Last week I sent out an email to my Insider Strategy subscribers that had the worst open rate I've had for an email ever.
The email got 20% fewer opens than normal. For a business like mine that has email marketing at its core, that's a disaster.
And for someone like me who's studied email marketing in depth, bought pretty much every training course there is on email marketing, and who's been interviewed on email marketing best practices on more than one occasion it's a little embarrassing.
So what went wrong?
Well, the truth is, I fell into a trap that very many people do with their marketing. I got too clever.
Here's the offending email subject line:
“Spooked By Shadows”
You can probably see what's wrong with it straight away. There's no real motivation for people to open it.
The email itself is a good one. All about the importance of not being scared in your marketing by what your competitors might be doing.
So the subject line “Spooked By Shadows” is a clever one. Alliterative too, and reads nicely.
Clever. But not effective.
Many years ago John Caples studied the most effective headlines for adverts – and identified that the three types of headline that work well are:
- Benefits: the headline indicates the benefit you'll get by reading on (or buying the product)
- News: the headline refers to something in the news that people already want to hear about
- Curiosity: the headline invokes curiosity – the prospect reads on to find out what the headline means
The same principles apply to email subject lines.
Benefit headlines are often the strongest. Subject lines like “How to find your ideal niche” work because they promise to reveal how to do something your readers (or in this case my readers) really want to know.
And you can often combine types. “5 ways of winning clients with mobile apps” is a benefit headline (winning clients) combined with news (mobile apps are hot at the moment) and it's also curiosity (“I wonder what those 5 ways are…”).
And my email contained…none of them.
Well maybe a bit of curiosity. Perhaps someone wondered what I meant by “Spooked By Shadows”.
I fell into the trap that so many do of trying to be clever and funny with my marketing.
But I really should have stuck to being effective.
If you're writing emails, adverts or sales pages you should stick to being effective too. Follow Caples' advice and stick to benefits, news or curiosity.
If you'd like more in-depth tips on email marketing – completely free – you can sign up for my series of Email Marketing Power Tips here: