5 Questions You Should Ask Your Subject Line Optimization Provider

By: Andra Kubulins | June 5, 2018 | Smart Messaging

Email is a universal form of communication. We’ve all sent and received emails, so it’s not earth-shattering news to say that we often judge an email by its subject line.
That being said, writing a great subject line can be tricky. With the volume of email flowing through people’s inboxes, it’s increasingly important to stand out by making your best first impression. But how do you know the subject line you’ve chosen will drive your optimal open rates?
A/B testing is almost always the first approach that companies take when trying to improve the performance of their email subject lines. It has a low barrier to entry, since most email service providers (ESPs) offer a simple split test function as part of their toolset.
Sometimes when taking a look at the results of a successful A/B test, you can feel like you’ve struck gold – but those results often fall flat with subject lines A and B performing similarly. At the end of the day, without some additional intelligence and insight, you’re pitting subject line A – your intuition – against subject line B – an educated guess.
Unfortunately buying software that comes with that needed intelligence gathering capability can be a daunting task. After all, there are a lot of companies out there vying for your attention and your marketing budget, and they’re all using the same buzzwords. After awhile, the messaging sounds the same.
In order to help you make a more informed decision when it comes to purchasing subject line optimization tools, I’ve put together this list of five things you should ask any subject line optimization provider, before purchasing their solution.

1. You’ve said your solution uses Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Does it run autonomously, or does it require people to leverage the insights?

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that even some of the most-used subject line optimization tools rely on human intervention behind the scenes.
Sure, there may be aspects of machine learning involved, as far as analyzing results and offering more informed suggestions the next time you run a similar campaign. But if a human is required to intervene, you should understand when, why, and how much they are involved in the decision making process.

2. How quickly can a subject line be analyzed and optimized?

The benefit of working with true Artificial Intelligence solutions is the speed at which your language can be assessed and improved for optimal performance. Many brands require emails to be generated and rapidly launched – for instance announcing breaking news or referencing the winning play in a sports game that concluded minutes ago.
In these cases, there’s no time to wait for a lengthy content generation and approval process. There are also times when even the best planned campaigns need last minute changes.
Put yourself in the marketer’s shoes. You created that subject line a week ago, but suddenly the data came back and showed that outdoor furniture is a better seller than living room décor. In that scenario, what do you do?
With true machine learning solutions, you can quickly update that subject line moments before you launch your campaign, without worrying about paying for an obsolete subject line.

3. How much time will this add to my email creation process?

This question isn’t just about protecting your team’s time and ensuring there’s a streamlined process. If you’re working with a solution that’s generating lift from your subject lines, you want to make sure you’ll have the ability to optimize every single subject line you send out. When the tools you use impose a lengthy process or excessive lead time, it impedes your ability to scale the application and results of the tools you’re using. This means you’re leaving money on the table.

4. Who decides which campaigns can be optimized?

Not only do some companies limit your scalability, but they may impose restrictions on which campaigns are eligible for optimization. Before you begin using the solution, you should be aware of those limitations.
Vendors may tell you it’s a collaborative process to decide which subject lines are optimizable, but at the end of the day you represent your brand, and are responsible for the success of your marketing program.

5. Does the optimized language belong to my brand or to the company whose tool generated it?

This might feel like a no brainer – an author doesn’t publish his work under the name of his editor – but not all companies feel the same way. This becomes particularly problematic when the company working on your subject lines relies more heavily on a team of people to optimize the language, rather than letting artificial intelligence and machine learning quickly improve the language you started with.
They can quickly become possessive over the language they feel they’ve written, but the basis of your optimized subject lines comes from your ideas, brand voice, and language. The performance of your those subject lines is directly related to your audience’s response. So the insights, learnings, and in-market language should belong to you.


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Author: Andra Kubulins

Andra Kubulins is the Lead Solution Consultant at Kahuna. She has worked with countless companies to advise in new MarTech solution selection to drive value for brands. She is a published author in two academic journals, Communication Reports and Communication Research, and has contributed to the Oracle Customer Experience blog and Profit Magazine.

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