Writing Subject Lines that Click

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On the Subject of Subject Lines

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Step, for a moment, into a typical morning in the life of a single recipient on your email list. She wakes up, instantly powers on her smartphone, and begins scrolling through a river of information. Breaking news, photos from her best friend’s birthday party, sample sales at her favorite stores—each holding her gaze for only a fraction of a second. As the amount of digital information we see daily grows, our attention spans shorten. For email marketers, this means one thing: Adapt, or see your content swiped away.

Writing impactful subject lines is, arguably, the most important element of email marketing. According to Convince & Convert, 35% of recipients choose to open an email based on the subject line alone. Follow these tips and give your hard work a fighting chance at standing out amidst an overload of information—and watch your open rates rise.


Steer Clear of SPAM

The worst-case scenario for an email is that it never reaches the inbox at all, and there are some surefire ways to avoid this dreaded abyss. Today’s SPAM filters weed out emails with subject lines that overuse capital letters, so stick to sentence case or title case only. Avoid excessive punctuation, especially exclamation points. Familiarize yourself with the specific words and phrases in the subject line that can transport an email directly to the junk folder. HubSpot compiled a comprehensive list of SPAM trigger words—we recommend printing this out and cross-checking it with your emails before you hit “send.”


Get Personal

One of the best ways to gain the attention and trust of your customers is to sound less like a brand and more like a friend. If your email program allows, call out recipients’ names in the subject lines. Use localization (i.e., “35% off for our favorites in San Mateo”) to make an email feel special. Or, better yet, speak directly to your customers’ buying behavior.

Running a 50% off massage special for clients who haven’t made an appointment in a while? A subject line like, ”We miss you: Come back to Signature Spa and save 50%” acknowledges that you know your recipient and you’re giving them a deal especially for them.


Make It Urgent

The fear of missing out, or “FOMO”, is a major motivator for making a purchase. Sure, your offer or event may be compelling on its own, but the ticking clock makes it imperative that your customers open your email and buy now. Add language in the subject line that speaks to urgency, and emphasize that the content of your email is so exclusive, it needs to be opened within a limited time—as seen in the examples below.

“Don’t miss out: 50% off massage ends today”

“Get 50% off your next massage before it’s gone”

“This deal disappears at midnight: Save 50% on massage now”


Strike a Balance

Cheeky, open-ended subject lines pique recipients’ interest. Clear, straightforward ones give readers the information they need up front. Your challenge is to write lines in a way that does both—and this isn’t an exact science.

See what clicks best with your email list. Run tests and track data. Gather as much information about your customers’ email behavior as you can, and tailor your subject lines accordingly. Higher open rates, more click-throughs, and increased revenue await.

Vanessa Demske, FetchRev Creative Strategist 

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