October 13, 2010

The headline matters more than ever (the subject line)

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Face it; your emails are part of a snow storm blowing into someone's Crack berry or  smart phone.  Instead of carefully reading through the items in your inbox, your recipients scroll them like spinning a roulette wheel.  I see it every day on the road. 

They open a few, answer even less, and your carefully written action-required email is ignored.  

If you want to jump out of the e-noise and improve your readership with your email buddies,  you need to hone your skills at writing good subject lines.  Think about newspapers, their MVPs are the people that come up wit eye-grabbing headlines.  We've been trained our whole life to scan for must-reads.  Same goes with emails or blog titles.  Good headlines drive click through.  

The basics are:
* Vague is bad
* Hey! is not a real subject line
* RE: RE: FW: FW: is not attractive and will not be read right away

When I know someone well, I will make a call to action in the subject line if my email is intended to get someone to do something. If I need to change a call, I put it in the subject line. If I need you to send me a file, I put it in the subject. You'd be amazed how your response rates jumps.

When I am in a less intimate business relationship, I work on a three to five word subject that zeros in on why I'm sending the email. If we are working on an event together I'll put "About the sales conference" in the subject.

When you reply, feel free to start a new subject (too often we just reply and the subject line stays the same, except now with a RE: before it.) Let the new subject line redefine where the email thread is going. This not only helps to focus the email exchange on a real outcome, it keeps the conversation going. This is especially true if many of your email buddies are usually mobile. They scroll through subjects and make their choices almost on impulse. 

Now let's talk blog posts or FB Notes: Banal titles don't drive click thrus or retweeets.  You need to grab them with either a provocative statement or a relevant promise (my approach, usually).  If you improve your headlining to gather attention, you'll see your statistics jump like you did when you learned or outsourced search engine optimization.  Don't be lazy here, you've done a great deal of work on that great post you want everyone to read.  

To sharpen your headline skills, visit Daily Beast or Huffington Post and study the relationship between clever headlines and retweets or comments.  Do the same over at Yahoo sports.  Don't bother with visually driven sites like TMZ as the gossip is the draw.

This is one of the ideas I teach over at my Email Training Website.  Email is the vast majority of your knowledge output, so consider yourself a publisher that need to focus as much on form as content.  


Posted at 9:06 AM in Blogging and Blogtalk , Email Rules  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)  |  TrackBack (0)



In every medium we come across, and with the increasing (and destructive) multitasking of our times, it becomes more and more vital to catch the attention of our interlocutors as fast and as much as possible.

It is kind of alarming if you think about it, but sadly unavoidable. Too much information provided to us so often from multiple channels, an impressive competition through which you have to drive your content, making catchy headlines one of the most important elements of your strategy.

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