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Improve Your Open Rates With This One Simple Subject Line Hack

Personalization wins.

I could probably sum up this entire post with that two-word sentence and leave it at that.

It would certainly save me a fair bit of time this morning. 😉

But to not sell you short, I’ll make my case throughout the rest of this article.

You may have heard some guru or marketing expert out there talking about personalization being key before. But what often gets lost in the hot takes coming from most marketers is the way to best do this.

Comments like ‘Personalize your marketing’ are very open to interpretation.

The entire suggestion is a gray area.

Rather than simply finding hacks to call out more and more personal information in your messaging to your prospects (which people will find creepy), the real goal should be to make each outreach feel unique to your audience.

Not unique in the way that we’ll reference the university they attended, how many kids they have, and a recent vacation they went on.

But unique in that you took more than one-second to blast out the same message you sent to everyone for them.

This can be done in a myriad of ways.

  • Not overly relying on newsletters alone.
  • Sending your outreach from a person at your company and not simply info@yourcompany.com
  • Providing context to why you wanted to share something with them (without going overboard).
  • Relevance to their interest, job, life, etc.
  • Custom offers.
  • Personalized subject lines.

Now with these and any other way you are aiming to make experiences feel unique to your audience, you want to vary your approach.

Let’s take the example of Personalized Subject Lines for instance.

Why Personalize Your Subject Line?

Numerous organizations have found stats that prove the effectiveness of personalizing your subject lines.

Campaign Monitor found for instance that they were 26% more likely to be opened if the subject line included the recipient’s name. Experian on the other hand found personalized emails delivered 6x higher transaction rates.

A study from the University of Texas found “we can attribute our preference for personalized experiences to two key factors: desire for control and information overload.”

According to Psychology Today, people who feel an internal sense of control -- i.e. they believe that they are in control of their life outcomes, as opposed believing external forces are responsible -- tend to be healthier physiologically and more successful.

When your prospects feel more in control and feel as though the information you are sharing is relevant to them, the more likely they are to engage. And the more likely your outreach has at being successful.

So while the data can show it’s a smart idea to include personalized subject lines, it shouldn’t be taken to mean that ALL of your emails should include that feature.

Consider how unique an outreach will feel if every email addressed to you begins:

‘Josh, thought you’d be interested in this?’

‘Are we still on for next week Josh?’

‘I had to share this with you Josh’

‘Josh, Josh, Josh’

Overkill, right?

Too much of a good thing leads to an experience feeling less personal. So while it certainly is a smart move to incorporate first name or other personalized factors in your subject lines, don’t shift EVERY email to do so. 

In moderation, it can be effective. It’s like using a drop shot in tennis.

A drop shot is a ball purposely hit short. Just over the net. And just out of the reach of your opponent.

When your opponent least expects it, it can be extremely effective.

But when a drop shot is predictable, it’s an easy point for your opponent to win.

Predictability kills any feeling of a unique outreach.

‘Hacks’ Oversimplify the Real Secret to Success

We titled this article as a hack for a little tongue-in-cheek experiment.

Look the truth is when it comes to marketing or sales development ‘hacks’ are fleeting.

They are shortcuts on a ticking clock.

Over the years I’ve seen just about every ‘hack’ eventually fade away. Either the market catches onto this shortcut (it gets predictable) or technology finds a way to block out (think of all the SEO hacks over the past decade that Google constantly protects against).

The fact is that what wins out, in the end, are relationships. And while there are ways to use technology to help build and progress a relationship.

Relationships can still take time.

Knowing that upfront will allow you to make the right decisions in your lead generation and sales process.

Rather than chasing the next shiny object. You’ll know to focus on how to build and foster relationships that feel unique and one-to-one rather than quick win one-to-all approaches.

If you keep that as the key metric you are focusing on, you’ll win out.


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