I was working on an email campaign for one of my clients recently, and the topic of email subject lines came up during a discussion. Having worked in the business for several years now, I always assume to know the most proven/best practices when it comes to copywriting.
I went to work, developing dozens of various email subject lines, plugging them into an email subject line analyzer (this one is my favorite), all to test the results and use a data-driven approach to creativity. All of this before I even had my morning coffee.
The client made one, basic subject line using cringe-worthy email practices such as multiple exclamation marks, cliche phrases and too much copy.
But when it came down to the A/B test, guess what happened? Well, my subject line still won out, but not by very much. It won by a measly 1% point.
What did those results tell me? Well, for starters:
- I may not be as smart as I think
- I'll NEVER NOT need coffee, and
- Sometimes things just don't make any sense
That's not to say that you shouldn't use data, or analyzation tools to drive decisions; in fact, that's exactly what you should be doing. But with that should come the expectation that even your most "educated guess" may not work out as well in real life as it does on paper. And that's okay. If it doesn't work, digging deeper to find out why not is part of the battle.
Nothing is for certain-even in industries like science, where people much smarter than me test theories for a living. And that's especially true in marketing/copywriting, where not only is the industry ever changing, but the methodologies evolve almost as fast as the technology. A well executed, insightful ad campaign however, like the recent marketing push behind the movie "IT", are almost impervious to failure (provided the movie ends up not being a Rotten Tomato).
Ultimately though-it's about having confidence in your best, most educated guess. You can't know until you try something, and sometimes just trying (and failing) is the path to a better outcome.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go back and relearn everything I thought I knew about email subject lines.