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How to Write the Perfect Email Subject Line

Every year you hear this absurd statement, “Email marketing is dead”. But the fact is email is very much alive and intends to stands the test of time for the foreseeable future. The data doesn’t lie:

  • In 2018, global email users amounted to 3.8 billion users.
  • 93% of B2B marketers use email to distribute content.
  • 73% of millennials prefer communications from businesses to come via email.
  • For every $1 you spend on email marketing, you can expect an average return of $32.

For every $1 you spend on email marketing, you can expect an average return of $32. Click To Tweet

Now, the subject line of the email plays a huge role in its effectiveness.

Here are 6 best practices for writing the perfect email subject line.

Know your recipient

Before you go “well, duh”, take a moment to really understand who’s on the other end. Are they likely to be extremely busy? Would they appreciate a little humor or a well-crafted pun?

You don’t want to rub them the wrong way and a little knowledge can go a long way in avoiding that.

Be personal and personable.

Tailoring emails to their unique recipients is almost a surefire way to get more clickthroughs. Research has shown that emails that included the first name of the recipient in their subject line had nearly 20% higher click-through rates than emails that did not.

Emails that include the first name of the recipient in the subject line have a nearly 20% higher click-through rate than emails that do not. Click To Tweet

Personalization tokens such as first name or location in the subject build a sense of rapport. Moreover, using a casual tone (maybe an emoji or two) and sharing something personal makes your email more welcoming. These little personalized touches show you know more about the recipient than just their email address.

You may also pose a direct question in the subject line to engage the reader in an instant dialogue. Try to keep your questions open-ended so the recipient can’t simply say a quick “no”. For instance, online education platforms sending out their weekly newsletters can keep the subject as “What’s next for Data Science?” or “Will robots take your job?”. These subject lines are quite enticing to click on.

Keep it crispy and actionable

It is very likely that your recipient is checking his/her inbox on a smartphone. In fact, over 41% of today’s emails are opened on mobile devices. And given that most smartphones display only around six to eight words of a subject line, keeping it “short and sweet” is crucial.

So, personalize your email, be affable, and get straight to the point in less than eight words. Don’t squander that valuable little space with filler words like “hello” and “nice to meet you” which can easily be included in the email’s body.

Furthermore, you need to treat your subject lines as call-to-actions because your goal is to get people to click and act. Using action verbs at the start of the subject line can make your emails considerably more inviting.

For example, if you’re a travel agency sending out a special invitation to your subscribers for an upcoming dinner event with the legendary Michael Jordan, the email subject can be “Dine with Bulls legend Michael Jordan” instead of a longer, less actionable “Invitation for a special meal with Micahel Jordan”. The former email uses “Dine” to help the reader picture themselves at a dinner table.

Create a sense of urgency

A great way to get more email opens and quick responses is to create a sense of scarcity (limited availability) and urgency (limited time) in the subject line. People like gaining new stuff, but they hate losing out on good stuff even more.

In other words, fear of missing out (FOMO) can be an extremely compelling instrument to get people to open your emails and act fast. That being said, be creative and strategic about it. Use this tactic only when the occasion truly calls for prompt action.

For instance, if you’re inviting registrations for your marketing event, something like “Just 2 days left to register!” is a good way to go about it. Alternatively, if you’re offering a huge, limited-time discount on your B2B software subscription, consider something along the lines of “Don’t miss out on these massive subscription savings!”

Don’t make empty promises

This should go without saying, but never try to lure the recipient into opening your email by making false promises. You’ll permanently lose their trust and hurt your company’s credibility.

So, make sure you deliver exactly what you promise, if not more, in your email’s content.

And speaking of promises, if your visitor has downloaded a free resource (such as a guide or templates) from your e-learning website and you’re supplying it via email, it’s a good idea to use a short and clear subject line like, “Your free templates are here!” or, “Your free guide awaits!”. This is better than a simple “Thank you” because it leaves no room for doubt as to what the email’s about.

Never use ALL CAPS

While using all caps may catch your recipient’s attention and make your email stand out in the inbox, it’s highly advisable not to do so. Why? It’s simple ― people don’t like getting yelled at. All caps is the digital equivalent of shouting at someone, which obviously isn’t your intention. Similarly, don’t go overboard with the usage of exclamation marks. It’s puerile.

For instance, would you really open an email with a subject along the lines of “CLICK HERE AND GET YOUR FREE COPY TODAY” or “Limited-time big sale!!!!!!!!”? Of course not.

These practices are not only distasteful but also look spammy. Instead of employing such disruptive tactics to set yourself apart in people’s inboxes, focus on personalizing your emails being highly relevant, and using agreeable language.

Final words

These tips and tactics will surely put you on the right track, but what works for other firms may not work well for you. And the only solution to this is split testing your email subject lines to figure out what works best for your audience.

Using your intuition to guess what subject line will make people open your emails is an alluring albeit inept way to go about it. So, A/B test your high-stakes subject lines to answer dilemmas such as what’s better: Statements or questions? Humor or sober?

This is how you’ll optimize your email open rates. At the end of the day, the goal is to get the message across in an appealing, ethical, and non-misleading way.





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