"The majority of your email success happens outside the envelope: the 'to' address, the 'from' address, the subject line, the preview, the format, and the deliverability. Nail them all and your success rates will increase. Period."
That quote comes from a blog post by top consultant Amy Africa of Eight By Eight titled Five Low-Cost Things You Should Be Doing Today: Email Edition. Africa was a keynote speaker at the 2012 SIPA Annual Conference, and I've followed her a bit ever since.
Regarding the subject line, Real Magnet, which also has an excellent blog, recently listed some dos and don'ts about subject lines. They include:
- Do personalize when possible. Emails with personalized subject lines are 22% more likely to be opened.
- Don't be spammy. Based on the subject line alone, 69% of email recipients will report email as spam.
- Do add pre-header text. Your pre-header text is an extension of your subject line. Many subscribers use it to determine whether to open your email.
- Don't write in all caps. More than 85% of email recipients prefer all lowercase subject lines.
- Do use keywords. Keywords that convey a sense of urgency perform best in subject lines. Place these at the beginning in case they get cut off.
Oh and here are the five pieces of advice from Africa:
In that aforementioned study, the top reasons listed by respondents for subscribing to emails from businesses are: "to receive discounts and special offers" (58%); "to take part in a specific promotion" (39%); "I am a customer supporter of the business/nonprofit" (37%); "to gain access to exclusive content" (26%); "the desire to stay informed on an ongoing basis" (26%); and "to want to support a business/nonprofit I like" (25%).
- Check ALL your From addresses. "It amazes me how many companies still email from hideous email addresses," she writes. In a past survey, 64% of the respondents list "the organization it is from" as a reason that they open email; 47% say the subject line (so my daily subject-line angst is justified); and 26% say the offer.
- Work your unsubscribes. Africa writes that you should allow the user to change/update their email address, change their frequency and easily contact you. "You don't want to force users to answer a census-style survey with eleventy bazillion questions but three or four good questions is just fine. Remember, a good unsubscribe page will save about half the people from bailing."
- Continue the series. For people who abandon their carts or searches, Africa urges you not to give up on them. "...instead of just dumping them after they haven't responded to your x emails over a week, put them into a separate bucket and mail them once a month till they buy or die."
- Figure Out Your DTS (number of days to sale.). You may have some customers who only purchase at a certain time of the year. Africa says to be careful that you don't delete these after a period of inaction.
- Collect more email addresses. "Take a few minutes to figure out all the places you're capturing—or more important, should be capturing—email names," she writes. "Then, develop a plan of attack." (If you have been doing this well, the 2017 SIPAwards has a new category titled Best Lead Generation Program. We'd love to hear about it.)