Boost Your Email Open Rate With Strong Subject Lines

Jaimy Ford by Jaimy Ford on May 31, 2013
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If you rely on email to market your business (and, honestly, who doesn’t these days?), here’s what you’re up against: The average email user receives more than 70 messages per day, according to technology market research firm Radicati Group.

In other words, people’s in-boxes are overflowing with messages, and it’s all too easy for them to hit Delete to clear the clutter. Yet email can be a highly effective way to market your business — if your subject lines stand out from the rest.

Here’s how to boost your open rate with strong subject lines.

  • Keep it short. Study after study indicates that shorter messages increase open rates. For example, the Informz 2013 Association Email Marketing Benchmark Report indicates that subject lines with fewer than 10 characters had the highest open rate (51 percent). If that seems a bit too concise, try to limit your character count to 40.
  • Convince recipients to “act now.” The longer a message sits unopened, the more likely it is that the recipient will delete it. Add a deadline (“Receive 30% off until June 1”) to encourage people to open the message immediately.
  • Avoid ambiguity. Marketers too often opt for cute or witty over concise and direct. Explain exactly what the message is about (“Cut 50% from your IT budget”). If your subject line doesn’t match what’s in the body of the message, you are inviting people to unsubscribe from your list.
  • Provide a benefit statement. Explain how recipients’ lives will improve by opening your email. In a BlueHornet survey, 45.4 percent of consumers reported reading an email from a retail brand because the subject link mentioned a discount or special offer, such as “Stay 3 nights for the price of 2.”
  • Use a number in the subject line. When recipients see a number, as in “5 ways to save money,” they want to open the message and learn the five ways, says expert copywriter Bob Bly. Using numerals vs. spelling them out also helps cut down on the total character count.
  • Choose your words wisely. If your message is caught in a spam trap, your killer subject line won’t matter. Mannix Marketing offers a list of 100 spam trigger words and phrases to avoid. Eliminate those words from your subject lines — and email copy — as best as you can.
  • Personalize your messages. That doesn’t necessarily mean sticking someone’s name in the subject line. Instead, segment your email list by purchase history or another qualifier (age, geography, etc.). Then send tailored messages to smaller groups. For instance, “The XYZ Widget just got better!” or “Improve your Charlottesville lawn.”
Jaimy Ford

Jaimy Ford is a business writer and editor. She writes subscription newsletters, training tools and blogs that focus on professional development, leadership, productivity and more. Her goal in everything she writes is to provide actionable advice that you can put to use immediately.

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