More Tips for Writing Better Email Subject Lines

Patti Renner Email remains the catalyst of an integrated, cross-channel marketing approach, so a high-performing subject line becomes essential for ensuring those open rates. About a year ago, I wrote on this topic, sharing with you my “5 C’s”. Now let’s look at ways to make those few words even stronger.
“Choose me! Choose me!” When you think about it, a subject line is marketing within the inbox, setting you apart. In the flood of messaging competing for attention, your subject line makes your message stand out. What can you say in a few short words to provide a compelling reason for people to click and open your message? Why does it even matter to the reader? Let’s look at some approaches to get stronger results.

Take Steps, Not Leaps – While some marketers focus on ABCs (“Always Be Closing”) to drive people down the proverbial sales funnel, your subject line doesn’t need to sell the person from the inbox. All it has to do is entice them to open the email. That’s it. Putting the sales call to action in a subject line is too much, too soon (in most cases). You want to give them something they’ll say “yes” to so you’re pulling them into the email instead of pushing them in the wrong direction (i.e., “delete”).

Go With the Flow – Most email campaigns have a certain persuasive sequence. Consider the recipient of the email at the moment it is received. What can you say to them that will help engage with them so they open the email? What is the chronology of the messaging, beginning with that subject line? Know and control the decision path of your audience. The subject line makes the first impression of what’s in store for them along the way. Infuse those objectives (getting them to open, so they read the headline/copy inside) into your work.

Plan Your Approach – The best approach to a winning subject line is crafting one that converts (based on open rates). It’s important not to let the subject line is an after-thought in the campaign-creation cycle. Build time to test into your send schedule. Here are some ideas of different ways to craft your subject line messaging. Just be sure to keep the needs/expectations of the specific segment in mind.

  • Benefit first: Place the “what they get” before the “what to do”. For example, “Save 20% by shopping now” is typically better than “Shop now and Save 20%.” Lead with the word “Get” and see what happens. Reward them for taking action.
  • Context with emotion: Because you’re properly segmenting your list and because you have a unified view of the customer across digital channels, you can speak to the person “where they are” in their life. For example, “Enjoy a night with the kids” may do better than “Family movies on AMC”. Tap into the needs and emotions (but don’t overdo it).
  • WYSIWYG Subject Lines: Plain facts about the email contents can be very effective for subject lines. In specific cases, spelling out the topic in a clear, concise way beats other approaches. Test and see.
  • Curiosity: Because the only real goal of a subject line is to encourage people to open the email to get to the headline and contents, piquing a person’s curiosity can be effective. Plus, it’s fun to get creative, but maintain focus on the interests of the segment.

All good advice, but don’t take my word for it. Test, test, test. See what works. Have some fun with it. And if you have any tips or approaches of your own to share, please get in touch or leave a comment below.

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