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Email Marketing Writing Great Subject Lines

Here are all my best tips and ideas for how to write a great email subject line AND why it is the most important part of your email!

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As an email marketing gal with an over 50% open rate, I am here to tell you that while your content is important, it doesn't matter if no one opens your email!

Screen capture of my email open rates

Email marketing seems like a breeze. Everyone tells you to just grow a list, send out emails to it and watch checks start rolling in. Well, writing great email headlines or subject lines will add to your success.

The industry standard for email open rates is somewhere in the range of 15-20% meaning that less than 85% of the people who receive your message may actually open it.

This is a little disingenuous as there are email systems which allow you to see the message without ever actually “opening” it and also programs which show as an open without the user having actually read it. But let's start there.

So what do all those number mean for your company's email marketing campaigns. Having more people open your messages means that you have more of an opportunity to engage them, sell your products or services or just let them know you are thinking of them.

BUT, you will never get that opportunity if they never open up your message.

Your subject line is HUGE in email marketing.

It is what is going to intrigue your reader enough to open your message and read what you have written.

You would read a personal email message from a friend who said big news, but would you read one from your phone company that said big news?

I would assume that they are talking about big news for them, not so much for me. WIFM (whats in it for me) is what every email reader thinks when considering whether or not to spend their precious time opening your marketing email.

Additional Resource: 100 Free Email Subject Line Examples (includes all different types of subject lines)

Email Marketing Subject Line Case Study

I was talking with a client the other day and she said that she was GREAT at sending follow-up emails to people who had visited her trade show booth and requested a free product sample, but that she didn't have a great response rate.

REALLY? They met her in person, gave her their email address, SAID they wanted a free product sample and then would not even hit reply with their mailing address. HUM. I was confused until she told me her subject line, “Trade show follow up”. DOH!

Picture that potential client sitting at home or at work, going through the hundreds of emails they get a day and seeing trade show follow up. I would assume that someone was trying to sell me something or that I would be getting a “nice to meet you” kind of thing which I do not have time for!

Now picture that same person sitting there and an email comes in saying “How to get your complimentary green cleaning product” or “Here is your free cleaning product sample”. There is a lot more in it for them that way!

One note, having free in your headline may cause some of the spam filters to block your email so use it judiciously! I have trained my people to like freebies so they open it AND my deliverability is not affected.

Good and Bad Email Subject Lines Examples

Here are some poor subject lines pulled right from my email inbox. There is NO way that I would ever open them in the mass of emails I get in a day.

  • Your daily dose from DSN news – this one comes every day and I generally NEVER read it. I do not know specifically what it is about today and have no compulsion to read it. Many emails come like this, it is easier for the sender but I have to think that their open rates would increase if they told me a little about what I would be reading.
  • One in a lifetime (open now) – this is WAY over the top! I would not open this as the claim is too ambiguous.
  • Discovering the keys to social media marketing – Too fluffy, would rather see 5 ways to increase your Pinterest followers.
  • Urgent, Last Chance, Heads Up or any other “tickler” subject lines with no indication of what it is about – If the sender can't spend the time to tell me a little bit about why I should be so motivated I am not going to waste my energy.
  • Affiliate marketing “launch” emails – I get a ton of emails from internet marketers and I can always tell when they are launching a new product, my email box fills up with duplicate subject lines. If you are going to do affiliate marketing, PLEASE cut and paste the subject line and then do a twist to make me open yours instead of the 30 others I get in a day!

Here are some GOOD subject line examples from people who I read frequently. Most of them are marketing related so translate them into your industry!

  • Tara Did You Get This Free Google Tool? – it has my name (not all that necessary but some people like that) AND it talks about a free tool. Additionally this guy sends out great content that I always enjoy reading.
  • Great tools for business marketing – I obviously have a tool thing, but I like to know what is out there that can help grow my business without creating a false sense of urgency.
  • Proven way to higher summer sales – Relevant time wise AND says they have empirical data to back it up, what is not to like?
  • Extended this weekend Free Shipping At… – If it is a product or company that I buy from, free shipping always hooks me and they get bonus points for the timeline call to action.
  • Networking Lead Gen Tips & Tricks – this is my last headline which had a great open rate, click through rate and I generated sales with it! It works because I send great content AND have a focus on marketing so they know there will not be cooking tips or extra “fluff” in there.

I use Convertkit for my newsletters because of the reporting, ease of use and how it works with so many other things!

Writing A Great Email Subject Line Wrapup

Hopefully this post has gotten you thinking about what a good email subject line might look like!

I spend very little time now thinking about a good subject line because I have a great email list who looks forward to getting my weekly emails, but when I started I spent a bunch of time thinking about what would make someone interested enough to open my messages!

If you have any more questions about writing catchy email subject lines, email me at [email protected] and I will send you in the right direction!

Email Marketing Writing Great Subject Lines

Thursday 20th of June 2013

I want to to thank you for this wonderful read!! I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it. I've got you book-marked to check out new stuff you post…

Small Business Marketing – Writing Good Subject Lines And Content | HPTOnline

Wednesday 19th of September 2012

[...] for a giggle to go through my emails and find bad subject lines…I did that before in my post Email Marketing Writing Great Subject Lines. Written just two years ago, the open rates for media (read marketing and advertising) were in the [...]

Small Business Marketing – Writing Good Subject Lines And Content

Wednesday 15th of August 2012

[...] good for a giggle to go through my emails and find bad subject lines…I did that before in my post Email Marketing Writing Great Subject Lines. Written just two years ago, the open rates for media (read marketing and advertising) were in the [...]

Tara Jacobsen

Monday 26th of March 2012

@Kathryn - how about thank you (for attending) and a favor - you could ask them to either take a peek at your product OR if it is not for them, could they pass on the recommendation to another agent who might be able to use it. One thing to consider, if you are not getting the response (in sales) that you want, you may want to discontinue this program and spend your money some other way!!!


Saturday 24th of March 2012

I just stumbled on this post as I struggle for a great email headline for a new campaign. I pay for mandatory education classes at my local real estate association so that agents can attend for free. I want them to consider using my product. The basis of my email is the Law of Reciprocity...I paid for your classes, please consider my product. I have a great reputation in the industry but my field is fairly competitive. I feel just like the person in your example about the trade show follow up. I welcome any and all suggestions.

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