A few months ago, in April 2012, a stunning thing happened on the way to communicating with your customers: For the first time ever, more of them opened your emails on their smartphones than any other platform*.

On the surface, this seems like a very big deal. In fact, it’s even bigger than that.

For those of us in the marketing, we’re continually focusing on improving communications efforts to be more useful, meaningful, and important to customers. This often means tailoring content through segmentation (delivering the right message to the right people); improving the content and call to action to optimize results; or simply trying to create the most appealing design. All of these are important efforts.

But much of it may be wasted if the people opening that email are looking at a screen that’s a little more than three inches. Without a certain level of pre-established trust and a dynamite subject line, your carefully crafted message may never be seen.

Now consider this: you may not even know how to recognize a dynamite subject line, because consumers have a uniquely fickle nature. For example, we recently sent an email with a subject line that read:

The Clickable, Trackable, Lovable Nature of Email Marketing

What you might not know is that this subject line was selected because it was tested to have a 5% higher open rate than the other option. The interesting thing about this test was that the losing subject line read:

The clickable, trackable, lovable nature of email marketing

Surprised? We were too.

But that’s very often the result in testing. Ask anyone who regularly performs A/B tests and they will all tell you they’ve occasionally been surprised by the results.

Just in case you’re thinking that 5% is a pretty small number, remember that it adds up. If your list has 10,000 people on it, the difference is 500; for 100,000 it’s 5,000; for a million it’s 50,000. Is testing important? You make the call. But keep in mind that more people are looking at your email on their phones, so they will likely see who it’s from and the subject line. Some might even see the a bit of the first sentence. Can you afford to guess at what might get their attention? Probably not.

(Once you’ve determined the right subject line, the next step is to optimize those emails for mobile devices. We’ll get to that in another post.)

(*Source: Litmus research)

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