The Unintended Consequences of a Great Subject Line

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Great subject lines are a great problem to have. Problem? That’s right. Stick with me.

There comes a time in every email marketer’s life when they craft what seems to be the perfect subject line. They sound out the email, and subscribers can’t seem to ignore it. Open rates jump to astronomical highs. Everyone in the organization cheers cries of success.

The problem is what happens next. For all those subscribers that open the email, only a few of them click through. And only a few of those clickers end up taking the desired action.

So overall, the impact of the email, or the return on investment for the company, is far lower than expected.

Who or what is responsible? Assuming that the company measures performance all the way through to conversion (and it should), how do we determine what went wrong? A few of you might already be saying to yourself, “this is not the subject line’s fault, its job is to get people to open the email, and it did.”

While it’s true that a subject line is primarily judged on open rate, that does not tell the whole story. It is very easy for me to craft a subject line that overpromises and gets people to open the email. If the content of the email, or the offer presented then fails to deliver on that promise, not only will I lose the sale, but I might lose a subscriber.

A great subject line must set the stage for the rest of the process. Opens are great. By all means, aim to get more of them. But don’t do it in a vacuum. The ultimate goal has to be conversions, and you accomplish that with a great subject line attached to a great email attached to a great offer. Only promise what you can deliver, and then promise it in the most enticing way possible.