How many email accounts do you have? If you’re like most people, you’ve got several set up, with different kinds of mail coming to each account. I myself have three: a custom account through my domain host for business emails; a gmail account for important family emails and newsletters I actually want to read on a regular basis; and a hotmail account for spam, junk, and company newsletters I might check occasionally.
Even if you don’t have a separate email account for your electronic “junk mail”, I’m willing to bet you have a separate folder or filter set up to pull them out of the stream of your regular emails. It’s human nature – these emails are from companies who haven’t yet earned your trust, and unless or until they do, you can’t afford to spend your valuable time checking through each one.
As a business owner, you need to be aware of this apect of consumer behavior. We all like to believe that every communication and marketing piece we send out is eagerly anticipated by our customers and prospects, but the reality is that we’re adding more information to an already overloaded email inbox. If you want to improve your open rate, you have to show readers that you’re going to offer them something valuable in return for their time – and then follow through on that promise in the body of your email.
So to follow through on the promise I made you in the headline, here are 9 email subject lines culled from my personal email inbox that show you how to draw readers in – or drive them away.
First the bad:
- Nook: “Enjoy the Long Weekend with New NOOK Books & Newsstand Titles”. What’s wrong? Why should I? There’s no urgency here. They’re not offering to save me any money – just telling me that, hey, some new books exist. And given that Barnes & Noble boasts over 2.5 million ebooks for sale, and my 1st-gen nook can hold over a thousand, the fact that new books exist is not exactly a compelling offer.
- Chief Marketer Magazine: “Discover People’s United Bank’s Cross Channel Online Strategy”. What’s wrong? This is word salad. Someone or something has an online strategy. I can’t tell from this subject line whether it’s a particularly good strategy, or if it’s something I could apply to my business, or really anything at all other than the fact that it exists. Why would I waste my time reading when I have no reason to think I’ll learn anything of value or gain a benefit?
- LinkedIn Ads: “Only a few days left to try LinkedIn Ads with a free credit”. What’s wrong? This wouldn’t be bad if I was already interested in/ convinced of the value of LinkedIn Ads, but it doesn’t work if your prospect doesn’t yet know the benefit of what you’re offering. If that explanation of value is inside, there’s no hint to the reader that it’s there. The email’s body heading, “Your customers are on LinkedIn. Find them today.” would have been somewhat better, combined with a free advertising message. Also, “only a few days” is pretty weak in the urgency department.
- Multichannel Merchant: “Last chance to participate in this”. What’s wrong? What is “this”? And why would I want to participate in it? And while we’re at it, “participate” is a weak, uncompelling verb. I’d much rather “be a part of” something that “participate” in it. Again, without a clear benefit to your reader in the subject line, your email is going directly to the trash folder.
- Think Traffic: “Think Traffic – One Blog Post Formula Proven to Get Traffic and Subscribers Time and Ti…” What’s wrong? This is far from terrible – it just needed some more thought and editing. First, if your email is already coming from “Think Traffic”, you don’t need to repeat that in the subject line. You’re just wasting valuable space. Which leads us to the second problem – the subject line here is clearly way too long. Most people are skimming in their email inbox, and this lengthy title just doesn’t cut to the chase quickly enough. Had they cut the “Think Traffic” from the beginning of the subject, and moved the benefit (“Get traffic and subscribers”) to the front, they would have had a much stronger offering.
And now the good:
- Techlicious: “How to Save Money at the Pump”. Why it works: Here’s an email I definitely want to read. It offers a simple, direct benefit, one that’s obviously valuable to a lot of readers, and the email itself follows through on the promise the subject line offers.
- Amazon: “Terry Pratchett’s new book”. Why it works: This one should be a no-brainer for Amazon. I own just about everything Terry Pratchett has written, and what I don’t own I have on my wishlist. The subject line is short and sweet and great for skimming, because all I needed to see was the author’s name to know I wanted to read that email. If you have a way to point customers toward content you know they’ll like, then your email is automatically much more valuable.
- Panera Bread: “Shelby, Here’s a Flower You’ll Want to Pick…” Why it works: This subject line piqued my curiosity, plain and simple. I wanted to see how a bakery would incorporate flowers into their offerings. The newsletter inside the email was fun and brief, and offered a deal on a flower-decorated cookie for $0.99.
- Fisher Price: “Are you ready to bring baby home?” Why it works: Asking a question is a great way to inspire curiosity in your reader. And Fisher Price is using a clearly defined target audience (expectant parents) to ask a question that their readers really want to know the answer to.
- Jon Morrow: “How to Write a Report That Goes Viral and Gets You an Avalanche of Traffic”. Why it works: It’s not surprising that the author of “52 Headline Hacks” knows how to write a subject line that you can’t help but click on. This subject line offers a clear benefit with some great action words – who doesn’t want an “avalanche of traffic” coming to their site?
Always remember: your customer base is made up of real live human beings, just like you. Thinking about the email subject lines that get you to click is a great exercise in putting yourself in the shoes of your readers. And of course, the better you know your target market, the more specific and effective you can make your subject lines.