email marketingHas email marketing become a redundant method of communication? Using social media to engage audiences seems to have become the marketing channel of choice, but I think email is still a good tried and tested route that can work really well. Of course, the main issue is: will it be read? Which is why the subject line is so important to the success of any email marketing campaign.

Yes, those few words that make up the subject line really do make all the difference between your email content being read and being consigned to the Deleted folder – particularly if you don’t yet have a relationship with the intended recipient.

The subject line acts in a very similar way to a headline on an ad, and it needs to work hard to attract attention. So what can you do to ensure your subject line will improve your open rate?

Try these top tips for more successful subject lines…

• Ask yourself a few pertinent questions
Does your subject line deliver a message that will be valuable to the reader? Will they immediately understand the message? Is the message compelling enough? Will it make them read the actual email content?

• Appeal to human need
Highlight a problem that is likely to worry your audience and offer your business as the solution. Turn yourself (or your business) into a hero and you’ll win hearts and minds.

• Pose a question
Over the last six months my best subject line has been ‘Have you reviewed your customer journey yet?’ My email open rate hovers around an average of 35% (30% is typical), but this particular email shot up to 41%.

• Make them an offer they can’t refuse. Special offers generate interest and the curious will both open the email and visit your website.

Don’t waste words!
People scan for interesting subjects and eye-tracking studies have shown that we engage (or disconnect) after reading just two words, so composition is important. Front load the key message content and words to get your most important message points across – you can lose perfect grammar and well composed sentences too.

• Don’t use the same subject line, month in, month out
Your readers will get very bored. One of my clients sent out monthly emails with the subject line ‘Feb newsletter from Company XYZ’, ‘March newsletter…’ etc and the open rate declined month on month. The content itself was excellent but there was simply no compelling reason for people to open it with any sense of urgency.

What works for one business may not for another, so you may need to test a few approaches and analyse your website statistics for click-throughs – you could even run the same campaign with different subject lines so that you can benchmark their performance (called an A/B Split Test and Mail Chimp allows you to easily do this – it’s one of my favourite email marketing tools).

Remember, however effective your subject line may be, the content of the email should be worth reading. Your sole objective has to be to get your readers off the email, onto your website or optimised landing page as quickly as possible – and turn them into customers!

And finally, no matter how good your subject line is or how compelling the content, if your data list is poor, bought in or out of date, you’ll find it difficult to achieve good results. So one more thing for your ‘to do’ list has to be a careful review of your contacts database.

What’s the most effective subject line you’ve ever used? I’d love to hear about your own experiences with email marketing.