Things you should know before creating your next email subject line

Email Marketing Subject Guidelines

Welcome to the wonderful world of creating email subject lines, where a single phrase can make or break your email marketing campaign. I’d be retiring early if I could provide you with the one ideal subject line that fits all, and allows your open/ conversion rates to exponentially increase! It is however very possible to create and implement certain strategies to boost your email success rates. Here are a few examples of interesting email subject lines to get you thinking along the right lines:

  • “Tell your boss what you really think” (promoting gifts for national bosses’ day)
  • “Vhat vould Dracula vear?” (promoting Halloween costumes)"
  • “The holidays are just around the corner. Fortunately so are we." (Online retailer)

So what do these three examples have in common? They pique the reader’s attention while paying attention to context, purpose and the target audience. It’s quite a bit to think about, but it’s worth it when you start analysing the open rates.

B2B email marketing best practices

With the steady climb in organisation resistance to bulk email you might be wondering if it is still plausible to utilize B2B email marketing. The short answer is that B2B email is definitely not dead; in fact it’s still an extremely effective and relevant marketing tool. Keeping email marketing messages short and concise, as well as adding a personal element, have become key factors to draw consumers in. Duncan Land, GM at Total Send says, “In an analysis of subject line AB tests, an important characteristic was that subject lines less than 5 words long beat subject lines longer than 8 words long 65% of the time.” The reasons for this are multivariate, but the key factor to remember is to consider how long your subject lines are when mailing a colleague…you simply state the subject at hand in the least possible words available. Consider this when writing commercial mail. Long winded subject lines are red flags for bad marketing content. It is also critically important when creating your campaign to ensure that all your data is correct. Sending out emails with incorrect names or that have no relevance to your consumers’ interests are major blunders and have an impact on whether any current or future campaigns will even be looked at by the reader. It is important to remember that creating a personalized subject line with no personalized content screams of generic mass mail. If you decide to go personal, ensure all your content matches up.

Email marketing for retail

The first thing to remember about straight call-to-action (CTA) marketing in retail is that it requires a simple, eye-catching phrase. Consumers love a good deal and it is a great idea to create a subject line that makes your reader feel like they are getting a better deal than they could elsewhere. Simplicity is key; a long drawn out subject line using loads of unnecessary adjectives can leave your reader feeling bored before they have even opened up the mail or alternatively makes your sale sound a little too good to be true. Ideally, you are looking for a ‘click to click’ strategy leading your consumer from ‘Sounds interesting’ to ‘I want this!’ Content driven call-to-action marketing requires a more subtle approach. Whilst you want your subject line to grab the attention of the reader, your aim is help the consumer understand what you are offering, respond to the level of urgency required to convert a sale and get them onto a landing page that drives the whole process forward.

Your subject line works as the first call-to-action (and this CTA needs to be repeated several times throughout the content). Content driven marketing is less likely to have an imminent deadline, for example as opposed to something promoting a flash sale; however it is just as important to grab your readers attention in a manner that makes them feel compelled to keep reading about the product offering. One of the most important factors to identify is what triggers your audience.

Here are a three of the best retail email marketing subject lines we’ve come across recently, and a summary of why they work:

  1. “Sometimes all you need is a little vase lift” (retailer selling vases) - using a play on words to cut through default reader resistance; make sure that your audience are interested in the product category if you want to see good results.
  2. “Party Like its 1999 Aged Cabernet Special” (wine retailer) – this has two CTAs (both price and entertainment) and the sentence is constructed using words to appeal to the pleasure seeker, which fits the vertical.
  3. “Temperatures Fall, Style Rises” (retailer selling coats) – short, simple but possibly missing a strong CTA – we’d go for “Temperatures fall, Style rises, Sale on”

Take caution when trying to entertain your audience

Entertainment subject lines are great as they can be a bit more fun and flexible; and we all know that controversy grabs attention. If you use shock tactics or something a little controversial, just remember to tread lightly as your open rates may come at the cost of customers.

However if you’re confident that you know how your audience will perceive it then it could pay off. A humorous subject can also fit well for entertainment type newsletters, as it is likely to stand out from the more generic lines. Again, you just need to make sure your humour will be understood.

Tips to keeping your mobile email marketing user friendly

There’s a principle named 2-2-2 that should be remembered. The first 2 is the two seconds you’ll generally have to get the attention of your audience. The second 2 is the first two words of your subject line, which determine whether your audience will read the rest of the subject line. The third 2 stands for the “to” in today. Why does your email matter today? Mobile devices will cut off a subject line that’s more than 25 to 40 characters, depending on the device, for example iPhones will cut off after 35 characters. So aim to communicate the message in the first three words.

Try the many free tools for viewing how your email looks on different devices. Litmus’s email previewer allows you to view it in more than 30 different email clients, and will check for broken links, as well as propose alternative subject lines. A final word of advice would be to run subject line tests to see what your audience responds best to.

Remember that the best subject line is the one that provides the highest conversion rate and not the one that has the highest open rate. Good luck!