Email has proven in the past few years that it is not going anywhere. It is still at the top of most consumer’s web habits, and its power to constantly evolve with new technologies means it won’t be cast away no matter how many shiny new marketing tools come out.
As companies have begun to reinvent their email marketing game and target more consumers, email subject lines continue to play a crucial role in the success (or failure) of your email campaigns. It is important to split test your subject lines, analyzing and tinkering with them to ensure that your audience is hooked, intrigued and engaged enough to open your message and give it the time of day (with each interaction becoming more valuable everyday).
The old saying, “first impressions matter”, rings just as true for email, too. Is rhyming cheesy? The jury is still out.
Email Subject Line Basics
You don’t need to be an email guru to figure out these crucial factors in a subject line. Think about what causes YOU to open or not open an email you get in your packed inbox? I’ll keep this short and sweet so we can get into the real tips. If you are really at the beginning of your email journey, Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead has a short and simple article on subject lines here.
One of people’s biggest fears is the fear of missing out. Give the impression your email has time sensitive information which needs immediate action. Control their FOMO and shape it to your will.
In fact, subject lines with the word “alert” are opened 61.8% more, and those containing the word “tomorrow” are opened 10% more.
Curiosity killed the cat, but it also created a customer. Like that tall, dark and handsome man with a mysterious air about him at the end of the bar, you want your emails to intrigue the imagination and draw your audience in to find out more.
Like a kid in a candy store (or my mom at Nordstrom), giving discounts and offers is sure to attract attention. Remarkably, it doesn’t really matter if your products are actually discounted or just manipulated to look like it. And even though most consumers know that sales are usually not as good as they sound, the internal itch that comes from finding a sale still hits.
Remember in high school when that cute upperclassmen knew your name and you immediately needed a new set of pants? Yeah, that’s how it works when customers get an email with their name in it…. Okay. It’s not that dramatic, but it’s proven people love hearing their own name and will be more attracted / engaged with your message if you use it. In fact, personalized subject lines are 22% more likely to be opened.
5. Relevance and Timeliness
It’s the middle of fall and you just had that first cold day of the year. You are shivering on the commute into work, grabbing your arms as you sit down at your desk. As you open your email to see what’s on your plate for the day, you see a message from L.L. Bean with the subject line, “Winter is coming, get our new fur-lined jackets before it’s too late!” Boom. Tell me you aren’t going to open that email, I dare you.
6. Name Recognition
Good or bad, Hollywood rules the world we live in nowadays. Actors, models and athletes are engrained in the heads and hearts of the nation, seeping into our thoughts, conversations and culture.
If used in a thoughtful way tailored to your audience, you can utilize big names to invoke powerful imagery and pull consumers into your brand message.
How to Write Great Email Subject Lines
- Keep it short and sweet.
- Use a familiar sender name.
- Personalization is key.
- Segment your lists.
- A/B split testing is crucial.
- Use engaging preview text.
- Give customers a clear action to take.
- DON’T USER ALL CAPS AND EXCLAMATION POINTS!
- Use concise language.
- Rethink your emoji use.
- Pose compelling questions to create intrigue and interest.
- Research your keywords.
- Give your VIPs some extra attention.
- Use numbers.
- DON’T USE ALL CAPS or overuse exclamation points.
- Don’t include a question and exclamation in the same subject line.
Keep it short and sweet.
There is nothing worse than sending a long, clunky subject line that doesn’t get the point across. I know I said it’s importance to raise curiosity, but if the reader can’t see what the message is about in about 50 characters, chances are they are going to skip over it.
43.85 characters is the average, with 34.6% of all emails falling between 41-60 characters. Only 10.9% have under 20 characters, with 18% having more than 60 (BAD). As far as words go, subjects with between 6-10 words ranked highest at a 21% average open rate, compared to 16% for 0-5 words and 14% for 11-15 words.
This is especially true considering the fact mobile is responsible for at least 50% of all opens, mobile users check their email 3x non-mobile users, and more than half of customers are less likely to engage because of bad mobile experience.
Use a familiar sender name
Your audience is way more likely to open an email if it appears to be coming from a real, genuine person. Sending from addresses like Ted@yourstore.com or Jessica@yourcompany.com invites personal connection and decreases that robotic, automated feeling you sometimes get from company emails.
Add some spunk
Nobody likes talking to a boring, bland person. Nobody likes interacting with a boring, bland email either. While these tips cover a great basic groundwork for forging subject lines, if you get bogged down in fitting them all in it can make your writing a bit robotic and stale.
Try your hardest to add some creativity to the mix, and pull customers in with a catchy hook. Stats show that 33% of email recipients open emails because of catchy subject lines. If there was $1,000 in a basket, and you could take 33% of that, how much would you be able to pocket? Sorry, this isn’t math class, but the point is it’s a good freaking chunk of change.
Personalization is key
I told you before how much people like hearing their names, and that’s true for other information too. Location, interests and other information can be used with a little bit of code to make sure every person is getting an email tailored just to them. It’s a surefire way to catch their attention and increase clickthrough rates.
Don’t go overboard with it, as customers like to feel they have some privacy (even if they don’t). A good way to make sure you’re not creeping them out is to stick with information they have given on your website forms (name, location, age) or relating to products they have viewed or purchased.
Segment your lists
List segmentation is one of the most powerful uses of email marketing. It is important to filter your lists based on customer habits and actions on your sites so that you can accurately target and personal your messages to them. Let’s say you have a store that sells men’s and women’s apparel.
If you send a subject line saying, “40% off summer dresses!” to a guy, the chances are pretty darn high he isn’t going to click, and you’ll be sent to the garbage (well, we do all know that one guy —>).
