Few things about advertising get my heart racing faster than headline split testing.
All the more so if it concerns email subject lines.
Like traditional headline testing, subject line testing can lead to dramatic increases in response rates. But without the sloth factor.
With email, you know almost instantly whether you’ve got a barnburner, a dud, or something in the lukewarm middle.
Here’s a killer email subject line I came across the other day and the author was… my wife.
After she shared the results of her email broadcast, I felt a surge of admiration… and envy. I wished I’d written it.
I’ll get to the subject line in a moment, but first the backdrop.
Anjelina’s had substantial success in chess as a three-time US Women’s Chess Champion, world student team champion and US Olympiad top board. She’s also taught thousands of New York City school kids the game in the 1990s.
But since leaving the chess world behind for finance over a decade ago, she found herself in the unusual position of trying to find a suitable chess teacher for our eldest son a year and a half ago.
She wasn’t satisfied with the options in our small settlement in the Southwest and realized it was time to put her figurative spurs back on. She registered a website and asked me to help write an ad… (on the condition it was free of hyperbole.)
Sorry to say copy played little role anyway since the photos she published of her side-by-side with three former world champions did most of the heavy lifting.
She opened her chess academy in the summer of 2010 and it wasn’t long before her fledgling classes began filling up.
But like any start-up, whether it’s a multi-national or a local chess school, businesses hit stick points.
That’s where good advertising steps in. Prospects fatigue from seeing the same USPs and appeals delivered the same way. That’s why we as marketers and copywriters have to mix it up and occasionally use left field approaches.
There’s ample evidence of the value of chess for mental training and in childhood education, but try selling a parent on reading a dry-as-toast, 70-page treatise on the latest feat from some cognition lab.
It’s an uphill fight.
The best proof elements are the ones people already recognize and don’t question.
So, when Anjelina showed me her email broadcast subject line:
Your Child and Ben Franklin… the Morals of Chess
I froze in my tracks.
When I clicked on the link, it took me to an article written by Ben Franklin in 1750 entitled, The Morals of Chess. The article was 830 words long and extolled the intellectual and social virtues of the game of chess. Who could argue with such a source as one of country’s leading founding fathers?
Before leaping into the article, I asked her, “how many sign-ups did you get from this broadcast?”
“More than any before,” she answered.
So, there you have it.
I was beaten by my wife… in the advertising sense. Chess? We won’t go there. And when people ask if I ever play her at chess, my perennial answer is “no.”
That’s how we keep the family peace.
ANdy Wilson says
As someone who used to game semi-professionally.
I found this blurb – 100% totally awesome.
Also has my brain turning on how to take my email subject lines to the next level.
Always… always… ALWAYS excellent content Lawrence.
Today’s post is no exception. Headlines can make or break the “CLICK” deal and what you’ve shared here is a perfect example of a perfect hook to get the click.
I always enjoy hearing from you LB. Keep it coming buddy.
Donnie Bryant says
I was notified about this post via email. The subject line “Beaten by My Wife” worked like a charm on me.
As a man married to a certifiable genius, I’ve often tasted defeat at her hands, even in areas I consider to be my strengths.
For example, we’ve been married for 10 years, and I’ve only beaten her at Scrabble once. I think she let me win because it was Father’s Day.
Drayton Bird says
What an excellent idea. I imagine my list would be interested, Lawrence. And so would I as I rely enormously on email. I may even have banged out a few decent lines myself. This very morning I am about to send out an email – and what does its success hang on? The subject line.
Jen Brannstrom says
Great headline, well done to Anjelina!
Shelby Christiansen says
Got to love when you’re married to a smart women and she beats the crap out of you every once in a while! Keeps you on your toes.
Lawrence Bernstein says
I rarely employ “LOL” — this is an exception… LOL!
Very well done, Lawrence. And tightly written as well.
The trigger that went off in my brain after reading the “Beaten By My Wife,” head was my own, beyond-nasty divorce.
Alas, I reveal too much.
Spot on, chap.
And here’s to smart women.
Just don’t give them full access to the vault.
Here is another “about wife” headline I came across a few min ago:
“Hildebrand Quits as Swiss National Bank Chief After Wife’s Currency Trade”.
Lawrence, you are lucky 🙂
Great subject lines, both the oone your wife used and that you put in the email! Really enjoy receiving your emails (which is a rare thing to say these days)
Lawrence Bernstein says
Appreciate it Andrus!
Being married above our level does have some disadvantages.
Great inspiration though. made me think of “hijacking” an existing piece/ news, and twist it to your purpose.
Thanks for the inspiration
Pete V says
I purchased your product and am quite intrigued, but I have
How important is the sender’s name in the process? and did your
filtering take this into account?
I for one, would be willing to click to open an email from a “guru”
that I respect regardless of the subject line.
Lawrence Bernstein says
I appreciate it, as well as you taking the tine to comment.
Funny, that you pointed out something we didn’t devote a single sentence to in the product.
Why did we leave that out?
I guess we thought it was obvious that the from field is the most important element of all.
Extreme example: a teenager waiting by the phone for his or her love interest to call — the message/words don’t matter.
But heavy breathing from her heartthrob feels like the difference between life and death to her.
How bout a start-up desperate for funding. How fast will the principle open an email from a VC firm they’re courting?
And on the other end of the continuum, an example form our online marketing world.
A colleague shared this with me the other day.
He’s been receiving emails from a certain “guru” — dry and mundane subject lines that he ignored for a full year.
Then one day, wham, he saw the subject line:
“Sex Every Hour.”
First one he opened in a year.
Now, need the SL be vulgar? Hardly not, but it shows the value of mixing things up!
There will be some meat on this in the new version.