Over the course of the years, I have penned a lot of content about the email space, its application to integrated marketing communication strategies, interpretation and application of metrics... the list goes on. In doing so, I have received both positive and negative comments about the context or the stories shared. The feedback provided seems to be on anything from my interpretation of a best practice all the way to the very personal -- like my parenting approach or my choice of careers; I suppose that's what I get for wrapping my stories around real life. We are nothing if we are not a passionate group of marketers -- a dysfunctional family, if you will.
But recently, I saw a comment questioning a statement about a and the correlation I drew between content and open rates. The comment went something like this : "I'm surprised to see that someone that has been in the email space for so many years make the hasty and incorrect connection between content and open rates. If a customer doesn't open the email then they can't see the content - everyone knows it's subject lines that drive the open so maybe you should consider a new career since you've wasted the last 10 years of your professional life."
I could care less about the personal attack -- it was the shortsightedness on the impact that content has on the open rate that worried me and got me thinking. Do *we* as email marketers really think that it is just the subject line the drives the open? Please tell me the answer is no.
Look, I get it. Typically, it is a compelling subject line that is credited for the open of an email message - but it isn't the only factor. Recipients consider a number of things before they open an email (or don't), including some that have absolutely nothing to do with the email at all, like: Do I have time to read this right now, have I recently had a good/bad experience with the brand, has the CONTENT that they've sent to me in the past been valuable? Let's face it, if someone sends you information that you don't want or need, regardless of how much you love the brand, at some point saturation (or frustration) kicks in and you stop opening the email, subject line be damned.
As I step off my soap box, I leave you with this: As email marketers (or just marketers in general), we should be constantly striving to get the right message to the right subscriber, in the right channel or forum, at the right time. All of the elements of the message should be meaningful to the recipient. And while it may be a big undertaking to hit that mark with every email you send, it should be achievable at least part of the time. If not, it isn't just your open rate that will suffer -- and that I would stake my 10+ year career on.
What do you guys think: How important is the subject line to driving the open? Do you think it is less important than it once was? I have my opinions, but I would love to hear yours, too.