The importance of email marketing has been debated over the past few years, but most people still agree that it’s one of the best ways to connect with your customer. That said, as a consumer during the Christmas season, I hate email marketing. My inbox has been inundated, and it’s brought to mind some best practices I try to enact when I’m on the other side of the screen.
The subject line
It’s obviously important: A good subject line means your message is opened; a bad or even mediocre one means it’s sent to the trash folder. Even so, it’s often an afterthought. I’m as guilty as anyone: You spend so much time on the content development and building your HTML email and making it pretty, and then you get to the subject line and it’s tempting to just bang something out quickly. Don’t do it!
The emails I delete without opening
- The ones that come too frequently: If I get an email from your company every day, or worse, multiple times a day? I’m deleting them all, and I’m unsubscribing from your list. I don’t care how good your subject lines are.
- Repetitive subject lines: This seems to happen a lot with job boards, apartment listings, and similar sites. Maybe they think they don’t have to try very hard, because if you’re subscribed to a job site, chances are you’ll want to open the emails and won’t need much convincing. I don’t like them because they just don’t seem very human — and they’re probably not. I’m sure these are automated messages that just get sent out based on job field and location, but still.
What makes an irresistible subject line?
This is going to make me sound a little crazy, but some of my favorite emails are from Pack, every crazy dog person’s favorite social networking site. They send me periodic newsletters, and I always open them because of their kooky subject lines. One memorable one that I’ve lost to the email ether just said:
Dogs dogs dogs dogs dogs dogs dogs dogs dogs!
Some others include little hearts, and…well, take a look:
You can see I didn’t open one about a new Rescues program, but I did open the email right below which is actually about the same thing. It appealed to me in early December as the onslaught of Christmas campaigns started to flood my inbox: Instead of using every technique under the sun to try and get me to buy something, here’s an email telling me to put my wallet away. Refreshing! (Spoiler alert: There were lots of cute dog pictures in the email.)
Pack knows their audience: We’re crazy dog people, and we will be spoken to like crazy dog people. Even so, Pack varies their subject lines and use a few different categories:
- Informative: “Introducing our new Pack Rescues program.”
- Click-baity: “There are cute dogs in here, you know.” How could I not open this email?
- Cutesy: Without the little heart, The Pack Dog Newsletter would be boring. With the heart, it becomes irresistibly cute.
- Situational/seasonal: “Please, put your wallets away” grabs attention because Pack not only doesn’t normally ask for money, but they also sent this during prime Christmas marketing season.
- Funny: I laughed out loud when I saw the “Dogs dogs dogs dogs…” email. “Doooooogs!” above is serving a similar function.
Varying your tone and style of subject line increases your chances for engagement. But, if you don’t think all of these types would be appropriate for your business (I don’t think I’d take too kindly to a funny message from my bank, for example), A/B testing subject lines would be a good way to figure out what tone and style resonates best with your audience.
Something I haven’t seen from Pack that I find to be hit-and-miss is personalization. Of course, it’s been proven to be very effective, but I think some companies are a little too flippant with my name — or maybe that’s just me. That’s the hard part about marketing, right? The concepts are pretty simple, but implementing them takes skill and tact.
Helpful resources for email marketing
A MailKimp…chimp email marketing field guide
And, MailChimp’s invaluable CSS inliner tool
Copyblogger’s email marketing ebook