And your specialist subject is?

At a time when Radio 4 is rich with variations on the phrases ‘recession’, ‘economic downturn’ and ‘the FTSE ended the day down 631 at half of **** all…’, email blasts look increasingly attractive as a tactical way of getting out your message without incurring too great a cost.

In the rush to write and hit ‘Send’, however, it’s far too easy to forget that the ‘Subject’ line is a critical element in the success or failure of your mail.

It’s more important than the headline on an ad or a sales letter. (At least if those are weak, there’s a chance of something else on the page catching the eye.) Not so with a ‘Subject’ line.

If any element in the entire exercise is deserving of your copywriting attention, it is this, which is why it’s worth becoming a bit of a specialist on the subject of ‘Subject’ lines.

– Don’t be elliptical.
– Don’t assume that the way you have your mail client set out is the same as everyone else. Just because you can read 12 words in a subject line does not mean that I can. Make the first 3 or 4 words stand alone to deliver your message.
– Keep your wits about you. You may only have 4 words you can depend on… but you can use them in the most surprising way.
– Don’t forget that most people misunderstand anything which is not literal unless they are really concentrating.
– Don’t include words which are likely to hit everyone’s spam filters.
– Try to offer something.
– Make it searchable by mail client search features which search ‘Subject’ alone
– Split test. Split a section of your database and send your mail out with variations to the Subject line. See which does best and use that when mailing the rest of your list.

Getting your mails opened is exactly the same as getting customers through the door of your shop. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t matter how well you’ve set out the goods on offer inside.