It doesn’t matter how engaging your email is if the subject line doesn’t draw your audience in. With billions of emails being sent every day—and likely hundreds, if not thousands, of unopened emails in your recipients’ inboxes, it’s more important than ever that you have a compelling message to get them to open yours. So how do you break through the email clutter? Read on.
In today’s mobile world of everyone tethered to their phones, it should be no surprise that approximately three-quarters of all emails are read on a mobile device. That means that your audience will have more opportunities to see and read your email, but it also means that the subject line has to be short enough to be read on a smaller device. Best practices say to keep the character count to 50 or less, including spaces. However, that may even be too long depending on the device and font size. If you feel the need to go with a longer subject line, be sure to put the most important information first, in case the rest of the line gets cut off. Just remember, sometimes less is more and subject lines that are only one or two words can often break through the clutter.
Create a Sense of Urgency
One way to stop your emails from being placed into the “I’ll check it later” pile (aka the black hole) is to add a sense of urgency, an expiration date or some type of scarcity to the subject line. If you have a promotion that’s time sensitive or a product that’s in low quantity, indicate so in the subject line. “Offer expires at midnight tonight” or “Only 20 spots left.” This will appeal to your recipients’ FOMO (fear of missing out) and help prioritize your email over the hundreds of others that they plan on going back to read at another time. The key is to only use this tactic when appropriate. Readers just won’t believe you if you tell them there are only a few hours or few products left every time.
Most people are born with a natural and insatiable curiosity. When their interest is piqued, they will do almost anything to get information and answers. That’s why many television series end their seasons with cliffhangers, generating talk, excitement and curiosity during the off-season and often getting even more viewers than they would normally have during the year. This same curiosity can get email recipients to open your email. All it takes is an engaging, intriguing subject line. Posing a question in the subject line often works well as readers will actively seek out the answer or open the email to see if their answer is right or matches the answers of others.
When someone wants to get your attention, they say your name. The same approach can work wonders when it comes to your emails. Including your recipient’s name in your subject line can grab their attention, make them feel special and get them to click through. In fact, research shows that emails that include the receiver’s first name have almost 15% higher click-through rates than those without. Another way to cater your message to your audience is to mention one of their interests, their hometown, a recent purchase, or something else that is personal to them. This technique helps build camaraderie, trust and brand loyalty. By using personalization tokens and list segmentation, you can make each recipient feel as if you are speaking directly to them.
While subject lines that include all caps or excessive use of exclamation points and other punctuation to say “look at me” may garner attention, it’s not always the positive kind. These tactics come off as loud and obnoxious to many, and often get themselves flagged as spam. Instead of begging for attention, write a subject line that actually earns it. Be creative, be punny, be funny, be relevant—don’t be loud.
Odd numbers. Even numbers. Prime numbers. People love numbers, especially when they’re part of a list or countdown. Why? Numbers grab your attention, they are quantifiable, they set expectations, and, in many environments, including email subject lines, they stand out visually and break up the monotony. Need more proof? See for yourself. Which of these two subject lines grabs your attention?
“Take thirty-five percent off for two days” or “Take 35% off for 2 days.”
If you’re like most people, you chose the second option. So will your customers.
The Bottom Line
Email subject lines should be crafted with as much care as the emails themselves, or maybe even more. If the subject line doesn’t grab your readers’ attention, they’ll never have a change to read your email. Using some or all of these tips can help boost open rates, drive conversions, and keep your emails out of the spam and trash folders. However, it’s important to note that what works for one audience may not work for another. Test different subject lines to see which ones pull better for your lists. Then use your learnings for future emails.