Monday, February 9, 2015

Delete Me

In the New Harbor playbook, the e-mail newsletter is the indispensable tool for reaching a targeted audience in a meaningful, effective way. We’re on the receiving end of a lot of e-newsletters, too - some good, some not. But it’s amazing to us how often the most important element of the total e-news package is overlooked and misused. 

 That piece? The subject line.

Check out some of the subject lines (with the senders’ names changed to “Acme” or “Jones” to protect the guilty) in e-mail newsletters we’ve received, just in the last week: 

 • Acme Newsletter for February 4, 2015 
 • Your February Acme Newsletter 
 • Acme Newsletter February 2015 
 • News from Acme 
 • Acme February Newsletter 
 • Acme News 
 • News from the Office of Politician Jones 

We’re not making this up. So here’s the point: It’s a shame for someone to go through the effort of creating and distributing an e-newsletter, only to have a subject line that basically screams “Delete Me: I’m another boring, cookie-cutter e-mail newsletter. ”

The subject line (working in tandem with the sender field) is the most important piece of the package, because if it gets lost and recipients don’t open it, what have you gained? The sender field can really help here. For example, if the sender is “Acme” or “Politician Mary Jones,” say it there. That will free up the subject line to tell your readers what it’s about, not who it’s from – since the sender line already tells us that.

So give your subject lines some serious thought, because they’ll make or break your e-news. And experiment a little. Sometimes, we’ll do two or three different subject lines when sending out the New Harbor e-news, just to see what works as an opener, and what doesn’t.

One tactic that can work well is to use a quotation from the newsletter that might be especially relevant or interesting to your audience. Feel free to hint at the content inside, without giving everything away, so that readers are likely to click on the email to find out more.

Ask yourself: What would make you want to read this email? Chances are “Acme Newsletter February” would not be as compelling as, well, almost anything else.

Bottom line: don’t let the time and effort involved in putting together an e-mail newsletter campaign be wasted by a saddling it with a boring, generic subject line.