First impressions are important. This is true whether you are meeting someone in person for the first time or if you’re sending them communication via email. It’s particularly true for libraries entering the targeted email marketing space (and I really wish you would!) You have between six and eight words to capture the attention of your card holder and get them to open the email or its game over. Which means you have to choose those six to eight words very carefully. And I mean VERY CAREFULLY.
To help drive home my point, I want to share this data from Convince and Convert, via CoScheduler:
35 percent of email recipients open emails based on the subject line alone.
69 percent of people will report an email as spam based on the subject line alone.
When I craft an email, I spend a lot of time thinking about the subject line–sometimes I think about it for days. I test it and get feedback from others in my office before I send it out. I use a couple of online headline analyzers (mainly CoScheduler’s and this one from the Advance Marketing Institute) to decide how well it will play. Arguably, the subject line is the most important piece of your email and you need to get it right. But the longer you do targeted email messaging, the better you’ll get at crafting them.
There are words and phrases you should avoid, and conversely, things you can do to really make a subject line work for you. I have these pointers printed out and taped to the wall above my desk. I reference them nearly every time I create an email. I want to share them with you!
Words You Should Not Use
- Your library’s formal name, as in the full name of your system. Why leave your library’s formal name out of the subject line? Mainly because it makes you sound too pushy or sales-like. You want to engage your cardholder with something interesting or emotional–not with your brand.
- Re, Fw, Regarding, or In Reference To. It’s too formal and it sounds spammy.
- Library jargon like periodicals, database, interlibrary loan, reference, serial, audiovisual, abstract, or resource. Use words that regular people understand–magazines, music, online classes, and helpful information.
- Any reference to a vendor service like Overdrive, Hoopla, Freegal, BookFlix, Zinio, etc. As far as your cardholders are concerned, all material comes from the Library. Your cardholders are smart. When they click on the link and they land in the Overdrive section of your website, they’ll be able to figure out how to check stuff out.
- Free, Cheap, Save, or Help. I know it’s a great selling point for libraries–there isn’t any other business where you can say that literally everything is free! But unfortunately, these words trigger many email services to mark your message as spam. Include these words in your subject line and your email message will likely land automatically in the junk folder before anyone ever gets the chance to read it. Even without the use of email filters, these words trigger a psychological response from many email receivers that makes them think of spam (thanks for ruining it, big brands!)
- Never use ALL CAPS. I don’t think I have to explain why.
- Vague greetings like Hi!, What’s Up?, Miss You! and the like. Again, it’s a spam trigger for email filters. And it sounds like you’re not human.
Ways to Make Your Email Subject Line Rock
- When you send targeted program emails, try to fit the specific name of the branch or neighborhood in which the program is happening into the subject line. For example, “Play with robots at the Lincoln Park Branch Library” or “Coding classes for adults now at the library in Knotting Hill.”
- Keep it short. CoScheduler recommends a word count of about six to nine words or 55 characters in length for greatest impact. Most of your cardholders will look at their email on a mobile device, so a short subject line means they’ll be able to see all of it in the preview window.
- Add emotion, particularly positive or encouraging words. People are more likely to respond to a subject line when it conveys a message of positivity and helpfulness. Email recipients also respond to subject lines that convey urgency, curiosity, excitement, and joy.
- Use power words like amazing, ultimate, important, challenging, surprising, best, secret and exact.
- Use emojis. A report by Experion shows emojis actually increase the likelihood that your email will be opened. They save space on mobile device small screens and they convey emotion. Confession: I have not yet had the guts to do it! But if you do, test your emails to make sure they emojis show up properly on all major devices, and make sure they are in line with the tone and style of your library.
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