The Power of Subject Lines

The subject line is one of the most important yet often overlooked details of an email marketing message. Email communicators spend considerable resources designing attractive HTML messages with special offers and compelling content. But all that effort is lost if the subject line fails to entice the subscriber to even open the message. Let's go over some best practices that will help you write more effective subject lines.

1. Mention your company or organization in the subject line

People will not subscribe to a newsletter or sign up to receive marketing messages unless they know and trust the sender. Your company or organization name is, therefore, one of your greatest assets. Use this asset. Including your company name in the subject line increases recognition and reminds subscribers who you are and why they signed up to receive your newsletter in the first place. If you are already clearly spelling out your company name in the From or Sender line, a brand name or other similar identifier might be sufficient in the subject line.

"People will not subscribe to a newsletter or sign up to receive marketing messages unless they know and trust the sender. Your company or organization name is, therefore, one of your greatest assets."

2. Keep the subject line short and simple

Email clients differ in how much of the subject line they display. Short and simple subject lines are thus much more effective than long-winded ones that risk getting cut off in the middle. Most people value their time. A lengthy subject line gives the impression that opening and reading a particular newsletter will require a more substantial time investment than a newsletter with a concise subject line.

3. Focus on the subscriber, not yourself

Subject lines should communicate what the subscriber can gain from reading the newsletter or marketing message. Instead of focusing on what you are doing or offering, emphasize what's in it for the receipient. Making it clear what your subscribers can learn, how much they can save or what they can get out of opening the message conveys the value proposition much more effectively.

4. Highlight the content and stay on point

Subject lines should describe what is inside the email message. There is nothing wrong with creativity, but if you try to be too clever without identifying the content and the reason why subscribers should open the email in the first place, the subject line will fail in its purpose. The purpose is not only to get the subscriber to open the message but also to read it with interest.

5. Realize that subject lines are used for spam filtering

Content-based spam filters are increasingly looking at subject lines to identify suspicious messages. To keep your mailings from mistakenly being flagged as spam, avoid punctuation gimmicks, all-caps words, potential trigger words such as "Free", "Alert", or "Low Prices", and, of course, misspellings. Put yourself in the shoes of your subscribers. If you didn't know the contents and paid no attention to the sender name, how would you perceive the subject line?

6. Test your subject lines with your audience

Subject lines are one of the easiest variables to test. Use A/B-split testing to randomly assign your subscribers into two or more groups. Then send multiple versions of your newsletter or marketing message to your subscribers, each with a unique subject line. You can then use open-up tracking to measure their respective success rates. There is nothing like actual, quantifiable data that shows what works better for your particular audience.

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