B2B email subject lines: 6 winning examples

Email open rates in the world of B2B marketing are notoriously bad – and while many blame this on poor data sets, we think unimaginative subject lines should also take some of the heat.

So we spoke to several experts to find out why creating intrigue is so important and why humour shouldn’t just be seen as the domain of B2C.

B2B email subject lines: 6 winning examples

'Don’t put all your subject lines in one basket'

Who: Passle

Why does it work?
The team at digital marketing platform Passle profess to be experts at winning content, so it’s unsurprising that they know what they’re talking about when it comes to subject lines. This one had us at ‘subject lines’ – it’s quirky, original and touches on a topic that the majority of B2B marketers want to know more about. As Passle’s Ben Hammersley puts it: “Why not play with your titles by changing one word in a common phrase?” The results can be pretty impressive.

B2B email subject lines: 6 winning examples

'The Phrasee 47th Newsletter Spectacular'

Who: Phrasee

Why does it work?
Marketing language software provider Phrasee has got humour in subject lines nailed. ‘The Phrasee 47th Newsletter Spectacular’ went down extremely well, and CEO Parry Malm puts it down to the fact that they’re “not afraid to be a bit nuts sometimes and take the mick out of ourselves”. “I mean, what the heck is a 47th Newsletter Spectacular?” he goes on to ask. “It’s a random number and basically makes no sense – as a result it got one of the highest open rates and got shared on social channels more than any of out other newsletters. Why? Because it’s not boring.”

B2B email subject lines: 6 winning examples

'Shhh… see your exclusive sneak preview'

Who: Alexandra

Why does it work? 
Alexandra, a provider of workwear, corporate clothing and uniforms, triumphed at the Dotties earlier this year, walking away with ‘Best email subject line’; their entry's all about suspense and exclusivity. “The quality of entries for the ‘Best subject line’ award gave huge encouragement for how seriously businesses are taking something so critical to successful email marketing,” says Dotmailer's client services director Skip Fidura. “We saw better use of A/B testing, smarter analysis of results, and some very creative, bold approaches to companies going outside their comfort zone. This was certainly true of the winner, Alexandra, who took a brave approach to testing and saw significant traction compared to previous efforts.”

B2B email subject lines: 6 winning examples

'Have YOU ever stolen something?'

Who: Movable Ink

Why does it work?
Asking questions in a subject line is a great way of driving engagement, but email marketing provider Movable Ink takes it one step further with this provocative subject line. “Recipients will be intrigued and therefore more likely to open,” explains Guy Hanson, chairman of the DMA Email Council and senior director, professional services at Return Path. “The use of ‘you’ also puts the recipient firmly in the middle of the conversation. We’ve done loads of research that validates the fact email subscribers prefer this to be spoken at by the sender (I/we etc). The use of block capitalisation makes this approach even more effective.”

B2B email subject lines: 6 winning examples

 

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'The open rate for this subject line will be above average'

Who: Touchstone

Why does it work?
Provider of business software integration and support Touchstone demonstrates a deep understanding of their marketer audience, who as we know are pretty obsessed with benchmark metrics. We imagine their response to such a subject line would be: ‘Really? Why?’ “In addition, the subject line links well with the pre-header text (‘Touchstone – subject line testing made easy’),” explains Guy. “Having attracted interest with the subject line they’re setting the scene for the next step.”

B2B email subject lines: 6 winning examples

'Correction: 76% of marketers say programmatic spend will increase by 2017'

Who: Anyone and everyone

Why does it work?
Even when you’ve made an email blunder (something every marketer dreads) consider the fact that there could very well be an upside. Vanessa McGreevy from ResponseSource tells us that the most opened emails they send are those labelled 'Correction': "No matter how small the error may be (a date, link or spelling), I think it must appeal to our latent schadenfreude or perhaps just a sense of curiosity. After all, if it was worth correcting maybe it's worth reading!"