According to MailChimp, recipients are 75% more likely to click on emails from segmented campaigns than non-segmented campaigns (!!) Segment your lists and tailor your subject lines to hit the right audiences with the right messages. Despite the obvious positives of segmentation, 89% of marketers do not segment their database. Why?? It’s easy, obvious and will help you reach the right customers with the right products.
A/B Split Testing is CRUCIAL
One of, if not the most, positive aspect of email marketing is the ability to easily split test your messages to find out exactly which versions yield the best results. By tweaking your emails and sending different variations to parts of your lists, you can quickly see which parts work and which do not.
Another positive of split testing is that you can compare individual metrics against each other. Okay, this subject line increased click-through-rates, but this one improved our average purchase order. This email had a lower open rate, but the customers who did open usually ended up as repeat customers.
Make sure to always A/B split test your subject lines across your entire list. Ensure a randomized sample of the list and shoot for the largest number of customers you can afford to split test on, so you get the most accurate results moving forward.
The only exception would be if you’re trying something radical (trying to spark a reaction, attempts at dark humor, etc), in which case it may be smart to limit the initial split test to make sure you don’t alienate your entire email base.
Use engaging preview text
Who doesn’t like a sneak peak? While preview text is not technically part of the subject line, it displays next to it and can be used in tandem to draw more customers into the email. If you don’t set the preview text directly (I would), it pulls directly from the beginning of the email body, in which case be sure to preview your messages to see how they display in an inbox.
On a similar note, it is good practice to tell customers what is going to be inside of the email. Instead of focusing on flashy words and hooks that don’t actually inform the audience, use straightforward language to give context and inform consumers what to expect inside.
It’s like receiving a box in the mail covered in glitter and ribbons, but when you open it, it’s just a bunch of bills and credit card statements. I don’t know about you, but I would cry and never open glittery, ribboned boxes again.
Give customers a clear action to take
You never know when your audience is checking their email. Sometimes they’re still sleeping as they get into work, or passing out on the couch at the end of a long day. This is why it’s smart to give energy to your customers with a clear call to action.
Act before it’s too late! Click here to get the your discount! Follow us on Instagram now! All of these push the customer to follow a clear and easy step to get their reward. Nobody likes indecision, be crystal clear and make sure your consumer base knows what you want them to do.
DON’T USE ALL CAPS AND EXCLAMATION POINTS!!
DO YOU SEE HOW ANNOYING THIS IS?? I’M LITERALLY SHAKING JUST READING MY OWN WRITING RIGHT NOW. IF YOU DO THIS IN YOUR SUBJECT, YOU DESERVE A SWIFT AND SUDDEN BANISHMENT TO THE SHADOW REALM. AVOID AT ALL COSTS.
Rethink your emoji use ?
While emojis are sometimes thought of as cute and trendy ??♀️, they can also portray childishness and a lack of professionalism?. I’m not saying to completely cut ✂️ out the possibility, as some audiences do respond well to emojis, but always think twice✌? about what and when to include.
Your brand delivers funky, hip new T-shirts to a demographic of kids doing Fortnite dances and singing on TikTok, then emojis can probably help your game. Selling upscale watches to recent college grads in the business sector? Let it go, you look silly.
If you fit somewhere in the middle or aren’t sure exactly how effective emojis would be for your brand, the answer is simple: test it out!! As I’ve said earlier, A/B split testing is the best thing you can do to dial in on what works and cut out what doesn’t.
Some stats to think about:
Companies who use emojis in their subject lines have an open rate as high as 56% over those that don’t.
Pose compelling questions to create intrigue and interest
How do you set your monthly goals? Why does revenue slow in the spring? Are you confident in your path?
These are just a few examples of compelling questions which will not only catch an eye, but make your audience pause and think. When they think, they are already engaging with your message and more likely to open + click-through. Be aware, we’re not all Greek philosophers and sometimes asking these questions can come off as rigid, pedantic or just stupid. However, if you have a great question that is targeted to your clients and customers, I suggest giving them a chance to see if they respond.
Another tactic might be to ask questions on the sillier side. Do watches go on your hands or feet? Why haven’t you bought your brother that lipstick he wants? How do you keep your head on straight?
If your audience is receptive to slight humor and off the wall messaging, it’s another way to grab attention and engage with consumers.
Research your keywords
Keyword research is often thought about in the realm of SEO and Adwords, but is usually an afterthought when it comes to email. Despite this, you can utilize keyword research to take advantage of trending topics within your audience.
For example, let’s say you run a travel company and see a jump in “summer vacation plans” or “winter break.” You will know that a lot of people are thinking about getting to the beach for a Mai Thai, or to the slopes to carve up some fresh powder. Take this knowledge and integrate it into a subject line, “Summer is closing in, reserve your Caribbean adventure today!”, or “Don’t sit inside all winter, 20% lift tickets this week only!”
The great thing about marketing in the digital age is the wealth of information you can gather on customers across multiple channels. While their information in one marketing arena may not seem directly linked to another, with a little creative thought you can find connections which will help connect with customers across the rest of your marketing avenues.
Give your VIPs some extra attention
A benefit of segmentation is you can set aside some messages for those special customers who are always there for you, spending big dough on your products and coming back for more. It’s a great idea to send individual messages to these customers, making it clear you know who they are and you appreciate their business. Not only will it make them feel awesome (I’m a hustler, babbyy), but it will give them a great reason to go to your website again.
Big discounts, special coupons and limited edition items are all great things to include and mention in your subject line that will make your VIPs feel special and push them to drop their wallet on the table.