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How to Create the Best B2B Email Subject Line

Did you know email predates the web by 19 years? We’ve been sending and receiving emails since 1971. Each morning we’re greeted with the same onslaught of promotions, sales, newsletters, and spam from businesses desperate to grab our attention. Who is Mindy, and why does she think I’ll open this email when I’ve ignored the last five?

According to the Data & Marketing Association, there is only a 15.1% chance that we’ll open a B2B marketing email. That’s because we’re inundated: On average, office workers receive 120 emails per day.  

How do you cut through the clutter, create interest, and get opened? Yes, test send date, time, and cadence. Test sender name and address and optimize for previews with preheader text. But most of all, nail your subject line. It needs to stop the scroll and get the click.

6 Key Elements of a Winning Subject Line

There’s no secret formula that guarantees a perfect subject line (sorry), but we can help you get close.

1. Relevance

If you have the addresses, the cost to send 400 vs. 4,000 emails is the same. But does it make sense? If your audience isn’t interested, then your email won’t be opened. Relevance is key to creating interest, so learn as much as you can about your audience and apply that knowledge to your subject lines for testing. Some questions to guide your thinking:

  • What motivates their purchase behavior?
  • What are the barriers?
  • What’s trending at their company or in their business?
  • What topic do they want to learn more about?

It’s worth taking the time to develop clear audience personas so you can optimize your emails for greater returns.

2. Segmentation

If your target audience includes different personas, think about a segmentation strategy. It can be as easy as breaking it into industry verticals; e.g. The Best Email Subject Lines in Healthcare, The Best Email Subject lines in Technology, etc. A good segmentation strategy is an easy way to boost the relevance of your email subject lines. 

3. Personalization

Personalization doesn’t stop at [FirstName]. Every email you send should feel like you’ve sent it to one person, and that’s the person you want to open it. It’s a step beyond segmentation and certainly the most powerful approach. But the challenge is to make it both meaningful and manageable.

Including the prospect’s company name in the subject is an easy way to do it. However, a truly personalized subject line will address something specific and relevant, e.g. Tips to Impress Your New CMO; What to Pay Attention to at Content Marketing World; So You Purchased HubSpot — What’s Next? Each of these lines is based on specific knowledge you have about the prospect. They work. But they also take time.

4. Curiosity

Humans become curious when there’s a gap between what they know and what they want to know. A subject line should only hint at what’s in your email, not summarize the content. By creating an open loop (e.g. “How We Raised Conversions by 50%”), the reader knows what’s going to be covered in the email, but not the details that can help them raise their own conversion rate.

5. A clear value proposition

Customers always want to know “What’s in it for me?” This rings true of emails, too. Offering new information or special assistance can tip the balance in favor of getting an email opened.

6. Urgency or scarcity

We all know that feeling of missing out. (Last Chance; Did You Hear About The Thing?) It makes our pulse race a little and is a proven way to get people to pay attention. Still, be genuine about any urgent offers you make, otherwise you risk losing the trust of your audience.

Pro Tips for Improving Your Subject Lines

Try Title Case 

Presenting your words in different ways can act as a pattern interrupter that helps your subject line stand out in the inbox blur. Title case is considered to be the most effective for increasing open rates. A refresher:

  • Title case: My Hovercraft Is Full Of Eels
  • Sentence case: My hovercraft is full of eels
  • Lower case:my hovercraft is full of eels

Like a newspaper headline, title case lends authority and intelligence to your subject line.

A/B Test

On average, only 15–25% of emails get opened. So, if you have a list of 20,000 people and your open rate is currently 20%, only 4,000 people are reading your email. If you test different subject lines against each other and one of the new subject lines bumps your open rate to 25%, you instantly have an extra 1,000 readers who are potential buyers. It doesn’t take much to move the needle with emails, which is why split testing can be so valuable for your business.

You’ve tested the good … but how about the bad?

A/B testing allows you to experiment with the effectiveness of words and characters that might typically pose deliverability problems. Spam filters can be triggered for a variety of reasons, such as the capital letters and special character (exclamation points are a big one) in “FREE!”

Split testing subject lines on small segments of your audience can reveal how these clickbait-style subject lines perform — we hate to say it, but sometimes, they work. An example of going against best practices in favor of data was an email written on behalf of Neil Patel. It contained the opener “BOOM!” in the subject line, which should have alerted spam filters, but instead triggered a 104% open rate (yes, that’s possible!).

As with every other marketing tactic, so-called “best practices” in email marketing are made to be challenged. You never know what the perfect subject line formula is for your unique business unless you keep testing.

For help figuring out what that is, contact us.

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