This post is all about a very important subject—your subject line.
An email’s subject line is one of the most vital contributors to its open rate. It’s the first thing a customer sees, and it could be the last if it doesn’t grab their attention. After one quick glance, your customer makes the decision whether or not to open your email. As the gatekeeper of your marketing message, your subject line should avoid the Gandalf Effect. But how do you avoid giving off a “You shall not pass” vibe and instead invite your customers through the gate? By crafting a subject line that is creative, informative, and peaks their interest.
Unfortunately there’s no tool in Constant Contact, MailChimp, or any email marketing service that allows you to write [Insert_Creative_Informative_Interesting_SubjectLine_Here] and have the perfect subject line appear out of thin cyber-air. So instead, marketers follow certain guidelines to help them craft the best possible line.
Less is more.
In a time where short attention spans have run rampant and the amount of emails in the average person’s inbox continues to grow, short, sweet, and to-the-point tends to work best for getting a reader’s attention. As well-written and entertaining as your subject line is, if it’s too long, recipients may not take the time to read it, having a million other emails to go through and a million other things to do. A few words done right is the best avenue to success.
But it’s not just your audience that’s more receptive to short messages, the device on which they are viewing their email can prevent your subject line from being fully displayed. You could attach the most incredible subject line, sure to convince recipients to open the email once they’ve read the line, but if the recipient can only see part of it, the line suddenly isn’t so great anymore.
On mobile, subject lines are cut off if they’re too long, and since 40% of emails are opened first on mobile, it’s very important to keep your line within the cutoff limits.
Show me the benefits.
While the brevity of the line is significant, what good is a short subject line if it doesn’t peak the interest of the reader? The best way to get the reader’s attention is telling them how what’s inside the email will benefit their favorite person—themself.
Today, consumers are all expert scanners, they don’t have time to read everything, so they scan for what is relevant to them, ignoring everything else. The subject line: “Win Red Sox tickets” will do far better than: “Go Red Sox.” Both are short, but the latter doesn’t clearly benefit the recipient. Even if they wear an ‘I [heart] Red Sox’ t-shirt under all their clothes every day, they will still be likely skip over the email because they don’t know what’s in it for them. If they knew they had a chance to win Red Sox tickets, a team they love, they would most likely want to see what the email has to say.
This is urgent.
What makes an email even more powerful? Urgency. Creating a sense of urgency produces a 22% higher open rate. For example, emails with “tomorrow” in the subject line are opened 10% more than those without. The line: “Sale ends tomorrow” is more likely to have a higher open rate than: “Sale of the season”— though both are enticing—because the former makes the reader feel like they have to act fast and figure out if the sale is something they’re interested in.
Close to Mother’s Day, an email with the subject line: “Don’t forget about Mom” will likely be effective, as it will jolt those who have, in fact, forgotten and may be desperate for a gift fast, a gift the email may provide.
But while there’s urgent, there is also TOO URGENT! The use of all caps and exclamation points is aggressive, and bound to give the receiver the impression the email is spam and buy it a one-way ticket to Trash.
If you make your subject line simply: “URGENT,” some may be tricked into opening it, but once inside they will be angry and annoyed that the message is not actually urgent. Never lie, no one likes being lied to. If you do manage to get the reader to open the email with a lie, they’ll lose confidence in the sender and the message and they might as well have never opened it.
Say my name.
Speaking of your customers, let’s talk names. Your customers love their name, and after years and years of being called by it, they are inclined to respond to it. Their name grabs their attention on a subliminal level and they have no choice but to pay a little extra attention when they see or hear it. Plus, the use of their name appears more intimate, and in a world overtaken with globalization, personalization is a comforting rarity. They feel special. With the simple use of a personalization token, your standardized email feels a bit more like it’s just for them.
But by any other name would the open rate be as sweet? Even without the direct use of their name, you can still make it seem like you’re addressing your recipients personally. If your restaurant is having an Easter brunch, using the subject line: “Easter eggs any way you like them” is not directed at any one person, but the use of “you” makes anyone reading it feel—even if only subconsciously—that it’s especially for them. A similar effect as using reader’s name takes place. The recipient takes “you” to mean themself, grabbing their attention more than if they saw: “Easter eggs: scrambled, fried or poached.”
Sometimes the effect can even take place without the use of a name or “you.” An invitation can often feel just as personal. Using: “Join the insanity” versus: “There’s a lot of insanity here” has more pull, as the recipient feels they are personally being invited to join in on something.
Don’t be afraid to have a little pun.
If you can get the reader to grin, you might just get them to open the email, too. After being entertained by the subject line, they’re more likely to assume the rest of the email will be just as entertaining and want to give it a look. Instead of your subject line reading: “Wine Event at [restaurant],” you can spice things up with: “An event to wine about.” It’s playfulness also implies the event itself will be as fun as the subject line. Everyone loves a good pun, and if nothing else your recipient will appreciate the humor and creativity.
Now that you’ve respected your customer’s busy schedule, have shown interest in benefitting their needs, created a sense of urgency, formed a personal bond with them, and made them smile, they may finally be ready to open up. It’s a delicate relationship, so don’t get discouraged when they don’t always reciprocate your efforts, just keep building trust and take care crafting every subject line with them in mind.