Cairo) in early February was not relevant to thebusiness (fashion house Kenneth Cole). KennethCole took quite a bit of negative commentaryfrom the social community and mainstreammedia when they posted the tweet. I don’t knowif there is a connection, but the Wall StreetJournal reported on Feb. 28, 2011 that KennethCole’s CEO and the public company’s board had“mutually agreed” she resign and be replaced. Kenneth Cole ill-advised Feb. 3, 2011 tweet 3
  5. 5. Web: www.sevengmedia.comPhone: 503-810-7013Email: nisaacs@sevengmedia.comAnd finally when in a jam, you can use the Cosmo Technique as suggested by the folks Write your subject lines using the Cosmo cover page teasers as a template. Forexample, “100% Hotter Sex” as a template would be “100% ________ ________.” I don’t know if thefolks at ABC News were using the Cosmo technique when they crafted a couple of their news headlines(100 mph speed, and 15 stupid Sheen-isms)TestYou should test different subject lines and lengths before sending to your whole list. Testing allows youto identify the words, phrases, pitches and styles that appear to work with your customers. For example,pay close attention to subject-line performance over your last several campaigns. Identify which subjectlines drove the results you wanted – beginning with the open rate (defined as number of emails openeddivided by the number of emails sent) – and include them in future campaigns. Test your messagesthrough a number of email accounts (Gmail, iPhone, Outlook and so forth) to ensure they look goodthrough all mainstream email clients.Williams also has developed his “Rapid Subject Line Testing,” which includes the following steps: 1. Identify your most active email respondents (Those that have clicked through an e-mail’s call to action within the last three to six campaigns). 2. Pull a random sample from this group. How big that sample is depends on the number in your e- mail lists, but the bigger the better. The website Creative Research Systems offers a free sample size calculator.§ 3. Perform a split test with the subject line candidates, and make sure the subject lines are really different. 4. Send to sample audience and wait for results. If your campaign is built around a coupon or other time-sensitive sales event, wait at least three hours otherwise the wait could be a day or two. 5. Send winning subject line to rest of your email list. 6. Most importantly, document the test (sample size, test subject lines, and results).ListsBe sure to keep your email lists up-to-date and always include a way for people to easily unsubscribe inall your email campaigns. Unsolicited email quickly becomes spam and can be damaging to your businessreputation. Know when to say when; remove inactive email accounts from your active lists. If you aresending emails on a regular basis (once a week, once a month) then inactive is more than three months.Once removed from your primary lists, you should see a slight boost in your open rates. You will alsohave a new list you can target for reengagement with your business.Fair Winds & Following Seas – NathanAbout Seven G Media ( G Media is a veteran-owned business and marketing consulting agency located in Beaverton, Oregon. The company wasfounded in 2010 by Nathan Isaacs. Seven G, or seven generations, is a reference to the Native American custom when makingtribal decisions to consider how those decisions will affect the tribe seven generations in the future. Nathan uses the term toexpress his belief that we have a moral obligation to be better environmental stewards, as well as his desire to provide consultingsolutions that offer immediate and long-term success for his clients.§ Creative Research Systems: 4