Yes, writing a good subject line is important, but there many more elements that go into a successful e-mail campaign.  A recent post by Jeanne Jennings on clickz.com highlighted some of them.  Her article lists the items in order of importance, so I will do the same, but we disagree with the importance of several items.

1.    The List.  No doubt the most important.  By the way, the same is true of postal direct mail.  If the list is out-of-date or has bad data, it doesn’t matter what your offer is; it doesn’t matter what your subject line is, your email campaign will fail.

2.    Subject Line.  If you don’t grab their attention with this, they will not open the email.  The exception is if your list is full of people who are engaged with you and your company.  They are far likelier to open the email.

3.    Test Copy.  Test your headline, the sub-heads and the copy.

Let’s take a moment to understand the e-mail process.  Assuming you have a good list, you should grab the consumer’s attention with an enticing subject line.  (Not all people respond to the same offers, so testing is very important.) Then you need to lead the consumer step by step to the ultimate action.  That could be the sale; it could be a newsletter sign-up or it could be to make a phone call.

No matter what the ultimate goal is, each step should build on the previous one and lead directly to it.  It’s easy to lose consumers anywhere in the process, so constant testing and good analytics are imperative to a successful campaign.

4.    Test art layout, including colors. There’s no right or wrong here; just what works and what doesn’t.

5.    Test your offer.  If you offer discounts for new customers, rotate the discounts to see which work best .  Also test the wording of your offer.  I recently had a client where we kept the offer the same, but re-worded its presentation.  Initial results are very promising.  In this case, establishing trust was very important, so we toned down the “giveaway” part of the offer and emphasized the quality.  You might need to do the something similar.

There are other factors to consider when examining the quality of your e-mails, from call-to-action placement, to time of day that you send them.  Start with the big things first and fine tune as you go along.