Getting Your Email Read – Start With a Better Subject Line

Email is my life. Okay that is an exaggeration, but as one of the leading email stationery providers (inboxFX Email Stationery) I spend a lot of time studying the art of email.

How important is email in business today?
An April survey conducted by Ipsos for Habeas found that two-thirds of adult respondents said they preferred e-mail for communicating with businesses. Just as many—and this is the important part—said they expected to still prefer e-mail five years from now.

Why is it so important to have a great subject line?
Think of subject lines like the headline of a newspaper article. If it grabs you, you start to read. Furthermore it is the only thing people see in an email. It is what they are going to use to determine if they go any further down your email or if they are even going to open it. It is the only thing that differentiates your email from all of the others.

Scott Ginsberg of Hello My Name Is Scott offers up some interesting observations on passive subject lines. Do you ever find yourself using these?

  • Hi! (This sounds like spam.)
  • Hey there… (This sounds like pornography.)
  • What’s up? (Come on, you can do better than that!)
  • Check this out… (Yep, more spam.)
  • (No subject) (This is lazy and annoying.)

Scott has a different approach to subject lines and recommends using them to entice the reader. He offers 12 exciting subject lines on his web site that will get your email opened. I think these are excellent for personal emails:

  1. Have you seen this article about your company yet?
  2. I saw something that made me think of you…
  3. Man, I sure hope you’ve already seen this…
  4. I thought of you when I read this…
  5. I thought of you when I saw this…
  6. I was thinking about you the other day.
  7. I was thinking about your business the other day.
  8. Someone paid you a compliment yesterday.
  9. I blogged about you the other day…
  10. When I saw this, I immediately thought of you!
  11. Your ears should be ringing…
  12. Your name came up in a conversation recently…

The Golden Rule

The golden rule of email subject lines according to Josh Nason of SendLabs is:

Tell what’s inside, don’t sell what’s inside.

Advice from Mike

  1. Use your name (or company name if it will have more impact)
  2. Do not use all caps in a subject line.
  3. Write a compelling subject line that won’t deceive people.
  4. Have some fun with subject lines!

Look through your subject lines and ask yourself which ones seem to work. I recently sent out a free ebook called 50 Great Marketing Tips and Techniques and the subject line was Mike Blaney’s 50 Great Marketing Tips and Techniques. Pretty catchy!

How about the ones you get from Facebook? John Smith sent you a message on Facebook... simple, but effective.

Scott Ginsberg sent me an email with the subject line 12 Ways to Get Your Emails Opened FIRST It caught my attention and I opened the email.

My ISP needed a new credit card expiry from me and sent an email with the subject line Hello – Important notice from ________. I found it friendly and informative and I knew it was important.

I recently signed up for a weekly travel email and the subject line was UNIGLOBE Geo Travel – Weekly Travel Specials – May 21, 2008. I recognized it as the email I had subscribed to and it was dated so I can tell which one is the most current.

Top 10 Subject Line Words

For B2C and B2B emails choosing the right words for your subject line is important. According to Karen Talavera president and founder of Synchronicity Marketing the Top 10 Power Words for a Subject Line are:

10. New – Appeals to our basic human curiosity to seek novelty.
9. Save – We all love a bargain.
8. Safety – Connotes reliability; appeals to basic human needs.
7. Proven – Justifies your claim, removes fear of the unknown.
6. Love – An all-time favorite.
5. Guarantee – If you have one, state it. It iron-clads your offer.
4. Immediate (Now, or Instant) – Instant gratification is the expectation online. If it can’t be found, completed, or received almost immediately, you’re offer is in the wrong channel.
3. Results – Provides rationalization for instant conversion.
2. You – Remember WIIFM? Your audience wants to hear about what’s in it for them, not you. Articulate your benefits in personal, conversational terms.

And the number one Power Word:

1. Free – Surprised? Probably not. Because this is the time-honored, most potent motivator in direct response, be particularly vigilant of overuse. Just a dash’ll do. Strive to optimize placement, and test if necessary.

Bottom line for the subject line; a good subject line is the fine line between being read and being deleted. Make every subject line compelling.

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