The subject line of an email actually wields a surprising amount of power. Indeed 35% of recipients open emails based on subject lines alone. A strong subject header can mean the difference between an email being opened or passed over for something more appealing.
So, as a small businesses owner how do you make your communications stand out in the sea of emails your audience receives every day?
144.8 billion emails are sent every day
At some time or another most of us have been guilty of hastily cobbling together an email header at the very last moment with little thought. However we should really be thinking of our subject lines as an enticing headline that supports the content of our email. Much like a newspaper article, a press release or blog post, time should be spent crafting the most effective headline as possible. Afterall what’s the point of having an email packed with cracking content if it doesn’t even get opened?
Of course different approaches will appeal to different audiences, but there are some universal tips you can implement to help you create more effective subject lines, thus improving your email open rates.
9 Top tips for effective email subject lines
1. Be clear. If ever in doubt about what your email subject line should be, chose clarity. The majority of your recipients will want to know upfront about what they can expect to find when they open your email.
“Don’t sell what’s inside, tell what’s inside” Mail chimp
So be clear about your content. Most importantly, be honest about your content. You won’t win customers by trying to entice them in with false promises, in fact they more likely to bypass your email next time.
2. Keep it short. The general rule of thumb is to keep your email subject line as short as you can. Try to aim for under 10 words. Remember 40% of emails are opened on mobiles devices first so if you make it too long your meaning won’t come across in the 4-7 words that average mobile screen can fit.
If you are struggling to get the number of words down, keep to the point, get rid of any unnecessary filler words and put your strongest words at the beginning. Get into the practice of editing down. For example instead of ‘Enter our free prize draw to win £500 to spend on stunning jewellery from our latest collection’ (17 words) you could edit it down to ‘Win £500 of jewellery from our new collection’ (8 words). Same message just shorter with the keywords right upfront.
3. Try numbers . Using numbers in your email headers can be a great way of getting noticed. For example here are some ones in my inbox that grabbed my attention and got opened:
- 5 ways to sprinkle on the sparkle (Boden)
- 23 ways to blow your valentines socks off (notonthehighstreet.com)
- 7 golden rules for content marketing (Econsultancy)
I’m not sure of the psychology behind it, but studies seem to agree that odd numbers and random specific numbers seem to get higher open rates, so it’s definately worth giving numbers a whirl.
4. Mix up your content. Your header is only as good as the content inside. So if you find yourself stuck in a pattern of sending the same type of emails over and over again, your subject lines are probably going to reflect this. So reboot your content and surprise your audience by sending out a variety of different email communications such as competitions, newsletters, special offers, blog posts, sneak previews, quizzes, surveys and so on. It follows that if your content is varied and interesting, your email headlines are more likely to be too.
5. Introduce some humour. This can be a tricky one to get right but if you manage it can work wonders. A bit of humour can be a sure-fire way to grab attention and get your email to stand to from the crowd. A good example is Groupon’s much applauded subject line:
“Best of Groupon: The Deals That Make Us Proud (Unlike Our Nephew, Steve)”
Puns or plays on word can also work well – holidays and seasonal promotions can lend them selves quite well to this. Here are a few of seasonal examples from notonthehighstreet.com who do creative email headlines really well.
- They do say ‘drink and be merry’… fill your festive boots
- It’s the best thing since Christmas…Easter we so glad to see you
- Pretend like you had this planned for ages…valentines day sorted
Being clever can be great but remember don’t try to be so clever that no one can work out what your on about. If you do want to try writing some email headers with a bit of humour checkout this blog from Vertical Response – it’s got lots of examples of amusing subject lines alongside some great tips.
6. Offer a benefit . Including a clear benefit to you reader in your subject header can help increase your open rates. When you are crafting your subject line focus on the benefits rather than the features. Using strong benefit words can work well as they imply a promise of what is inside, for example
7. Urgency and Exclusivity. Subject lines that create a sense of urgency and exclusivity can give a 22% higher open rate. Here is a great example of an email I received recently from Banana Republic that covers both these elements. The subject line was: Our 40% online private sale ends today.
And yes it did work as I did take advantage of the offer.
8. Don’t be mistaken for SPAM. The last thing you want is for your email to look like possible spam .
69% of email recipients report email as spam based only on the subject line.
People tend to steer clear of subject headers that look a bit ‘spammy’. So don’t be temped to oversell and be careful if you’re using overtly sales words like FREE in your headlines. Definitely avoid using ALL CAPS as it shouts of spam.
9. Test and monitor. Most email service providers will have ‘insight’ tools that will enable you to monitor your email performance. Simple A/B testing of your subject headers is a great way to find out what works best for your particular audience, helping you craft stronger performing headlines.
Finally, before you press SEND…
Before your send your email merrily on its way, double-check your subject line to ensure there are no typos and it can’t be misconstrued to cause any offence. If in doubt it’s always a good idea to ask yourself the following question: If you received this email would you open it, ignore it or assume it’s SPAM?
We’d love to hear some of your tips for creating powerful email subject lines, so please do leave a comment.