Do Gimmicky Emoticons Really Work in Email Subject Lines?

Gimmicky EmoticonsBy now, most salespeople understand the importance of short, sweet, and effective email subject lines.

In essence, they are the gateway to better email engagement and higher response rates. If you write compelling subject lines, you stand a better chance of surviving the three-second process that we call the “glimpse factor” — the time frame in which your prospects decide whether or not to open an email. If you write gimmicky subject lines that make your emails look like spam to the reader, then your messages will likely land in prospects’ spam or trash folders before one word of actual content is read (welcome to the delete barrier; population: you).

Which brings me to a new trend in email subject lines: Emoticons. Here are just a few examples of companies that are using them:

  • ✈ It’s Monday: Book now at a great price for weekend travel (United Airlines)
  • ★ HIPAA Compliance Survival Strategies – Join Us Thursday, 10/3 ★ (MSPMentor)
  • ① Open  ② Register  ③ Achieve 60%-plus Margins (TheVARGuy)

To be sure, those emoticons are eye-catching and they can help messages stand out among the sludge of emails that prospects receive.

But do they really work?

When and Why Emoticons Work

Going back to the three subject line examples I shared above, the emoticons certainly grab your attention. And if you’re interested in any of the offers or calls-to-action in the subject line, that brief moment of attention may be just enough to reel you in.

Here are three additional arguments for using emoticons in subject lines:

  • They catch your eye and impact the “glimpse factor”: Because emoticons aren’t yet widely used, email subject lines with them do cause you to pause for a little bit longer than you might have otherwise.
  • They quickly disqualify contacts who won’t be interested in the email content: These subject lines make it easy for a prospect to determine if the email is relevant to them.
  • They don’t require contacts to read the full email to take action: If someone is interested in a spontaneous trip, they’ll likely open United Airlines’ email and click on the prompt without reading the full message.

The purpose with marketing emails like these is to get click-throughs. And in that context, emoticons can be very effective at increasing response rates amongst qualified leads. Still, it’s important to remember that the actual words in the subject line must still be relevant and interesting to your list.

When to Avoid Using Emoticons

That being said, using emoticons in subject lines isn’t always a good idea.

If you’re sending prospecting emails that are designed to connect with a list of people from a defined micro-segment, start a conversation with them, and ultimately set a first appointment, then emoticons won’t just be ineffective, they might hurt your reputation.

After all, prospecting subject lines should always adhere to three simple guidelines:

  • Be relevant to the email content and the prospect
  • Feel personal to the contact
  • Deliver a sense of professionalism

That last one is particularly important.

While prospects might be receptive to marketing emails that are snazzy, funny, and unusual, they expect emails from real salespeople to be professional, direct, valuable, and informative — not gimmicky.

So, before you include emoticons in your subject lines, be sure to consider the purpose of your message. If emoticons align with what you’re trying to accomplish, give them a shot. If they don’t, be wary of the consequences of using them.

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