First impressions matter. This adage can be applied to various business efforts, including email marketing. What is the first thing that your subscribers see when they receive an email from you? The email subject line.
Consider the fact that approximately 35% of recipients open emails based on their impression of the subject line. It’s the first line of text that they see. In the sea of emails that they receive every day, the subject line can be the deciding factor as to whether your email gets opened, ignored, or labeled as spam.
All the effort that you’ve put into designing your email and filling it with your best content won’t matter if you don’t make that first impression count. In this article, we are going to help you learn the best practices for writing email marketing subject lines, and show you some of the best and worst examples we could find.
Writing compelling subject lines requires a combination of creativity and understanding what makes your target audience tick. The subject line has to be well-thought-out, with a clear goal in mind. There are various practices that work, but you should test each one to see how it performs with your subscribers. Here are some of the methods:
Personalizing your approach
Creating a sense of urgency
Intriguing your recipients
Offering something special
Providing relevant content
Keeping the subject short
Using emojis strategically
Making use of name recognition
Personalization is one of the most effective marketing methods. The introduction of data enrichment has revolutionized the world of marketing, making it possible for you to gather essential information on your audience and use it to get in touch with them on a more personal level.
Modern email marketing software enables you to create actionable contact lists that you can segment into highly targeted groups. Each group can be based on specific parameters, such as:
This enables you to create subject lines for particular audiences. When communicating with a business, people like being treated as individuals and feeling like their specific needs are catered to. With email marketing automation, you can create personalized experiences efficiently.
A subject line that addresses a recipient by their name and takes their interests, preferences, or previous purchases into account is much more likely to attract attention and get the email opened. Here are some examples:
John, this is SO you, and it’s 80% off!
Are you coming, John?
Only the best for you, John
Marketers commonly create a sense of urgency by tapping into the so-called FOMO (fear of missing out) territory. When people see that other customers are satisfied with a product or service, they will often feel like they are missing out on the opportunity to do the same. When you add a sense of urgency — by letting them know that your offer is limited — they will be driven to take action as soon as possible.
You should be creative and careful not to overuse this approach. The impression that it is crucial to act right now has to feel genuine. If you send too many emails that call for urgency, your recipients will become unaffected by them. You may even come off as fake and spammy.
You should use action-oriented verbs because subject lines are similar to CTAs. Combine words like act, create, sign up, discover, purchase, and subscribe with adverbs such as now, fast, soon, today, and right away. You can also approach the subject from a negative angle by asking your audience not to miss out on the opportunity or by telling them how much time they have left to act. Try something like this:
BOGO free clearance is over in 5…4…3…
Act fast and save 20% on winter jackets
Don’t get left behind. Discover the best SEO tactics right now
Some of the best email subject lines grab the recipient’s attention by piquing their curiosity. People love a sense of mystery with a promise of a good story or an enticing offer.
The level of vagueness depends on your target audience. If people have subscribed to you and are familiar enough with your brand, a subject line that says “You’re invited” can spark their interest. If you are introducing yourself to a new audience, this kind of approach can come off as obscure and clickbaity.
You must ensure that the payoff is satisfactory. No one likes a mystery with an underwhelming revelation.
You can try subject lines that look like this:
The secret to reducing your churn
Which of these two looks better?
You can do better than that
Special offer emails work best with open and direct subject lines. If you’ve got a high-quality product or service that you want to offer at a discount or for free, you can grab your recipients’ attention easily. This is an effective way to boost your email open rate because people don’t want to pass on exceptional deals.
Be careful with the numbers. Customers tend to get suspicious when an offer sounds too good to be true. The discount should be compelling but not too high. The phrasing is also vital. If you’re giving something away for free, don’t make it seem like you’re desperate to get rid of it, because the offer will no longer sound special.
Try something like:
25% off on your favorite shoes
Top 10 under $10
Yours in 2 days (free shipping!)
People frequently subscribe to mailing lists because they want to learn new things or stay up to date. You need to provide valuable and trending content that they can gain value from. This will enable you to become an authority in your industry and earn your followers’ loyalty and trust.
When providing your subscribers with relevant news and updates, your every email marketing subject needs to be aligned with the content. You can be direct about the topic and let people know what they can learn from you.
