Subject lines are more important than ever

Few of us have ever counted how many emails we get each day, but I’d bet for all of us it’s dozens, and in some cases 100 or more. I’d be amazed if anyone told me they opened and read every email they receive. So in terms of your marketing emails (and even your important customer communications), that means one thing: the subject line is more important than ever. Along with the sender name, it’s the make-or-break as to whether or not your email gets read.

If you send your customers important updates, it’s very important for the sake of those updates that your marketing communications are clearly distinguishable. You do not want customers scanning through their emails and overlooking something critical because they think it’s trying to sell them something. You need the updates to be clearly marked, and for marketing emails, your default position when it comes to existing customers needs to be: “do they really need to receive this?”

For non-customers, there are no such considerations necessary. It’s kill or be killed. Your subject lines have to be short, sharp and use all the techniques of clickbait which are appropriate to your audience. There, I’ve said it.

If you send out regular, quality content which you know is appreciated, make sure the subject line has a consistent element which will be easily recognised. For the emails generated by this blog, I have [An Article A Day] at the start, making it easy to recognise as being something you (might!) want to read.

Personalisation of the subject line is an effective technique too, but only to be used if you’re certain that the content of the email is relevant to the recipient. If you’re still blasting out emails to mystery recipients, hoping something will stick, you can make yourself look very silly indeed if you personalise something irrelevant. For example, if a company I know here in the UK sends me an email titled: “Chris – Are you visiting WidgetEx New Zealand tomorrow?”, my warmth towards the company is not increased. But if it’s definitely going to be of interest to that recipient, and they’ll instantly realise as much from the subject line, then adding their name is something that catches the eye. It also improves open rates for regular, requested emails, where you’re trying to maintain a relationship with the recipient. This is something I use here.

However, if you’ve stacked up labels and names into the subject line, you don’t have much left for the actual title, so it’s a fine balance. I try to write them short enough to appear on most desktop PC screens, in the email apps which are common, but it’s almost impossible for mobile devices, which only have space for about 10-20 characters left after the label and the personalised name. With 40% of my emails being read on mobile devices now, I may need to rethink the general setup. You might like to consider the way you do things too.