Email Subject Lines that Get Results

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This article written by CanadaHelps was originally published on Hilborn. View


Mail2One of the most important elements to any email campaign is your subject line. Without a strong subject line, your recipients are unlikely to open your email, and your message and appeal would go unseen. Your email subject line is the first impression you have on the recipient; so although it may seem like a small part of your overall message, it is an essential one that entices the recipient to open your email and continue to read on.

Here are four tips to ensure you write strong subject lines that will get your emails opened.

1. Personalize

Using personalization in the subject line of your emails is key. Since a personal subject line is sure to catch the recipient’s eye because you are communicating on a more personal level, it will grab their attention. It also helps to communicate that the email is intended specifically for them. If possible through your email platform, try adding the recipient name into the email, as this adds a feeling of rapport. For example, “John Doe, we have a new product …”

Including the recipient’s name in the subject line of every email you send will lose it’s flare if overused. Save this for your most important messages and look for other options for personalization such as: using “you” or “your” as it still sounds like you are addressing the reader directly.

2. Create a sense of urgency

Creating a sense of urgency in email subject lines has shown to be very effective. Using concrete timelines and deadlines will encourage your recipient to act now, instead of coming back to the email later. For example, “only 24 hours left”, “last chance” or “2 days left” type messaging will increase the possibility of immediate action from the recipient.

3. Keep it short & sweet

Sometimes, organizations think the more information in the subject line the better. It is better to keep your subject line short and descriptive, while providing the recipient with a clear reason to explore your message further (by opening your email!). As a guideline, subject lines should be a maximum of 50 characters. Although this limit might seem challenging at first to get your point across in so few words, it is effective. Testing different length subject lines for different types of communications is recommended – for example, a newsletter versus a donation appeal email.

4. Test, test, test!

Almost every email platform allows you to conduct A/B tests. Testing your subject lines will allow you to really learn what your donors and supporters best respond to. A/B testing allows you to learn and expand your understanding of what messaging and words work best, and you can apply these learnings to future communications.

You can do this by emailing two small segments of your list. First, determine which aspect you want to test (i.e. length of subject line, tone of voice, level of personalization, etc.) Then, send out two different subject lines for your email to the small groups (for example, two groups of 10%). The more dramatically different the two versions, the more dramatic the results will be. Test which version performs better and leads to a higher open rate. Then use the better performing subject line for the remainder of your list (in this case, the remaining 80%).

If you want to take learnings from one email and leverage it going forward, you should first ensure the test results are statistically significant. If your email platform does not automatically indicate if the test results are statistically significant and are therefore something you can rely upon, you can check yourself using a free online statistical calculator.

Testing is so important because what works for your organization might vary from others. You need to know your audience, and how to best create subject lines that will be compelling for them. Start testing your subject lines right away to ensure better results.

Email marketing is a great and cost-effective way to reach your donors and supporters. Creating strong subject lines will help to increase the odds that your email campaign gets opened, that readers click through to content and perhaps even make donations.

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