Ortto’s AI subject line writer can compose high-performing subject line recommendations from just about any word or phrase. But, like any neural network (or human brain for that matter), it performs best when given a clear brief. For the subject line writer, that brief takes the form of a direct and specific prompt.
Below, we’ve shared three simple exercises you can use to write better prompts for our AI subject line writer. Each exercise takes less than two minutes. If you have more time, test two or more to see what can be achieved and, as a bonus, you’ll have more clarity on the true purpose of your email.
Exercise one: Define your goal
Ask yourself, what is the goal of the email? In this exercise, choose just one outcome — a singular focus tends to generate the best results.
We looked at a few of the most common types of emails marketers send and defined a singular goal for each. We then looked at some of the words and phrases users had entered into the AI writer, and found some top performers:
Email type: Welcome emails
Goal: Drive customers to confirm their sign-up
Words and phrases in prompts: Confirm, verify email, complete registration
Email type: Transactional emails
Goal: Notify customer about the specific transaction stage
Words and phrases: Order confirmed, order shipped
Email type: Onboarding emails
Goal: Prompt customers to take an action
Words and phrases: Reference the specific action e.g. create a task
While experimenting with these words in the AI writer, we noticed better outcomes with statements that speak directly to the email receiver. Let’s take the welcome email as an example. Our goal (Confirm subscription) becomes a statement in the second person point of view (Confirming your subscription). That prompt delivered three subject line recommendations with predicted open rates of 62% and 42%.
When we enter ‘confirm subscription’ alone, without editing to speak directly to our customer, our top result has a predicted open rate of 33%. Almost half that of the example above.
Exercise two: Identify the leading motivator
If your email is fairly straightforward, it’s likely you struck gold with exercise one and you may not need to progress any further. If your message is more nuanced or you want to push that open rate to the upper limit, try working with a leading motivator.
People are motivated to open emails for a range of different reasons, including:
Self-esteem and status
FOMO (Fear of missing out/scarcity)
Desire for self-improvement
Comparison with peers or competitors
Exclusivity and belonging
Look at the list above and consider which of these motivators is most directly related to your announcement or content.
For example, let's say our product was a fitness tracker and we were looking to send a value realization email to all of our users who increased their step count for the week. The motivating factor here is self-esteem and status. We want to speak directly to the self (you) and focus on the positive outcome that will boost their self-esteem (increased steps).
Now we have your prompt: you increased your steps. And our AI subject line writer adds praise (Good job) and personalizations (first name) in a subject line that has a predicted click-through rate of 62%.
Exercise 3: Focus on the destination, not the journey
When looking at the data, we noticed an interesting trend — leading with a positive outcome or benefit is almost always results in higher open rates than leading with ‘How to’ or other instructional words and phrases. It follows that using the outcome or benefit to the customer as your prompt tends to produce better results from our AI writer.
For example, we tested two variations on a similar theme:
How to write better content
Improve your content
Our first prompt resulted in a suggestion that was predicted to drive a 22% open rate. Not bad, but we can do a lot better.
Our second, outcome-focused prompt resulted in a suggestion that was predicted to drive a 62% open rate. That’s almost three times higher than the ‘how to’.
In the subject line, people want to understand WHY they should open the email. In this case, the reason is the promise of improved content. They don’t want or need to hear the word ‘how’ yet, it’s implied that this information will be in the body of the email. Start with the destination (the outcome or benefit) and they’ll be more inclined to open the email to learn about the journey (how to).
All three of these exercises show that the Ortto AI subject line writer benefits from clear, straightforward prompts that speak directly to your email receiver. Being direct requires getting clarity on exactly what you want to achieve with your email — that’s why these exercises generate great results, every time.