Enhancing newsletter open rates with the right subject line

Operating in a highly competitive environment – where more brands are trying to reach the same audience at the same time for ongoing promotion – has never been harder, nor has it been more important for SMEs to engage with their intended audience through the communication touch points (such as a newsletter) that actually reach them.

Importantly, the way in which local SMEs’ target audiences gather industry information and news is changing and having your voice heard in this environment is becoming increasingly complicated. Faced with a fragmented communications landscape, it is critical SMEs not only grow their own communities (and databases), but also engage with these audiences in a meaningful way.

Topical newsletters are a great way to for SMEs to promote their products, industry perspectives and company news. Through the use of reader analytics, you can monitor which newsletter stories readers are opening and what is attracting their attention, which helps inform ongoing content ideas and even wider sales and marketing activities.

While many businesses simply assume that the success of a newsletter comes down to the quality of the content, the accuracy of your database, the design and strength of imagery; what should not be overlooked is the importance of the newsletter subject line itself.

The email subject line plays a huge role in every email sent. It is the very first thing (and in many cases, the only thing) that your subscribers will see in their inbox and influences whether they open the email or not. This is even more important for newsletters. These days, newsletters are everywhere. You order some product from an e-shop, and it is very likely that you will be asked to sign-up for an ongoing newsletter. This near overwhelming level of competition for readers means that your subject line is more important than ever.

It takes practice to create eye-catching email subjects, but even then, you can never be sure that the subject will work for your entire audience. For example, an SME’s subscriber base can be quite varied and contain different groups of people, which makes thinking from all of their viewpoints near impossible. So what is the best way to ensure that your newsletter subject line works for the widest share of your audience?

A/B testing (sometimes called split testing) such as that offered by leading marketing automation providers like our company, allows SMEs the ability to test multiple versions of an email subject to a sample of its audience to ascertain which subject performs better and which headline is most likely to encourage audience engagement. A/B testing can help SMEs decide if:

  • Shorter, or longer subject lines work best for their audience?
  • Subject line personalisation works for their audience?
  • A question, or a statement, achieves better engagement?

Even the best marketers can only assume which email subject would be the best and, as you want to ensure the best possible open rate, it is far better to rely on actual data than gut intuition. To specifically A/B test an email subject line, you will need to use the same content as the original email, but each test variant will have a different email subject. Then select a portion of your newsletter database as your sample – note that the larger the sample the more accurate the results – and send out the different versions. Two hours following the send out, you should be able to see some pretty accurate results from the test and hopefully have a clear idea around which email subject is encouraging higher levels of engagement, ensuring that the actual full distribution of your newsletter will be a success.

Wayne Jasek, Director of APAC Operations, Kentico

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