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Digital Marketing Optimization

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E-mail Marketing Best Practices

Are you utilizing an effective "secondary subject line" in your marketing e-mails?


When it comes to commercial e-mails, getting your message open is as critical as any other element of the campaign.  The open rate is generally determined by your from name and subject line.  But in many instances, you may get a secondary impression that will affect whether your message has a chance to get opened.

Almost every e-mail client, Outlook, Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, etc. allows the user to set how much of a message appears in their inbox list.  My sense is that most show a list of e-mails that allow a user to scan from names and subject lines.  In this configuration, the top few words of the message are also visible as in this example below:

The green example above shows the e-mail templates header because it is the first element of the email.  This is understandable since it is accepted e-mail best practice to allow users who keep images turned off to view the message in a separate browser window.  The problem is that the first part of the message does not entice me to open the e-mail any more than the subject line does.

In the green example above, MarketingProfs decided to include the offer at the very top of their e-mail.  They are using a "secondary subject line" effectively and it is reasonable to expect that will favorably impact the open rate.

I am not suggesting removing the option to view the message in a browser window.  I am suggesting that it can be pushed lower.  That element of a commercial message was much more critical several years ago when a number of e-mail clients could not render an HTML image consistently.  While it's still an issue for folks who keep images turned off by default, the secondary subject line may get them to view their images for that message.

You cannot produce conversions through e-mail if your messages do not get opened.  Conversely, increasing your open rate by 5% will raise your conversion rate.  So it's worth a test to determine whether a meaty line at the very top of your e-mail helps your open rate.

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0 #2 Linda 2012-02-06 18:01
I assume you meant to refer to the red example in the 3rd paragraph - the one right under the graphic ? The image is a bit hard to read on my screen, but both the 3rd and 4th paragraph refer to the green example, so I'm guessing the frist one should be red example.
+1 #1 Kelly Stewart 2012-02-06 14:41
Great points, Dirk.

Similar holds true when cross-posting articles or events from one site to Facebook, for instance. One thing I've started doing is writing an "abstract" or "sell sentence" at the top of my outdoor hiking club's event postings. So instead of seeing:

"HIKE STATS: 5 miles..."

you see a secondary subject line such as:

"Discover pristine waterfalls, magnificent overlooks, and magical goats on this five mile hike..."

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