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6 Email Subject Line Strategies to Increase Your Survey Feedback

Blog by Ian Luck
March 25, 2024

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 your customer's attention (against non-competitors nonetheless), 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 response 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, 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.

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6 Email Subject Lines to Increase Response Rates

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 surefire way to pique 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 the intellect but creates a sense of inclusiveness and importance.

Don't believe me?

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 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 curiosity 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 with every interaction 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 lacks 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)” 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's video on repeat*).

Check out the full infographic here.

About the Author

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Ian Luck
Ian has been in the CX market for over a decade evangelizing best-practices and strategies for increasing the ROI of customer programs. He loves a loud guitar, a thick non-fiction book, and a beach day with his family. You can catch him around the north shore of Boston, MA.
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