In the world of email, subject lines equal first impressions—and all the clichés apply.
Picture a Harvard MD with a decade of experience showing up to a job interview in a tank top, leather vest, and biker boots. His qualifications are impeccable, but your hospital will likely never know that.
Why? A bad first impression.
Likewise, the subject lines for your health system emails are the number one determinant of whether physicians will open it.
The strength of your subject line affects your open rate, which means it can make or break an entire campaign. No matter how stellar your content, your campaign will fail if you can't entice physicians to open your message in the first place.
Writing subject lines is both an art and a science that DMD has perfected through deploying more than 30,000 email campaigns. When it comes to health system marketing, here's what we've found to be most effective.
The Ingredients for a Successful Subject Line: Relevance, Readability, Word Order, and Strategic Preheaders
Think about the hectic schedules of modern physicians with overflowing email inboxes. Your subject line must shine through the clutter, including enticing B2C content, in order to capture their precious time and attention.
Follow these rules to create compelling subject lines:
- Ensure relevance and delivery. Your subject line should be clear, specific, and clinically relevant to the physicians you're targeting (more on customization later).
- Limit the characters. Less is more when it comes to subject lines. Most email marketing authorities recommend no more than 50 characters for maximum efficacy.
- Front-load keywords. Keep the most important words at the beginning, so mobile device character limitations don’t cut them off.
- Enhance the message with preheaders. These are the few lines of text that appear in a physician’s inbox underneath the subject line. Support the message in your subject line with an equally enticing preheader.
Maximize Email Campaign Results with Subject Lines Personalized for Devices and Different Doctors
Different mobile devices and operating systems display different numbers of characters for subject lines. Devices also have various rules as to what content they show in the preheader. If you don’t properly program your preheader, iOS devices will create a default preheader using the first line of the email copy. When a preheader reads, “To view this in your browser, click here,” your email will appear to be spam or coming from a third party. Bottom line: Optimize for all devices and operating systems to avoid these kinds of glitches.
The strength of your subject line can make or break your entire email campaign.
Last but not least, write your subject line with your target audience in mind. A one-size-fits-all subject line will lead your message to a one-size-fits-all recycle bin. Experiment with different subject lines by specialty, service line, health system or alumni affiliations, or geography.
Email content is only as good as its subject line. Superb content without a solid subject line is like our Harvard MD in biker gear. It will never get the chance to demonstrate its value. But with these tried-and-true tips, you can improve your open rates, increase physician engagement, and build loyalty to your health system brand.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and completeness.