Are Your Subject Lines Boring Enough?

subject lines

My guess is that this will surprise you as much as it surprised me.  It comes from Mail Chimp, the autoresponder.  This is based on 40 million emails!  Here it is:

Boring email subject lines beat creative ones handily.  Big time.  No contest.

The best open rates (60-87%) came from the straightforward, even boring headlines.  The worst open rates (1-14%) came from subject lines that Mail Chimp classified as “salesy, pushy, or slimy.”  Mail Chimp suggests that anything that even hints of spam gets tossed (or not opened) immediately.

So, Mail Chimp makes one huge suggestion: “describe the subject of your email.”  That’s it.   Are you surprised?  I was when I saw the winning subject lines.  Here’s the top five:

  1. [COMPANYNAME] Sales & Marketing Newsletter
  2. Eye on the [COMPANYNAME] Update (Oct 31 – Nov 4)
  3. [COMPANYNAME] Staff Shirts & Photos
  4. [COMPANYNAME] May 2005 News Bulletin!
  5.  [COMPANYNAME] Newsletter – February 2006

I mean, really, aren’t they dreadful?  But they get the opens.  Here’s the top five worst:

  1. Last Minute Gift – We Have The Answer
  2. Valentines – Shop Early & Save 10%
  3. Give a Gift Certificate this Holiday
  4. Valentine’s Day Salon and Spa Specials!
  5. Gift Certificates – Easy & Elegant Giving – Let Them Choose

That five don’t seem particularly bad.  They’re certainly not over the top.  They are salesy, but I wouldn’t say they’re pushy, slimy, or that they look like spam.  But there you have it.

When you describe the subject of your email in the subject line you are preparing your readers for the content they will see inside.  Mail Chimp says that if your email is about a special promotion, spell that out in your subject line, but don’t write your subject line like an advertisement.  That’s the difference between telling and selling.  Avoid the selling in your subject line and you will get more opens, according to Mail Chimp.

What is essential is that you set the expectations of your readers in the subject line.  Let them know what they’re getting if they open your email.  Don’t play games with them.

Mail Chimp also suggests that you create an entirely different list for those subscribers that want special offers and promotions for your company.  For that list you can “hard sell,” because they’ve given you permission to do so and they are expecting you to do so.

As always, I welcome your comments!

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