Write Winning Email Subject Lines: Learn How In Under 40 Minutes

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Email Marketing

Let’s get one thing abundantly clear:deletekey

Readers are rarely eager to open and read your emails.

It’s actually just the opposite. What readers – including you and me – ARE eager to do is hit “delete” to as many emails as possible.

Call it self-preservation. Time management. Information (infiltration) overload. But it’s precisely what we do every time we open our inboxes.

So as an email marketer, what should you do?

If “Write compelling subject lines” is your first reaction, you’d be spot on. And it’s the focus of a new Brunch & Learn on-demand webinar sponsored by Act-On, aptly titled Writing Effective Email Subject Lines.

Moderated by Direct Marketing IQ’s chief content officer, Ethan Boldt, and award-winning copywriter and author, Pat Friesen, the webinar is a to-the-point training session that doesn’t disappoint: Combining a drilldown approach with an easy-to-grok presentation, the webinar covers a wealth of information, including:

  • Research on today’s email response trends.
  • 13 best practices for writing winning subject lines (e.g., length, using numbers and special characters, power words, intrigue, and personalization).
  • Tons of examples.

And in under 40 minutes, it’s fast-moving and immediately actionable. Here are a few nuggets you’ll learn.


It’s hard out there for a subject line

For anyone with experience in the direct-(snail)mail industry, you’ve seen this before:

3 seconds over a trashcan. (Or a recycling bin, if you like.)

That’s the amount of time you have to grab a recipient’s attention before your painstakingly crafted mail gets unceremoniously chucked into the circular file.

And guess what? It’s even more challenging with subject lines because more than half of today’s email is first opened on a mobile device.

That means email subject lines are not only competing with other subject lines in the inbox, they’re also competing with a crowded sea of distractions and preoccupations that most of us regularly encounter when we’re out and about.

Friesen offers some tips and tricks to help your subject lines rise to the occasion and cut through the noise.


Words matter

This should come as no surprise to anyone, least of all to marketers, no matter how much (or how little) experience they have with lobbing vernacular and testing the limits of persuasion.

But since data is always fun to see, here’s one example discussed during the webinar, illustrating how subject line keywords perform when the objective is to convey “benefits” to the recipient:

Webinar excerpt: What a difference a word makes

Look closely and you’re apt to gain a short list of a-ha’s and hmm’s. Here are four that jumped out at me:

  • “Sale”, “Voucher”, and “New” are top performers for getting your email opened, which comes as no surprise. But …
  • Getting an open doesn’t bring home the bacon. Clicks do. (Or at least they serve to rev up the launch sequence.) And “Free Delivery” wins hands-down on that front, putting a decisive smackdown on “Sale”.
  • “Voucher” (#2 for opens) nearly tops the list for unsubscribe rates. One could surmise that this is a tacit warning to marketers: if you offer a voucher, it best be for something good lest you suffer the wrath of a disappointed recipient.
  • Most interesting to me is “Latest”, which tanks from an opens and clicks perspective, but is aces for stemming unsubscribe rates. It might be interesting to test “latest” on your deadwood lists to spur some reengagement.

Watch the webinar and Ethan will most likely point out other observations you don’t yet see.


Test, test, test … and don’t assume (you know why)

Find out which subject line won this A/B test by nearly 40%.

Again, this should be no surprise but the sheer volume of subject line blunders tells a different tale.

Like everything in the digital age, six months can be the difference between “newly minted” and “museum piece.” It’s no different with subject lines, particularly when the human-nature element (we’re so fickle) gets thrown into the soup. What works today may not work tomorrow.

Takeaway: the winning strategy for the long haul is testing.

Watch the webinar today »



Photo of “Delete key on the A1243 Apple wired keyboard” by Ervins Strauhmanis, used under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.