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Technology Tip

Technology Tip
Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes. Dave's editorial and corporate experience includes more than 10 years editing an electronic technology and communications industry newsletter for a global professional services firm.

Developing Stronger Email Subject Lines

Developing Stronger Email Subject Lines

If your small business is using an email newsletter or email promotions in its marketing efforts, it won't take you long to realize the importance of your email subject lines.

Just as headlines play a critical role in deciding which magazine articles or blog posts are read, subject lines provide a quick yes/no (or open/delete) test that your message will pass or fail in the blink of an eye.

With busy people being inundated with email every day, and more than half of email messages being opened on mobile devices, more people tend to scan their subject lines than to read them.

In this environment, it can be difficult for your email newsletter or promotion to compete for attention with the dozens or possibly hundreds of unopened messages sitting in your customer's or prospect's inbox.

The best way to overcome this obstacle is by creating a strong subject line that captures their attention, and inspires enough curiosity for them to open your message.

Breaking through the Clutter

The most important step in attracting your customer's attention is to make your subject line as clear and compelling as you can.

Because most email programs will only display about the first 40 or 50 characters of your subject line, it's helpful to showcase your message with the most important keywords related to your subject.

Some small business may be tempted, for instance, to place their company name ahead of the news they are trying to convey. But since your customers are more interested in the benefits of your exciting news to them, it is better to start with that information and include your company name toward the back end of the subject line.

If you are sending a monthly or weekly newsletter it is more effective to place a news item from that issue in the subject line ahead of the name of your company or newsletter. Your customer is more interested in the latest news or promotion, or what it could mean to them, than the fact that your company sent it (which they will see in the "from" listing anyway).

A few other subject line pointers:

  • The word "free" can be a double-edged sword and should probably be avoided in your subject lines. Although "free" can improve open rates somewhat, it is more likely to trigger spam filters that divert your message away from your customers' inboxes.
  • Using your customer's first name in the subject is falling out of favor among marketing professionals. Although it was once a popular technique, overuse has led to growing customer mistrust and a tendency to glaze over a personalized message.
  • Being clear and concise is more important than being clever. Unless you are targeting an audience used to edgy humor, a clear message is likely to be more effective than a funny one.
  • People like numbered lists, so using a subject line such as "5 reasons to…" can be effective.
  • "How to" subject lines can also be effective, if the information in your newsletter provides advice or information they can easily use.

Leading email service providers typically offer a variety of educational materials to help small business owners identify keywords and prepare more effective email subject lines. With a little research and some careful attention, you can improve your email messages' open rates significantly.


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