Email marketing – why subject lines really matter

We all get a lot of emails. Sifting through emails in multiple inboxes seems to be a daily struggle. Looking for the correspondence that actually matters to us is a skill we have learnt as we grow more accustomed to working in online. Your brain has developed the function to quickly search for signals that give off the right impression. Subject lines can resign your message to the scrap heap or piquing your audience interest.

If you want your email to convert – you have to sell your offer in the subject line. 

Our brains now work fast at deciphering the thousands of ads that we’re exposed to on a daily basis, that we’re not really sure what pushes these switches. Average consumers receive over 125 emails each and every day. Some of these will be captured by your email provider and thrown in the trash, others will require a manual scrub. 

Within that small snippet of characters, you’ve got to capture attention, show your offerings and incentivise your user to open it – no mean feat. 

Crafting your subject line 

You are consistently blasted with the words free, bonus, offer, now and a million other clichés – so we simply don’t read them any more. Consumers have also learned how to decipher spam from real messages targeted specifically to them. These words have simply lost their efficacy. That’s why it’s so important for you to instil your brand values into that first sentence. Show the reader who you are as a brand and give them a reason to care enough to open your email. Authenticity is key here, as it will help you to stand out from the other 124 emails that have exploded into their inbox that day. 

It’s all well and good for us to give advice on being authentic and showing your brand, but how do you do that within your character count? How do you make sure that resonates with users?

Worry not, we have the answer. It’s all about testing. Take your email database and segment it as much as you can. Start with two separate promotions, each targeting half of your database. Then, have one subject line that starts with an action, the other that starts with something more subtle. Keep breaking down your database and testing one against the other until you have some usable data. Try out emojis, capitalisation, punctuation and every other variation you can think of. 

It’s recommended you have between 35 and 50 characters in your subject line, after that the possibilities are endless. Remember, whatever your subject line sells, the rest of your email has to deliver. 

Using this data 

After you’ve been busy with all of that split testing, it’s time to make sense of the data. You want to hone in on a few key metrics, like opens, clicks and conversions. These are the metrics that count, so don’t get caught up in ones that don’t directly lead to engagement and then onto conversions. You could have the biggest email database in the world and be sending out multiple mailers a day, giving you a massive reach, but if your content is terrible this doesn’t really mean anything. 

By analysing this data, you’ll get more information on what your users want to see. If they react to one subject line and not to another, then you have to collate the information that this gives you. If you make only small changes each time, the comparison will become much easier. Don’t expect that this data will always make sense to you, as some user behaviours are completely unexpected. Follow the data, not your notions of what your users like and dislike. 

Email marketing is one of the most important tools in the affiliate toolbox to attract and re-engage users but text based communications are dead. CRM tools like HubSpot and campaign monitor can help you to drive more engaging messaging, add gamification and other attractive creative to get audiences engaged. You might be using this to some degree already, perhaps sending out a roundup of promotions now and again. If you really want to take this to the next level and prevent your emails from ending up in the trash, then sell it with your subject line. 

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