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Get your foot in the door: creating compelling email subject lines

Coming up for air from a busy stretch and thought that I would cover a marketing channel that benefits small businesses: email marketing. Unless you have been under a Martian rock for the past 20 years, you have received quite a bit of email in your inbox. Have you thought about what gets you to open an email while others get trashed? It would seem that 99.95% of email marketers do not.

Remember the traveling salesman that would put his foot in the door to keep it from being slammed in his face? Your emails can be like that, albeit a little more welcome.

You or your creative professional can design an email that is compelling and cross-platform compliant, but it is the subject line that makes or breaks a campaign.
The key to success is managing the recipient’s expectations when the email arrives.

Before anyone opens an email, they ask themselves the following questions:

Who is this?
Make sure that your email subject line identifies who you are and your relationship to the user. A line like “Thanks for signing up for the M19 MEDIA mailing list” properly identifies you to the user as someone that they know.

Why are you contacting me?
People generally don’t like surprises and are leery of opening emails for fear of viruses and all sorts of other bad things. Give them a specific sense of what the email is about before they open it. “Claim your small business social media marketing report for signing up with M19 MEDIA” let’s the user know what they can expect to find when they open the email.

How did you get my email address?
Many email marketers take too long to respond to people who sign up for their email mailing list. That time lag can allow your user to forget all about that form that they filled out on your site. Make sure that, even though they opted in twice, that you send them a reminder within a day or so to remind them that they did. Here, you can use the email client’s preview pane to accomplish that goal. Many email clients will display the first sentences of your email and here is where you can lead off with the reminder that they signed up in the first place.

What do you want?
Make sure that your offer or Call to Action is displayed in the subject line. Tiger Direct does a good job of putting some of their specials in the subject line. So even if I am not interested in a 21″ monitor for $200, I know that the email is about their special sales for that week. “Thanks for signing up for M19 MEDIA’s mailing list. Your 30% coupon is ready!”

Why should I care?
Your email subject line should that be relevant to the audience that is receiving it. This means that you may have to segment your list so that everyone gets an email that means the most to them. “Solve your small business lead generation with this white paper from M19 MEDIA.” should get the attention of a small business owner that is struggling with lead generation. That person will likely open my email.

Some other considerations:

Make the Call to Action time sensitive. Emails that feel urgent or require immediate action usually get opened more quickly, especially if the email arrives soon after the user signed up for the email newsletter.

Avoid spammy words. This should be easy when you are customizing your email subject line to resonate with your audience. Here is a list of words/phrases to avoid.

Stay tuned for a post about email content!