It’s been said many times that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
But when it comes to your marketing email, no one seems to have a problem with making a snap decision.
Good email subject lines can make a powerful impact on your readers.
The words you choose for your email subject lines can have a big impact on whether or not the hard work you’ve put into your email will pay off.
Spending a little extra time on your subject line will help you boost email open rates, avoid the junk folder, and get your message in front of the right people.
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Before you hit send on your next email, here are 12 tweaks to consider:
1. Cut it down
What good is your subject line if people can’t read it? Make sure your subject line doesn’t get cut short by keeping it under 40 characters or about five to seven words.
Your readers want to scan through their inbox quickly. Sometimes subject lines that use only a word or two can stand out and get the most engagement.
How Bisque Imports does it: “TGIF!”
2. Take out anything spammy
Subject lines that are aggressively salesy are often the most likely to be marked as spam. That means you should avoid loud punctuation like all caps and multiple exclamation points, as well as overtly promotional language like “Buy now” or “Free.”
Instead of focusing on promotion, try offering your expertise and sharing information your audience will find useful.
How Mother Earth Pillows does it: “Essential Oils…Learn what they do!”
3. Ask a question
Why should you use questions in your subject lines? Questions are a great way to focus your readers’ attention and pique their curiosity.
Questions also feel incomplete on their own. Using a question will inspire readers to open your email in search of an answer.
How Strong Women, Strong Girls does it: “Who was Wonder Woman’s Role Model?”
4. Include a deadline
Considering there’s no shortage of distractions standing between you and your readers, sometimes a deadline is just what you need to become a priority.
A successful promotional strategy, for an event or a special offer, will likely include a series of emails. You can send out an initial announcement, letting people know about an upcoming date. Then, follow up with a reminder and a last chance email when the deadline gets closer.
Don’t be afraid to make the turnaround time as short as 24 hours. “Now or never” types of deadlines are often the most successful.
How the Manchester Animal Shelter does it: “Cruisin’ 4 Critters is August 2nd Register Today!”
5. Try a teaser
Think about why people love movie trailers, but hate commercials. There’s power in drawing people in with a preview, rather than giving away the punchline right at the start.
Try to think of something that will hook your readers and spark their interest.
How The Tropical Travelers does it: “Destination Weddings…Want Rock Star Treatment?”
6. Give a command
On the other hand, some people respond best to direct instructions. If your email has a direct call to action, like encouraging people to buy tickets for an event, don’t be afraid to let your subject line reflect that.
How United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley does it: “Join us at the MLH Scholars Luncheon!”
7. Add a list
You’ve probably noticed how popular list posts are right now. If not, look no further than the title of this post.
People love lists because they allow us to make sense of big, complicated concepts through a series of smaller parts. Use a list in your subject line as a way to let your readers know your content is well organized and easily digestible.
How Constant Contact does it: “3 Tools to Simplify Your Marketing”
8. Make an announcement
If you have something new and exciting to share about your business or organization, channel that enthusiasm into your subject line.
Sharing an announcement will make your email subscribers feel like they’re the first to know and will motivate them to read on for all the details.
How Fluent City does it: “The winners of the postcard contest are…”
9. Be unique
To craft a good subject line you need to understand two things: who your audience is, and what your business can offer them that they can’t get anywhere else. Think about what your business is specifically known for and highlight that in your subject line.
Don’t be afraid to put your business’s name right in the subject line. Many people will open emails simply based on the sender alone, so don’t miss the chance to reinforce your specific brand.
How Taza Chocolate does it: “Taza Hot Fudge And A Cherry On Top!”
10. Tell a joke
Most people aren’t bursting into laughter while going through their inbox. That means if you can write a funny subject line, you’re going to get a lot of attention.
Depending on the tone your business is going for, you can test out some puns or wordplay to get some laughs and engagement out of your contacts.
How Boloco does it: “real baseball fans eat burritos”
11. Say something unexpected
If funny isn’t really your thing, why not give surprising a try? This could be anything from a little-known fact about your industry, an eyebrow-raising statistic, or just something people aren’t used to hearing.
Sharing something unexpected means your readers will want to read on and will also have a better chance of remembering your email later on.
How The Basketry does it: “Join us for a Bling-ing good time”
12. Use multimedia
Adding a video, linking to a presentation or podcast, or including a helpful guide are all great ways to make your email content varied and more engaging.
So, if you’re putting in the effort and going beyond plain text emails, make sure you’re telling your contacts right from the subject line so they don’t miss out!
How Reel Works does it: “Reel Works Kickstarter – New Video!”
With these tips in mind, you’re ready to write good email subject lines that will get your emails the attention they deserve.
But don’t rely on our advice alone.
Take a look at your own inbox and see which emails you’ve been opening. Putting yourself in your contacts’ shoes is one of the best ways to write a subject line that will get you noticed and boost your business.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2014 and has been updated for relevancy and accuracy.