At the end of a good post on subject lines, Real Magnet writes that, “What all of these tactics have in common is that they do not rely on tricks or gimmicks to compel an open.” They advise that you respect your subscribers’ time, show some empathy and communicate candidly and clearly.
Here are more of their tips and a few from another email service provider, MailChimp:
1. Stop short. “Most people quickly scan subject lines to decide if they’ll open, so don’t expect subscribers to dig through your subject line to figure out if they’re interested,” writes MailChimp. “Keep your subject line to 50 characters or fewer.” Real Magnet adds that short subject lines can also work in a design sense, by standing out—”bordered above and below by so many words in longer subject lines” in your inbox. They point to the successful Obama campaign subject lines like “Dinner?” “Hey,” “Hey again” and “So.”
2. Target practice. “Highly targeted messages convert better, so if you send them make sure you alert your subscribers in the subject line,” writes Real Magnet. If you’re addressing a specific audience, make it clear like “new subscribers.” Personalization should be more than putting someone’s first name in the line.
3. Follow the straight and narrow. Tell subscribers exactly what’s inside so that they are opening the message not to discover the offer, but to act on it. Here’s one from the Kennedy Center: “Prime Seating for Special One Night Only Performance.” Real Magnet lauds one from the Washington Area Bicycling Association (WABA): “This Week Only – Save on Your WABA Membership.”
4. Be different—but true to yourself. So many subject lines are the same today. How many Halloween ones have you received this week? Real Magnet suggests an occasional one that’s “unexpectedly colloquial and even friendly.” It should also fit your company’s personality. I just got one from a group called Museum Hack—they put on programs geared to younger folks—with this line: “Sorry Museums, They Just Aren’t That Into You.” It works because who they are.
5. Be clever—sometimes. “A disarming subject line can break through because it demonstrates some empathy with the subscriber,” writes Real Magnet. “You know what they are going through just trying to empty out the inbox, a sentiment that gives your brand an added opportunity to resonate.” They cite an example from Netflix, which overcharged the writer: “Credit where credit is due.” These can come off bad, however, so pick your spots and check with a colleague or two.
6. Choose words carefully. MailChimp advises to avoid overused words like “free” “help,” “percent off,” and “reminder.” That’s interesting. I do get ones that start with “Reminder” and tend not to open them. I guess it’s telling me something I think I already know. Instead of using free and percent off, let me know the benefits!
7. It takes a city. MailChimp research suggests that including a person’s city name in the subject line is even better than including their name. I would open ones that read Washington, D.C. or Falls Church, Va., but don’t see many like that.
8. Women—and men—tire of the same lines. The successful OPIS webinar marketing campaign that I wrote about last month made sure that each of their seven emails was varied and the subject lines different. Each email should be highlighting a different benefit to draw new people in.
9. Capital loss. MailChimp doesn’t like all-CAPS or too many exclamation points in your subject lines. They do like asking the occasional question. I just received one that reads, “Rock, Dough and Plastic,” from a film festival—far too abstract. (It’s referring to three films.)
10. Be up front. “You’re invited,” the Brooking Institution just told me. “New media’s influence on old school politics.” I’m opening. “Webinar Recording,” a company just sent me after I signed up but missed the webinar. Again, that’s information I need.