Grab Their Attention! 6 Tips for Great Email Subject Lines

I am ruthless when it comes to my email inbox.  For one thing, I try only to look at it three times during the day: when I get into the office in the morning, over lunch, and just before I close up shop at the end of the day.  When I do look at my inbox, it has collected a surfeit of deliveries.  I am usually running on a very tight schedule, so I want to do everything I can to make sure my “inbox time” is spent reading and responding to email that is important or valuable to me. If I am not personally familiar with the sender, each email has only one chance to earn my time – by sporting a subject line that makes me want to read further. The subject line doesn’t have long to win me over, either.  Within the first few words, I’ve already made the “delete or read” decision in my head and am on to the next subject line.

The person self-described in that opening paragraph is the person you are trying to reach with your company’s email marketing campaign.  And you’ll find that the qualifying process to become a “read” email described above is employed by many, many more people than you might think.  In fact, you might do exactly that yourself.  And, yes, the only chance of surviving the “junk email purge” is to boast a subject line that makes you stand out.

While the mythical 100% Open Rate remains relegated to the same dreamland as unicorns and perpetual motion machines, there’s no reason you can’t create the kinds of subject lines that catch the eye of enough recipients to see your open rates grow from where they may be today.  Bottom line, if your email doesn’t get opened, it cannot do its job.  With these six best practices in place, you’ll be giving your emails their best chances to be opened:

Be sure your subject line promises what your email actually delivers.

This one may seem like an obvious point, but it’s worth stating.  Nothing will turn a recipient off faster than an apparent bait-and-switch where the subject line promises one thing, but the email itself delivers another.  If the expectation set is not met, you not only create distrust for the next time you email, but you run a much higher risk of being submitted as a SPAM complaint.

Convey a sense of excitement, intrigue or urgency.

You don’t want to go too far overboard, but you want a bit of ballyhoo to raise the recipients’ interest. Use action-oriented words that appeal to emotions, announce impending deadlines, create a sense of mystery.  Which email would you rather open: one with a subject line of “Widgets For Sale,” or a subject line like “Find Out How to Save up to $35 on Widgets! Sale Ends Tomorrow!”

Avoid using all caps or symbols.

It’s still true that using all caps is considered poor email etiquette – subject lines included.  All caps comes across to most people as a gimmick, and an obvious sales tactic.  For awhile there, the rage was to use symbols in subject lines to stand out from the crowd: “$ave Big Buck$” or something along those lines.  I’ve seen subject lines surrounded by asterisks to make it seem like a marquee.  If your message is valid and your wording is solid, your subject line will do its job, no gimmicks needed.

Personalize the subject line.

There is no more pleasant sound to any of us than the sound of our name.  Seeing our name in print is often just as pleasing.  When you use your recipients’ names in the subject line of your email, it is almost 20% more likely to be opened.  Whether your audience prefers to be addressed by first name or with a more formal “Mr. Smith” approach will vary depending on the type of industry you’re in and, in some cases, area of the country.  It’s worth running a few tests to determine how your audience responds.

Keep the length to about 40-50 characters at most.

Remember, your subject line should reflect what’s in your email – not recite it completely before it’s even opened! People are skimming, and brief, to the point wording, will catch their attention.  Also, remember that most email clients are going to be truncating that subject line at about that 50-character point anyway.  With more and more people accessing their email on mobile devices, space is even more at a premium.  Brevity is the soul of wit – and of great subject lines!

Test, test, test!

If you take no other tip from this post, this is the one to hold onto!  Remember that dream world of 100% Open Rates? None of these tips are going to work 100% of the time, nor will any strategy.  Your job is to keep a finger on the pulse of your audience as far as how they want to be addressed and persuaded to open emails, and this is accomplished through continually testing.  Try different wordings, different personalizations and different lengths.  Try different times of the day or different days of the week.  Don’t just wonder if this word or that phrase might have been better – go ahead and try it, and see what results you get.

If you’re scratching your head over email subject lines and want to talk about how to build your best campaign, start a conversation with Synapse today!


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