Boost Your Email Open Rate With Strong Subject Lines

If you rely on email to market your business (and, honestly, who doesn’t these days?), here’s what you’re up against: The average email user receives more than 70 messages per day, according to technology market research firm Radicati Group.

In other words, people’s in-boxes are overflowing with messages, and it’s all too easy for them to hit Delete to clear the clutter. Yet email can be a highly effective way to market your business — if your subject lines stand out from the rest.

Here’s how to boost your open rate with strong subject lines.

  • Keep it short. Study after study indicates that shorter messages increase open rates. For example, the Informz 2013 Association Email Marketing Benchmark Report indicates that subject lines with fewer than 10 characters had the highest open rate (51 percent). If that seems a bit too concise, try to limit your character count to 40.
  • Convince recipients to “act now.” The longer a message sits unopened, the more likely it is that the recipient will delete it. Add a deadline (“Receive 30% off until June 1”) to encourage people to open the message immediately.
  • Avoid ambiguity. Marketers too often opt for cute or witty over concise and direct. Explain exactly what the message is about (“Cut 50% from your IT budget”). If your subject line doesn’t match what’s in the body of the message, you are inviting people to unsubscribe from your list.
  • Provide a benefit statement. Explain how recipients’ lives will improve by opening your email. In a BlueHornet survey, 45.4 percent of consumers reported reading an email from a retail brand because the subject link mentioned a discount or special offer, such as “Stay 3 nights for the price of 2.”
  • Use a number in the subject line. When recipients see a number, as in “5 ways to save money,” they want to open the message and learn the five ways, says expert copywriter Bob Bly. Using numerals vs. spelling them out also helps cut down on the total character count.
  • Choose your words wisely. If your message is caught in a spam trap, your killer subject line won’t matter. Mannix Marketing offers a list of 100 spam trigger words and phrases to avoid. Eliminate those words from your subject lines — and email copy — as best as you can.
  • Personalize your messages. That doesn’t necessarily mean sticking someone’s name in the subject line. Instead, segment your email list by purchase history or another qualifier (age, geography, etc.). Then send tailored messages to smaller groups. For instance, “The XYZ Widget just got better!” or “Improve your Charlottesville lawn.”

About Jaimy Ford

Jaimy Ford is a business writer and editor. She writes subscription newsletters, training tools and blogs that focus on professional development, leadership and productivity. Her goal in everything she writes is to provide actionable advice that can be put to use immediately.
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1 comments
NicoleMcCullum
NicoleMcCullum

These are all great tips. Another tip is to make your subject a question.

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  5. [...] not they continue reading. Never go the understated route (“Here’s Our January Newsletter”). Be more enticing by using words such as tips or steps (“4 Tips for Saving Time When Filing Your Taxes”). Avoid [...]

  6. [...] Strengthen your communications – The average person gets 70 emails a day. If you use email to communicate with your prospects and clients, how do you stand out from the crowd?  Boost Your Email Open Rate With Strong Subject Lines. [...]

  7. [...] your email open rates.  For a full list and additional detailed ideas, read this post about Boosting your Email Open Rates from theIntuit Small Business [...]

  8. [...] not they continue reading. Never go the understated route (“Here’s Our January Newsletter”). Be more enticing by using words such as tips or steps (“4 Tips for Saving Time When Filing Your Taxes”). Avoid [...]

  9. [...] Subject lines. Open rates are mostly affected by the subject line. Benchmarks and guidelines vary depending on the nature of your business and your average client, and testing will help you pinpoint what works for your customer base. For example, you might test one subject line that emphasizes urgency and another that focuses on a pain point for the customer. Or you could test to see whether a hard-sell approach or the offer of a freebie is more attractive to your customers. You could also focus on something subtler, such as longer versus shorter subject lines, or capitalizing versus keeping lowercase lettering throughout. [...]