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Email Marketing: Optimizing ‘From’ Lines, Subject Lines, Pre-headers

Email marketing remains a cornerstone of most ecommerce companies. But optimizing “from” lines, subject lines, and pre-headers is challenging for even the savviest marketers. I’ll offer tips in this post.

‘From’ Lines

The U.S. CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 prohibits deceptive “from,” “to,” and “reply-to” lines. Each of those must be an accurate representation of the sender’s company or brand. A sender cannot use “Amazon” as the “from” name if its business is “Joe’s Custom Hats.” The key is to be clear.

However, a “from” line is slightly customizable and can change from email to email. You could, for example, create different “from” lines for marketing and transactional messages. It could help recipients quickly understand the purpose of the email.

An email "from" line must clearly relate to the sender's company or brand, such as this example from SmileDirectClub, a teledentistry company.

An email “from” line must relate to the sender’s company or brand, such as this example from SmileDirectClub, a teledentistry company.

Subject Lines

Subject-line compliance with CAN-SPAM is similar to “from” lines. Subject lines must accurately represent the content and cannot otherwise be misleading.

Most email opens occur on smartphones. Thus it’s important to keep subject lines short — mobile email clients display 30 to 70 characters, typically.

Do not use words that could trigger an email going to the spam folder. There are many factors for spam, or junk, redirects. It’s usually algorithms that detect complaints and usage of recipients. However, certain words and phrases can influence spam filters, too. YesWare, a sales and productivity platform, published a list of words to avoid.

Also, avoid (i) starting a subject line with a symbol such as $ or %, (ii) overuse of symbols in a single subject line, and (iii) repeating a character excessively, such as “Don’t Miss This!!!!!!!!!.” And never use all capital letters, such as “DON’T MISS THIS!”

Subject lines are easy to test. Test the words, symbols, and even emojis. Beyond that, the best subject lines accomplish the objectives of the email, which vary.

Drive open rates. If the goal is to increase the number of people opening your email, use an attention-grabbing subject line, one that sparks the interests or curiosity of recipients. Examples include:

  • “Don’t miss what’s inside….”
  • “Go ahead, delete this email and miss out”
  • “You Can’t Afford to Miss This”

Notifications. Emails can be powerful without recipients opening them! Use the subject line to convey a quick reminder, such as:

  • “50% off IN-STORE only. Starting today”
  • “Your catalog is in the mail”

A notification-type subject line can prompt a consumer to act.

Start the journey. If the goal of an email is to convert shoppers, use the subject line to start the process. Tell recipients what action you want them to take. Examples include:

  • “Don’t Wait: Book Your Vacation Today”
  • “Register for the Pumpkin 5K”
  • “Complete Your Order Now”

Promotion and urgency. When the subject line includes offers or promotions, create a sense of urgency to convert procrastinators, such as:

  • “Last Day for $10 off + Free Shipping”

Pre-headers

An email pre-header appears just below the subject line on a mobile device. Pre-headers are powerful when used as an extension of the subject line. The spam filtering rules for subject lines do not typically apply to pre-headers. Thus you can likely use more aggressive words and symbols.

Properly coordinated, pre-headers and subject lines can drive opens, in my experience. The best combinations do not repeat words or use redundancies.

The example below, from Honey Stinger, a producer of organic energy foods, repeats “Merrel x Honey Stinger” in the subject line and pre-header, which wastes valuable space.

This example from Honey Stinger repeats "Merrel x Honey Stinger" in the subject line and pre-header, wasting valuable space.

This example from Honey Stinger repeats “Merrel x Honey Stinger” in the subject line and pre-header, wasting valuable space.

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