This guest post is by Sarah Brown, SmartBrief’s launch manager. Sarah is in charge of introducing brand-new SmartBriefs (15 new publications so far this year!), as well as product innovations to nearly 3 million SmartBrief subscribers.
After Stephanie Miller’s recent guest post about optimizing the deliverability of e-mail marketing messages, we received several requests for more information about e-mail marketing best practices. With 10 years of e-mail marketing experience under our belt, we’ve learned a few things. Now it’s time for us to share with you.
The golden rule: Do unto others …
My No. 1 tip for e-mail marketing success is actually what not to do: Do not send too many e-mails to your list. The value of your list decreases the more you send e-mails that recipients don’t want/need. Instead, treat your e-mail lists the way you want your own e-mail address to be treated. Be ruthlessly critical of what you send and consolidate messages when possible.
At SmartBrief, we’re careful to practice what we preach, reaching out to the members of our trade association partners no more than twice a year. As a result, we avoid fatiguing the list and give ourselves the best opportunity for success.
Along the same lines, we encourage our association partners to consolidate their marketing messages within our daily SmartBrief newsletters, allocating them a section of our daily e-mail to promote their events, member benefits, white papers, books and so on. Consolidation allows you to focus on creating more value in one e-mail.
Optimize your subject line
Once you’ve got a list of exceptional quality, how do you get the maximum number of people to open it?
- Get to the point. In our experience, subject lines of less than 30 characters are optimal, less than 40 work well, and less than 60 are still acceptable. After that, you’re on your own. We have seen some news services string together a series of disparate topics with ellipses to create subject lines greater than 70 characters, but in our experience, shorter and more direct is better.
- Pack in trigger words. These can be hot-button topics (e.g. social media), the names of companies of interest (e.g. Facebook), or numbers (e.g. Top 5 Leadership goofs). We are constantly amazed how much people love numbered lists — I guess it’s because they’re looking for quick and useful nuggets of information.
- Consider including a call to action. We sometimes put “Sign Up” in our subject lines when we’re launching a product. That way, readers immediately know that they need to take some sort of action, and they will not just be passively reading.
- Don’t look spammy. Here’s a handy list of words that might land your email in a spam filter.
- Be your own harshest critic. Ask yourself, would you open an email with that subject line?
Does subject line really matter? You bet.
In March, SmartBrief ran an A/B test on the final day of a four-day campaign asking readers to opt-in to one of our newsletters. We split the recipient list evenly, and one list received a tried-and-true subject line we had been using for the final send day: “You’re not receiving your [industry] news” (where [industry] changed depending on the promotion). The other half of the list received a new, more personal-sounding message: “We’re sorry to see you go …”
The new subject line generated a 48.8% higher open rate and brought in 62.4% more subscribers than the old subject line.
Coming next week: Tips for writing effective e-mail marketing copy.
Image credit, Norebbo, via iStock