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What’s the point in sending emails if no one opens them? This question reminds me of that old adage, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” We tell clients the best way to get emails opened by customers or prospects is to craft email subject lines that work.

Many of us operate at least two emails, a professional and personal, so think about how many emails you get per day, per email account, and then recall how you decide which ones to open and which ones to swipe into the trash.  

“Email is dead” gets proclaimed more often than “Saturday Night Live” gets called “Saturday Night Dead” – and that comedy stalwart just celebrated its highest-ranked show for years in December 2019.  We know email remains one of the best tools in the box for digital marketers, and here are some stats that agree:

  • By 2023, email users will grow to 4.3 billions users or half the world’s population (according to Statista), with more than 347.3 billion emails sent per day that year. 
  • For every dollar spent on email marketing, expect a $55 return (Data and Marketing Association, July 2019).
  • The majority of us check our email first before looking at social media (Optinmonster). 

Marketers spend a lot of time focusing on the content of the email, but if no one opens it to see that amazing content, that’s a failure and a waste of everyone’s time.

Successful email subject lines are generally:

  • Brief
  • Clever
  • Timely
  • Reflective of your brand

They can also include powerful calls to action (CTA), which often:

  • Demand urgent action
  • Solve challenges

So, let’s put our money where our mouth is. Since 2013, Savoir Faire shares nuggets of marketing wisdom, which we call our Points of Interest. It’s our remix of the marketing newsletter.  We regularly gather, dissect and impart six articles on these subjects:

  • Content Marketing
  • Email Marketing & Automation
  • Search Engine Marketing
  • Strategy & Analysis
  • Traditional Marketing
  • Websites

Each Point of Interest email needs a killer subject line and introduction to the six pieces of the marketing pie.  According to Campaign Monitor, in 2019 the average open rate of business emails was 17.8%. Ten of our POI email sends had open rates above the industry average. Here’s a quick walk through our sends from last year, why we used a particular subject line and what we learned to help craft future emails.

January subject line: Alexa, read my email

This is a play on how many of us “talk to” Amazon Echo devices. This collection of POIs is all about keeping our readers abreast of trends and technological advances of email marketing. It had a 19.7% open rate, and was tied for third-most clicks of the year.

February subject line: Bringing you joy one POI at a time

An ode to Marie Kondo’s popular Netflix show, this mailing encourages you to purge some of the social feeds you follow that clutter your digital life. It had an 18.9% open rate.

March subject line: Insert Creative Subject Line Here

We use so much creative energy developing these POIs, we had none left to pen a catchy subject line for the email. Just kidding. The joke-y line is the crafty line! We know it can be tough coming up with constant creative content, so the POI urges you to look outside yourself for idea sparks. The email had an 18.3% open rate.

April subject line: I feel Privy, oh, so Privy

MailChimp & Shopify ceased working together, and Privy is one of Shopify’s apps that may be able to step into the breach to assist with e-commerce. The subject line plays on the “West Side Story” song, “I Feel Pretty,” but our attempt at clever resulted in a dip in open rate, at 16.5%. Perhaps this reference was too much of a stretch to entice more people to check it out.

May subject line: You look MAH-velous!

This subject line avoids spammy language and channels Billy Crystal’s classic character, Fernando. A POI in May offers tips to avoid trite email opening lines and how to aim for something more personal and meaningful. It worked as the email had a 21.6% open rate and our most clicks of the year. Short, sweet and focused on YOU. That’s a winning combination.

June subject line: Don’t you fuggedaboutit!

What a difference a month makes. Another short, comical “you” focused subject line, yet the open rate dips to 11.5%. It’s possible quick scanning through emails made this read as gobbledygook. It did have our third-highest click rate of the year, though.

July subject line: Who you gonna call?

OK, so for the third month in a row, we fired off a brief “you” subject line, referencing “Ghostbusters,” celebrating 35 years of release. The result: an uptick open rate of 15.1%.

August subject line: Content Contains Fake News

The phrase “fake news” was everywhere in 2019, so we used that for a content creation-themed series of POIs – including one on gaslighting. It was enough to catch the eye of 14.1% of recipients.  

September subject line: RIP Email. Wait, not dead yet!

Google “email is dead” and you’ll find dozens of marketing articles claiming so. We’ve never agreed. But, for email to work (engage + convert), it takes a group of tactics from analyzing past performance to crafting a short, sweet subject line to a clever design. (We call it our secret Savoir sassy sauce.)  Unfortunately, only 13.7% opened the email death announcement.

October subject line: Analyze this! Analyze that!

This set of POIs is all about analyzing and sharpening your tactics for the potential record-breaking holiday shopping season. The subject line is a play on the Billy Crystal-Robert DeNiro mobster/shrink comedy flicks. Remember those? No, evidently our subscribers didn’t either with just a 12.5% open rate. OK, let’s get less cutesy, more focused and timely.

November subject line: Automation = Your Christmas Elves

Wouldn’t it be dazzling to have a gaggle of Elves, just like Santa does, who take care of a lot of the behind-the-scenes work? You can! It’s called a marketing automation workflow, and this round of POIs digs into all the ins and outs. So, we have a new-ish topic, marketing automation, and a timely reference, Santa’s elves, and a result of a 30.1% open rate and the second-most clicks of the year.

December subject line: Yes, Virginia, there’s still time for holiday marketing

OK, let’s stick with the holiday theme, and remind our readers that the marketing machine does not shut down for the holidays. These POIs offer ways to keep it running (while you have visions of sugar plums dancing in your head). Result: 31.4% open rate, the highest of the year.

We can’t rely on holiday subject lines year round, but we can maintain a focus on what works on a continuing basis: short, snappy and brand-focused. Now Savoir Faire can afford to be a little sassy in our subject lines, because that’s totally on brand for us. That doesn’t work for all of our customers, especially those in the manufacturing industry. However, brief, timely and on brand still apply.

Case in point, a seven-word subject line for a client that addressed what everyone in the industry was thinking about garnering a nearly 30% open rate. Great subject lines may garner higher open rates, but that’s just the beginning. You need an impactful opening line, body copy, offer and graphics to complete the package (plus analysis once sent). If you need some assistance to get your email game solid, we’re here to answer questions or help you with a project. 

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