How to Write Subject Lines that Increase Your Email Open Rate

Update :  After this post was published, Suzanne Norman, Director of Community Relations for Emma, and the provider of the strategy and tips below had some additional comments.  They’ve been inserted at the bottom, and I am grateful that she took the time to add some great insights.

I recently attended the 2009 Governor’s Nonprofit Leadership Conference in Dallas, Texas.  One of the seminars covered email marketing, presented by Suzanne Norman – Director of Community Relations for Emma, an email marketing service.

She covered great topics such as building your email list, tips for writing effective emails, and the importance of good subject lines.  Based on research and experience across the email marketing community, subject line strength is the single biggest determinant in getting an email opened and not deleted before being read.

The big-picture message I came away with in writing great subject lines is that you have to make it about the reader, not yourself or your organization.  Give them a call to action or information that will help them.  Focus on how the reader can help you, your organization, and on how they can help themselves.

The example used in the seminar was from a kids nonprofit that sent out a monthly newsletter titled “Monthly Newsletter”.  The attendees took time to craft a better subject line based on the material in the email newsletter itself and how that could be focused for the reader. By the end, the preferred subject line became “You can help keep kids safe, secure, and smiling”.

Which email are you more likely to open based on the subject line :

“Monthly Newsletter”

or

“You can help keep kids safe, secure, and smiling”.

By focusing on the reader, how they can help, what you want them to do, and what they can get out of it, you will increase your email open rate.

Some additional tips shared by Suzanne Norman for subject lines :

  • Brainstorm lots of options, then justify every word in the one you choose
  • Reference the most important part(s) of your email
  • It doesn’t matter if its long or short.  It only matters if its good!
  • Entice, but don’t give it all away

Suzanne Norman, Director of Community Relations for Emma, an email marketing service.

“It’s also important to identify yourself or your organization. Remember that your subject line is another form of identification for your email, and that in the split second you have to grab a reader’s eye, having your name (or your connection to the reader) in the mix may be just the thing.

Oh, and if you’re deciding between two great subject line contenders, why not try a test? Split your email audience into two sets, and test your two subject lines between your groups. Then see what kind of effect each subject line has on your open rates, clickthroughs, and your general popularity around town.”

If you have other tips to share on subject lines, let us hear them!

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One Response to How to Write Subject Lines that Increase Your Email Open Rate

  1. Pingback: How to write subject lines that increase your open rate – Update « Change For A Dollar

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