The Right Data is More Important Than the Right Subject Line

July 3, 2018 Jeffrey L. Cohen

The subject line is the most visible part of an email. It’s what your recipients see before they open your email. It’s what they see after they open your email. It’s even what they see if they never open your email.

It is often the first thing marketers review as the cause for a drop in open rates. The internet answers the call with help on subject lines. It’s like an old time pitchman selling tonics and potions to cure what ails you. Hundreds of millions of results with best practices, helpful tips, 164 examples of guaranteed to open subject lines.

But what if I told you that a perfectly crafted subject line is not the thing that has the most effect on your open rate? It’s marketer’s use of data that makes a bigger difference.

Creating an email campaign with data at your fingertips can take some pressure off that subject line. We want to send relevant emails to the right people, but how do we determine who they are? Again, the answer is data. Consider using data like customer preferences, past purchases, loyalty program membership, location, spending levels to create highly-targeted audience segments and deliver a personalized experience that resonates with recipients.

Data can be siloed in different systems across an organization, but if you know what’s available you can use it to target your email. This is much easier if you use a platform that provides easy access to data with no programming required.

Retailer invites best customers

A leading retailer was planning an in-store event and wanted to invite their best customers. They considered sending engraved invitations – and maybe even hand-delivering them – but realized that an email campaign would probably be more effective. They wanted to make sure customers came to the event, but they were also interested in generating sales from the event. Using data to create the invite list was the best way to ensure this.

They started with members in their loyalty program who lived in the vicinity of the store. They reduced the list by including only customers who had attended past events. And finally, they only included customers who made purchases either in-store or online within the past year.

Now they had a list and it was time to build the email. They were confident that using email subject lines like “In-store events near you” and “5 reasons to visit our Main Street store in April” would go to the right people to make the event a success.

Bank rewards high value clients

A local bank was looking to improve the experience of its higher spending clients by promoting the rewards program to them in an email campaign. They used a variety of data sources to create their segmented list for the campaign.

The first piece of information they used to select clients was a high credit card spending amount. They choose a threshold and included everyone who spent above that level. Next they made sure everyone on the list had an investment account. This helped ensure that they were targeting the higher value clients. They focused on clients that were active with the bank by using a composite engagement score. And finally, since this was a campaign to get clients into the rewards program, they confirmed that everyone on the list was not already a member.

A segmented list of ideal clients who would get value from the rewards program was now ready for the email campaign.

Consider your own available data sources before you start your next email campaign. This will let you focus more on sending to the right customers and clients than getting every single character right in a subject line.

To see the emails that accompanied these campaigns and how other companies used data to target their emails, download the Email Spotlight Report: Using Data for Personalization and Segmentation today.

About the Author

Jeffrey L. Cohen

Jeffrey L. Cohen is the director of content strategy at Cheetah Digital, where he creates entertaining and educational thought leadership content to grow the brand. He’s an award-winning marketer, strategist, and author (The B2B Social Media Book) with a 25-plus year marketing career.

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