Writing Headlines for Better Open Rates

What does it take to write a compelling headline for an email newsletter? Below are five questions to consider each time you start brainstorming the best-suited headline for your email:

  1. Who is my audience? (Customers, leads, potential clients, other business professionals)
  2. What is their greatest need? (Education on the market, explanation of processes, homes inventory)
  3. How can I solve their problem(s)? (Q&A post, market stats, home listings, open house)
  4. How do I convey my willingness & availability to help? (Contact info, social media presence, open house, free event)
  5. Based on the above information, what is the best way to phrase my headline? (Question, call-to-action, joke, promo offer, list, cliffhanger)?

Consider these two headlines:

“Get more open rates now!”

“Are your open rates lacking?”

While the first seems a little “sales-pitchy”, the second seeks to solve a problem for your reader. Sure the first one may look good to other professionals in your industry, but your readers may see your efforts in a different light. The general public can be more reticent to open emails because so many businesses are spamming their inbox (note however there is a place for this: see call-to-action below). This is an example of how to evaluate the potential effectiveness of your headline using the 5 points above. Remember your vision for the email you are sending while determining the most effective way to solve your readers problem (not an actual problem per se, but questions they may have or needs they need met). Overall, Seek to be the one who provides helpful advice, and deliver.

A breakdown of the examples in #5 is as follows:

Question: Solving a reader’s problem right in the headline or asking a compelling question to get the reader thinking- “Want to save money this summer?” or “House flipping – Do you have what it takes?”

Call-to-action: A more forceful approach to presenting an offering to your reader or moving them towards considering your services- “Take advantage of our free consultation” or “Don’t wait, call the real estate professionals today!”

Joke: Using a play on words or puns to get your reader interested- “House renovations a nightmare? Don’t scream, call our team!” or “Curb your enthusiasm- how to give your home appropriate appeal”

Promo offer: “Free market evaluations for your home” or “Join us – 4th of July cookout meet & greet”

List: “5 ways to beat the heat this summer in your home” or “These 3 tips can save you money now”

Cliffhanger: “Need advice on home mortgages? Read on for quick tips” or “Spring is here! Ever feel like you could just…”

Once you have a few headlines that you think may work, they can be in the different forms listed in #5 or all in one form, it’s time to test their performance. A/B testing is a great way to get feedback from the readers themselves without them knowing you’re running a test. Essentially you are using two headlines for one email, and by splitting your reader list in half, you can see which group had more unique opens (see our last post for an explanation of this) and use that as a launching point for your next test. Do this for a few emails until you have gathered enough data to understand what appeals to your readership – it is different for everybody! There is no quick one-stop-shop for email marketing. Demographics including age range, geographic area, season, portion of the market, home needs, etc. all make up how your reader will respond to email headlines. Use this to your advantage to craft unique headlines.

In addition to headlines, content is key. You can have wonderful content but no one will open your email because of a lousy headline (unfortunate) but you can also have an enticing headline only to let your reader down by not following through with the advertised content, not being helpful or overall just having poor quality content (detrimental). While the first scenario would be unfortunate that your readers don’t know how much you have to offer, the second scenario could be detrimental to your image if people come to expect poor content that isn’t useful or professional. Stay tuned because our fourth week will cover how to write exceptional content for your emails/newsletters! But first, check back next week for our post on how to reduce unsubscribes!

 

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