4 Common Subject Line Mistakes

I must be getting old...

Email. It has become as familiar to us as brushing our teeth. Many businesses use its easy, affordable, and instant communication abilities for their marketing campaigns. But don’t let email’s ease-of-use and large numbers lull you into thinking all your letters are reaching your prospects.

What do I mean? Well, an email really consists of two main parts: the subject line, and the body (the body can be broken into other sections but we won’t go there today).

Let’s back up. What is the goal of your email? To sell products? Increase leads? Announce a new product line? Perhaps. But none of that is going to happen if people don’t actually read the letter. It can only be read if it’s opened. And it can only be opened if the subject line convinces the reader it’s worth their time to do so. The subject line can only do this if it actually makes it to the reader’s inbox.

It’s simple stuff but you would be surprised at how many professionals don’t address this fundamental mechanism of their email marketing campaign. So let’s look at four tactics to make sure the content of your letter is read.

1. Outsmart the spam filters. I have a colleague who likes the articles in my newsletter, Really Useful Content. But his organization’s spam filters are so tight we can’t seem to get it into his inbox (we keep trying). And this is someone who wants this email. If you are sending an e-blast, know your potential readers use spam filters to keep unsolicited mail away. The wrong trigger words will send your letter straight into their junk folder.

So let’s say your email makes it to the inbox. Congratulations. You’re halfway there. Now your smart subject line has to convince the reader to actually open the email.

So what’s involved in crafting a smart subject line? MarketingSherpa analyzed click-through trends from a year’s worth of their email subject lines and their implications.

2. Keep it short. Really short. MarketingSherpa’s top open rates had subject lines that were between thirty-one and forty-one characters, including spaces.

3. Give Value. Why does someone want to open your email? Think, “how to,” “simple,” “X actions you…,” and “improve.” Give your readers a reason to open the email with something that will help them. A word of caution here, don’t make empty promises. Your letter must deliver what the subject line says or you will annoy your reader.

4. Avoid the hard sell. The worst performing subject lines are the ones that ask the reader to do something. Phrases like “early bird special,” “you’re invited,” and “new products” all alert the reader that they will be required to do something.

Of course, crafting the correct line becomes easier if you know your audience. High click through rates are great but only if they are by quality leads.

In the end, the science of subject lines follows the same logic as most successful communication mantras. Think of the reader, convey value, and build the relationship.

You are now officially prepared to hit “send.”

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