3 ways to sway with your subject line

By Kathy Heslop


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July 29, 2014 | 3 min read

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How many emails sit in your inbox? 100? 500? Or like me, somewhere in the thousands - and that’s after a spring clean.

With an endless barrage of emails every day, how does one email jostle for attention in an overcrowded inbox? This is where your subject line needs to step up. It’s your pitch, potentially your one chance to re-engage a potential customer.

Here we look at the three main motivational influencers that you can use in your subject lines to increase open rates, with some all too familiar generic examples, accompanied by some good examples below.

Benefit driven

When crafting your subject line you need to think of yourself as the reader and ask the question “What’s in it for me?” All too often, the classic mistake of promoting features over benefits is made.

When you try to sell the features of your product or service, you're making the customer do all the work to figure out why they want your product. It's in your best interest to connect the dots for them.

Fear…of missing out

Creating a sense of urgency is one of the oldest tricks in the marketer’s handbook. But it’s about creating that FOMO (fear of missing out) response, without being too salesy.

So shouty caps and aggressive lexis are the quickest way to the trash folder. It’s also advisable to avoid frenzied and desperate pleas like “Don’t miss out”, “Last chance!” and the all too familiar “Hurry!”

Your subject line is a promise, so use FOMO honestly and sparingly. Let the recipient know that the message is time sensitive and the contents are something truly worthwhile.

Playful humour

Let’s face it, the standard email inbox isn’t exactly brimming with mirth. So a humourous subject line can act as a breath of fresh air, sandwiched amongst the dull and rather predictable emails surrounding it.

However, it needs to be carefully approached. Good humour thrives on an element of exclusivity, so a wisecrack might not be ideal if you’re appealing to a mass audience. But if you understand your recipient, and your emails are targeted, then a little bit of playfulness can go a long way.

From the outset, a subject line should be completely clear about what your recipient can expect from clicking open. Leading them on with ambiguous or erroneous content might get your emails opened once, but never again.

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