Subject Line Dilemma

Dear Email Diva,

I represent 86 shopping centers and we are trying to break into advertising agencies, to get their clients to sponsor events at our properties. Mall advertising is not top of mind to these agencies, so we are trying to make folks understand the value we have to offer. I have built my contact list from agency Web sites, calls to the switchboard and conference attendee lists. I need a catchy subject line, something to make sure that the agencies open my email. I have tried professional, I have tried friendly, I have tried blunt and to the point, I have tried kooky, but none seems to work. What I am I doing wrong?


Dear Gail,

The Email Diva has advice on subject lines (and a link to an interesting new study), but doesn't believe this is really the problem.

You are trying to introduce a new concept and build a business relationship. A single sentence simply can't do the job. If you met a great prospect at a cocktail party, would you toss off a one-liner and expect it to generate interest? Of course not. You'd introduce yourself, ask questions, mention your business and -- assuming all went well -- ask for a meeting to discuss the opportunity further.



The focus should be on quality, not quantity. Your first contact with an agency representative should be a personal, benefit-driven and based on research. The Email Diva frequently receives email from PR firms representing companies with products of interest to email marketers. The generic ones don't make it past the first round of inbox triage. Those that survive tend to be along the lines of, "Melinda, I saw your column on X and thought this might be of interest...."

To create your subject line, first put yourself in the mindset of your prospects: ad agency account execs. What is their professional goal? To provide great ideas and successful solutions to their clients. You need to show that you can meet this need. And, since your solution is neither tried nor trendy, you need to demonstrate your credibility and reliability.

If you take the personal route, your subject line might be: "Jane, I have an new approach for Acme Company that could be a big win for Agency X." (You learned about Agency X's new client, Acme Company, by reading the trade journals, and found out who is managing the account by calling the front desk.)

If you're going to stick with the mass marketing approach, here are a few ideas:

- Our event delivered 30 million prospects --3,816 new customers -- to Acme Company. What can we do for you?

- The ultimate social networking experience: learn about the buzz we generated for Acme Company.

How long should your subject line be? There's an interesting new study by Alchemy Worx, "Subject Lines - Length is Everything." They found that, contrary to popular wisdom, longer subject lines - 71 characters and more - performed best in terms of click and click-to-open rates.

The Email Diva advises caution when looking at open rates only - high opens may deliver many unqualified prospects who don't convert, and conversion is your ultimate goal. I also advise caution when looking at click-to-open rates (clicks/opens). You may get a high rate, but if it's based on a very low open number, it doesn't spell success. If only one person opens and clicks, the click-to-open rate is 100%.

Just as with email copy, your subject line should be as long as it needs to be to tell your story. Don't start with a goal of keeping it short and sacrifice message punch and clarity. Since you are never certain how many characters will be viewed, put the most important information first.

Keep testing your approach and your subject lines.

Good Luck!

The Email Diva

Send your questions or submit your email for critique to Melinda Krueger, the Email Diva, at All submissions may be published; please indicate if you would like your name or company name withheld.
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