What good is an email marketing campaign if your subject line sucks?  If you truly want to increase response rates, make sure you’re using the right words.   

Money words are in, personalisation can supercharge response, and “whitepapers” and “webinars” are over-used. 

Focus on the outcomes of your product and people will respond.

I looked at 1.159bn B2B emails to find the words that work and those that don’t. Check out a sneak preview of the statistics here… 

It’s not breaking news that subject lines are one of the key elements to a successful email marketing campaign, yet they are merely an afterthought for many marketers. 

We spend hours focusing on all sorts of criteria, and yet the most basic (and causal) variables are often forgotten.

At Adestra, we love lots of data. Well, let’s be more specific. I love lots of data, and especially love playing around with it to find patterns. I’m great at parties.  

To this end, I took a random sample of 1.159bn (yep, billion) emails in the B2B sector to see what word choices in subject lines make a difference. I’ll be releasing the full report tomorrow at Econsultancy’s FUNNEL event  but thought I’d give you a sneak preview.

So the questions we have sought to answer are:  What words in subject lines get better response?  And moreover, what about specifically in B2B?

Money words drive response

Revenue is vanity, and profit is sanity. Or so the saying goes, at least. And in B2B subject lines, this holds true.

For a long time, it was thought that including currency symbols in subject lines was a no-no. Spam filters would strike them down, and you’d be in the junk box next to offers of free Viagra delivered to you by a naked Britney Spears. 

But this is not the case anymore. 

Using the pound symbol (£) in your subject line, across the long-run average of >1bn emails, increases open rates by 25% versus the average. The dollar symbol ($) follows suit at 15%.

But that’s not all. There is a strong correlation between higher open rates and subsequently higher response rates. To this end, “£” brings you an amazing increase in click thru rates (CTR) of 96% – nearly double the average. Imagine if you could double your response rate…

And it’s not just with currency symbols. The word “revenue” saw increases of +2.4% and +39% (open rate and CTR, respectively), while “profit” saw increases of +17% and +77%.

Why is this? In an increasingly polluted inbox, users care about outcomes. It’s great if people download your “whitepaper” (-34%, -63%) or attend your “webinar” (-17%, -70%), but how will that help them now? 

The key is to put yourself in the shoes of the buyer. It’s not their money they’ll spend on your products, fair enough, but it is their reputation they’re putting on the line. What they care about is achieving their targets and getting a bonus at the end of the year. 

Your “conference” (-6%, -53%) won’t help them achieve that…  but “money” (+10%, +38%) will. 

Personalisation works. Kind of…

When using a person’s name, their company name or other personalised information in a subject line, our research shows a 22% increase in open rates. Fantastic!

But the CTR shows a 16% decrease. Erm…

Why is this? Think about it from a user experience standpoint. If someone knows enough about you to personalise a subject line, then surely they know enough to personalise the rest of your user journey. But sadly, this isn’t the case most of the time.

Following a personalised subject line with generic email content is a disjointed user experience  It’s the old bait-n-switch. 

Hey there Mr. Buyer, we know lots about you. But not quite enough to give you an end-to-end personalised journey. In fact, all we know about you is your name. Buy from us please!

If you’re going to personalise your subject lines, you’ll get more opens. But you’ll only get more clicks if the email content is equally personalised. Your response rates will skyrocket if you can achieve this. But if you can’t right now then focus instead on improving your data set – get more information about your customers and use it to personalise your marketing efforts.

Simply put – get the building blocks in place first.  You can’t build mortar without sand, or else you’ll be left with a massive sinkhole. 

Find out more at FUNNEL

I’ll be releasing the research in full at FUNNEL tomorrow so come along to the event to find out more. These are but a few of the results of our research. Our main problem was not analysing the data itself, but moreover knowing when to stop. 

If you’d like some specific words tested, add them in the comments section below. I can’t promise the results are what you would hope – but I can promise that a sample of 1.159bn emails won’t lie.