Email subject lines are the test drive before you buy a car. Similar to a nice driving experience, a strong subject line can entice a user to take a few minutes of their day to engage with your content. Yet, while most people wouldn’t dream of buying a car without a test drive, many pharma marketers are doing just that with their email campaigns.

Testing and optimizing email subject lines offers a number of opportunities for marketers:

  • It improves open rates and click performance.
  • It lets your audience tell you what subject lines work for them — without overtly asking them.
  • It builds affinity and trust with your audience, strengthening their relationship with your brand.
  • The results can give marketers deeper insight into how overall program messaging and content can be further personalized and customized for the audience.

The same logic can be applied within different channels. According to this Marketo infographic, different headlines for the same video had a difference of 16 million views! The Iowa House Democrats labeled one video as “Zach Wahls Speaks About Family,” and it received 1 million views. The same video uploaded by Upworthy had 17 million views because of their attention-grabbing headline: “Two Lesbians Raised a Baby and This is What They Got.” This is an (extreme but) prime example on how testing two different titles can be extremely effective for a brand and their engagement. While we don’t recommend healthcare marketers start writing dramatic link-bait-style subject lines, the point is this: Different angles on the same content can make a huge difference.

Happy Side Effects
In our experience, testing and optimization of subject lines can dramatically improve open and click performance. But we also have discovered an added bonus: It can enhance the overall email strategy for a stream because it provides additional insight on what types of content resonate with specific target audiences. This is especially true in pharma, where the results of the testing can be instrumental in how messages are segmented to different stages in a patient or caregiver journey. A subject line such as, “Ask doctors for treatment options,” may be more appealing to someone who is newly diagnosed than a patient who is further along in their journey. By testing subject lines and optimizing email strategy based on performance, marketers are able to deliver more targeted and relevant messages to their audience.

Additionally, it can strengthen the relationship between a user (patient, caregiver or HCP) and brand by providing audiences with applicable content that suits their wants and needs. For pharma marketers, a strong relationship can lead to more conversions for brands.

Test, Learn, Optimize, Repeat
While it may seem like added work, done well, testing subject lines is one of the most effective ways to get the most out of user data. We recommend sharing the test plan — including all subject line variations — with the regulatory review team up front, especially if email subject line testing is unfamiliar to them.

In order to get effective results from email subject line testing, marketers must ensure that the data is statistically significant. The list must be at least 1,000 contacts. Once testing has begun, analyze the email performance metrics to calculate a winner.

To learn more about testing and to determine the optimal testing method for your campaign, see this blog post.

Take It for a Spin
In an age where pharma marketers claim to be customer-centric, it’s worth pointing out that subject line testing further allows markets to be just that by identifying and giving users what they want. And it gives marketers what they need because it efficiently determines the best approach to encouraging patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals to open that email and engage with their brand.

That’s what I call a successful test drive.