The dangers of using your own judgement (when it comes to email subject lines)

The fact is that sometimes research can give you evidence that goes right against your own instincts. Here’s an example that surprised me.

How to use email subject lines is an interesting little subject, if you’re interested in why people respond to some cues and not others. One of the great dangers is that people perceive an email as spam and don’t even bother opening it. So the general advice is don’t sound like spam. This is partly to avoid getting caught in spam filters, but also so as not to trigger people’s own spam antennae.

So I’d always advise against using all caps subject lines. Why? Because spammers use them and organisations I’ve signed up to generally don’t.

But then I came across this:

In an unequivocal A/B test it turned out that an all-caps subject line got 14% more people opening the email than the same subject line but in lower case. Like me, the company was surprised so they tried again with a different email: 20% more people opened this time.

What’s going on here? It could be that people recognise the company, know it’s not spam, and have their attention caught when otherwise they wouldn’t – because they get just so many emails. Essentially, this subject line worked because it stood out.

Well we know that as organisms we’re designed to register novelty not sameness. Novelty sells!

Another lesson: in the digital space, be direct. Say it as clearly as possible.

And using your own judgement? You can’t help but use your own judgement, but you have to test it, challenge it, and change it as often as you can. This is where research can be incredibly useful. A/B testing of emails, yes, but also of website home pages. Serve up two different versions of the same page and see which get a better response. You’ll often be surprised.

You can never know enough about people’s psychology when it comes to marketing, writing or selling. Much of that has to be instinctive, intuitive and ‘felt’, but not all. Or you’ll only succeed with people exactly like you.

Source: the immensely useful Which Test Won?

Comments are closed.