We’ve always been told not to judge a book by its cover, but with options growing at exponential rates, this is becoming increasingly more difficult to avoid. As digital content continues to increase, our brains are faced with more and more competing options at any given moment; and as email marketing continues to play an essential role for small business marketing, one such place for this competition has become the email inbox. As the fight for audience attention intensifies, the amount of content in our inboxes grows, and we are left with no choice but to judge an email by its subject line.
While social media posts can include images and provide all information in one viewing, emails remain enslaved to the limitations of subject lines.
If your email’s subject line fails to catch your audience’s attention, all of your efforts invested into crafting that email will be discarded by the simple click of a button, as it disappears forever in the recipients’ “trash” folder. Even if you have followed the 10 golden rules for email blasts; and even if you may have created a masterpiece to display once the email is opened, the success of your email campaign ultimately hinges upon the effectiveness and catchiness of its subject line. Fear not, this post will tell you everything you need to know in order to get your recipients opening those emails.
There are three main components to consider while brainstorming email subject lines: your audience, your message, and your brand.
Writing an Effective Subject Line
Target Your Audience
Since we’re comparing subject lines to book covers, it might be helpful to understand the market you’re targeting by imagining the kind of people you’d expect in a bookstore created for your small business.
If your business had its own bookstore, what type of people would it attract? Do you envision teenagers looking for new trends and pop media references? Or do you imagine professionals who are pressed for time, scanning the shelves for the exact information they came to find? Maybe your business’ bookstore is filled with families that need resources to keep all of the family members happy.
In visualizing your audience in a bookstore, imagine the type of “titles” that would catch their eye. This will help you to identify common grounds that appeal to all members of your email list, which is likely to be diverse.
Convey Your Message
There are three types of email subject lines that no one likes: deceiving subject lines, inaccurate subject lines, and long subject lines. Therefore it is important to make sure your subject lines are consistent, accurate, and concise.
While the “catchiness factor” is important, it’s more important that you prioritize effective content over creativity. You don’t want to disappoint your readers once they open the email.
It’s alright (and encouraged) to add a creative spin on your message, luring your recipients to open the email and read more. Yet you must create a subject line that is consistent with the rest of your message. If your subject line is about dogs, but the email is about umbrellas and doesn’t mention dogs at all, you can bet your readers will stop trusting the content of your subject lines.
Once you’ve ensured that there is consistency between your subject line and the rest of your content, you must triple check that all information is accurate. The scariest and most frustrating part about email marketing is that once it’s out there, you can’t change it.
Unlike other online channels like social media or your business website, email does not allow you to edit the message once it has been sent. The only way to correct errors in an email is by sending an additional email with the correction, which may make your contact list feel bombarded by emails.
Avoid misrepresenting yourself as careless or bombarding your recipients by triple checking your content—always use email best practices. More importantly, step away from the content between each check. Staring at the same email for too long puts you at risk for overlooking errors or over-editing sentences until they no longer make sense. Work on something else or take a break in between proofreads so that you can approach it each time with a fresh pair of eyes and recharged mind.
While a subject line must be relevant and accurate to be effective, it’s also essential that your subject line be concise.
If you fail to keep your subject line as short as possible, your readers may assume that the content within the email will be too long for them to read. Subject lines are your chance to prove your ability to keep things short and sweet, yet informative. Assure your readers that they’re not entering into a novel of excessive or repetitive information upon opening the email.
MailChimp conducted a study of 200 emails, and found that subject lines with 50 characters or less were the most effective, and that subject lines with 29 to 38 characters had the highest click rates. So, to make an effective subject line that conveys your message, be consistent, be accurate, and be concise.
Related: 100+ Email Subject Lines
Build On Your Brand
Once you’ve identified the audience you’re targeting and the message you want to convey, it’s important to determine the voice and feel that will not only most accurately represent your company and values, and will also resonate most with your audience. You want to communicate with them in a way that will catch, and keep, their attention.
Give your audience a reason to explore further by showing a bit of your brand’s personality. Your subject line serves as a portal between your company’s message and the recipient. So, provide them with an invitation that intrigues them by offering a taste of who you are.
