Stronger Subject Lines: Your Ticket to Front Row Email Marketing

Jay Harris

By Jay Harris on March 11, 2020

How to Make Your First Email Impression Stick

Your company has a huge announcement. You’ve spent hours crafting the perfect email marketing campaign to share with your customers and prospects. The perfect headlines? Check. Exciting body copy that gets right to the point? Check. A clear call to action? Got that too. But when it comes to the subject line, your effort falls short. You hit send and wonder why you didn’t get the open rates — never mind the response — you anticipated. Sound familiar?

A subject line is the gateway to an email. When it comes down to it, your entire campaign hinges on those couple of words. And without the right eye candy in the subject line, your email doesn’t stand a chance in an overcrowded inbox. While there are no hard rules, these tips can help increase the chances of getting your message read.

Keep it short and sweet.

According to Marketo, subject lines containing seven words have the highest open rate. That’s roughly 40-50 characters. So be clever, concise and compelling to make sure yours pack a punch.

Have a sense of humor.

On Hubspot’s list of the best email marketing subject lines they’ve ever read was an unexpected quip from Groupon: "Best of Groupon: The Deals That Make Us Proud (Unlike Our Nephew, Steve)". While it doesn’t follow the above-mentioned character rules, it throws the reader off in a good way and gets a laugh, which helps people see the brand in a favorable light.

Pose an open-ended question.

Opening with a question can get the reader thinking about how the email subject may relate to his or her own life. It makes it more personal without even trying. Asking an undeniable question gets people nodding and shows you get it.

Speaking of getting personal...

If you have the capability to use recipients’ names or locations in the subject line, take advantage. Emails with personalization are 26% more likely to get opened. (Of course, the caveat here is the accuracy of your data. Don’t “splurge on the merge” unless it’s clean.)

Don’t use all caps.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but more companies are guilty of it than you might expect. If your all caps subject lines even make it through spam filters, your recipients may misinterpret your attempt to get their attention as yelling and get turned off. Make your copy scream without the caps.

Give them FOMO.

It’s amazing how the “fear of missing out” can drive someone to act. For example, “Free shipping ends in an hour” may prompt someone to make a purchase just so they don’t lose out on the deal and secure that elusive savings.

Leave them wanting more.

If you’re sharing big news, it’s okay to give away a piece of it in the subject line, but make them have to open your email to find out more. Consider something like, “The winners of the drawing are…” Cliff-hangers can build up anticipation and prompt opens.

A little alliteration always assists.

It might sound cheesy, but alliteration can make for a catchy subject line and cut through the litany of emails in a unique way. If you’re at a loss for what to write, this can be an easy and effective way to draw the reader in.

Bottom line with email marketing, what works for one segment may fall flat with another. Always A/B test your subject lines to see what resonates with a particular group. And make the subject lines you test distinctly different to gain the most insight. Over time, you’ll get to know what speaks to your audience for more “open” communication that “clicks” with them.


About Ridge Marketing

Ridge Marketing is an agency that specializes in crafting creative digital assets and using websites, search, advertising and email to ensure that the right prospects interact with your brand and become loyal customers.

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