The world of email subject lines is growing more sophisticated as email marketers and customers become more savvy and sensitive to spam and sales pitches. Statistics show that 47 percent of people will open an email because of the subject line, with an additional 22 percent increase for personalized subject lines. Perhaps even more significant, a whopping 69 percent will mark an email as spam from the subject line alone.
Email is powerful, and your subject line is key to unlocking that power. So how do you come up with a great opener? It doesn’t have to be a stressful process, even if you’re not a master writer.
To help you create successful subject lines, we’ve put together a list of five tips. And while some of them may not be the most innovative, they’re time (and open-rate) tested.
1. Try a pop culture reference
There is nothing — we mean nothing — like a clever or “punny” pop culture reference. You might quote a line from a movie, reference a bit of celebrity gossip or use a song title. Brainstorm ideas and keep a notebook handy for particularly memorable puns you think of or come across.
Be smart about your references: Take a second to consider if the particular situation or quote you’re referencing will cause offense or could be misconstrued. Sometimes the juiciest pop culture opportunities can be a double-edged sword. Unless you know your audience extremely well, avoid politics even if that seems like a treasure trove of material.
2. Hashtag it up
Mentioning trending topics and other references to social media can also attract readers. Consider drawing inspiration from weekly hashtags or recent trends. Do you use Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest? Move those principles over to your email regimen.
This email with a hashtag in its subject line shows great social media savvy. The line could appear as a Facebook or Twitter post. In fact, writing your subject lines like you’re composing a Tweet forces you to stay concise, direct and clever. Try it out; you’d be surprised what you can do with 140 characters!
3. Give and ye shall receive
Modern marketing relies on the idea of giving to your customers before you ask them to buy from you. To get people to click your emails, tell them what you’re offering — but be sure not to oversell it. Try offering a gift with purchase, discounted shipping or a free consultation. When you give something of value to your customers, they are more likely to come back for additional products or services.
4. Tell a joke
Why so serious? Humor builds bridges and can help you connect with your readers. You might make them laugh with a pithy observation, some sort of joke or even just a funny anecdote. If you visit any humor sites, watch sitcoms or follow any humor feeds on social media, think about something that made you laugh and how you might translate that principle to an email subject title.
Try looking through these tips for increasing your subject line humor, too.
5. Be descriptive
If it feels forced, if you’re overwhelmed or if you just can’t come up with anything, it’s not the end of the world. In that case, give a descriptive subject with your most important words near the front of the line. Describe a new product or offer specific details about an upcoming sale. Sometimes a short, direct subject line is the most effective.
Bonus: Get personal
Like we mentioned above, personalization can increase your open rates by more than 20 percent. In fact, personalization is almost a given in modern marketing. Test adding a custom field to your subject line to pull in your customers’ name.
If you don’t have details on your email subscribers, send a survey or questionnaire to your email list with a request, “Help us get to know you,” and an incentive in exchange, like a “special gift on your birthday.” Ask for details like name, birthday or anniversary, or any additional details that make sense for your business. For retail or service-based businesses, use the information you may have of your customers’ prior purchases or appointments. Is it time to remind them to book another appointment, or re-order your goods? A personalized reminder can be a great aid in building your relationship with your subscribers.
Subject lines can be as fun to create as they are to read. With a little practice and help from the tips above, you can create some memorable subject lines that get customers to open. Be sure to test your subject lines — A/B testing can help take the guessing out of which subject line might perform best.
To continue to find subject line inspiration, look through our list of great subject lines and see what moves you.
Spend less time reaching more customers
Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published in July 2015 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and relevance.
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