The real reason email subject lines are important

There’s been plenty of research conducted about email subject lines — some good, some bad, and some just plain silly. I always marvel at Mail Chimp’s list of worst-performing email subject lines, such as Final reminder for complimentary entry to attend the West Freelands BCI Cluster Conference 2006 maintaining a comfortable lead for eight straight years.

Assuming you’re ultimately looking to drive traffic to your website or a key landing page somewhere, the email subject line is going to be a primary barrier to successful open rates, and your email’s content the barrier to a click-through. Considering that potential website visitors need to get past the subject line and past your copy just to get to the Web page, writing a good subject line is a tall order.

There’s no shortage of tips based on research — no more than six words, fewer than 130 characters, don’t use all caps and exclamation points or the words Free, Help, and Percent Off. That’s all reasonable. However, what’s quite revealing is that a study conducted by Adestra determined that subject lines for B2B emails had a stronger open rate when they were six to 10 words in length, but they also had a weaker click-through rate. This tells us that we should use a longer subject line when the email does not require the reader to take a click-through action.



But what’s missing in all of this research? Creativity and a default excuse. I’ve closed business from a three-word subject line that I’ve used time and again. It’s not overwhelmingly creative but it does seem to be engaging. It Can’t Hurt. I’ve used this in emails to insurance companies, manufacturers, banks, and property management companies.

In my text, I reference the amount of website work we’ve done in the industry, and I reference the names of clients, even the recipient’s competitors. I might reference a few insights, as well as some other insights I’ll share with them when we meet. It works like a charm. And from what I hear in our initial meetings, they’ve fully scoured our website without having to bother with a click-through action. Give it a try and see if it works for you.

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