Save The Cleverness And Keep The CRM

When online marketers think about developing email campaigns, they typically focus on two areas: open rates and conversions. And the open rates, as we all know, have everything to do with subject lines.

There’s no question that very clever subject lines give emarketers terrific open rates. We’ve seen them all, and at one time or another we’ve probably used many of them:

  • “Don’t Read This Email!”
  • “Psssst ....”
  • “What Don’t You Know?”
  • “It’s Almost Too Late!”

Sound familiar? These and many other “clever” subject lines are tremendously effective for getting people to notice and click on an email. Customers open the emails. Your open rates go up. Who’s going to argue with that? 

As contrarian as it seems, I will. 

Depending on clever subject lines only gets you so far. Let’s say that you have a list of these clever email subject lines, a whole campaign of them, in fact. Do you really think that you can simply attach a clever subject line to your regular email content, and call it a day? There’s a certain amount of inherent pressure to bring the email itself to the “cleverness” level of the subject line—and, believe me, it’s a lot easier to think up a clever phrase than it is to maintain that tone and language throughout an entire email. And maybe you don’t want to, anyway—it may not fit in well with whatever it is that you’re selling.

And it can get worse. A clever subject line that leads to a hard-sell email raises complaints. I don’t know about you, but I’d much prefer to have people ignore some of my email campaigns than complain about them!

But let’s go a little deeper into the analytics. Clever email subject lines may increase your opens, but do they perform well otherwise?

The reality is that clever subject lines and email campaigns work best for borderline spammers who are trying to entice people with whom they have either a questionable relationship—or no relationship—to open their email.

For CRM marketers, those of us who are deploying campaigns to opt-in lists, the results driven by clever campaigns are typically disappointing and can increase both unsubscribes and complaints. 

They fail because email campaigns need to have one very clear, very solid call-to-action, one that logically follows your business model. And the cleverness can become a call-to-action on its own, one that competes with—and detracts from—the call-to-action in the email. 

And one that will drive down conversions. 

What makes a great subject line? Clarity and sense of purpose are what make a great subject line and great email. The call-to-action in a successful email campaign should be clear after onesecond of viewing, and it is an expected next step after reading the subject line. 

Remember the marketers’ mantra: tell people what you are going to tell them, next tell them, and then tell them what you just told them. This is what makes for a successful email campaign.

Let’s look at an example:

  1. Subject line: Early-bird special on new summer arrivals.
  2. Email: Summer arrivals are now in stock. As an early-bird subscriber you get the best selection and free shipping when you order this week.
  3. Link: Takes you directly to the summer arrival page (when possible with a personalized welcome to the early-bird subscriber).

What we’re seeing here is a clear subject line, one that’s followed through into the email. Clicking it open, we see an email that carries a single message, a message that’s not cluttered up with secondary offers or distracting images. It respects your subscribers’ time by immediately letting them know the promise you’re making to them, and then, step by step, it follows up on the promise.

Less is more in this case, and it’s truly the most effective way to deploy your email strategy. 

Don’t think that your subscribers will get bored with your email messages: it is excellent CRM to show your subscriber that you know exactly what you are doing, and that you take your subscribers seriously. A simple subject lines shows that you don’t have to be clever to win their business!

Your customers will appreciate your clarity and take actions when appropriate, exactly as you want them to. 

Gimmicks can only get you so far. Building solid relationships through transparency, make-a-promise/keep-a-promise behavior, and outstanding customer support are the best ways to create, deploy, and return ROI on your next email campaign. 

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