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Email isn’t a new communication method. In fact, opinions vary widely on the value of email as a marketing tool in the modern landscape. Most criticism of email surrounds the fact that inboxes are so jam-packed with SPAM that it’s next to impossible to get a recipient’s attention and, even more challenging, to get them to open and read an email message.

Still, email arguably remains one of the most essential forms of communication and continues to play a critical role in enterprise marketing communications. Enterprise marketing and sales teams rely heavily on email communication to capture the attention of prospects, educate audiences about products and services, and nurture leads through the sales funnel. But these efforts are for naught without compelling, effective subject lines that actually elicit opens. What enterprises need is a subject line strategy; these essential best practices provide basic guidelines for crafting subject lines that produce results.

Clear and Concise Subject Lines Still Win

Clear and concise has long been a rule of thumb when it comes to writing effective email subject lines, and this rule continues to ring true today. Ambiguous subject lines can leave too much to the imagination, often leading recipients to assume an email message is SPAM.

Concise subject lines have another advantage, too: They cater to the growing number of recipients consuming email on their mobile devices, which have smaller screens. Lengthy subject lines often aren’t displayed in full, so important components of your strategic, carefully thought-out subject line could be out of view.

Sell the Benefits of Your Offer

In its 2013 Subject Line Analysis Report, Adestra analyzed more than 2.2 billion emails to identify the keywords and phrases recipients respond to most, as well as the most over-used and ineffective keywords and phrases for various market sectors, with some interesting findings.

Some commonly used words and phrases, such as calls to action (CTAs), actually decrease open and click rates. For instance, words like “get” and “register” have a negative impact on open and click rates. Words that have a positive impact on open and click rates include words and phrases that convey benefits to the recipient, such as “free delivery” and “sale.” Words that convey urgency, such as “alert” and “news,” also have a positive impact on both open and click rates in email communications.

Words that convey a regular email delivery, such as “daily” and “weekly” also have a positive effect on open and click rates, while subject lines containing words associated with information, such as “report,” “learn,” and “book,” are on the downward trend, having a negative impact on open and click rates.

The takeaway? While the specific words and phrases that work for your communications are best determined through A/B or multivariate testing, research findings like those from Adestra provide a jumping off point to fine-tune your subject lines using words and phrases that are associated with higher open rates and higher click rates.

Get Personal: Customers Demand Personalized Communications

The days of autoresponders automating sales processes for enterprises are behind us. Today’s consumers demand highly personalized communications and customer experiences uniquely targeted to their needs and desires. Email marketing communications are no exception to this rule; the more personal your subject lines, the better the odds that you’ll capture the attention of your recipients and elicit opens.

Research from Epsilon evaluates triggered email metrics, based on an analysis of approximately 340 million triggered emails sent from July 2014 to September 2014 across multiple industries. Triggered emails are defined as messages sent in response to an action taken by a consumer, such as landing on a welcome or thank you page, abandoning a shopping cart, or a purchase confirmation.

There’s a clear benefit of sending personalized, triggered email messages. In fact, triggered emails saw a 76.7 percent increase in open rates in Q3 2014, compared to their Business as Usual (BAU) counterparts. Likewise, triggered emails substantially increased click rates in Q3 2014, at 151.9 percent higher than BAU. As these emails are triggered in response to a consumer-initiated action, they benefit from a level of recent familiarity not often present in the typical cold email marketing message.

Coupled with subject lines that accurately reflect the content, clearly convey the benefits to the recipient, and are personalized to match the needs and recent actions taken by the consumer, personalized, triggered emails are proving to be one of the most effective email marketing strategies in the modern enterprise landscape. When your sales content is aligned with specific selling scenarios, your subject lines are concise, personalized, and contain effective, response-eliciting keywords, and your email marketing messages are triggered in response to consumer behaviors, you have a winning combination that drives sales and creates revenue.

About the Author

FFergal Glynn is Docurated’s VP of Marketing. Docurated accelerates sales in companies looking for fast growth by making the best marketing content readily available to Sales teams. Fergal helped produce Docurated's State of Sales Productivity Report, which examines key sales productivity trends and challenges facing sales and marketing executives. Fergal grew up in Ireland and now lives in Arlington, MA. To learn more about Docurated check out their Sales Enablement Tool on the AppExchange. 

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