Your subject line can look like this:
The Ultimate Newsletter Guide of 2020
Top 20 Marketing Tools To Boost Your ROI
Another way of providing valuable content is by asking the right questions. Determine your target audience’s buyer persona and its most frequent pain points. The subject line should make them realize they have a problem and drive them to look for the solution in your email.
You can ask something like:
Is your company making these huge mistakes?
Do you know why your marketing strategy is wrong?
You should keep your subject lines short and to the point. Your goal is to grab the recipients’ attention. A subject that looks like it was taken from a James Joyce novel is likely to seem overwhelming and throw people away.
You must keep in mind that up to 78% of all email opens happen on mobile devices. Subject lines that are too long will most likely get cut off and undermine the effectiveness of your message. The general practice is not to use more than 50 characters.
Sometimes you can do a lot with a small number of characters. Take a look at these examples:
Psst! This ships free
Emojis have become an unavoidable part of modern communication. According to the statistics, 92% of the online population uses emojis every day. They can make your subject lines stand out and relay your message with fewer words. Don't overuse them, though — the best approach is for an emoji to complement the subject line instead of relaying the main message.
You should also be careful about the different cultural significance of emojis. While the thumbs-up symbol means approval in most western countries, it is considered offensive in the Middle East. Use emojis in line with your target audience.
Here are some effective examples of subject lines with emojis:
👀 You up? It’s time to shop!
🍕 Tummy Rumbling?
You’ve been chosen to help on a secret project 🤐
Making a connection between your product or service and famous names is an effective tactic because people like to imitate the actions of celebrities they admire. If your subject lines do this in a natural way that is relevant to your brand, you can attract a significant amount of attention.
Avoid using big names just because they’re popular. If the connection isn’t genuine, the subject line will come off as a cheap trick.
Here are some examples that work:
Master your songs and sound like Taylor Swift
New Beyoncé line is just two days away
Email subject lines can be approached differently in terms of style. While your brand image is a relevant factor, the kind of subject lines you use in emails mostly depends on your target audience. The subject line styles that we are going to cover are:
It isn’t always necessary to come up with the most creative email subject lines. When you’ve got a primed list of contacts that have already done business with you, you can apply a more direct approach.
This style is most commonly used for update and notification emails. When a customer has ordered something from you, they expect a simple email that will let them know that they’ve completed the purchase successfully and the package is on its way. This kind of email serves a precise purpose which the subject should be aligned with.
You should use a subject line that looks like this:
Your order has been shipped. Thank you for choosing us
Registration successful. Confirm your email address
Humor is one of the most effective ways to ensure that your email gets opened. Keep in mind that jokes are subjective, so you need to be careful about how you use them. Not everyone will find your subject line funny. You need to know your target audience well to be able to predict what kind of humor your recipients are going to appreciate.
If you want to use a single subject line for a wider audience, you can go for something like:
Since we can't all win the lottery…
10 bizarre steps to being better at your job
Enough of this sheet
If your audience is more narrow and you know their interests, you can try something like:
Defense Against the Dark Arts: ESAPI
Swipe right on us
If your recipients have never read Harry Potter or know nothing about the dating culture, they will probably have no idea what these two examples are all about. By segmenting your contacts properly, you’ll know whether your joke is aimed at the right demographic or psychographic group.
This style is best used for narrow audiences that you’ve already established a relationship with. If you want to use a shocking or controversial statement in your subject line, you need to be sure that you won’t alienate a big portion of your audience.
The right audience may find subject lines like these funny or intriguing:
Have you decided to give up on your dreams?
Your marketing strategy sucks. Wanna know why?
Here’s why your kid knows more about coding than you
Subject lines that use lists and numbers are particularly attention-grabbing because of the way our minds work. Numbers represent order and organization. This is why so many blogs have articles that follow the “X Top Things for Y” pattern. Lists make information simpler to process. People know they can expect X items that interest them and wonder what #1 is.
This style works well with the practice of providing your target audience with relevant and valuable content. The subject line can let your recipients know that the email contains a list of 10 solutions for a particular pain point. Here are some examples of effective numbered email subject lines:
7 Ways to Improve Your Pins
Top 15 SEO Tools Worth The Price
10 Practical DIY Home Improvement Solutions
Let’s take a look at some of the best email marketing subject lines that you should use as a source of inspiration — and some that you should avoid at all costs.
Email Marketing Subject Lines
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