The Only Influencers Blog

The top thought leaders in email marketing share their insights and thoughts.

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Relevance marketers versus data. Let the battle begin!

I read an article the other day from a relevance marketer – you know, the person who insists that your emails MUST be segmented and relevant in order to (a) be any good and (b) keep you out of deliverability hell.

There were two things that really confused me about the article. The first was that an email with a 60% open rate that generated 3,000 opens is better than one with a lower open rate that generated 4,500 opens. The difference in the cost of the send? Approximately $25. I don’t know about you but, as a marketer, I’d happily pay $25 to have 1500 people (who have already signed up for my list) to learn more about what I’m talking about. It works out to 1.6 cents per open. At a 10% click to open rate, it’s 16 cents per click – significantly cheaper than almost any other paid media. So while this author may “feel” that relevance is “better’, the data tells me it’s a no-brainer to send to the larger list. Even if it is less “relevant.”

The second thing that this article claimed was that larger lists will inevitably run into deliverability problems, as ISPs are actively looking at engagement as a metric for deciding who does and does not get into your inbox. Here’s my question…how can sending to people who’ve actively (or even passively) signed up for your email cause delivery problems? Can this assumption really be true?

One of the joys in being a digital/email marketer is that you don’t have to rely on opinion. You can simply run some numbers and decide for yourself. I pulled from our eDataSource inbox tracker (which is a completely awesome tool, btw) which uses a panel of several hundred thousand emails – across 335 different senders – and decided to see what the numbers have to say.

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One of the best ways to engage email subscribers is to connect with them emotionally, although this is often easier said than done. I have spoken and written many times about the importance of creating emotional resonance – either positive or negative – between your message and your audience. It is essential because without some sort of feeling connection to you, at least occasionally, subscribers will become bored by the purely practical (i.e. 20% savings this week!), often repetitive litany of subject lines showing up in their inboxes and easily tune out. It’s fine to engage them intellectually, but if you want your email to create a lasting impact, it needs to pack an emotional punch too.

The subject line is an obvious, immediate and powerful way for email to connect emotionally with subscribers – but how many of us routinely think about writing subject lines from an emotional vs. informative frame of mind? While not all need to be emotional stunners, I thought it would be fun to comb through my email swipe file to showcase examples of subject lines that evoke, provoke, and otherwise succeed in causing a visceral emotional reaction.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at ten email subject lines that pack an emotional punch and explore why.

1. Carnival Cruise Lines

Subject Line: Deleting this email is like deleting $200

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Tagged in: Subject Lines

Subject lines… the easiest thing to write, the hardest thing to get right. There is just no single rule, tactic or word that works every time. Best practices sometimes fail and A/B testing can produce unexpected results.

Why is this? In simplest terms, being original keeps your subscribers on their toes and can spark in-actives into life. But if every subject line you write is surprising and original, your subscribers catch on and that lack of clarity has a negative effect.

So the key is originality in moderation. But how much originality and how much moderation?

Email marketers are not very original
abigail1Alchemy Worx analysed half a billion sent messages from 15 of their
largest clients across multiple industries to see what they could find.

They categorized each subject line as unoriginal and original
– original being a subject line that contained at least one word
the sender had never used before.

You might think that with such a conservative definition for
originality most marketing emails would be classified as original.
But as the pie chart shows, less than a third were classified as original.

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Tagged in: Subject Lines

There’s no shortage of blogs, whitepapers and advice about how to create an awesome subject line. You’ll find lists, top tips, bullet points and maybe even the odd chart or graph.

And yet, the majority of emails that I get in my inbox still have boring old subject lines. Here’s a few I’ve gotten recently:

“Our best theatre deals”

Oh great, thanks! Erm, so most other times you send out your worst deals?

“5 things we learnt about content marketing”

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Your email subject line. It’s an invitation, a front door, a salesperson, an ambassador. It’s important, to say the least. Here are 10 ½ tips to make your subject line Don Draper not Al Bundy, caviar not tofu — in a word: better.

  1. Test for bad words:
Over 35% of spam is detected from email subject lines because of spam trigger words. Free, sex, video, trial, sample, mortgage. Just say no. There are lots of ways to test against spam triggers. SpamAssassin (used by EmailSpamTest) is a good place to start. Check lists of spam words from Mequoda and MarketingTech Blog .

  2. Keep it short and sweet:
The average email client only displays 38 to 47 characters in a subject line. According to a Return Path study back in 2006, subject lines with 49 or fewer characters had open rates 12.5% higher than those with 50 or more characters. And your beloved subscriber has a short attention span. Brevity is the soul of wit and the muse of a good subject line. A lot of marketers have had success with one-word subject lines. (They’re certain to stand out).
    • Stuck?
    • Panic

  3. Use content that resonates:
Content-related subject lines and “trigger words” that resonate with your audience work better than general subject lines. You may be sitting on rich data to help you figure out what interests your audience. Use Google Analytics (or other analytics tools) to assess what content (pages and keywords) website visitors were most interested in. These are the topics that resonate with your audience — and a good place to start with your subject line.
    • March Powertool Bonanza
    • 10 Tips for Better Mobile Emails

  4. Scintillate don’t summarize: Nobody, except maybe your mother, is very interested in reading your email that bears the subject line “July Newsletter.” Something like “How we made $1 million in July” will generate many more opens. Teasers and questions work well, such as these (from a recent Mequoda column):
    • Are organic foods worth the extra cost?
    • Why 95% of traders lose money in the stock market

  5. Focus on the User: Your email subscribers want to know what’s in it for them. Focus on a benefit to the reader of the email. Not surprisingly, the words “you,” “your” and “secrets” boost open rates more than “free” or “special.” Experian’s 2013 Email Market Study finds that personalized emails of all stripes get higher open rates. Do personalized subject lines boost open rates? Some say yes, some say no, and, at the end of the day, it depends on the type of message, according to this article in Email Marketing Reports. Some examples of user-benefit focus:
    • Boost ROI Tenfold with Segmentation

    • Your Input, Please: Annual Customer Satisfaction Survey
    • Look Your Best – On Us
  6. Don’t be generic: Similarly, don’t be generic. Favoring specificity, USA Today goes with “Obama's phone calls show urgency of world crises” over “Top news from July 29th.”

7. Don’t be repetitive: Even if last month’s newsletter had a killer subject line, chance are you’re better of not repeating it. New is good.

7 ½. Don’t be repetitive: See what I mean? Are you even reading this sentence?

8. Find the controversy or intrigue:
Give people a reason to open that email by focusing on something memorable, shocking, intriguing or just plain outrageous (unless you are, say, the White House or a health insurer). For example:

• Eating French fries makes you healthier
• 10 reasons why the stock market will collapse in 2015

• Introducing the 4-Hour Workweek

9. Make sure the rest of the email doesn’t suck:
As @Copyblogger puts it, “There’s something special in this jaded digital age about being invited into someone’s email inbox.” Don’t take that invitation or granted. Your subject line is only as good as the email that follows it.

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