How boring subject lines in emails kill opening rates

 Email marketing, Marketing  Comments Off on How boring subject lines in emails kill opening rates
Jul 262010

You're walking down the high street and Saturday shoppers flow past and around you. Who catches your eye? Is it the family in the sensible rain coats? The boys in uniform baseball caps? The men in suits? The middle aged women in well-cut clothes? Not particularly.

The people who catch your eye are the ones that stand out……. to you.

The Dionne quintuplets--Marie, Emelie, Cecile, Annette and Yvonne celebrate their first birthday in style in Callander, Ontario, on May 28, 1935. --- Image by � Bettmann/CORBIS

Dionne quintuplets first birthday 1935

That might be the women showing lots of flesh.

The men with the shades and expensive shoes

The girl with the orange hair

The man in a gorilla suit

The quintuplets

These figures that stand out are the ones that arouse your curiosity. Either they are unusual or they tap into your current desires.

What is the subject line?

As the name suggests, it gives the reader a clue about what's inside. If what's inside appeals to them they are more likely to open it.

If you think of snail mail, envelopes give you clues about the contents.

Brown envelopes = boring stuff like bills
Pink envelopes = exciting stuff like love letters
Envelopes with windows = letters from the insurance companies
Envelopes big writing and exclamation marks across the corner = sales stuff
Heavy white envelopes = legal documents
Embossed envelopes = invitations
Gold embossed envelopes = invitations to really posh dos

If you've done your research and produced content that is useful, relevant or amusing to your reader, then your subject line needs to let your reader know.

Why does it matter what you put in the subject line?

Your email is competing for attention with anywhere between 10 and 200 emails in your reader's inbox. Failing to put something that catches your reader's attention in the subject line could make the difference between 'open' or 'delete'.

Even though your reader has asked to receive your e-newsletter, you need to give them a reason to 'open' this particular e-newsletter.

How do you avoid a boring subject line?

Using just the name of your newsletter e.g. News from Frankie's Ice Cream Parlour No. 24,  doesn't give the reader a compelling reason to open your newsletter.

The 'From' field of your e-newsletter should already tell the reader this e-newsletter is from someone they know, so using the name of your business again in the subject line is missing an opportunity to pique your reader's interest and get them to open it.

So don't settle for the name of the publication.

Your subject line wants to arouse the curiosity of your reader, pique their interest, give them a reason to open that email.

If your e-newsletter contains several articles, then choose the most relevant for your readers and create a subject line that will encourage the reader to 'read more' by opening your email.

Be specific

The more specific your subject line is, the more it can pique your reader's interest. Rather than just 'cooking tips' get specific with '10 minute supper ideas'.

'Ways to save money on your heating bill' could become '5 ways to save money on your heating bill' or 'Save 15% off your heating bill'.

Don't go overboard

Of course some people take this to the other extreme and use screaming subject lines purely to get attention. 'Win a million pounds right now' is fine if you are e-mailing about a game where you can actually win a million pounds right now but if it's just a ruse to get them to read your e-newsletter about conservatories, then you are going to get into trouble.

If there is nothing in your e-newsletter that relates to the subject line you will annoy your reader and ultimately damage the relationship you are trying to build.

When can subject lines make a positive difference?

Every time you send an email you are communicating with someone. It might be a message to a customer, an associate, a member of staff, a friend or family member, an e-zine, an e-newsletter, an invoice or a link.

The subject line should give an indication of your content, pique curiosity or amuse. If you want people to take action when they read your email, give them a reason to open it. If they don't open it, you aren't going to get any action.

Why bother?

We are all bombarded by information every day. When you communicate, set yourself apart by showing consideration for your reader. A well thought out subject line will make your e-mail stand out in the crowd and your regular readers will begin to look forward to your well targeted, useful communications.

Don't put your e-mail communication at a disadvantage by using boring subject lines. Take the time to think up something engaging.

Interested in finding out more about creating e-newsletters?

You should check out my E-Newsletter Strategy Workshop here.

Why a customer database is a vital sales tool for micro businesses

 Marketing  Comments Off on Why a customer database is a vital sales tool for micro businesses
Jul 212010

Rolodex by Toky Branding & DesignSo it's time for a big party. You want to celebrate your 40th birthday party and gather together friends, family, work colleagues, and some business associates that you've got close to.

But there's a problem.

