To the uninitiated it’s funny to think of something as minuscule as email subject lines as having a big impact on your company, but the reality is that it can have an impact of tens of thousands of dollars on a single email blast! You can have the most amazing sale with the most optimized and beautiful email sent at the exact right moment, but if your subject line doesn’t work, it’s all for nothing. To a certain extent the old marketers rule of “it works 50% of the time, we just don’t know which 50% it is” applies to to this, but through extensive experimentation you can optimize your open rates dramatically. I’ve tried countless ideas and have listed some approaches I’ve had success with below. Try them out and see if they work for your list!
1. Omit needless words. The old Strunk & White mantra holds true for email subject lines as well. I’m subscribed to an obnoxious amount of retailers to see what they are up to and they all seem to write paragraphs in their subject lines. OneKingsLane.com and Gilt.com being prime examples. It must work for them but I get overwhelmed each time I see one of their emails. I can’t even bother reading the whole thing! So I assumed other people were equally overwhelmed with text and so I regularly try to stand out in an inbox with a super short sentence. Maybe three words. I’ve even done just one word. These have had excellent open rates in my experience.
2. Make it timely. Referencing a current event will make the email seem more like a human sent it and not a robot, which will increase the open rate as well. For example the supposed Blizzard that hit NYC last night is the perfect sort of thing to reference. Also pop references and even movie reference seem to work well. Something about connecting through these references causes opens rates to go up.
3. Use words such as Important, Free, Serious, Attention. I read this suggestion on another blog and had to try it out. I couldn’t believe the numbers! Of course this one is tough because if you start sending every email with the subject line “IMPORTANT” you’re going to piss a lot of people off. Used extremely sparingly though this is an awesome little trick.
4. Be cocky. Making bold statements in your email subject lines also tends to increase open rates. For example belittling other sales and discount amounts has worked well for me. Adding some attitude tends to increase open rates.
5. Give away the barn. This is my contrarian tip. Best practices suggest you should never just explain what the email contains. The argument is that you remove the reason for the person to open the email when you just tell them right in the subject line. I’ll buy that to an extent, so what I do is try something else in the first blast, but then I usually have a re-mail set up which is just an email that is sent to everyone that didn’t open the first one, which literally just says exactly what the sale is. I figure since they are not likely to open I should at least let them know what they are missing! This seems to work well for me, but honestly since Bronto (my email service provider) doesn’t have the capability to A/B test re-mails this suggestion is something I can’t objectively verify.
No matter what you try you should be A/B testing the hell out of it every time. Not testing multiple options is pure laziness.
So what tricks have worked well for you? Share them in the comments!