Rethinking the Teaser Subject Line in Your Email Marketing
When it comes to email subject lines, the previously accepted “best” method to ensure the highest open rates was to tease or otherwise provoke the customer into opening the email. You know these email subject lines very well: “Big savings on your favorite destination”, “Learn to increase your income by 25% while saving hours from your day”, “The most powerful form of natural medicine there is!”. This style of marketing became popular with physical direct mail, and was no doubt effective when a customer received perhaps 20 pieces of mail in a day and you needed to provoke them into opening your letter or promotion.
But email is increasingly proving to be a completely different beast, and needs a new way of thinking about how to engage the customer. Many professionals now receive upwards of one hundred emails a day, and that’s BEFORE you factor in things like Facebook and Twitter updates. That’s a ton of communication, and the ability to filter it for relevance has become very important!
Which leads us back to subject lines. As an email marketing professional, I had been noticing an increasing trend in the creative performance of my clients’ email marketing campaigns. When a subject line was factual and benefit-oriented, providing a “snapshot” of what was in the email, readership and engagement seemed to go up. Subject lines with “teasers” seemed to be much more hit-and-miss, and even when the open rates were there, the click rate seemed to be less than expected. I decided to test the theory on an email that a sub-company of mine, Ready-Made Newsletters, sent out. Ready-Made Newsletters provides customized email newsletters to Canadian real estate agents. I sent out identical emails to two lists with no discernible demographic differences. The only thing that changed was the subject line.
One was a teaser:
“If you’re not too busy to read this, then you need our help!”
And one was a benefit-oriented summary of the service (and much longer):
“A customized newsletter will make sure you’re making the biggest real estate dollars possible.”
The results? Both subject lines had exactly the same open rate. But the clickthrough differences were HUGE: the teaser had a 25% clickthrough. Certainly very, very good (the average is 2 – 6 %), but the “benefit-oriented”, transparent subject line resulted in a whopping 37.5% clickthrough.
Here’s what this test taught me: with the benefit-oriented, transparent email, we were able to get the right people to open the email. The agents knew what they were opening, were reasonably interested in it, and once they read the marketing piece they clicked through to our website. With the teaser email, our real estate agents weren’t sure of the content of the email, or our goals as a company. The agents opened the email because they were curious, but the content wasn’t necessarily relevant to their business needs.
In this age of abundant information, it would seem that being transparent and benefit-oriented, rather than trying to “trick” the customer into engaging with your brand is the far more successful marketing tactic.