7 ways to insure your subject line


I come across hundreds of eblasts every week, many of who are from our clients at http://programbusiness.com. One of the services we offer is email marketing for the insurance industry. I look at CTRs (Click Through Rate) for many of these eblasts and notice that some of them are not quite up to par. When clients ask me what they can do to increase their CTR, I always tell them to optimize their subject line. Yes, it’s true, subject line isn’t the only influencer of CTRs, but it sure helps to have a strong, optimized subject line.

A compelling subject line entices the visitor to at least open the email and that is really your goal with the subject line. You know from experience how many hundreds of emails you get in your Inbox everyday. Many of these emails are simply promotional emails, some may even be for the Insurance industry and some are possibly from services you subscribed to. Your email will only stand out from this crowd if you have a strong subject line.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of subject lines, we need to first talk about the From line. The name in the From line is the designated sender of the email. Make sure you include your brand name or company name in the From line. One exception where you can get away with not using your brand name or company name in the From line is if you’ve branded your eblast or email subject line with your company name. In that case, it may work better for you to have the From line coming from a specific sales rep or agent.

The From line need not be from the CEO of the company. In fact, your list may not even know who the CEO is, so if the email arrives in the prospect’s email from Ceo Johnson, the email will most likely go straight to the junk folder or the trash folder. When using a person’s name in the from line, also keep in mind that employees don’t stay around for ever. If you’ve branded your email coming from a personality and he leaves your agency, you are going to have to make major adjustments, including initiating a rebranding campaign so that your metrics don’t suffer. 

But remember, you can always segment your list and make the From line more relevant to the recipient. For instance, segment your list according to the sales reps in your agency. So, the segment that has had contact with sales rep Annie should get an email From Annie Jane-Account Manager XYZ Insurance of Delaware [annie_jane@XYZinsurance.com].

Once you have decide on a From line, keep it consistent. If you feel that your From line needs to change, make sure to test it against the original From line. Keep track of the open rate, click through rate, conversions, variations in sales and phone calls. Test it more than once and when you have a good number of tests and results, change the From line if necessary.

A tip that Marketing Sherpa shares is if you are going to have your From line as an individual, create a persona just for that purpose. This way, no matter who is sending the email, the persona will be the actual “face” of the message. Ronald McDonald, for instance.

Subject Lines
Now for the juicy part of this post, let’s look at Subject lines. This is one of the most interesting and fascinating elements for an email marketer because we can get really creative with this. It takes a lot of thinking, creativity, and testing to get this right. The subject line also makes the difference between an email open and a email trash. If you have a compelling subject line your email will at least get a deliberate open. The main purpose of your subject line is to get your subscriber to open the eblast. It’s like the headline of a newspaper (remember those?). The first thing a newspaper reader reads is the headline of a story. If it is intriguing enough,  the reader will read the subtitle and if that is interesting, then  the reader will move to the first paragraph. Exactly the same principle applies for your emails  or eblasts, the first thing your subscriber is going to read is the From and then the subject line, and she will open your eblast to see if you’ve delivered to her expectations.

Think back to the last 3 subject lines you wrote. How fast were you able to write those? Did you time yourself? Were they the first ideas that came to your mind? Did you have to only edit them once or twice? Well, if these were the thoughts that were running in your head as you sent off your subject line then you missed the point. Your campaign was probably not as successful as you hoped. Your design can be award winning, but if your subject line is weak, no one will look at your design because you didn’t entice them with the subject line to open the email in the first place.

So, what are the factors that we need to pay attention in subject line optimization?

I) Subject line length: Your subject line should be 50 characters or less in length. You have about half a second to capture your readers attention with your subject line. That is when they are going to decide whether you are providing any value to them or are just wasting their time.

ii) The two optimal words: The first two words of your subject lines are the most important words of the subject line. Check to make sure the first 2 words of your subject lines are most compelling. They should convey value. Have actionable items, something that impresses upon your reader that the contents of the email is going to have something of value for them. Now, I can’t tell you there is a list of best 2 words of a subject line because it all comes down to your target audience, your particular offer, your brand, and your message. However, here are some 2 word combinations that have worked for some marketers,
How Agencies…
Top 10…
7 Tips…
And other industry related words.
Some words that suggest exclusivity, “Exclusive”, “Private”, “Wholesalers only” can have a positive impact on your CTR as well.

iii) Avoid hard sells: The 3rd factor that is crucial in optimizing a subject line is to avoid a hard sell. When a reader reads a hard sell subject line, he is easily put off because there is no immediate benefit or value conveyed, instead he is asked to do something-something like part with his hard earned dollars! I’m certainly not going to bother with that email, are you?

iv) Bring out the big guns: Leveraging the names of big cool brands and using Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Big brands in our Insurance industry is a great motivator for readers. A subject line like, “How Travelers increased…” or “Hartford Report on…” are surefire winners.

v) Personalize your subject line: There are several ways of doing this. First, you can do the obvious, write a subject line to your reader, “Jane, 7 critical steps…”. another way to personalize your email is by writing your subject line according to the readers’ past behavior. Segment your list to the recent clients and send them an email offer related to the service or product that they just purchased. For instance, if Jack just signed up for auto insurance, you can send him an email with the subject line, “20% off of home insurance. Auto insurance holders only.”

vi) Drive Urgency: You can’t create urgency if you have not offered something recently, so first offer something of value to your clients and in the next email, drive the urgency to take action. “LAST DAY for downloading ‘Reinventing Agencies in the digital world’ white paper”.

vii) And a myth: I think we’ve all heard about how we are not supposed to use the word Free in the subject line. Actually, it’s a myth really. It is okay to use the word Free in your subject line as long as it’s not the first word in your subject line, it’s not all caps, and it is not followed by exclamation points.

So, there you have it, 7 ways to insure your subject line. Why don’t you enlighten us all in the comments below by telling us about subject lines that have worked for you?