Writing B2B email subject lines with complete confidence

Many thanks to Jay Schwedelson, President & CEO of Worldata, for my richest learning experience at the recent Direct Marketing Association (DMA) 2012 Conference.

His topic of “What’s Working Now: Critical Email & Emerging Media Trends” was packed with information on how to make B2B emails work better. The information he provided isn’t based on guesswork or the results of just a few projects. It’s taken from the results of testing over 20,000 email campaigns in both the B2B and B2C arenas.

His opening point was that, today, most emails are seen on mobile devices first. This stat proves it:

87% of C-Level executives see their email on their mobile device first

This means emails must be designed to be mobile-friendly, with pictures and sidebars built into the design and not added as separate elements.

The big learning for me was what he said about subject lines. I’ve been writing them for years, but few of my clients test; so, much of what I do is built on the best practice of including a benefit in the subject line. But the simple instruction he shared now makes me surer of the subject lines I’m creating.

His words of wisdom? The two most essential elements in subject lines that continue to win in A/B split testing are these:
Exclusivity and Urgency

He reports, “Implying exclusivity generates a 22% higher open rate.” This is true in B2B and B2C. The other factor, “urgency”, is the #1 driver of response and raises open rates by 34%.

To maximize visibility he also advises that subject lines be 30 to 35 characters long or less.

A great way to achieve exclusivity is to target emails to specific titles and put the title in the subject line. This implies that the message is exclusively for that group. Then try to include urgency words such as “now” or, even better, include a respond-by date.

Here are a few ideas on how to include exclusivity and urgency in a B2B subject line — and keep it short:

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To help us all, Worldata has created a free tool, www.subjectline.com, that lets B2B marketers test subject lines they create and get a score of how well the line measures up. The above lines achieved a 94% to 100% rating. So I can be confident that they are a good bet for getting good performance — and being mobile-friendly, too.

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  1. […] a recent blog, “Writing B2B email subject lines with complete confidence,” I reported on a session I attended at the October 2013 Direct Marketing Association […]

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