The power of an email subject line is no secret.
As our inboxes (and our schedules) become more and more cluttered, there has to be something enticing enough to convince us to spend our precious time clicking into an email.
A shimmering light in a dense, snowy forest enticing a cold, weary email checker into a warm cabin with a crackling fire.
Enter the email subject line.
Sure, it’s easy to conceptualize the glory of writing the perfect email subject line. One with an open rate above 25% (the average is around 21%), or for a product or service so enticing it doesn’t even need that strong of a subject line to get clicks.
But that’s not reality.
Chances are you, yes you, don’t sell the most exciting software on the planet, despite what your marketing team thinks. Chances are you don’t have an open rate of 25%. And chances are you’re here precisely because of these reasons.
To help you with those open rates, let’s look at what makes a successful email subject line successful.
1.Doesn’t overcomplicate things
It’s counterintuitive, but simple subject lines can often be the most effective. For this to work, you have to know the type of role your business or organization serves in the lives of your email recipients, and get to the point.
If you’re sending an email thanking customers, it can be most effective to simply use a subject line of “thank you”.
What is the impact of simple subject lines? They don’t distract your recipient. They deliver clear-cut objectives and actionable takeaways. By cutting right to the chase, they don’t pretend to get cute on some tangential pun or semi-related story, wasting your recipient’s time.
JetBlue accomplishes effective simplicity with this subject line for their credit card campaign:
You know your brand better than anyone else. If you’re sending your emails for a clear purpose: to thank clients for using your service, trying to push a new offering, or inviting people in your network to an event, this could be the type of subject line that is most effective for you.
This may seem like a direct contradiction of the ethos of the simple subject line, but it’s not. Attention-grabbing subject lines can come in a variety of forms.
One particular trend right now is the one-word subject line.
Think about, or better yet, take a look at your inbox. You’ll notice most of the subject lines of emails you’ve recently received fall somewhere in the four to eight-word range.
The single word is so short that it begs for a click.
It stands out from the average length of a subject line, and in differentiating itself communicates a certain mystique and aura. Not to get too wrapped up here, but the single word subject line is simple to a fault in the recipient’s eyes. You wonder what it’s angle is.
Who in their right mind sends an email with a subject line of simply “Hi!” or “Boo!”?
The intrigue and the mystery is too much to not demand an open. And thus, the simplest of subject lines might just be the most provocative.
The single word subject line is not the only way to grab attention, however. You can shock your recipients through tactics other than length. Ask a question. Dare your recipients to not open the email. Any outside-the-box tactic fits here.
Check out this Halloween-themed subject line from Seamless:
Dares you to open it, right?
Remember that in the inbox, differentiation of your subject line can be just as important as telling the reader what to expect. When you’re aiming for an open rate of roughly 25%, feel free to experiment with different types of subject lines that go outside the basic practices of how emails are sent and addressed.
3. Plays upon urgency
It’s good to have an actionable, enticing message in your emails. That’s what your campaigns are all about, anyway. But where do great email campaigns separate themselves from good campaigns?
Impulsivity. Time sensitivity. Getting recipients to react to your campaign in a way that makes them feel like they need to. This is where a key element of effective subject lines comes into play: urgency.
Communicate to your recipients that what you’re emailing about is simply essential to their needs. And it is imperative that they act upon this essentialness as quickly as possible. Use time limits in your subject line to suggest that they open it and click through while they are still able to.
Look at this effective example from Groupon:
In demonstrating value, scarcity matters. The more you can make your email part of that scarcity, the greater value acting upon it will have in your recipients’ minds.
4. Add Personalization
If you have high-priority clients or prospects on your email list, personalization can communicate to them that your company values them. Including personalized elements of email subject lines, such as the recipient’s name or their company name, is proven to increase open rates.
Eventbrite is able to personalize their subject line without even using a personal or company name:
Personalization isn’t a necessary tool for email subject lines, as it can be not worth the effort to personalize emails for a large campaign. However, if you’re sending a high-stakes campaign to valuable clients, and are well-versed in finding client information via CRM software, personalization can be a valuable tool to increase your open rate.
Ready to start personalizing your emails?
Book a free call to learn how our team of marketing experts can help you create high converting email marketing today.
5. Communicates value
Finally, remember this pillar of successful email subject lines as a final line of questioning before you decide you’re ready to go: does this subject line communicate value?
It’s an essential question to ask in any campaign, and email subject lines are no different.
In order for anyone to click on an email, they must be convinced that there is something in it that is worth their time. This could be finding out why your subject line was so mysteriously short, or how a certain product offering could help their business, or even how much longer they have to make a purchase.
Check out the value communicated in this eBay subject line:
We often think of value as an explicit communication of your company’s offerings and what your consumers can expect to receive. But in the context of increasing open rates with an effective subject line, this approach is short-sighted.
Value can simply be piquing interest, or providing the answer to a provocative question. As long as your subject line can communicate a sense of being worth the time for a click, you’re sending a subject line that works.
Start at the top
Email subject lines can come from a diverse range of inspirations and tactics. But they all aim at the same, simple goal. Attracting recipients to click on your email and open it.
All of these elements of successful email subject lines help achieve this goal, and can guide your recipients from the clutter of their inbox to the simplified, targeted message of your email.
If you feel ready to get started improving your subject line strategy, put these essential elements to the test, and watch your open rate take off.
- 23 Email Copywriting Tips to Skyrocket Conversions
- 13 Clickable Email Subject Line Examples Your Customers Will Love
- 10 Sure-Fire Subject Line Formulas for Your Email Marketing Campaigns
About the Author
Rob is a Content Marketing Specialist at G2 Crowd writing about all things marketing. Originally from New Jersey, he previously worked at an NYC-based business travel startup.