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When it comes to email marketing, a good subject line makes all the difference. In fact, one study found that 33 percent of email recipients open an email based solely on its subject line. As consumers have grown more spam savvy over the years, they’ve learned to quickly scan their inboxes and single out the messages they want to read.

For businesses, this means old email marketing rules no longer apply. It isn’t enough to deploy a single message to tens of thousands of customers and hope some of them buy in. The vast majority of those emails will hit the trash folder without ever having been opened. The first step to creating email marketing messages that convert is to make sure your subject line grabs attention and convinces recipients to open it.

Knowledge Is Power

In recent years, businesses have discovered the power of data to maximize ROI on their campaigns. Every email message that deploys can be tracked, including opens and conversions. Lists can be segmented by customer interest to make sure every email that goes out closely matches its own customers’ interests. One email can go out to your loyal customers and another can go out to the customers who have only bought from your brand once or twice. As more businesses engage in analytics-based email marketing, businesses that don’t personalize will likely find it difficult to compete.

Test and Refocus

One of the best things about living in a data-driven marketing era is that businesses can gather information and try again. One of the best things about this approach is that no effort is wasted. If a business sees disappointing results from its latest campaign, that business can study the data and change its approach with the next campaign. This can include sending messages at a different time of day, adding graphics to your email, or creating a more compelling subject line.

Or even days you never thought would be good. Anthony Tokatly, email marketing specialist for CBTNuggets.com, “A/B testing has proven to be an incredibly valuable tool for CBT Nuggets. One of our biggest successes was in finding out which days perform best in terms of email engagement. By testing the day we send our emails, we discovered that Saturday was surprisingly our strongest day for open and click through rates. Our clients are IT and database management professionals. It is quite possible they are simply too busy during the week to read any non-work-related emails.”

How A/B Testing Works

With A/B testing, a business takes the analytics approach to the next level. Instead of sending an email to everyone in its database and watching the results, brands can try two different approaches and compare the results. With Option A, for instance, a business could create a subject line that asked a question while Option B was an attention-grabbing declarative statement. You can test a third, fourth, and fifth option, although going beyond that could make it complicated to examine the results. Traditionally businesses relied on marketing experts to handle such a complicated approach but thanks to tools like GetResponse, even small businesses can launch their own A/B testing at an affordable cost.

Compelling Subject Lines

While A/B testing and analytics can help you learn what isn’t working, it can help to know what experts recommend for subject lines. The most attention-getting headlines, according to experts, are short and concise. You can word it as a question or a statement, using humor or personalization to be more effective. As you browse your own inbox throughout the day, pay attention to the emails you choose to open, compared to those you scroll past. How do you easily identify spam? What emails do you open, only to find they were just spam? When you pay attention to how you respond to marketing messages, you likely will start to gain a better understanding of what works for your customers.

Going beyond your headlines, be sure to keep it short and sweet. This infographic pretty much sums up the basics, tried and true, of creating the best cold prospecting emails.

Using Your Results

For a subject line test, make sure you keep all other factors equal for best results. Send all of the emails at the same time of day and keep your messages uniform. You can customize these later, once you’ve determined which subject line works best. Once your A/B testing is complete, review your results and make note of things you can improve for the next round of emails. Which subject line got the most opens? Was there a correlation between opens and clicks? Since all other things were equal, you can get a clear idea of how your subject lines came across to recipients and adjust your tactics accordingly.

Email marketing brings its own challenges. But when a business starts a campaign armed with information, that business is more likely to have success. Through gathering as much information as possible about your current campaigns, your business can move ahead of the competition with subject lines that encourage recipients to open your emails.

About the Author: Dan Steiner is a technology entrepreneur, author, and marketing consultant. He is currently serves as CEO of security firm Online Virus Repair Inc., while also running Avila Web Firm, a web design and internet marketing agency based out of San Luis Obispo, California. Additionally, he is as an active mentor and volunteer at startup events throughout region. Get more from Dan on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.

3 Responses

  1. Reply
    Mar 18, 2016 - 08:47 AM

    Great article, thanks for posting! I was wondering how to make A/B tests. I was never good at coming up with eye-catching subject lines. I might give GeetResponse a try.

    • Reply
      Julie Chomiak
      Apr 05, 2016 - 04:33 PM

      Cory, we’re glad this was useful to you!


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