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Back in 2007 Mailchimp ran an article on what headlines achieved the highest open rates. They cited “[companyname] sales & marketing Newsletter” as the best performing.

That’s it? No numbers, no questions, no challenges, no sense of urgency, nothing? Just stating what it is? That gets a high open rate? No. They don’t know what they’re talking about. Their numbers are off. They’re wrong.

Then last month a company we were working with decided to write a new headline for two of their newsletter. Instead of “[month] [industry] tips – [company name]” they used something with urgency, something clever.

Open rate dropped 20% for one, and 30% for the other (to a 15% and a 20% open rate respectively).

Curious I started thinking about why this.

My theory:

A newsletter is pre-sold. Your users have told you that they want your product. This is permission marketing, they’ve told you that they want what you provide. By using excessively promotional language you risk making users, who may otherwise be interested in what you have to say think that your newsletter is just marketing nonsense.

In the words of Mailchimp: “Don’t sell what’s inside. Tell what’s inside”

David’s theory:

I think you might be over thinking this. They sent a group of people signed up to their newsletter an email with a new title. By changing titles drastically you risk losing readers in the short run, as they see something with a different title, and assume its something they don’t want.

So this month we’re trying a little experiment. Instead of the normal “x ways to improve your y this july!” we’re going to test simpler more direct subjects including the super minimalist “VKI Studios Newsletter July ’09 – Google Analytics”, and we’re going to see what wins.

So join in, and subscribe.

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