Continuing on from “Create Professional Content for Your Business Emails” in this part we will cover the science of email subject lines, sender address and personalisation.
Subject Line & Senders Detail
There is no simple template to follow to ensure higher response to your emails however we can offer you some wisdom below when looking at your subject line.
Bad examples of a subject line are:
This subject line doesn’t provide any information as to what the newsletter is about and whom it is from.
“Special Offer $10 Off – Buy Today!!!!!”
This subject line contains a dollar sign and exclamation marks. Both of these will cause the newsletter to have a high chance of being blocked by a spam filter.
Below we set out some factors that contribute to a winning subject line.
Shorter subject lines seemed to work better than long subject lines. It is often enough to communicate the value of opening an email.
“Have the best holiday in the World!”
A long subject line is better for information-based emails where the subscribers are expecting or “know” the sender well. There are reports that an email campaign with a long subject line written well can sometimes provide smaller open rates but a large percentage of click throughs to opens. The logic to that statement is due to subscribers using the subject line to decide whether to open the email or not. Those that do open the email have seen something in the subject line that they are interested in hence the high click throughs.
“Best-value holidays in Argentina; European accommodation cost-saving tips; and win a trip to Hawaii”
But subject line length should not be driven by some arbitrary word or character limit. Therefore, use as few characters as you can while still allowing the subject line to do its job.
A winning subject line is as short as it can be while still achieving its objective.
You cannot set about writing a subject line until you know what that subject line should achieve. The main objective is not only to get people to “open the email”, but to clearly set out the objective of the email (eg new event, special offer, etc).
Therefore your subject line is looking to generate Recognition, Interest and Action.
- Recognition: Your subscribers need to recognise that the email is coming from you and is something they have subscribed to receive. If they don’t recognise the sender the email is more than likely to get ignored, deleted or worst of all, reported as spam.If your subscribers recognise the email then all the positive expectations and experiences you built up through your brand will come into play and encourage the subscriber to explore further.The most important contributions to remember are the sender name, subject line and what will appear in the preview panels (the top of your content of your email).
- Interest: This deals with sparking interest within the subscriber to open the email. Most subscribers scan down the subject lines in their inbox and subconsciously ask the question “Is it worth looking at what’s in this email now”.Your subject line needs to give them a reason to answer that question with a “yes”. But remember, the interest you generate must be rewarded by the actual content of the email. You do not want to raise expectations that you cannot meet and leave the subscriber disappointed.
- Action: The subject line should encourage some sort of action, for example a click, a purchase, a reply, etc.The main aim of the subject line is to create recognition and interest. But it can also pave the way for the action that you are looking form. But be careful, you do not want to weaken the subject line’s other objectives by going for a hard sell right away.
If your main aim of the subject line is to ensure your email is recognised. It has been proven that subject lines with company names in them were recognised and opened. Put in your brand name, the newsletter name, your business name, etc whatever is likely to trigger your recognition most easily.
Recognition is not achieved through the subject line alone. Your subscribers viewing the email usually see a sender line, a subject line and a snippet of text or a preview pane.
The From/Subject/Preview Combination:
If your preview panel, pre-header text and from line are all set up to allow your subscribers to quickly recognise the email or sender, then you have more freedom to ignore the recognition issue in your subject line, you can leave out your company/brand name.
You can use a combination of brand recognition in the from line and the title to your newsletter in the subject line. For example:
Subject: Monthly News & Tips
If you are going to put your company name in the subject line, it is best practice to put it at the beginning so that it stands out and allows your subscribers to easily recognise you.
Personalising the subject line potentially gets present subscribers attention and interest and can imply relevancy. But this also prevents a couple of problems.
Firstly a lot of spammers put first names in the subject line.
Secondly, you have to be sure that your data is accurate. There is nothing worse than addressing an email to the wrong person.
Surveys have shown that it is better to leave out personalisation in subject line in most case, apart from birthday greetings, reminders, surveys and similar messages (eg A special Birthday Wish for Marc from Company Name).
Copywriting and Inspiration:
There is no one single formula that guarantees success, but there are approaches and concepts that have proven useful in creating a good subject line.
Things to focus on are:
- A good subject line is driving interest first and action second
- Clearly state the offer
- Describe the subject of your email – the best subject lines tells what is inside
- A good clear concise, specific description of the emails contents
Remember if you use teasers in your subject line, and you do not deliver the reward or curiosity effectively, then it quickly turns to animosity.
