One of my first “real” jobs after leaving college was selling classified advertising space in the back of my local paper.
At the time, when people still read regional newspapers, classified adverts were popular with businesses and readers alike because they were targeted (by geography – most of the ads we carried came from local companies), they were segmented by category (motors, property, recruitment, etc.), they were quickly consumed and they offered the advertisers incredible value for their money. I guess you could say that back then, classified advertising had much in common with well-managed email marketing strategy of today.
Classified ads also taught me a lot about the art of selling in as few words as possible. We charged per line: On average, an ad would feature five words per line and the minimum offering was two lines of text – and remember, this had to include a telephone number. If you think there is an art to writing a good tweet . . . well, writing a compelling, two-line classified advert was a real skill.
All sorts of businesses used our classified advertising pages, but the “small ads” were particularly popular with tradespeople like plumbers, builders, electricians, etc.
Because classified advertising was (a) cost effective and (b) targeted, the repetition of ads proved to be their most valuable proposition. That is, you would never phone a plumber unless your kitchen sink started leaking, for example – but the moment it did, you’d know exactly who to call.
I like to think of email subject lines in exactly the same way.
If your subject lines are compelling, tell the complete story and arrive in my in-box on a fairly regular basis, there is a good chance I will come to you when I’m in a buying frame of mind, regardless of whether I open the email or not.
If your subject lines are dull, uninspiring or somewhat cryptic, you’ll lose me. And if they continue to confuse or bore – I might just unsubscribe (a problem the newspaper industry is only too aware of).
Share your tips for writing a great subject line in the comments box below.
This post first appeared on the iContact Email Marketing Blog.