Five Ways Not To Squander The Subject Line

As noted in recent Email Insider posts, e-mails are most likely to get opened not only when they are personalized, but also relevant to the recipient. This is especially true for the subject line. A mere 50 characters (the length of a typical subject line) are all you have to grab the attention of readers, enticing them not only to open your e-mail, but to take the desired action rather than report the e-mail as spam. For consideration, we share the top five insights for writing subject lines that are not squandered, but rather ensure campaigns are destined for success.

Tip 1: Read the newspaper. Do you want to develop subject lines that result in higher open rates? Pick up your local paper. News headlines provide an excellent example of how to highlight an important point with brevity. A good headline, and, by extension,  a good subject line,  is short and intriguing enough to compel the reader to read on. Where possible, the subject line should clearly state what readers can expect from your e-mail: what's in it for them or what you want them to do as a result.



Tip 2: Remember your objective. Your objective should drive the content of your subject line. Before developing your subject line, think carefully about your objective as it is key to the success of your e-mail. If your objective is for your readers to buy something, your subject line should reflect that call-to-action. Ideally, try testing your subject lines on a small number of targets -- or, at the very least, some co-workers outside your department -- to see if their actions are on target with your objective. If not, re-work and try again.

Tip 3: Remember where you're "from." A good subject line sells recipients on opening it, but that could be all for naught if they don't know where the e-mail came from. Ideally, the "from" field should be the name of your company; then there's no need to include it in your subject line, freeing up valuable real estate. If you're e-mailing a recipient for the first time, make sure the subject line creates some familiarity and conveys credibility.

Tip 4: Get to the point -- quickly. As mentioned earlier, you only have 50 characters to develop a subject line that gets noticed. This equates to an approximate two-second window in which a recipient will decide to keep reading and open the e-mail, or press the "delete" button. Therefore it is critically important to include the most information most pertinent to your objective up front, always keeping your end goal in mind. Subject line length may vary based on e-mail provider, so send a test e-mail to yourself in order to make sure that important information, such as time and date, aren't cut off when they reach your inbox.

Tip 5: Make it personal. In many cases, subject lines can be personalized based on past purchases or Web site visits. However, if your customer database is up-to-date, you may also want to try personalizing your emails with first names, which may be even more persuasive. Be sure to use proper capitalization, such as "Alice" instead of "alice." In addition, always include a link in your e-mail to where readers can update personal data and e-mail preferences to ensure you're communicating with them in the manner they prefer.

Squandering the subject line is one of the easiest ways to subvert an email campaign. Here's to better subject lines, leading to even stronger campaigns.

3 comments about "Five Ways Not To Squander The Subject Line".
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  1. Bex White from, July 26, 2010 at 10:23 a.m.

    A great back to basics set of rules, helpful to new starters in this area and those who want a refresher in some of the foundations of subject line writing. Tips 3 regarding from addresses and 4 covering brevity are things which will always be vital to subject line success. Thanks.

  2. Renee Mcgivern from Spark Plug Consulting, July 26, 2010 at 1:28 p.m.

    You are right to suggest looking at newspaper headlines for inspiration. To learn how to do what those copy editors do, check out reasonably-priced online training through the Poynter Institute. I'm registered for a webinar this week on headlines and SEO.

  3. Nina Lentini from MediaPost Communications, July 26, 2010 at 5:27 p.m.

    Seeking to get a gig doing freelance work for the advertising columnist of a major city daily and having met him once 20 years earlier during the centennial celebration of the Statue of Liberty, I sent him an email with this subject line: "1986 ... a boatyard in Brooklyn ..."

    Worked. :)

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