Better Subject Lines Improve Your Email Survey Responses

September 12, 2012

Standing out in a potential respondent’s email inbox is one of the biggest challenges for online survey researchers. A carefully crafted subject line is a quick way to improve your email campaign response rate.

Before you get anyone to read the content of your email you have to get them to open your email. The subject line is your gateway. A good subject line can mean the difference between a 10 percent response rate and a 30 percent response rate.

Here are three tips for writing a subject line that can improve your response rate dramatically:

1. Identify who you are – if you’re sending out an email to your customers, your subject line should include the name of your brand. While the “from address” of your e-mail may include your brand name, don’t assume that the from address will be visible in every recipient’s inbox or, if it is visible, that the reader will scan it when pruning emails to delete from their inbox.

2. Show the value – an inbox is a very personal thing. As a general rule of thumb, whatever you send to an individual’s inbox should have personal value to the recipient. The subject line should tell the recipient what’s in it for them. The more the value is in line with the audience that you’re sending it to, the higher the response rate, guaranteed.

3. Limit characters – this one should be obvious as many people now check their email on mobile phones. Your e-mail subject line should be short and concise enough to be displayed on mobile devices; a maximum of 50 characters.

Here’s an example of a poor subject line for survey:

Subject: We need your help – FILL OUT THIS SURVEY!

First of all, don’t use capital letters (especially if you want to get past spam filters). The other problem with this subject line is that it doesn’t identify who needs help or what the recipient gets by helping. Here’s a better version of that subject line:

Subject: [Smallville Gazette] Understand your energy usage – a quick survey.

The benefits of this subject line are that it uses a standard bracketing technique to identify whom it’s from. It identifies a value (namely understanding your own energy usage) and still notes that there is a survey in the contents of the e-mail.

This alone may not be enough to get an individual to answer the survey, but it should be enough to pique their interest enough to click on it and read a few of the opening lines. And, that is half the battle!

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