A few days back, I had promised you that I would not be using click-bait subject lines… and here I am, being a hypocrite.
“Is Pranav really saying that headlines don’t matter? Where is the unsubscribe button?”
Hear me out, will you?
Andre Chaperon, probably my most favorite email marketer on the planet, once said that he is not great with subject lines. His email open rates are usually close to 60%.
Think about this for a moment.
A marketer who sucks at writing headlines is getting an insane email open rate. Why is that?
Another example is my friend and mentor, Philip Morgan. Philip’s email list is highly engaged. His emails are incredibly valuable, and while his headlines don’t suck, Philip hardly ever tries to maximize his email opens by using an attractive subject line.
What is happening here?
What about Seth Godin?
Seth sends his blog posts as emails. I usually don’t miss a single email by Seth, and if his headlines are measured by the ‘direct response’ standards, they are quite terrible.
There is something at play here…
We will talk about this strange phenomenon in just a bit.
But let’s talk go back to the significance of ‘headlines’.
Are headlines useless? I don’t think so.
Headlines matter. In fact, in many cases, they matter a lot.
Good headlines do a service for the reader.
In many cases, a good headline gives the reader a glimpse of what lies ahead so that they can make an informed decision. The reader’s decision of ignoring or devouring your email, blog, or video, will be hugely influenced by the headline.
In a noisy world, having a catchy headline will surely get you the attention that you need. It builds up a healthy tension.
That being said, why will I continue opening emails from Philip, Andre, and Seth even if their subject line is terrible?
A few reasons come to mind.
Four to be precise.
Generosity, value, consistency, and trust.
Speaking of consistency, Philip sends me an email at least twice a week. Seth has been sending his daily blog email for more than a decade. I have been on Andre’s list for years as well.
All of them are incredibly generous with their emails. There has not been a single spammy email from any of them. They treat me as a person, and not like just another subscriber on the list.
All of them provide me incredible value with their insights. They are masters at their craft and help me see the world differently.
All of these factors contribute to massive trust. I know that when I get an email from them, I am going to get value. If I don’t open, I will miss out. Thus a healthy tension is created.
Headlines have not played a significant role in their success. Other elements have…
It seems that generally speaking, as trust increases, our dependency on the quality of the headline, decreases.
I do have to point out that this graph is not based on any actual numbers. It is merely a hypothesis.
If I may use this exaggerated analogy – if your boss sends you an email, you wouldn’t care what the subject line is. You would just open it.
An email sent by your spouse would also work the same way.
What to do if you are starting out?
When you are starting out, your headlines are very important. This is because currently, the trust level with your audience is not high enough.
The subject of this email is misleading. A sort of tongue-in-cheek…
A headline is definitely important. But, rather than aiming to the best headline copywriter, can we aspire to build long-term trust with our audience?
It almost seems as if the goal should be to reduce our dependency on the effectiveness of our headlines.