Write Kickass Email Marketing Subject Lines and Watch Open Rates Soar

Mastering the email subject line is one of the most important parts of email marketing. It’s the first thing recipients see, and the reason they open your message or kick it to the curb. These 7 tips will help you get your email marketing black belt.

1. Pick a vendor that doesn’t suck

In order to take advantage of the tips below, you’ll need an email marketing vendor that actually allows you to configure settings accordingly. Use one of the mainstream providers to also ensure your messages aren’t getting dumped straight into the spam folders of Gmail, Yahoo, and others. Sure, you’ll pay a few extra bucks per month once the free trial expires, but it will be worth it when you boost your open rates. Vendors I like are Vertical Response and Constant Contact.

2. Tweak your sender information and make it personal

Lose the [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], and any other non-personal email addresses. Why would anyone want to open an email from any of these things? Use your name, and make sure replies go directly to your inbox. Yes, that means you’re going to have to sift through a few auto responders and – wait for it – actual humans responding to your message. But people will respect you more for taking the time to answer them, and your open rates will tick up a few percent based on using a real name and email alone. Want to know more? We wrote a more in-depth piece on optimizing email sender info here.

3. Stop sending valueless garbage just because

I always get a pile of catalogs, credit card offers, and other paper nonsense in my snail mail box. It’s a bunch of junk I usually throw away because it doesn’t apply to me. I always wonder how much each mailer cost to send me, and how much money that company is wasting on a campaign to nowhere. Stop sending your list garbage that doesn’t apply. Tell them the value you’ll be delivering to them in the subject line, and make it real. Announce a discount, content exclusive, or other special bit of information in the subject line and watch open rates soar.

Bad Example

The Cat Cafe March News Letter – Updates, Announcements, Coffee Specials, and More

Good Example

See Mr. Fuzzles, our newest addition to the Cat Cafe feline family. Pics and other news inside.

4. Don’t capitalize every word

Humans don’t write subject lines with AP-approved title capitalization, so why would you write yours that way? The subject line is a way to start a conversation, and that means using natural language that looks and reads like an actual person wrote it.

Bad Example

Receive 10% Off Denture Cleaning This Week Only

Good Example (with a bonus bad pun)

Gum see us for 10% off denture cleaning this week

5. Keep it short and sweet, but be aware of larger screens

Limit the most important part of your subject line to about 45 characters. This will allow smartphone users to get the whole message in the first 45 characters, while larger screens get an extended message. It’s kind of like responsive web design for email marketing subject lines.

Bad Example:

Now on sale in stores! The best all natural, organic dog food from Good Boy. Get 20% off through Friday with this coupon.

Good Example:

Woof! 20% off Good Boy dog food through Friday. Give Fido all natural, organic meals and save big too.

6. Embrace the emoji and profit

Everybody’s doing it. Well, not everybody, and that’s awesome news for you. Using emoji in the first few characters of your email marketing subject line, or coming up with a way to incorporate them into newsletter names will help you stand out from a jam-packed inbox. Don’t be afraid of offending your sensitive audience, emojis have become popular with nearly every demographic, and even stuffy B2B brands can use the more “professional” emojis to make it work.

Bad Example

Flash Caribbean SALE! All-inclusive packages starting at $800 per week

Good Example

Flash Caribbean SALE ☀️????????️ All-inclusive packages starting at $800 per week

7. Stop relying on the hive mind to choose send times

You know what every other email marketer has done in the last year? Googled “best time to send email (my industry)” and read an infographic, blog post, or other lightly-sourced piece of information claiming to know the exact times to send emails. The problem? Everybody is reading the same common sense content and making actual business decisions based on that. Of course people wake up around 7am and check their email. Of course people get to work and check their email around 9am. Of course people check their email before going to bed around 9pm. People check their email all day. What does your brand have to offer and when will your customer be most likely to be able to engage with you?

Bad Example, Tuesday at 6:00am (commonly sourced as the most effective send time for email marketing):

Celebrate happy hour at Larry’s with half off all wine M-F!

Good Example, Wednesday at 12:00pm (when your customer is more likely to be thinking about social events leading into the weekend):

Almost there! Half off wine at Larry’s every M-F from 2-6pm.

Boost your email open rates by using the right software, send times, and punchy subject lines that use novel visuals. Your boss (and your customers) will thank you.