It surprises me how many marketers say that email marketing is dead and buried. In the past I’ve written about email marketing as a lost art, not a dead language, and I still believe this to be the case. Many businesses rely on legacy strategies for incorporating email into their marketing activity, and many others have given up on it completely, due to a perceived lack of positive response. I believe that both approaches are wrong, and email still has a lot to offer.
The truth is that people use email differently to how they did 5 years ago, and this presents a multitude of opportunities and problems when trying to get your message to stand out in a packed inbox. There is a lot to consider, but I want to concentrate on one very specific factor that has been shown to have a significant effect on email open and click through rates – the subject line.
The majority of marketers make the mistake of underplaying the importance of a subject line, or resorting to cliched and ‘safe’ words and phrases to fill it. A recent report by email marketing solution provider Adestra suggests that getting your subject line right is an exact science, and one that you should develop a specific strategy for.
The report is fairly long and detailed, and although it’s well worth a read if you get a chance, I have summarised the key points for easy digestion….
1. Develop a strategy
Of course you should have a general content strategy for your email marketing, but also a long term strategy specifically for your subject lines. This isn’t to say they should all be the same, but consider their format and how you reference your brand. The key is to keep your long term goal in sight, not just to go for short term wins. Make your subject lines recognisable and they will achieve something even if your email isn’t actually opened…
2. Think mobile
How will your subject line appear in different browsers and email clients? For instance on mobile devices (with which a significant percentage of your database will open your email) you may only see the first few words, so make them count!
3. Keep testing
Many email marketing solutions offer a split testing feature that allows you to send different subject lines to a small percentage of your database, analyse which encourages the best engagement, then sends the ‘winner’ out to the rest of the database. Although useful, I would encourage a more manual approach to deciding which to go forward with, rather than leaving it to an automated system. Either way, keep testing and improving your subject lines with every campaign.
4. Usage and sector
Different words and phrases can have positive and negative effects depending on the nature of your content, the sector you represent, and the recipients in your database. Recipients will generally react differently depending on their expectations, experience and perception of your brand, as well as the content of your previous emails. The report has some interesting and very specific examples of this.
5. It’s about the ‘here and now’
It seems that the majority of positive trends recognised in the report focus on words and phrases that encourage a user to act now, or position the content of the email as time sensitive. For instance ‘Alert’, ‘Sale’, ‘Bulletin’, ‘Free Delivery offer’ all resulted in significantly higher open and click through rates.