You've never gathered all their addresses together. Some are in your address book, some are in the computer, some are on business cards. Some friends sent you change of address notifications which you can't find. Some people you only have email addresses for, others have changed their names when they got married, some of the pages are missing out of the address book, and a cup of coffee spilled over the 'Ts' making them illegible.

Suddenly sending out 100 invites has become a monstrous task. Why?

You don't have a system for organising contact information of all these people.

Big pain in the neck when you want to bring everyone together for a party.

A constant pain in the neck for businesses that want to communicate with their customers but don't have an organised system for keeping track of customer and potential customer details.

The result?

These businesses often don't get in touch with their customers or potential customers because it's just too hard.

What is a customer database?

It is simply a system for keeping track of customer details such as name, postal address, telephone numbers and email. You can add all sorts of information to these core details such as buying history and birthdays etc subject to the Data Protection Act*.

*Click the link for more information on complying with this act if you're in the UK. Search online for data protection in your country if your outside the UK.

Why do you need one?

Micro businesses or owner managed businesses often feel that a customer database is for companies that have an office, reception and staff.


A customer database is one of the most important tools for generating new and repeat sales. Micro businesses especially should look after every customer's details as carefully as they look after cash. After all they are the key to future 'cash' sales.

How do you create one?

First you need to choose a system.

Will it be paper or electronic?

Given that email is increasingly used it would make sense to go electronic as transferring a paper system to a computer in the future, will be laborious. A low cost route is to use existing software on your computer.

For PCs – Windows Contacts which integrates with Windows Mail in Windows 7
Windows Address Book which integrates with Windows Mail on Windows Vista
Windows Address Book which integrates with Outlook Express on Windows XP
For Macs – Address Book which integrates with Mail (OSX)

Both systems allow you to select which information you want to store and there is a space for notes if you want to jot down important information about your customer e.g. they hate pink!

These systems cost you nothing and yet both powerfully integrate with other applications such as Windows Microsoft Office and the iWork suite from Apple.

Another advantage of starting with these simple systems is that you can easily export the data to a more powerful system later on. Many of the e-mail marketing systems will accept contact data from Windows Contacts or Mac's Address Book.

When do you collect customer information?

By simply analysing the pathway a prospective customer takes, you can find a convenient point at which to collect the information.

Convenient for your customer as well as your business.

If you trade in markets or have a farm shop, you may not want to slow down the queues by collecting customer information at the point of sale.

In this case you could provide forms with pens for people to fill out the information themselves. To get people to do this, you'll need to offer an incentive – a prize draw offering a decent amount of free product should do the trick.

If people generally telephone you to make enquiries, or bookings – that could be a good time to collect their information.

If most enquiries come via your website, you may be able to collect information from your form, though beware of asking for too much information. People don't like forms.

Whose information should you collect?

Anyone who buys from you, should have an entry in your database.
Anyone who makes an enquiry should have an entry in your database.
All your suppliers should have an entry in your database.

Once you have a customer database, an organised system for collecting and retrieving customer data, then you can get your party started. Keep in touch with customers regularly by postcard, letter or email.

How one simple question can add 15% to your market takings

 Food producers, Selling  Comments Off on How one simple question can add 15% to your market takings
Jul 052010

Chickens in Turin market

Chickens in Turin Market

You're busy serving at the market stall. After you've handed the purchase over to your customer, what do you do?  Say thank you very much? Move on to the next customer?

There is a simple question that can increase your takings:

"Do you want something for later in the week?"

That's it. That's the question. I told you it was simple.

That simple question tells your customer that you can solve another problem.  Not just

"What shall we eat tonight?" but

"What shall we eat on Monday, or Tuesday, or Wednesday?"

That simple question makes your customer look again at your display with a different question in mind.

And hey presto they find that those chicken thighs will be ideal for a casserole after Ceri has football training on Wednesday evening.

You have a responsibility to solve more problems for your customer.

Once you have sold once to a customer, if they are happy and return, then you have become a trusted 'problem solver". The customer will be happy to take your advice on future problems. You have a responsiblity to anticipate problems you can solve for that customer.

What if the customer raises a concern?

"Will they keep until Wednesday?" No problem, you are there, ready with the solution. Either

"yes you can keep them in the refrigerator", or "pop them in the freezer when you get home today and then just take them out on Tuesday morning and let them defrost in the fridge."

Happy, they make the additional purchase.

That customer's £12.00 spend just turned into a £18.00 spend.

If every third customer buys another £6.00 item you will increase your market takings by 15% just by asking one simple question.