Monday, January 24, 2011

Create E-Mail Subject Lines That Sell: 12 Do's and Don'ts

The truth is, the best e-mail subject line in the world never sold anything. Marketing by e-mail is never successful because of the subject line. However, a poorly done subject line is a barrier to successful e-mail campaign.  The only object of your e-mail subject line is to encourage potential customers to open the e-mail.

I'm talking not only about mass e-mails, but also personal e-mails to potential or existing clients. We are lumping them together, because generally the same rules apply, however it may be impossible to use some of these techniques in mass e-mail campaigns, and it also may be inappropriate to do some of them for individual e-mails.

Here are a few do's and don'ts when it comes to creating e-mail subject lines that improve your marketing.

Do Address a Problem: Often we tend to use our product as the subject line. However, for many products, people aren't as interested in the product name as in the solution. If you're selling consumer photo software, which is better, "Buy Photo-Xtreme 3.0 today" or "Simple software to edit, crop, resize, and upload your photos".  The second subject line may get fewer opens than other options, but the people who open it will be much more likely to buy than the average consumer.

Do Number Your Newsletters: If you write a regular newsletter, particularly one that's archived, number them in the subject line. Frequent readers will often be your best customers. By numbering it tells frequent readers if they've missed an issue. While you want to use numbers, don't use them exclusively. "Tea Drinkers News, issue #17" won't be as effective as "TDN #17: Green tea is high in antioxidants". Numbering makes them sortable, but you still need a subject line to encourage non-regular readers to check it out.

Do Use Numbers: Read magazine covers and you're frequently see "8 Tips for...", "The Top 10 Best...", or "122 Reasons Why...". The same headlines that get people to open a magazine will get them to open your e-mail. Make sure, however, that you deliver.

Do Personalize: When you're sending personal e-mails for relationship building, use the subject line. "Susan, thank you for your help Tuesday." or "Thanks for your call, Marianne." or "Congratulations again, Bob, on your promotion." Often the body of your e-mail may have standardized text, but personalizing the subject line makes it appear as though the entire e-mail was personal.

Don't Abbrevi8 Ur Subs: Using abbreviations or "text-speak" looks unprofessional. No one will think poorly of you for using complete words and well structured sentences. Some will, however, be turned off by abbreviations. Eliminate them when possible from your subject line, and reduce use in the body of your e-mails.

Do Use Keywords Early: Unlike text messages or Twitter posts, there is no static amount of characters that are acceptable. Depending on their web browser or e-mail program, different individuals see different amounts of the subject line. If you have words that must be conveyed, place them early in the subject. Eliminate junk words (the, that, an, however, etc.) that don't add much meeting whenever possible, especially at the beginning of your subject line. A good rule of thumb is to assume that your reader will see the first five words.

Don't Use Common Spamming Words: Some words will trigger automatic spam filters. Words like "free", "sale", and phrases like "Order Today" may be flagged. Not only do you want to eliminate them from your subject lines altogether, you also want to limit their use in the body of the e-mail. Spam filters read both.

Do Include the Recipient Name: My name is Jason. As I'm scanning my e-mail, my eye stops on my name almost invariably. This is quite common. We see our own name very frequently, and it catches our eye.

Don't Use Only the Recipients Name: Some spammers use only the recipients name. The theory here is that I will see it and be interested enough to open it. Unfortunately, it works. However, we don't want to get opens exclusively. We want sales. Tricking your recipient will often backfire.

Don't Be Tricky: Successful sales require credibility. Even if you have a good product, your credibility may suffer if you try to trick your recipients. Other tricky techniques include using a shocking or completely different subject line. "Naked Photos of Angelina Jolie" might generate opens, but unless that's what you're selling, it probably won't increase sales.

Do Be Intriguing: Intriguing is different than tricky. The subject line: "What does a new mattress have in common with two-year-old quadruplets?" On the inside: "You look forward to both at nap time!" This works if you are selling mattresses. The key is to be intriguing, but stay on topic.

Do Use Humor: if someone's laughing before they ever open your e-mail, there probably far more likely to buy. Again, stay on topic, but silly or funny remarks may capture the interest of your readers.

Creating a solid subject line is critical to any email marketing campaign, large or small.
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