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The Importance of Compelling Subject Lines in Email

Email marketing can be one of the most effective ways to connect with your customers, engage with potential clients and really educate people about your brand and its unique aspects. But none of that matters if people don’t open it. So after the list itself, it’s the subject line that needs to be the focus, not an afterthought.

According to Invespro, 47% of email recipients open email solely based on the subject line and 69% of email recipients report email as spam based solely on the subject line. 

Here are some best practices we’ve found from deploying hundreds of thousands of emails:

Decide what you want the email to accomplish

Are you looking to generate immediate sales? Bring a prospect further along as part of a nurture campaign? Introduce your product or service to a new audience? Make sure you understand the desired outcome before crafting the email and the subject line.

Make sure the subject line matches the content

No one likes to be misled. If the subject line promises or hints at one thing, and the email focuses on something different, recipients will feel tricked and that does not reflect well on your company.

Double and triple check the spelling, grammar and links

No one wants to issue a follow up email with the subject line – “Oops – open this one instead.” Multiple tests and taking nothing for granted are crucial.

Use emojis sparingly

They can add interest to a subject line, but don’t use them instead of a word. And make sure they are relevant to the subject line in a quickly identifiable way. Also check your emails that incorporate them to make sure your platform will deploy them correctly. They must carry a unicode. You can’t just copy and paste one in place.

Make sure the words fit the audience

If you’re writing a 60+ audience, stay away from trendy words they may not understand, for example. It’s crucial you speak to your recipients in ways they understand and relate to.

Use a subject line that will generate an emotion

Will someone miss out if they don’t take action? Is it a limited opportunity in terms of space or products? Is there a limited timeframe in which to act? Fear of missing out (FOMO), missing a deadline or not getting in on the ground floor of a great opportunity?

Personalize the subject line if you can

Subject lines with a person’s name get opened 22% more often, according to Invespro.

Consider lists and numbers

If you have some impressive numbers to share, incorporate them. “25,684 opens can’t be wrong – sign up for our subject line course”. They also help subject lines stand out in a sea of words.

Use capitalization sparingly

It’s like yelling at someone so you can do it for the first word or to really emphasize something, but you shouldn’t use it for the entire subject line. 

Use powerful action words

Use words that tell the reader what you want them to do, and how they will benefit. “Sign up for Acme’s conference. Afterwards your promotion awaits!

Consider using a relevant question

It’s engaging and makes the reader want to “answer” it and learn more because they’re curious.

If it works with your topic, incorporate “we”/“we’re” or “you”/”your 

This can make the reader feel like they’re part of something that you’re sharing together, and that you’re speaking directly to them.

Make your subject line the right length

Shorter is better, but you still need to share enough to compel someone to open it. Aim for a subject line between 6 and 11 words, as these perform the best with an average open rate of 21% on a warmed list, according to Invesp. This can also make sure enough of the subject line appears on mobile devices for readers to understand what you’re trying to communicate.

Incorporate a compelling emotional trigger word

You see them a lot because they work – words like “free”, “professional”, “limited”, “exclusive”, “innovative”, “urgent” and more. Search for words that make your subject line jump off the page without rising to the level of hyperbole.

Test subject lines against each other

Narrow down your choices to the best two that represent different approaches and send them to a good sized sample size. If one performs much better than the other in terms of the open rate, then use that subject line for all the remaining emails. No one says you can’t send emails out in smaller batches, and it may even make more sense in terms of your sales department following up.

Write, write and write

You probably won’t hit on a great subject line on your first try. It may even make sense to write the draft email first to see what direction it’s headed before you start trying to craft subject lines. Think about them from all angles and write at least 10 before you start narrowing them down and see if you can convey the same message in a shorter, more direct, more compelling way.

Spot Marketing

Spot Marketing


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