Catchy subject lines don’t have to include witty sayings or humorous approaches. Catchiness simply implies that the subject line is appealing for the audience. Build on your brand personality through subject lines that are attractive for your particular audience, and show that you’re appropriate for their needs.
In some situations, catchy subject lines are direct and to the point. Mailchimp conducted studies that revealed how direct and simple subject lines are the most successful.
This may be because, oftentimes, this type of communication is what people need from the businesses they interact with.
In other cases, you’d benefit more from displaying your creativity. You could reference hot button issues for your community using your company’s unique voice, or phrase your message in a playful way. It’s your brand personality, so you’re the one who knows how to represent yourself best. For some examples of more great email subject lines, check out this free guide. If you’re going to be judged by your subject line, you’ll want that subject line to accurately reflect the type of company you are.
Direct Email Subject Lines
The direct subject line is the most common, and generally serves as a simple title for the email. Whether the email is an alert, reminder, announcement, etc., the direct subject line is clear and unambiguous. The following are examples of direct email subject lines for small businesses: :
- “Preliminary Floor Plans for Southern Village Neighborhood Circle Members”
- “Idlewild Camp – Important Travel Information”
- “Nautica in Rutland Opens Soon!”
Direct subject lines can cover a variety of situations. While direct subject lines don’t require high levels of creativity, they’ve been proven to be highly effective. For audiences who aren’t looking to explore and who simply want to find the information they need, the direct email subject line would be the most appropriate type.
Teaser Email Subject Lines
The teaser subject line entices people to open an email through tactics like rhetorical questions, pressing commands, or friendly suggestions. The following subject lines would fall under this category:
- “Could this be possible?”
- “Your computer is the next wonder drug”
- “You’ll like this Father’s Day deal!”
All of these examples are playful and personable. While teaser email subject lines are fun and interesting to experiment with, they are often more difficult to craft than the alternatives. Teaser email subject lines are often hit or miss, and whether or not they are appropriate depends on the audience, your message, and your brand personality.
Related: 100+ Email Subject Lines
Quantifying Email Subject Lines
Including numbers in your subject lines can be highly effective. The numbers allow readers to quickly identify the value they’ll get from reading your email. Here are a few examples:
- “3 Tips on Losing Weight”
- “5 Ways to Grow Your Business”
- “Hidden Money: 17 Markets That Pay”
Many audiences may like to evaluate how long it will take them to read the email before opening it, and how much they’ll gain from it. While this strategy can be applicable to several target markets, audiences that may benefit the most are those who are pressed for time, and those most in need of quick solutions. Numbers are good for sales and promotional email subject lines for holidays or sales.
Urgent Email Subject Lines
Subject lines that convey a sense of urgency are usually used for promotional purposes. These subject lines include topics of scarcity or time limitations. Here are examples of promotional emails with urgent subject lines:
- “Last chance for your discount!”
- “Sale from now through November”
- “Buy now; limited supply only”
When crafting an urgent subject line, it’s essential to avoid language that recipients will mistake for spam email. Words to avoid include “free,” “percent,” or “reminder.”
While urgent subject lines are generally direct, you may even be able to spur some curiosity with a touch of a teaser element.
- “Five days until the big reveal”
- “Only 2 more hours…then the secret’s out!”
- “Last day to save big…”
Trending Email Subject Lines
Trending email subject lines make use of the popularity and relevance of current events to grab attention. They make use of seasonal subjects , hot button issues, and popular trends. For example:
- “Holiday merchandise is in!”
- “The World Cup ends, but we’re still here”
- “New iPhone Visual Voicemail”
Subject lines that refer to trending topics allow small business owners to use external events as leverage. Catch people’s interest by alluding to hot topics in your emails, then grab their attention by mentioning the topic in your subject line.
Different types of subject lines will have varying results depending on the message you’re trying to convey and the audience you are targeting That’s why it’s essential to understand your target market and nail down your message before crafting an email subject line that will appeal to and interest them enough to open the email. Then, leave your recipients without regrets and to keep them opening more, keep your subject lines as consistent as possible with the body of the emails. Finally, understand the impact that different types of subject lines will have on your brand’s personality so as to choose the right one for both your company and your message.