Man hitting head on laptop in frustrationBoy oh boy, email marketing is becoming hard work, isn’t it? Trying to get anyone to notice and actually open emails these days feels rather like – to use a topical Games analogy – finding yourself lining up alongside Usain Bolt in the men’s 100m final; you might be good but you’re not that good, not matter how hard you’ve trained!

Let’s face it, we are all being bombarded left, right and centre with marketing messages – on radio and television, via email, through your letterbox and, overwhelmingly these days, by social media. We are officially in an overload situation, victims of our own greed for information and technology, subjected to marketing through every single interactive device we may own – TV, smartphone, tablet or laptop.

So it’s all doom and gloom and we should all give up now then, right? Well, no actually, we all just have to be a little more savvy about email marketing in order for it to be effective.

Email marketing still works!

Email marketing is a really good relationship building tool, but you have to work at it. How often do you receive emails with subject lines such as ‘July newsletter from Company X’, ‘August newsletter from Company X’ and so on? There is nothing compelling in that subject line to even vaguely entice anyone to open the email, it’s just the same old thing month after month so the obvious reaction is to trash it without reading the content (I also fight the desire to scream, but maybe that’s just me!).

This kind of email marketing is lazy and is never going to achieve anything for poor old Company X. Clearly, there is no understanding that the email subject line is where you need to set out your stall – concisely and engagingly. That one line has to deliver a message of real value to your audience. It could be that you highlight a problem that may potentially concern your audience, you might choose to pose a provocative question that will set them thinking, or you might promote interest through a special offer that is just simply irresistible.

Whatever you do, you need to tap into your audience’s mindset, put yourself in their shoes and work out what it is that they might want from you and your business. No matter what the quality is of the actual email content, it’s those few well chosen words in the email subject line that holds the key to the success of your email marketing campaign.

So how can you create email subject lines that don’t suck?

There are no real shortcuts, you have to test, hone and re-test. But the good news is that it couldn’t be easier to go through this process, thanks to some excellent tools that are freely available.

I regularly run email campaigns for a number of clients on a monthly basis, and for each of them I use a technique called A/B split testing – through MailChimp (a fantastic email marketing service that I recommend) I can test different email subject lines to identify which ones have the best open or click through rates.

For one of my clients, it’s meant a three-fold increase in the amount of click throughs and over 1500% ROI in the last 12 months, simply because people are sufficiently interested in the email subject lines to actually open the emails and act on them – a brilliant result that has had a significant profit impact on my client’s business.

A/B split testing is all about testing and analysing. As well as giving you the opportunity to discover the best time of day – and indeed the day itself – to send your emails, you can test the open rate or click through rates of emails according to their subject line.

Email Marketing - AB Slpit TestingSo if you’re planning an email campaign and want to make sure people will actually read the content, you need to try out your approach on a sample of your audience first. All you have to do is determine the size of your sample groups (I typically use 20%) and then send out your campaign with two different email subject lines. Mail Chimp does all this for you with just a few clicks. Simple!

The system monitors which email subject line has worked best based on your criteria and then automatically sends the balance of the emails to the winning subject line. No further intervention is required by you. It’s free, it’s fast, it’s easy and it could make all the difference to your open rates, click throughs to your website and ultimately (and most importantly) conversions to sales or leads!

PS: Another quick tip to remember – try to only change ONE parameter at a time so you are clear what made the difference – or you might just end up running round in circles!

What success have you had with email marketing? Have you discovered your winning formula for subject lines that guarantees a high open rate?