The first three things your prospect sees when you send them an email are your name, the subject line and the snippet (the first few words of the content of the email).
Assuming you are a credible sales person, the next thing to think about focusing on is the impact of your subject line. You may think it’s only the content of your email that matters but if your subject line doesn’t stand out, there’s a chance it won’t even be read.
Spend time on your subject line. This is often the area people spend the least amount of time on, but creating captivating subject lines will grab your prospect’s attention and get them to make that all-important click. In journalism the same amount of time is often spent on a headline as on an article. You might not need to take quite this approach with emails but certainly don’t overlook how a subject line can entice someone to open an email.
Be unique with your subject line (remember you’re competing against other emails in the inbox). Doing some research will help you to avoid using subject lines that everyone else uses.
During Barack Obama’s 2012 election campaign his marketing team sent out numerous successful fundraising emails. Why were they successful? You’ve guessed it – it was the subject line. Their unique casual style engaged people and got their attention. Not only did people click on the email they also took action by donating to his campaign. One of the most successful emails had the subject line, “Hey”. This subject line quickly became popular and everyone started using it. The result? People on the receiving end of those copycat emails ignored them because they received so many that all looked the same.
Useful insights into those Obama email subject lines:
- Talk like a friend – your prospects prefer doing business with people who are genuine and authentic. When you write emails, write like one person to another.
- Use short subject lines – short and snappy is much more likely to grab people’s attention than in today’s distraction-filled world
- Don’t capitalize every word – be friendly and capitalize only the first letter of the first word, but that’s it.
When your prospect reads your subject line you want to evoke a sense of curiosity in their mind. You also want to be valuable to them. What do you know that they do not, but which they would find useful?
A / B test your emails. This allows you to test different versions of a single campaign to see how small changes can have a big impact on your results.
For example, marketing guru Ian Brodie explains how he once forgot to send out his regular email newsletter to his clients on Monday evening, which contained a link to his latest video blog. He then sent out two A / B emails to his client list on Wednesday. The first one had the subject line “Here’s the content” and the second one said “Oops, meant to send this on Monday”. The second email got a 13% higher open rate and video click through than the first one.
What’s a good open rate to aim for? This is a tricky question to answer. Benchmarking by your own personal best open rate is a sensible approach to take.
However, always be mindful of your open rate statistics. Monitoring tools that register whether an email has been opened or not look for a small 1×1 pixel image that has been inserted into the email you send. Each time the pixel is loaded, the email registers as having been opened. The problem with this is that images are often switched off (by default) by many organizations. This makes it impossible trust your figures. Another issue is that your prospect may have a preview pane in their email client. That preview pane might be displaying your email automatically (and therefore downloading the images) without the reader ever having to click on it or read it.
It’s also worth bearing mind that whilst open rates are ok, action is better, especially if it ultimately leads to a sale.
Pre-qualify Your Prospects:
Email subject lines are a great way of pre-qualifying your prospects. For example, if you sent an email with the subject line “Open if you have an IBM computer”, you’ll find out who in your list has an IBM computer – with a few exceptions. By attracting the right prospects and repelling the wrong ones you polarize your audience and call out your ideal future customer. Don’t be put off by low open rates. If the prospects who have opened your email are the right ones for you then there is a high chance they will take action with your email.