In the last article of this Email Marketing tutorial series we looked at email copywriting and the goal of each element of your emails. We also looked at the importance of your subject lines in getting your emails opened. Let’s look at this aspect in detail.
As previously discussed, your email subject line has one main priority; get the recipient to open the email.
A Word of Warning
First of all, we have to keep in mind the risk of being flagged as spam.
While there are plenty of ways you can ratchet up the impact of your subject lines, balance this impulse by remembering you want to maintain the long term value of your list.
What do spam emails look like? Just look in your spam folder. They shout, they use lots of dollar signs, excessive punctuation, and tend to be, well, needy. Having said that, you can learn a lot from the good spams, there is a reason why spam continues … it makes money, so some of this has to be down to copywriting and not just sheer quantity.
Keep your email subjects familiar and consistent also, start with the same words so the recipients recognize you. I tend to start with the name of the newsletter. You are better off starting with the name of the newsletter because a lot of email clients will chop off the words at the end for space reasons.
Now, some of you will be thinking “Hey, there is no need – the recipient gets my email address”, which is true if you send your emails from “XXX Newsletter” but a lot of people don’t have a special email account for your newsletter. For example I like people to reply to the emails I send out so I send them out from me. Also, a lot of times email software shows the email address, not a friendly name, or the recipient only looks down the subject lines. My advice, as always, is do your own testing.
Optimal Email Subject Line Lengths
“How long should my email subject line be?” is the next question we need to cover. I get asked this a lot, and my answer is always “Long enough but not too long” 🙂
The maximum subject line length will be enforced by your software, but always try to keep it below 50 characters (including punctuation and spaces), because after that you are almost guaranteed to get cropped by email clients. Personally I aim for much lower, a goal of 20-30 characters has worked well in my testing, and certainly those with below 30-40 characters perform much better than those above …
That said, I do NOT rigidly stick to this. It’s important to get your point across clearly, and if that takes a few extra characters, so be it. I refer again to my point above about long term value. Your emails have to make sense.
Writing Compelling Email Subject Lines
The trick to writing email subject lines that get your messages opened is to appeal to the recipients emotions, needs and curiosity.
Consider your own behavior. When you are going through your inbox, what are your thought processes? You open emails based on the five ‘I’s …
- Importance – If it is work-related, or a PayPal payment, you are going to open that email smartish
- Intrigue – Curiosity, like a good joke or riddle, causes you to open the email to see what the punch line is.
- Interest – We all have subjects that we love to read about, so sometimes all you have to communicate is the topic
- Involvement – Pull on the heart strings, appeal to passion, greed, narcissism or any other emotional hot button
- Investment – Recipients will be personally or financially invested in something. Craft your subject line around it and it will get opened.
So how do you put that into practice?
- News – Tell your recipients what’s new, something that is happening or just happened that they will want to know about
- Tips – “How to” is a great way to get your email opened, providing you connect your solution to the recipients needs
- Offer – Make a compelling offer that the recipient will want to take up
- Question – Ask a question that the reader will answer “yes” to, or maybe put the subject in the form of a mystery or puzzle where the they will feel compelled to find out the answer.
You can mix and match, of course. Consider the headline “Who else wants to learn how a librarian made $1,000 in one day?”. It’s a question, a how-to, and it is news.
The Most Important Factor in Email Subject Effectiveness
What people forget, of course, is that it is not how clever the email subject is but how much it appeals to the reader. The main factor that will impact your success (or lack of) will be how well you address your target audience.
In fact, naming your target audience (“Freelancers! Now you can …”) can sometimes increase performance.
Appeal to your audiences current interests, needs and challenges and your emails will get opened. As an example, I knew my readers were interested in the Thesis theme but had a reason to resist buying, read about how my email overcame their sales objection.
It’s all about knowing your market.