Email Subject Lines: Longer subject increases opens 8.2%
Before I get started, please allow me to reiterate something we’ve expressed around here for years: The objective of an email is to get a click. However, while this goal seems clear, your prospective customers aren’t looking for a reason to click your email – they’re looking for a reason to delete it.
In order to capture the interest of someone navigating a cluttered inbox, your subject line message must be clear enough to garner attention and express value. The subject line is really just the first part of an ongoing conversation you’re trying to establish with a prospective customer. These conversations need to operate just as if they were happening in real life.
Think about it. When you begin an in-person conversation, you don’t speak in vague terms and hope someone is listening. Instead, you more than likely introduce your story with a quick, but valuable statement intended to get the audience’s attention, hoping they’ll focus on you and listen to the more elaborate details that follow.
If you succeed, not only do you get to tell your hilarious/heart-wrenching/life-altering story, but you also open the door for further relevant conversation. This practice also needs to be employed in email dialogue, as seen in the experiment below.
Our Research Partner (anonymized to protect company’s competitive advantage) is a leading international oil field services provider. They develop products, services and solutions that aim to optimize customer performance in a safe and environmentally sound manner. When the company agreed to sponsor a major conference for the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC), they developed an email to promote this partnership and help draw interest in the new drilling products and online resource center they were set to unveil at the conference.
Treatment #1 vs. Treatment #2: Shorter isn’t always sweeter
In developing this email (which I’ll cover in more detail in a later blog post) the company was compelled to put as much information as possible into the body copy, effectively negating the value of the subsequent landing page. However, their approach to the email’s subject line was considerably more minimalist:
First Look at New Products, Technology, and More
At first glance, this seems like a simple, effective subject line. The topic is clear enough, and the words “First Look” and “New” all imply a level of exclusivity. However, unless you’ve memorized every email address that graces your inbox each day, there remains some huge questions:
- Who is this from?
- Why are they emailing me?
…and most importantly…
- Exactly what in the blue [heck] is this about?
In a perfect world, recipients of this email would click through to find the information they seek. But as we know, it’s not a perfect world, and this subject line is too vague and generic to capture the requisite interest for opening the email link.
Our research team decided to test the original subject line against a longer, yet more focused alternative:
IADC 2011 – Exclusive First Look at New Products, Technology and More
The treatment subject line generated an 8.2% higher open rate than the control.
While the first subject line may seemingly appeal to a broader range of recipients, the treatment does a much better job of beginning the all-important conversation with potential customers. By opening the subject line with the name of the conference (IADC 2011), the recipient immediately knows what the email content is about (and likely, who it’s from), making the supporting terms “First Look,” “New Products” and “Technology” all the more relevant.
A positive boost came from the term “Exclusive,” which was inserted to add strength to the value statements that followed. While “First Look” lent an air of immediacy to the first subject line, adding “Exclusive” to the treatment created an incentive for the user to take action.
Remember, your subject line needs to open the dialogue and encourage further interaction. Because you have a matter of microseconds to garner enough interest for an open, relevance trumps brevity, no matter what the subject line gurus tell you each day. Though they should be as brief as possible, do not sacrifice relevance to your audience, just to save a few characters.
Crafting an Engaging Email Message (Web Clinic replay)
Live optimization with Dr. Flint McGlaughlin at Email Summit 2011 (blog post recap)