Email marketing is probably one of the cheapest ways to reach our prospects. It’s relatively easy, and has a wide, direct reach. determined email marketing to be the most consistently-used virtual marketing tactic, as 91 percent of consumers report checking their email at least once daily.

However, an email marketing campaign obviously cannot be effective if subscribers don’t see the content.

This is where headlines come in.  The subject line of your email is the first thing your subscribers will see and, when well-constructed, can convince readers to open and learn more.

The Power of a Single Word

Each person encounters thousands of words in a day.  It is his/her job to decide which matter, and which don’t.  A single word can make all the difference.

For example, one study pointed out that participants had very different mental images of an event (in this situation, a car accident) when the word “contacted” or “bumped” was used in place of “smashed.”

Given the immense power of the brain and the brief opportunity you have to engage the brain through an email headline, it is important to recognize the habits of the brain in order to create effective headlines that get consumers to click and engage with your business.

Here are four ways you can connect your words to the brain to get people to click your headline:

Use Numbers

A Conductor study determined in a survey that number headlines win out over all other types.

When you see a number, your brains knows what to expect when you click.

For example, imagine you are in a meeting but you are really hungry.  Someone in the meeting wants to discuss one more thing that “won’t take long.”  At that point, every minute feels like an eternity, because you don’t truly know when the meeting will end.  If that same person said, “we will wrap up in 5 minutes,” that amount of time would feel much faster, because you know the specific end point.

It’s the same idea with email headlines.  If you are given a number, you know many things: how much information you will get, how much time it will take you to read, how valuable the article is to you.  If those questions were unanswered, you wouldn’t be as willing to click, because you wouldn’t know if the article will be worth your time.

Example: “5 Simple Ways to Make More Money Now”

2. Provide an Element of Surprise

Who doesn’t love a good surprise?  Studies show that unexpected rewards have an undeniable effect on the brain.

Surprise is also connected to the fear of missing out).  If a headline teases something surprising and interesting, you are typically drawn to find out, so you’re not the one who doesn’t know.

Be careful, however, to avoid allowing your headlines to tease at a surprise that isn’t there.  You may get people to click your headline, but you likely won’t get them to come back the next time.

Examples: “The Startling Reason Most Business Fail”

3. Stimulate Curiosity

Curiosity gets people moving.  This type of headline, though, does require a bit of knowledge on the part of the reader.  We typically aren’t curious about things we know nothing about.  However, the more knowledge we have related to a topic, the more curious we become to know more.

This increase in curiosity, again, comes from that fear of missing out.  A study from George Lowenstein, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, determined that, when a reader notices a perceived gap in his/her knowledge, a feeling of deprivation occurs that the reader will want to solve.  Lowenstein calls this the “curiosity gap.”

Some simple ways to stimulate curiosity are to use question marks and negative words.  Just seeing a question mark stimulates the brain.  Studies have also shown that negative words like “worst” have achieved up to a 63% higher click-through rate than positive superlatives like “best.”  Our instinct to avoid undesirable consequences heightens our curiosity.

Again, moderation is key.  Excessively negative subject lines may not fit your brand and, therefore, would not be effective.  As with the element of surprise, headlines that are viewed as click-bait are likely to deter subscribers from viewing your emails in the future.

Examples: “Are You Using this Vital Marketing Strategy?”

4. Give a Reason to Take Action

Several studies of the power of words in headlines have determined because to be one of the most effective words to use.  Why?  The brain needs a reason to act, and because serves as a trigger word.

Brian Clark of Copyblogger shared a simple experiment conducted by social psychologist Ellen Langer.  While asking to cut in line at a copy machine, she asked a question in three different ways:

“Excuse me; I have five pages.  May I use the Xerox machine?”  60% of people agreed when asked this way.

“Excuse me; I have five pages.  May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?”  In this situation, 94% agreed.

“Excuse me; I have five pages.  May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?”  This time, 93% of people agreed.

Notice that very little about each statement changed.  However, when Langer verbalized her reason, the number in agreement jumped.

The increasingly popular “How To” headline can also give a reason to act, as it makes it clear to the reader that this article will teach him/her something.

The challenge here comes in the short length of an email headline.  Be creative with your words to give readers a reason to act without creating a headline that is unnecessarily long.

Example: “Make this Simple Change to Amplify Your Message”

No Matter What, Know Your Readers

If you take only one lesson from this article, know that even a single word has power.  It is important to keep the tendencies of the brain in mind when creating a headline.  However, knowing your audience is always most important.

A swear word, for example, may provide an intriguing element of surprise to one demographic, urging readers to click your headline.  To another demographic, a swear word may be an instant turn-off.
Only when you truly know and understand your audience can you effectively leverage the immense power of the brain.  When you’ve got both of these covered, you’ll start seeing headlines that convert like you have never seen before.

Margery Hinman, Ph.D., is founder of Million Dollar Marketer, a membership program combining a collection of online tutorial, resources, and strategies for the rising online entrepreneur. This membership program includes 20 different digital marketing courses that can help you achieve your online goals for 2017 and help you on your way to a great income in your own online business.

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