Al Copywriting

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Brands are turning to AI and machine learning to answer extremely complex questions, including, “What words should I use to communicate most effectively?

wordsniff has seen high interest in these tools among our clients. However, when our clients have tried them, the results have been mixed.

Among those brands that didn’t find enough success, the most common complaints that we’ve heard are that:

The lift in email performance wasn’t sustainable beyond a few months,

And that the results in general didn’t justify the expense.

If you’re considering these tools, we have some advice to get you on the path to success.

However, first we want to make it clear that these solutions are best suited for brands with large lists. If your list has fewer than 1 million active subscribers, you may not be a great candidate for AI subject line tools, according to Phrase.

Scale is critical because these machine learning systems need to explore a ton of language to understand which particular words and patterns of words resonate with your unique audience. Having a large audience allows tests across more segments.

Sending at a high frequency is not required, according to Phrase, although it absolutely helps the system learn more quickly. Higher send frequencies equal more test segments over time.

Understanding the importance of scale is key to our first piece of advice, which is…

Optimize for the Correct Metrics

It’s a common misperception that the goal of a subject line is to get opens. The truth is that the goal of a subject line is to get the subscribers who are most likely to convert to open the email. Unless you’re sending a reengagement email, opens are a secondary metric, at best.

So, optimize your subject lines to drive action as far down the funnel as possible. Ideally, that’s conversions—that is, whatever you’re asking your subscriber to do in a particular email, whether it’s buying a product, register for a webinar, read a blog post, or follow your brand on Instagram.

However, reaching statistical significance on conversions can often take too long, making it so you’re not nimble enough in your testing. Clicks are an acceptable compromise that gets you to statistical significance much more quickly with a metric that correlates to conversions far better than opens does.

The problem is that many brands using AI subject line writing tools are optimizing for opens. Sometimes they’re drawn to opens because they can reach statistical significance much more quickly. But being quickly certain about the influence of an uncertain indicator is not the path to becoming a data-driven marketer. 

Optimizing for opens is a contributing factor to the pattern of disappointing performance that many of our clients have reported to us: These tools often produce a boost of engagement for a few months and then results fall back down.

This is because optimizing for opens gears your subject lines toward attracting the curious instead of those who are most likely to convert. Overly clever and curiosity-peaking subject lines generally lead to fatigue and unsubscribe as subscribers are essentially tricked into opening emails that generally turn out to not be of interest to them. On the other hand, optimizing for clicks better aligns subject line content with email content, which better maintains trust and longer-lasting subscriber relationships.

Stay on Brand

These AI subject line writing tools do not understand your brand, so they will suggest things are off-brand—potentially wildly off-brand. As the protector of your brand, it’s up to you to recognize these off-brand suggestions and reject them.

The Bottom Line

We firmly believe that AI Copywriter tools have a bright future. In time, more competition, lower infrastructure costs, and perhaps different pricing models will change the return on investment calculus that has caused some of our clients to walk away from this technology.

In the meantime, you can maximize your chances of success by:

Optimizing your subject lines for clicks rather than opens

Rejecting off-brand subject lines that you wouldn’t accept from a human and staying true to your brand

Confirming the performance of AI-suggested subject lines by testing against human-created control subject lines

You just need to have a plan, internal alignment, and clear understanding for what will equal success.”

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