Email Marketing: Writing Subject Lines That Get Opens

The key to email marketing is crafting the perfect subject line.

You spent 5 hours crafting the perfect email. You included images, headlines, and a compelling CTA, but only 2% of your list actually opened the email. You hang your head, feeling a little defeated. Email marketing attacked again and you lost.

No matter how great the content in your email is, if no one opens the message, no one will see that content you worked so hard on. Email marketing comes down to getting recipients to take action.

Whether that action is to reach out to you, download something, or purchase a product, they won’t know until they open the email. Crafting the perfect subject line that is so smooth nobody can resist opening the email can be difficult. With most things, it takes some trial and error.

Before you start writing 20 different email subject lines, use these email marketing tips to increase your open rates:

Keep It Short

Short subject lines tend to perform better than longer ones.

Think about it, no one likes opening their email at 8 in the morning to see a subject line that is so long it gets cut off. In fact, if it’s that long, most people won’t open your email. So, while you may think your long-winded subject line is catchy, informative, cutting-edge, and a whole slew of other things, you’re actually just wasting time.

Instead of giving everything away in the subject line, tease recipients into opening the email by keeping the subject line short.  

Clear and Specific

Your subject line should always be descriptive. If the email is about a new product release, but your subject line is about a birthday party, then you aren’t being clear and specific about the purpose of the email.

Your email marketing should be about driving traffic to your website. Whether it’s an offer on a landing page or a list of products on sale, no one will see what the body of your email is about if they don’t open it. Clear and specific subject lines act as an introduction—a tease—to the content inside of the email.

If it’s descriptive enough, then recipients won’t be able to resist opening.

Give A Reason To Open

As mentioned above, the point of the subject line is to get someone to open the email. You can’t effectively do that without giving a recipient a reason to open. How do you do that? Well, there are a couple of ways:

  1. Give a command– Instead of just writing, “We have a sale going on now.”, write, “Join us in store for an amazing sale.” A command creates a compelling reason for email recipients to take action. In terms of marketing, think of this type of email subject line like a website CTA.Asking a question can help compel people to open your email.
  2. Ask a question– What pain points do your services or products solve? If you have a revolutionary acne cream, then you’re solving the acne problem that plagues the world. A question style email subject line you might use is, “Are you tired of acne?”.

Email marketing can’t be effective if recipients don’t have a reason to open their emails. Provide leads a compelling reason to open the email.

Cut Out the Repetition

One of the worst things you can do for your email marketing is to use the same subject line over and over again. Every email you send should have a unique subject line.

You don’t send out the same email to people multiple times, right? So, why would you use the same subject line?

Even if the subject line lead to a lot of opens, you shouldn’t repeat it. Instead, use it as a guideline for writing more subject lines that get opens. Was it a question? A command? Did it have an offer?

Reconnecting with your subscriber list can be difficult. Varying the content of the subject line will keep recipients interested and engaged with your emails.

Reconnect with Promotions

If you went from high open rates to low open rates, then you have a connection problem with recipients and you need to reconnect with them.

When it comes to reconnecting with recipients through email, it can be difficult, especially if disconnected recipients aren’t opening your emails. But, using a targeted promotion is a great way to reestablish a lost connection:

  • Contests and giveaways: If there’s one thing consumers love, it’s free stuff. Using a contest or even a Contests and giveaways are a great way to reconnect with your list and increase email opens.giveaway is a great way to connect with your email list. In the subject line, let readers know that you’re giving something away or that they could win something, but make it worth opening the email. If you’re giving away a packet of hot sauce from Taco Bell, then you probably aren’t going to get many opens.
  • Polls and surveys: If you’ve lost a connection with your email recipients, then ask them why. In your email marketing, don’t be afraid to ask for opinions to establish a connection. Polls and surveys are a great way to understand the type of content recipients want. In the subject line, let readers know you want to know their opinions and that you really do listen.

Set a Deadline

The pressure’s on. Or, at least it could be, if you set a deadline in your subject line. Want someone to reach back out to you? Want to move some sale products? Using a deadline in your email subject line is a great way to create a sense of urgency.

That urgency can lead to increased opens because readers want to know what you’re offering. If that acne cream you created to save the world from zits is on sale, but that sale ends on Friday, then let email recipients know. Your email subject line should be something like, “Our Zit Stoppin’, Face Savin’ Acne Cream Sale Ends Friday.”

Test. Then Test Some More

If you find an email subject line that works, then think about these things:

  • What’s compelling about it?
  • How long is it?
  • Is it a question or a command?
  • How does it describe what’s in the email?

Remember, you don’t want to use the same subject line, but you can use the strengths of that successful subject line to further your email marketing. Learning from a successful subject line can help you craft another successful one.

Once you’ve got an idea of what works, start testing two different subject lines for each email. This test will help you even further understand what works and what doesn’t work.

Email marketing is kinda tricky

Writing a great subject line will lead to increased opens.

Once you think you’ve got it figured out, the game changes. What works for you one week may not work the next. You need to constantly be testing and tweaking your email strategy.

If you’re going it alone, email marketing can be even more cumbersome. What you need is a strategic digital plan to take your marketing to the next level.   

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Scott Blanton

Content Writer at Iconic Digital Marketing
As Iconic Digital's content writer, Scott works with clients to develop brand stories and key messaging. When he isn't typing away at his computer, you'll find him exploring new coffee shops, spending time with this family, or working on a new home improvement project.

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