Getting people to open your emails can be a pain. And you can't blame them: On average, an office worker will receive around 120 emails a day. In an inbox where you are constantly fighting for the attention of your customers (against non-competitors none the less), it can be a struggle to get out of the email "slush pile".
However, there are ways to cut through the clutter and improve your open rates: About 47% of customers say a subject line is what gets them to open an email. In our 6 Best Practices for Delivering Superior Subject Lines Infographic (shown at the bottom of this post as well), we briefly cover the fundamental steps when approaching subject lines. In this article, we’ll dig deeper into these golden rules for a fool-proof subject line:
1. Trigger People's Emotions
Connecting with people emotionally is far more effective than trying to appeal to their rationale. Targeting people's empathy as well as their desire to influence is a sure-fire way to peak their interest.
However, it is still possible to appeal to the intellect while also triggering an emotional reaction. For example: “We require your careful reasoned evaluation,” appeals to intellect but creates a sense of inclusiveness and importance.
Don't believe me? Maybe you'll believe another Sarah:
If you're like 99% of most Americans, you've wept to Sarah McLachlan's ASPCA commercial (seriously, don't watch this if you don't want to get choked up). Don't pretend that you haven't seen it! I bet the moment you see Sarah McLachlan come on the TV you frantically search for your remote to save yourself from the tears and those damn puppy dog eyes.
And, this sort of emotional manipulation works. According to the New York Times, ASPCA's 2007 commercial raised over $30 million. Good job America—now pull yourself together!
2. Be Specific, Relevant and Personalized
If there's one thing we can all agree on: nobody likes their time being wasted. So, please, don't treat your subject lines like a Dicken's novel. If you're using a tool like HubSpot to create and send out your emails, respect the guidelines for word limitations. They're there for a reason.
It also pays to be personal. If you have a prospect's first name, using it in an email is always a nice touch. In the same vein, ensure that the email is also specific to the customer. Use time or location as a way to create a sense of interest. Something like, “tell us about yesterday’s purchase” is a great way to create a sense of inquisitiveness through a feeling of personalization.
Here's a great one I got from a company called Curata on Valentine's Day that combines both the lessons here and from #5:
"Meet me tomorrow with some half-price candy." Oh, you bet I opened that email.
3. Ask a Question
Asking a question in a subject line is a great form of engagement. Questions feel personal and convey that you value a person's opinion. Customer experience is no longer simply reacting to the customer, but engaging with that customer. This line of thought should follow through into every interaction you have with your customer.
Anything that sparks people’s desire to give their opinion is key here:
- “What do you think we should do next?”
- "What would you do?"
- "How was our service?"
- "How can we improve?"
- "What do you think?"
4. Don’t Lie!
I cannot stress enough the importance of not duping people into reading your email. As a writer, you want people to entrust their time in your words. However, lying in a subject line, like any misleading headline, is not the way to go.
Don't treat your subject lines like a fairground to stretch the truth. It's sort of like those magazines that claim to have "263 Tips to Be the Sexiest You". 50% of it is ads, but the actual content is lacking for any straightforward information (mostly because said "sexiest tips" can be summarized in a few short words: Shower, Eat Well, Get Some Sleep, Wear Clothes that Fit).
If your email has nothing to do with the subject, then you'll soon find your click-through rate growing—so, be honest.
5. “My Robot is Street Legal”
We got this killer subject line from the Daily Digg. It demonstrates how absurdity, and a little bit of humor, can go a long way in sparking a customer's interest.
Be playful with your subject line. Some other great ones I've received include:
- "Yikes! That was a close one..." I had left something in my shopping cart. Said retailer did me the favor of "kindly" reminding me that I hadn't completed my purchase.
- “Deals That Make Us Proud (Unlike Our Nephew, Steve)” Groupon...you slay me. This famous subject line has lived in infamy on the internet for some time. Too good.
I'd love to hear some of the great email subject lines you've come across. Brownie points to anyone who makes me crack a smile (tweet @ me)!
6. Keep it Short, Sweet and to the Point
You know those people who just go on and on and on...oh wait...heh.
Keep it short! People typically stop reading after about 50-characters. Which is only mildly depressing considering my profession (*cries into her ice cream while watching Sarah McLachlan video on repeat*).
We hope you enjoyed our breakdown of subject line best practices. Check out the full infographic below and get the code to embed here.