Importance of Subject Lines and Timing to email campaigns

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When sending marketing emails there are so many factors to consider: the message, the design, your copy, the layout, your target audience data, segmentation and targeting of your email list, and much more.

In this piece we explore a couple of the sometimes forgotten elements that can – if taken into account – really improve your campaign results.

Subject lines

These few words of copy have a tremendous effect on the success of your email campaigns, because it is the subject line that most often dictates whether someone even opens the email in the first place.

There are many pieces of advice around creating a strong subject line, including:

  • Ask a question, use a play on words, create curiosity – be creative in some way to peak the reader's interest;
  • Avoid SPAM words which can land you in the Junk folder, such as: Reminder, Percent Off, Help, Clearance, Buy, Cash, Claim;
  • Create urgency with terms like ‘Today Only’, ‘Only 10 spaces remaining’, ‘Offer expires tomorrow’;
  • Use appropriate personalisation in your subject line; ‘Tom, priority booking is now open’ – although remember to make sure you data is clean and accurate. There is nothing worse than an email with the wrong name or <test> in place of the recipient’s name;
  • Keep it below 50 characters to ensure it can be read on mobile devices;
  • Focus on your great product benefits – not the discount or sale you currently have;
  • Don't try to say everything in your subject line
    A. it’s not possible and
    B. You want to tease the reader into opening the email, so don't give them the whole story in the subject line;
  • If you are targeting a local area, then mention something locally recognisable in your subject line.

Ultimately, the best way to identify which combination of these elements works for you and your campaigns is to test them.

Use a sample of your data – say 10% – to trial a couple of different subject lines. This can help improve your overall campaign.

If you identify in that test group that one subject line yields a 20% open rate but the other only a 9%, then using the better performing subject line for the remaining 90% of your data will greatly improve your response rates.

Timing

Timing is everything, we are told. And it’s no different with email marketing.

There are many ideas of when the best time to send email campaigns is, including:

  • Middle of the week (Tue, Wed, Thur) around 11am;
  • Overnight, to capture those individuals checking emails first thing in the morning;
  • Evenings or weekends when people are using their tablets and other mobile devices.

As you might expect, it depends entirely on your target audience – so think about them more than any ‘general’ ideas around the best timing. Usually you want to be sending your emails around the time that your target audience are most likely to be checking their emails and / or using your products or services.

The one problem with finding the ideal timing for your email is that you may end up sending your message at the same time as many other companies. This could result in your message becoming lost amongst lots of other emails – so another good reason for testing, before sending the main volume of your emails.

It may also be a good idea to resend your message, in order to increase the chance of your message being seen by your recipients.

We were working with a Pub chain client recently on their email campaigns, an initial send was distributed at 12.00 midday on a Thursday.

This produced a solid open rate of 15% and click through rate of 1.5%.

Upon further consultation with the client we agreed that their service is predominantly used after work and in the evening, so we agreed a 5pm send time for the next campaign.

This produced an improved 18% open rate and an excellent 6% click through rate.

So again this shows that in the end, your timing should be dictated by your clients, what you know about them and their behaviours.

  • What do you find makes a strong subject line?
  • Have you identified your prime send time?
  • Have you used testing to identify the best options for you campaigns?