How to Write B2B Email Subject Lines that Get Your Messages Opened

Opening a B2B emailEmail subject lines are often an afterthought.

After preparing your email’s content, you might only have a few seconds to dash off a quick subject line and send out your email. However, since the best B2B customers often come from in-house email lists, you should spend more time crafting subject lines that get readers to open your emails.

Plus, competition for your customers’ attention is fierce. Dan Zarrella’s The Science of Marketing: When to Tweet, What to Post, How to Blog, and Other Proven Strategies revealed that 88% of respondents no longer separate their work and personal inboxes. This means that “Your e-mail messages are appearing alongside not only other work-related information but a variety of more entertaining social e-mails as well. You are not competing against only other communications professionals trying to sell products or services; you’re also competing against friends and family.”

With this in mind, here are five ways you can improve your B2B email subject lines to increase your open rates:

1. State the benefit of reading the email.

One of the keys to writing any kind of marketing copy is showing the reader the benefits of your offer. This is especially true for email subject lines, where you only have a few seconds and words to convince someone to open your email.

When you write subject lines, think of your email’s content as your offer. Your subject line should explain its benefits. For example, will readers gain access to new research that will help them drive more business? Will they learn something valuable in a how-to article? Will they receive a special discount?

If you’re promoting a product in your email, don’t make the mistake that many B2B marketers do and focus on your product’s features. Instead, list one or two of your product’s major benefits in the subject line. For example, a reader may not initially care if your landing page software has a new-and-improved user-friendly interface. However, you’ll get their attention if you mention increased conversions and sales.

2. Use these top-performing words in your subject line.

Adestra recently published a “B2B Subject Line Analysis”, which looked at over one billion B2B emails to determine which subject lines performed the best. Words showing that the email contained newsworthy or exclusive content – such as “alert”, “news” and “breaking” – performed well. However, the term “newsletter” did not result in many opens. To increase your open rates, you may want to call your “newsletter” your “news”.

When it comes to the type of content in B2B emails, words that show business benefits, such as “money”, “revenue” and “profit” performed well. Meanwhile, words related to just about any kind of B2B event – from webinars to conferences – did not lead to many opens. If you’re promoting an event, try subject lines that explain the benefits of attending the event, such as how applying what you learn at a conference can boost your revenue.

The report also stressed the importance of using “industry-specific terminology to really get into the psyche of your recipients. Consider switching out of trite, overused terms and testing out some long tail terms. You can find the optimal words by enacting an intelligent split testing methodology. Start by assessing the real benefit to the reader and lead with that in your subject line.”

3. Drop the jargon … and the manners.

According to The Science of Marketing: When to Tweet, What to Post, How to Blog, and Other Proven Strategies, email subject lines containing words such as “please” and “thanks” didn’t perform well. This suggests that readers don’t want to be asked to do something. Hold off on the ask until you provide them with something of value first.

Business jargon such as “administration”, “evaluation” and “implementing” also appeared in the book’s list of least-clicked words. While these words rarely make it into everyday speech, they seem to appear everywhere in B2B content. To increase your open rates, use conversational English.

4. Consider how your emails will display on mobile devices.

According to Marketo, 64% of B2B decision makers read email on their mobile devices. As this percentage increases, it will become even more critical to format your subject lines for mobile devices. For example, many mobile devices will display between 30 and 60 characters in an email subject line before cutting off the rest of the text. If possible, keep your subject lines under this length. If this is not possible, then put the most important information in your subject line up front, so mobile customers will see it and be intrigued.

5. Use personalization.

Studies have shown that including the reader’s first name in the subject line will increase your open rates. However, most B2B customers are aware that a software program inserted their name into a bulk message.

It’s more important that your readers have a relationship with the person who is sending the email. If possible, include the name of the reader’s account or sales representative in the “from” line – even if a marketing automation program is sending the email. This will increase your open rates.

And finally, be sure to test your subject lines to see which ones perform the best. Just because something performs well or badly in a study doesn’t mean you’ll have the same results.

What about you? What do you like to see in a B2B email subject line? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

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2 Comments

  1. Love how you included the mobile element! We’re seeing more and more of our B2B client emails being read on mobile devices every month. Sometimes reaching 60%!!!! Personalization is always a big one and personal fave as well. Good stuff!

    -Brian

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