Noelle Gulden

Noelle Gulden

We love sharing your success stories – especially when it comes after following our advice! All-Access Pass Holder Noelle Gulden contacted us after our Feedback and Fine-Tuning session on email subject lines excited about their latest click-through rate. We asked her to share how taking a chance paid off.  ~Kivi 

Guest Post of Noelle Gulden of JustFaith Ministries

“That was my best score ever!”

My poor husband has to listen to me rejoice in this manner every time I beat my high score in Scrabble.

I love it when I beat my own record.  So when Kivi challenged me during a recent Feedback and Fine-Tuning Session to experiment with our e-newsletter’s subject lines and headlines in an effort to beat our own open and click-through rates, I was all over it.

Our newsletter has consistently high open and click-through rates when compared to national averages for non-profits.  But Kivi got me wondering:  Could we do better?  Could we beat our best score ever?

Here are three things we tried immediately after the webinar in our attempt to do so:

1.      We took a risk on a provocative subject line. 

Until very recently, we didn’t give our subject lines much thought.  But since participating in Kivi’s webinar “Writing Short: How to Write Subject Lines, Tweets, Headlines, Facebook Updates and More,” we’ve been experimenting with taking the most interesting item in our e-newsletter and turning that into the subject line.

During the Feedback and Fine-Tuning Session, however, we realized that we needed to up our game.  So in the next issue of our e-newsletter, we took a risk on a provocative subject line.  One of the more interesting pieces in our newsletter that week was an invitation to sign a petition calling on President Obama to make peace talks a reality in Syria.  At the time we were putting the newsletter together, 93,000 people had been killed in the ongoing conflict in Syria.  We decided to make that statistic our subject line:  “93,000 Dead…And Counting.”

We had never used such a serious and sobering subject line before.  We wondered if it was too much.  But it worked.  Not only did we get our highest open rate to date with that subject line, but 19 percent clicked on the link to sign the survey.  And that’s what it’s all about.

2.  We experimented with writing more relevant headlines, trying to answer the questions “So What?” and “Who Cares?”

Writing a good headline is challenging.  Kivi’s webinars have helped me understand the importance of a good headline, so I’ve started to spend a lot more time experimenting with how to make our headlines more relevant.

While I don’t think there’s a magic formula for a good headline, I’ve found the following “dos and don’ts” to be particularly helpful:

  • Do use the second person as much as possible
  • Don’t be afraid to use humor
  • Do try framing the headline as a question
  • Don’t be witty at the expense of being unclear
  • Do ask yourself “Why will my readers care about this?” 

3.  We created categories for some of our content.
In looking over our e-newsletter during the Feedback and Fine-Tuning Session, Kivi accurately described it as “a bit of a mish-mash.”  In each issue, we not only have our own content to send out, but we also receive content from each of our ­­­five partner organizations.

Until the Fine-Tuning session, we treated each piece of content as a stand-alone piece, each with its own headline.  As I was reviewing our newsletter with Kivi, it became clear that some of our content could be grouped into categories.  We’ve created a few so far:

  • This Week’s Action Items
  • This Week’s Resources for Your Spiritual Journey and Social Ministry
  • Upcoming Events

Using categories likes these helps us tell our readers what type of content they’re looking at.  And instead of jumping from action item to upcoming event to resource and back to action item again, they deal with one type of content at a time.

As you know, writing good subject lines and headlines is not only hard work, it’s a constant work-in-progress.  I’ve heard Kivi say many times that what works one time might not work the next.  What’s important, though, is to keep striving to create the best content we can.  After all, the way I see it, there’s nothing quite like getting your best score ever.

What tips do you have for writing better subject lines and headlines?  What’s helped you increase your open and click-through rates?

Noelle Tennis Gulden is the Co-Director of Marketing and Communications for JustFaith Ministries in Louisville, KY.  Like many other nonprofit marketing and communications professionals, she and her co-director, David, are learning on the job.  With the training Noelle’s been getting from, she’s finding that she really loves this work.  When she’s not working or playing Scrabble, she’s generally reading or hanging out with her husband, John, and their two kids.

Published On: August 14, 2013|Categories: Email Marketing, Writing Skills and Content|