You can also draw on insight from other parts of your business:
- What are the most popular Blog titles?
- In your Website, what are the calls to action that drives most clicks?
- What are your most successful headlines?
Another point to keep in mind is – what works in one campaign might bomb with the next, remember to find the right formula for each campaign.
Characters and words to avoid putting into your subject line:
- Avoid use of + and ?
- Avoid using exclamation points (!)
- Avoid using your email address again in the Subject Line
- Avoid using the same word twice in a Subject Line
- Avoid using similar words together (eg “offer” and “sale”)
Remember that it is past behaviour and receiving relevant and useful emails that drive future success, so think carefully about what you send.
HTML or Plain Text, or Both
Most email clients today have the ability to display HTML messages. We recommend that you still use the option to send your messages by both HTML and plain text.
We have discovered that some clients who have the ability to view emails in HTML have turned off this feature. Mobilize Mail has created an easy way for you to turn your HTML into a plain text version, by the push of a single button.
We have discovered that if clients have their HTML display turned off or cannot receive HTML emails, then the newsletter will either show up “blank” or as garbled HTML codes.
Point Emails to Landing Pages
Location – Location – Location
Ensure the most compelling content should be at the top (and preferably the top left) of the email. A lot of people view emails in a preview pane without bothering to open the email message in full. That means you have about a couple of inches to entice your subscriber to open the entire message.
Below is a message viewed in Outlook 2007 with the right preview pane enabled – not much space eh!
And below is the same message viewed with the preview pane at the bottom.
And finally here is an email that used a big flash and expensive image at the top of their email to grab the subscribers attention.
Don’t forget up to 50% of your subscribers will view your message with images not displayed.
Test – Test – Test
We cannot talk enough about the need for testing before you send your subscribers an email. If you mess up too many times your subscribers will start unsubscribing.
Subscribers are now use to quality HTML emails with great content. To make sure your content looks good send test emails to yourself and even your workmates to get their feedback.
There are over 20 major email applications used by the bulk of people these days. Below are a few you would have heard about – note that each one will present your HTML email content differently.
- AOL email application. Not of major use in New Zealand and Aus
- Microsoft Outlook 2000/2003 and the dreaded destroyer of HTML – Outlook 2007
- Microsoft Outlook Express
- Mozilla Thunderbird
- Apple Mail
- Apple’s Entourage (Microsoft Outlook for Apple)
- Lotus Notes
If you have access to these email applications then it would be a good idea to send your email content to each one to see how the email content looks. If you don’t have access to a range of email applications then contact us and for a small fee we can run your email content through our test lab and send you a test result report with helpful information.
Things Not To Do
Below is a list of what we consider to be no-no’s for your email content:
- Do not at all cost send out an email whereby the only content is an image. Not only are most versions of email clients blocking images by default now (which means 100% of your content is invisible) but also you are almost guaranteed that the SPAM filters will block your emails.
- Avoid being creative with your spelling, because the spammers do that all the time (how many m0rtg4ge refinac3 messages are in your inbox right now?). Even a simple word such as “fr’ee” will get you into trouble.
- Going crazy with font sizes and colours. I could count on one hand the number of subscribers I know that enjoy receiving email content that looks like a child’s coloring-in book. Keep to at most 3 different colours and only increase the font size if you are presenting a heading.
- Don’t try and send attachments. There has been a heighted alert to attachments containing viruses so the SPAM filters are very aggressive towards bulk commercial emails containing attachments.
- Send content which offers no benefit to the subscriber. Seriously, would you be interested in an email that talked about how wonderful the sender was?
- Always – always think before you send! Put yourself in the mind of your subscribers and ask yourself if you would find the content of interest. If you say no then imagine what your subscribers would think.
- Test – Test – Test – Test. Send your email to yourself at least once before you send it to your subscribers. It really is worth the effort and it takes only a few mistakes with your subscribers to have them click the unsubscribe button.
How we can help you
Mobilize Mail provides email marketing services to New Zealand businesses including promotional landing pages, surveys, integration with third party applications, Facebook, Twitter and blogs to name a few. If you like the idea of having a professional New Zealand based team that you can ring and talk to then check out their web site here: www.MobilizeMail.com
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