From the Winter 2010 issue of our newsletter, Let's Grow. For a FREE subscription, CLICK HERE

Irresistible Subject Lines

In preparation for this article, I reviewed several hundred subject lines from gardening company email newsletters and promotions. Only a handful begged to be opened. What can we learn from them?

Beyond Promotions

Hands down, the most common type of email is promotional. $10 off… Free Shipping… Save 25%.

While customers are especially bargain-conscious these days, promotions can be overdone. Try other techniques, such as:

Imply expert selection with subject lines like Plants for problem areas or Best pansies for fall.

Promise solutions to some of the most common problems. For instance, Mow less often with slow-growing grass or Rid your garden of pests.

How about trying a question and answer for a problem/solution email. For example, Got raccoon problems? 3 things you can do.

Top-reviewed product emails are always home runs. Why aren’t there more subject lines like Top reviewed products for your greenhouse?

A Word About Length

According to conventional wisdom, your subject line should be less than 50 characters, as that’s what’s visible in most inboxes. About 15% of the subject lines I reviewed were well beyond that limit.

Keep in mind that the 50-character guideline isn’t exact; some readers see even less, some more. It’s always a good idea to front-load your subject lines with the most important words.

Capitalization Considerations

Most commercial emails use initial caps on every word, which virtually announce, "This Is An Ad."  In direct mail, letters that look and sound personal nearly always outperform those that look like ads. So, make your email subject lines look personal. Don’t use capitals on every word of your subject line.

Your Company Name

Using your company name in the "from" address qualifies as a best practice that boosts open rates.

Does that mean that repeating your company name in the subject line is redundant and can be dropped? Perhaps, but test first.

When deciding which emails to open and which to trash, many people read down the "from" addresses or down the subject lines, but not back and forth across both – which means the redundancy theory may be faulty.

At least one company I know that does frequent testing always repeats their company name at the end of their subject lines – i.e., Winter is here. Garden indoors with [COMPANY NAME].

Some Other Interesting Tests

One new trend I’ve noticed in subject lines is two-part subject lines, such as Save Water With Rain Barrels + Summer Sale or Create a mini meadow, plus offers.

A rarely used technique is geographic segmentation and personalization, such as What to do in your Northeast garden now.  Segmenting takes some effort, but results may warrant it.

Considering the predominance of promotional subject lines, I’m astonished that almost none of the emails I reviewed included a deadline, such as 25% off all bulbs until Nov. 15.

These are just a small sampling of different techniques.Your subject lines are vital to your success, so test, test, test for improved results.

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Helpful Articles

For helpful how-to articles from past issues of Let’s Grow, our newsletter of marketing insights for the garden industry, click on the links below.