How To Stimulate People To Open Your Emails. Part II: A Subject Line

By 14.02.2019Marketing
What Affects The Open Rate Of An Email. Part Two: A Subject Line

Email marketing is an efficient way of promoting products and services through building a relationship with clients. It also works well when it comes to delivering the company’s message to the audience, spreading information and providing added value to the relationship with the community. We’ve already talked about the nine essential aspects of an efficient email marketing campaign and discussed the sender name section. Today we’d like to continue this conversation and touch on another important matter that affects the email open rate—the subject line.

To achieve any of its marketing or strategic goals, the primary goal of an email is obviously for it to be opened. One crucial metric that marketers usually track to analyze the success of an email marketing campaign is called an open rate. Every other interaction one may expect from the email recipients, naturally, go after the decision to open the message. People decide if they’re going to open an email by evaluating the first line. You already know it from our previous blog post. Let’s assume you’ve made your “sender name” look perfect. Now your job is to improve the subject line and the preheader.

The subject directly affects a person’s decision of opening an email. Hence, it is the best place to grab your recipient’s attention and give them an understanding of the letter’s content. Do your best not to annoy anyone, of course. Here’s how we recommend you approach this hurdle.

Keep Subject Short

The subject should be short for two reasons:

  1. Clarity
  2. Inbox view

Recipients must have the chance to understand what the letter is about with a quick look. So if you make a subject too complex, the sight of it will most likely put them off and they might not even read it till the end, and that is not your goal, right?

Wait, what? Commas in an email subject? I personally read until the first one didn’t find any sense here and kept scrolling my inbox. Next time when I’m not so busy I’ll just mark it as spam.

Be brief. It helps.

Besides, the inbox looks differently on different devices and if the subject is too long it won’t fit on some. Then the mailbox will automatically shorten it and make the meaning unclear. People also often decide whether or not open an email by glancing at a push-message on their smartphone which has length restrictions as well. So the briefer you formulate the subject, the better.

It’s also a good idea to resist an ancient email marketing strategy of mentioning a recipient’s name in a subject. Even if it looks as personalization, in fact, it turns on the red light and marks such emails as spam in a person mind. Modern people are tired of advertising and their subconsciousness already has its own ad blockers and spam filters. As we’ve mentioned in our blog, today people understand very well when marketers want to manipulate with their attention and react to it negatively. Do whatever you want but never ever annoy your recipients!

Be Useful And Informative

Messages in the email campaign need to provide benefits to recipients. People usually don’t care much about your company’s news or your advertising. They’re interested in resource acquisition and retention which means they will be happy to have something for free and won’t be happy to waste their time on information that they can’t benefit from.

What people like:

  • discounts
  • contests
  • lifehacks
  • entertaining content
  • useful information.

It’s good to use everything that solves real or potential recipients problems. Entertaining content and helpful information will work as well because people like fun and enjoy learning new things on the fly, especially if it goes together.

Accordingly, it’s a good idea to hint about these benefits in the email’s subject line to ensure that the recipient will find it intriguing enough to open. Even if you need to inform about the company’s news or offer recipients to buy your products, it’s better to add some value and arrange your information and offers together with something useful. It may be a contest, a funny short story, or a selection of relevant nice articles or books—people like when someone selects worthy content for them as it saves their time. And certainly, you have to mention this ‘something useful’ in an email subject.

Remember: if recipients open an email and don’t find any benefits there, they will never open emails from you again.

In the subject line, you have to explain the email content correctly and fairly but at the same time do not reveal all of the information. Here’s not a very informative subject:

I, to be honest, don’t understand why savings should be an adventure. How about no, please?

Replace all uncertain information with specific one: if there’s a discount, specify it; if the recipient can get something, say what it is.

How To Stand Out

People receive dozens of emails daily so the desire of email marketers to make their messages differ and be more noticeable is understandable. But here comes a risk to get carried away and start to use old and nowadays ineffective methods.

Do not ever use:

  • So-called ‘selling words’ like ‘free’, ‘urgent’
  • Caps lock
  • Exclamation marks

First of all, it turns on the anti-advertising filter we’ve talked about previously: recipients can unconsciously skip an email with such subjects. Secondly, such pure attempts to attract attention look suspicious: if these marketers try so hard to inform you about something, maybe they need it much more than you do, ergo, there’s nothing useful in such a message. It looks like a cry of despair. And finally, to be honest: no one likes it when people shout at them. When we see caps lock and exclamation marks, we feel like the author is shouting. “Why? What’s wrong with him or her? Can they please stop it?”—that’s what most of us think when seeing such forms of texts. In short, it is extremely annoying.

It's shouting

It IS SHOUTING at me and, besides, there’s a mess with a preheader.

But how to make your emails visible? The best strategy is to build your reputation gradually. Be considered as a company which only sends useful messages. This is a long term play. Speaking of something easier, we can remind you of the recent trend: use emoji.

When people scroll the list of emails, they read it from left to right, therefore you may place an emoji at the beginning of the subject. Use up to three emoji.

But also remember that emoji may not be shown on certain devices and operating systems. Here’s an example:

Smartphone view.

Emoji disappears

Desktop view.

Smiles and emoticons is a relatively new Unicode standard and we can expect it will be widely supported within the next couple of years. To avoid problems, for now, you may use Unicode special symbols of similar patterns instead of emojis. Like here:

You may use Unicode special symbols of similar patterns instead of emojis

It may look less pretty but it’s more reliable.

Add Preheader

A preheader is a short summary text that follows the subject when an email is viewed in the inbox. It shows what the email contains before a recipient opens it.

It is the very first part of the message that most mail clients show in the inbox when the letter is not open yet, hence, recipients read it along with the subject. Therefore, you should not repeat the subject in the preheader, but supplement it, adding new meaningful information.

Here’s how a good preheader may look:

Here’s how a good preheader may look

If you don’t specify the text in a preheader manually, a mail client by default would borrow it from the first text found in the email message, so be careful. It may even be confusing, like in these examples:

Thanks, I believe I will ASAP.

Well, maybe it was an email author who should’ve to check something here.

Here in the mail client a preheader field wasn’t filled and the first content automatically found was an image. Oops.

And for a more pleasant finish here’s another example of a good subject line and preheader:

Example of a good subject line and preheader

This is the final post about email marketing in our blog for now. In next articles we’re going to discuss SMM, stay tuned.