Powerful Newsletter Subjects

Jeffery KirkProduct Recommendations, Website Traffic

Yesterday I left off talking about subject lines for your newsletter mailings.

To demonstrate the importance of a good subject line, I’ll use a different form of marketing to illustrate.

Think of movie posters, specifically the taglines.  Now even more specifically the poster for the movie Alien.  I’ll describe it in case you don’t know what it looks like…

It’s almost entirely black with a greenish egg in the center, glowing faintly.  The title “Alien” is spelled out above it. Without any form of tagline the poster means whatever comes to your mind.  If you were afraid of aliens it would seem ominous.  But if you had recently seen ET your perspective might be completely different.

It’s the tagline that explains the image.  It says, “In space no one can hear you scream”.  Yikes.  That makes it pretty clear it’s a horror movie.  If you’re a horror fan you’d want to see it.  If you’re not a horror fan you’re going to stay far away!

So how does this tie in with newsletters?  Consider that your customers probably subscribe to more than just your newsletter and they’re probably not waiting in anticipation for your next mailing.  Most likely they didn’t wake up this morning thinking, “Boy I hope that latest newsletter from XYZ Company arrives in my inbox today!”

If your subject is bland it doesn’t matter how well written the content is, or how amazing the images of your products look, because most of your customers will delete it without opening it.  With the pervasiveness of sales messages all around, people tune them out.  So, if your subject says “Big Sale at My Store” you’re not going to get a great open rate. 

Okay, what do you write instead?

Let’s go back to the movie poster example.  The image and title are basically neutral.  If the tagline had been the equivalent of “Big Sale at My Store” it would read “Humans Meet Alien.”  That is not the least bit exciting.  It’s not very descriptive and creates no desire for anyone to see that movie.  It’s true though, a statement that describes the movie in a completely general sense, but it conveys nothing about the content.  How is anyone going to make a decision based on a statement of nothingness?

Of course over communicating in a subject can be just as bad.  Let’s use another example from the movie.  What if the tagline read, “Sent to a distant planet for recon, seven deep space miners encounter a new species of destructive alien that rampages through their ship and kills all but one of them before being blown out of an airlock”?

Who’s going to read all that?  They’d probably have to create an extra large movie poster just to keep the font large enough!  Bringing that back to your subject line, this would be comparable to, “Three Day Buy One Get One Free Sale On Modern Art Tapestries Handmade and Imported from Belgium For Stunning Home Decor.” 

That’s just way too long, and it looks like its going to be spam.  The right subject message is a bite-size hook, not some long exposition that will be truncated by your customers email client.

Make your message clear and concise.  If you can include a call to action that’s a plus.  Based on the tapestry store example from yesterday, here are some possible subjects…

  • “Three Day Buy One Get One Tapestry Sale”
  • “Get a Rod with Your Tapestry Purchase”
  • “All Tapestries 20% Off This Friday”

These would all work fine.  Don’t use all caps.  No one wants to see that.  Avoid extra punctuation.  And don’t use more than one exclamation point if you must use any at all!!!  (oops)

Now that you’ve gotten your customer interested with your subject, they open the email to find the exciting offer you’ve prepared for them.  If they like what you say, they click through to your site.

Now it’s the job of your website to take the sales process to the next step and, ultimately, go for the order.

If you happen to be reading this between March 23 and March 29, you’re in luck!  You can join me on a live interview with Audrey Kerwood, founder of A2Armory, co-author of the 2002 classic Yahoo! Store Profits, and owner/operator of four profitable online stores.  You’ll get some great tips to move your store forward.

I host a series of interviews at Web Genius Summit.  I will interview Audrey on March 29.  This is a bonus call so it’s open to anyone who registers in advance.  To get on the call register here.  There is no charge for any of these calls.