10 Tips for Creating Subject Lines that Open Emails

I recently had a guest blogger talk about why email marketing wins when it comes to digital marketing strategy. And, of course, if email marketing is a part of your marketing strategy, then you must be looking at your subject lines. Subject lines can make or break your email campaign, so I want to provide you with some tips on how to create subject lines that encourage people to open your email.

A Short Phrase with a BIG Job

Subject lines need to do so much. At the most basic level, they need to entice the receiver to open the email, but they also must indicate what your email is about. Nothing will turn off people more quickly than catchy subject lines that have nothing to do with what’s inside an email — you’ll lose subscribers, not gain them.

The best subject lines are often descriptive or personal, some have a sense of urgency or cultivate curiosity, or are simply timely and relevant. But capturing the attention of your subscribers truthfully is easier said than done. Here are 10 tips to get your subject lines working harder for you.

1) Make Them Short and Sweet

This is important to ensure the receiver can read your subject line and know why they want to open your email. This because especially important when you consider that the majority of emails are opened on a mobile or tablet device.

2) Be Descriptive

Your subscribers are busy, so make sure your subject line indicates what they’re going to see, read, learn, or get when they click it open. Spark their interest by letting them know what’s coming.

3) Peak Curiosity with Statistics or Lists

Subject lines that include numbers and statistics have higher than average open rates.

People love lists because they help make sense of complicated concepts by breaking it down into a series of smaller parts; it’s more digestible. A list in your subject line is an easy way to let your readers know your content is well organized and set the expectation of what they’re going to get. For example, “10 Tips to Create a Subject Line that Opens Emails.”

4) Avoid Spammy Words

Aggressively salesy subject lines are often the most likely to be marked as spam. That means you want to avoid “loud” punctuation like all caps (which is the virtual equivalent of yelling) and multiple exclamation points. Avoid overtly promotional words and phrases like “Buy now” or “Free.” These are great ways to have your marketing emails sent straight to the spam folder.

Instead, offer your expertise by sharing information your audience will find useful.

5) Pose a Question

Asking a question in your subject line can also draw readers in — especially if you’re asking a question you know is relevant to your recipients’ buyer persona. For example, you might try the following: “Are you making these SEO mistakes?” or “Do you know what your website is doing wrong?”
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 the email in search of an answer.

6) Include a Deadline a.k.a. Fear of Missing Out

Urgency and scarcity are two of the most powerful scenarios you can use. People are naturally risk averse — not only in terms of losing money, but also in missing out on a once in a lifetime or great deal. And don’t be afraid to make the turnaround time as short as 24 hours. “Now or never” type phrases are often successful.

7) Give a Command

Some people respond best to direct instructions. If your email has a direct call to action, don’t be afraid to let your subject line reflect that. For example, “Join us at our Holiday After-Hours-Networking Cocktail Hour!”

8) Avoid Repetition

If you’ve found a formula that works, it can be tempting to stick to it. But when your audience sees the same thing over and over, they’ll start to tune out.

Repetitious subject lines may lead to your subscribers to think that you’ve sent out the same email twice, or that they’ve already read it and there’s nothing new to discover. Over time, it erodes the value of your brand.

9) Make People Feel Special

When people feel like they’re on the inside, it gives them a sense of belonging. This helps build loyalty and another compelling reason for them to convert on your emails.

The right phrasing can make your subscribers feel special — and the effect can be positively impactful. A few examples might be:

“For our loyal customers only …”
“An exclusive offer for you.”
“My gift to you.”
“You’re invited!”
“Private invite for you.”

10) Use a Familiar Sender Name & Do NOT use “noreply@”!

When setting your sender name in your account, be human. “Deb Goeschel, Message Artist” is more inviting and less intimidating to people when they open their inboxes vs “Info@MessageArtist.com” or even just “Message Artist.” There’s a person behind the address, not a robot.

Also, never use “noreply@company.com.” This bears repeating — never use this email address. Not only is it less personable, but it also stops people from adding your email to their address book. AND, if you use if for things like reminders, you have removed a way for someone who is interested to reply and ask you a clarifying question — you’ve essentially STOPPED communication … and you appear unapproachable.

Instead, always send your emails from a real person. Even if you have multiple employees or folks using your domain name emails. Emails sent from addresses such as “Mary Smith, Message Artist” or “Mary.Smith@MessageArtist.com” perform better in terms of opens and clickthrough rates than emails sent from “info@MessageArtist.com.”

Subject Line Bonus Tip

Using an editorial calendar can really help in all things digital marketing. If you plan out your newsletter topics, then you can also plan out the subject lines ahead of time. This gives you more space to get a little clever, and it can also help guide the development of the email content. Even if your editorial calendar goes quarterly versus setting up the year — which can also keep you flexible and able to respond to timely topics — you’re still setting yourself up for less stress, more efficiency, and better productivity when it comes to your executing your digital marketing plan.

Still Struggling with Subject Lines? Or Just Don’t Wanna?

If subject lines and emails are just not what you want to spend your time on, schedule some time and let’s talk about how I can take that off your plate.


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