There are some awards which are simply unmissable, added to the calendar as soon as the date of the ceremony is announced. The Oscars, Sports Personality of the Year, and the Golden Gators. No? Just us?
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we think about email subject lines a lot. And you should too! They’re the first thing a recipient sees when your carefully-crafted message lands in their inbox. They can literally make or break a campaign. The right message will earn an intrigued click and give your actual content a chance to shine. The wrong one will be clicked past, or worse, deleted as irrelevant.
With so much riding on so few words, every year we award the Best Subject Line trophy to its creators at our annual customer conference. Using the Click Through Rate of the associated email as a metric, this year’s finalists were:
- #Eight things managers need to know
- Does the #[Person/CompanyName]# website meet new Accessibility Law Requirements?
- GDPR Privacy Notice
Which one do you think came out on top?
Before we tell you, it’s worth reviewing some of the elements which make a subject line perform well.
Although there’s no precise Golden Rule on the ideal length of a subject line, 60-70 character subject lines get read the most. This length means that your whole subject line will be visible in the most common desktop email clients (Outlook.com, Outlook 2010 and GMail).
It’s worth noting that on mobile, the visible length drops to 30-40 characters. As more and more people turn to mobile as their go-to for emails, this will become more important, so keep an eye on this shift within your target industry.
Very few subject lines are really timeless. “When is a good time to call?” is just about the only one we’ve never had to change, everything else becomes boring or totally irrelevant after a while. Subject lines about current news can be strong performers (we’ll tell you another time about one that backfired spectacularly), but the ideal is news from your prospect’s industry. Showing that you understand the environment they are operating in and their pressing concerns is a much better piece of personalisation than just their name.
That said, addressing your reader by name, and mentioning their specific company helps put your offering into a personal context. “The sweetest sound to any person, is their own name” applies as much to email as to face-to-face conversation. You’d better believe we get a scathing response on the rare occasion we get a contact name wrong!
Questions vs. Statements
Asking a question in your subject line is a great way to engage a reader. It encourages them to think, if only for a few moments about your topic, and hopefully want to find out the answer. Personally, when I see a title or subject line in this format, I decide what I think the answer is, then click ahead to see if I was right! Any Sales training resource worth its salt will advocate asking open questions rather than spouting statements which don’t necessarily require any response from the other person, and so it is with subject lines. It helps to think of your subject line as the opening of a conversation; “What do you think about [Gareth Southgate/Harry Kane/Cristiano Ronaldo]?” is a better gambit than “I like football”.
Numbers and Statistics
In the wake of New Year, “Top 10” lists of everything from holiday destinations to ways to use carrots are everywhere. However, this trend has strong roots, as numbers and statistics in titles consistently have an impact. As well as showing off your expertise, as you have multiple pieces of advice to give, rather than a single tired platitude, putting a number helps your reader decide that they have time to engage with your content. A list of “100 most popular [thing]” will take a long time to read, and probably not prove terribly engaging. In contrast, “5 ways to improve CTR today” indicates a light read, and if you can get your recipient to even skim-read your content, then your subject line has done its job. It’s then down to your content to engage your reader more deeply.
And the winner is…..
“Does the #[Person/CompanyName]# website meet new Accessibility Law Requirements?”
Let’s briefly look at how this matched our criteria; it’s personalised with the recipient’s company name, it’s focussed on a particular change in the law which will affect the target audience, and it’s phrased as a question. At 80 characters, depending on the exact recipient, it’s a little on the long side, but with a strong Click Through Rate it clearly hit the spot!
If you segment your data properly, you too can craft subject lines which will be a hit with your audience, then watch the hot leads roll in!