It all starts with the subject line—it’s the most important component in your e-marketing message. The subject line will determine the success or failure of your campaign. Your email message will be given a few seconds of scrutiny before readers determine if they will open it or discard it. Furthermore, if they don’t like the message, they may decide to opt out from future emails. Surely the subject line is worthy of great thought and consideration, measurement, analysis and split test variations.

I tend to recommend educational subject lines with a call to action for a webinar, white paper or case study. These types of subject lines are different than those used for promotional offers, for example an email from Groupon or Staples or Best Buy.

  1. Keep it short. Many e-marketers consider ideal subject line length to be under 35 characters with a 50 character maximum. However, the relationship between the sender and receiver can dramatically skew this rule. For example, if your insurance agency is well known by those receiving your emails, and your subject lines pertain to complex topics (for example, health-care compliance and mandates), longer subject lines can perform admirably. The best subject lines offer a glimpse into your important topic, whetting the appetite to learn more and resulting in an opened email.
  2. When possible, target by segment. Targeted messages will improve open rates. Targeting a specific message of key importance to a specific segment will yield results. For example, “New OSHA rules for heavy equipment operators” or “Hours of service changes effective January 1st” will speak to specific audiences that understand this message is specific to them. These types of subject lines will be deemed relevant.
  3. Make it relevant and interesting. Relevant and timely messages increase email marketing open rates (and click-through rates). From my perspective, this is often more about education and less about selling. Insurance agency e-marketing should revolve around rapport-building. Agencies or marketing organizations that spew out tens of thousands of emails, touting their new product, program or new-and-improved pricing will result in greater opt-outs, spam complaints and potential black listing from ISPs. Consistency, relevancy and frequency should be the mantra for your insurance agency e-marketing subject lines. For most agencies, you should allow at least a week between emails to the same prospect.
  4. Make it informative. Arguably this tip could also fall under a tip called “make it educational.” The subject line should be able to promise informative and educational content and fulfill that promise within the email body. Your first goal should be to offer interesting and educational topics germane to your target prospects. Once you are engaged in an ongoing web dialogue, your agency will have many opportunities to further engage with your prospects, and they will be more likely to buy since you have established this rapport.
  5. Make it honest and keep it simple. We all know about the “KISS” rule—simpler is often better. When it comes to emails, we want the subject lines to be simple, to be easy to quickly understand and to fulfill the promise of the subject line. Agencies should never indicate one thing in their subject line (PPACA updates) and then discuss another in their email body (how they can offer the best service and rates for health insurance). If your agency is offering a webinar or case study for contractors, the subject line and content should match, delivering on the commitment of your subject line.

Bonus tip: Don’t bury the lead. You’ve probably heard this old adage. It’s good advice for news reporters, bloggers and e-marketers. The subject line should be the lead to your email story. Examples might include:

  • Five Critical steps to for your next renewal
  • New hours-of-service regs for owner-operators
  • ROI-based wellness programs for small employers
  • Health-care mandates and compliance updates

These types of subject lines offer educational value and new and relevant content. These range from 41 to 47 characters in length, including spaces. Leverage interesting and timely topics and ensure the subject line is your lead and you will see open rates (and sales) increase.

 Sign up for The Lead and get a new tip in your inbox every day! More tips:

Alan Blume is an author, and as founder and CEO of StartUpSelling Inc., he works with small businesses on lead generation, sales, marketing, website design and branding. For more information, go to www.StartUpSelling.com.