First impressions are critical. A great email subject line gets your offer opened and, at the very least, skimmed. A ho-hum subject line triggers the Delete response.
You’ll notice that subject lines for direct marketing emails can usually be grouped into three types. While all three communicate the benefits of your offer, each type has particular strengths and pitfalls. If your subject lines are all of one type, it’s worth your time to test at least one other option.
Type 1. The Announcement.
It uses words such as “new,” “now,” “bargain,” “free,” “award-winning,” and “revolutionary” or leads with a quantity:
- “Free white paper lists five ways to reach qualified buyers”
- “25 new titles from top-selling authors”
Pros: If your product or service truly deserves those adjectives, or you are selling to people familiar with your company, a well-crafted announcement delivers lots of eye-catching information. It works with an already-receptive audience â€” for instance, with marketers (in the first example) and book buyers (in the second).
Cons: It lacks a call to action.
Type 2. The Teaser.
It’s usually a question:
- “Are you missing out on tech investment bargains?”
- “Ready for that overdue promotion?”
Pros: Well-written teasers pique a recipients’ curiosity, enough to get them to open the email and give the main copy a chance to really sell. It’s great for an initial campaign to a new list, or rolling out a new product.
Cons: Teasers can be hit or miss. If they aren’t carefully matched with the interests of your list, recipients will shrug instead of click.
Type 3. The Motivator.
It starts with a call to action:
- “Hurry: Get free white paper with early registration”
- “Act now: 1 day left to receive free shipping”
Pros: Even more than the teaser, the motivator sends a little shot of adrenaline through the recipient. It grabs attention.
Cons: Over-use of high-energy motivator subject lines by the same sender can dull the recipients’ response; use it sparingly. Also, there’s less room in the motivator subject line for information about the service or product.
If you suspect your subject lines aren’t pulling their weight, or response is falling off, it’s the perfect time to test an alternative type. Testing something new and different to a subset of your list while testing your traditional style of subject line to a “control” subset will yield the most accurate comparison.