subject-line-tallStick to the subject line!

We execute thousands of emails for our customers every year. Most are part of multi-channel direct marketing campaigns in a variety of initiatives: from fundraising and prospecting to this time of year’s holiday messages. With direct marketing, attention grabbing strategies are the name of the game. How do we motivate our target audience to open emails and accept the call to action? First, we must “wow” them with the subject line. Though less than a sentence long, subject lines pack a lot of punch. According to a study by eMarketer, 79% of marketers report that open rates are the best metric to determine the success of a subject line – so we need to nail that subject line every time.

But, hitting the subject line on the head is not always easy.  Check out these five tips for creating subject lines that beg to be opened:

  1. Keep it short – Create a template that allows up to 50 characters before you write. Yes, the platform you are using to send the emails will allow for more, but people know after one or two words if they want to open the email. Our gut may long for room to be creative and show our audience what’s in it for them, but short is best. Staying succinct actually coaxes more creativity out of us, anyway. Lengthy subject lines get passed over by recipients and sometimes actually increase spam triggers. So, keep it simple and leave the content for the email body.
  2. Consider the client – Since Curtis 1000 is B2B, we have to assume that many of our recipients are using a business email client such as Outlook, in a variety of versions. Knowing that Outlook does funny things to HTML emails, we must consider that when developing the subject line and content. Awareness that all email clients render subject lines and content differently will help you plan ahead for your specific clients.
  3. To CAPs or not to caps? – We want to grab attention, and bigger is better, right? Wrong. Using caps and excessive punctuation can do more harm than good. Use it when appropriate, but remember, too many repeating capitalized characters in the subject line will flag an email as spam. Also, be selective about what email communications you use them on, because too many emails with caps lose their magic and the emails will go unopened.  Here’s a great example of using CAPs appropriately to grab attention:
  4. Prioritize it – Okay, so you forgot to come up with a 50 character limit template. You developed a really compelling, but cap and punctuation-filled, subject line that’s too long to “wow” people enough to open the email. Then prioritize. Start the subject line with the most powerful words, so they’re impactful and visible right away. Remember, people choose whether to open emails in the first word or two, so make them matter!
  5. Use a subject line tester – Email best practices are consistent, but are always evolving. There are several resources from email sending platforms that provide up-to-date spam trigger word lists, examples of effective emails, and subject line testers. If your platform doesn’t already have one built in, find one. While we do our best to develop subject lines with best practices in mind, we’re not always aware of industry standards. Subject line testers will help keep us in check.

And finally – don’t overthink it! Going with the first subject line that comes to mind is often the most effective, but coming up with several to choose from can help, too.  If you can’t decide, try a split A/B test; use the subject line as the only testing variable and then make sure you have access to reporting to see which one pulls more opens.

Sticking to these five tips can make a huge difference in open rates.  We can understand what works best for our target audience, and ultimately make the decision on how best to stick to the subject line.