by Elastic Email Oct 24, 2022

While email marketing provides for substantially higher engagement rates as compared to ad impressions or website pop-ups, it also required substantially greater attention to marketing communication on part of modern brands. 
You cannot simply use the ‘copy-and-paste approach’ anymore. The lack of personalization in such messages has already become a reason for multiple scandals where generic sales requests were sent to extremely inappropriate audiences. The excessive use of such techniques in the past was the primary reason for email marketing’s downfall with the majority of customers marking arriving emails from different brands as spam. If your prospective lead subscribed to your newsletters, you frequently have a single chance of winning their attention and starting your communication right. In comes the difficult choice of email subject.

What Makes Email Subject Important?

When you open your inbox, the main thing you instantly see is the sender name and the first 40-50 characters of the email subject. Often, a recipient may not even open a certain message and send it to the ‘spam’ folder directly. Hence, your capability to reach your prospective leads with your first follow-up email after their subscription depends on two factors:

  • an instantly recognizable sender name,
  • a captivating email subject.

If you are unable to captivate your reader to open your email, they may never see your ‘main message’. Unfortunately, many brand marketers fail to recognize this link and invest 99% of their creativity in developing a ‘selling text’ that goes straight to the ‘spam’ folder afterwards.

Some marketing experts adhere to the CURVE concept standing for: 

  • Curiosity,
  • Urgency,
  • Relevance,
  • Value,
  • Emotion.

In terms of your email subject, this means that it must be sufficiently interesting to pique readers’ curiosity while also implying some value relevant to them that can only be captured if they open your message promptly. The emotional part may be the most difficult one to describe in marketing terms since it primarily reflects your brand persona and may largely depend on your preferred communication approach. 

Here are some examples of messages combining several aforementioned elements to attract readers’ interest: 

  • An email about a local restaurant offering delicious dishes at a discounted price during the following week;
  • How-to manuals for new versions of software products or technologies used by the targeted email recipients;
  • Expert recommendations provided via a one-time webinar allowing users to get ahead of the competition in their work tasks;
  • etc.

The ultimate goal of your message is to create value for your audiences and help them obtain something valuable as soon as possible, which substantiates the urgency highlighted by your email subject.

What Techniques Create an Email Subject that ‘Gets Through’?

The first ‘rule of thumb’ is related to the degree of familiarity you are planning to use. There is a fine line separating two different approaches in this sphere. Imagine getting the following email subject from your favorite bookstore, 

“50% discounts for your favorite products. Catch your deal now!”

This message can actually make you click the link in the email body right away since the line promises clear benefits for the reader, which makes the embedded ‘call to action’ work. 

However, the same message from an unknown brand will probably go straight to your ‘spam’ folder. This explains the significance of context and trust towards the sender. If you are not certain that your relationship with your subscribers supports high levels of familiarity, you may choose to stay on the formal side in your choice of email subjects. 

The following techniques can be seen as middle-of-the-road instruments suitable for most brands and a wide variety of marketing applications: 

Numbers

Email subjects highlighting ‘7 best ways to...’, ‘500 bonus points for the upcoming sale’ or ‘learn English by spending 5 minutes a day’ include a clear and measurable promise. This makes consumers click the message in question to see whether your brand delivers on it. Moreover, numbered lists are generally easier to read and make for ideal referencing materials. It further increases the potential value of your email.

Sender Name

Sending an email from a random ‘John Smith’ is as ineffective as using ‘Brand Name’ as a sender. Try to follow the structure of John@brandname.com to show the organization sending the message while also avoiding the feeling of generic and standardized spam messages delivered from ‘abstract entities’ rather than real persons. 

Questions

If you are working with new leads or warm contacts, asking for permission may be a fantastic ‘conversation starter’ that will immediately set you apart from generic spammers in recipients’ inbox folders. Start your email subject with, 

Would you like to get a 50% discount for your next purchase of *ProductName*?

or 

Should you continue doing ... in 2022 to win a customer?

This offers an illusion of choice since a person may choose to not open the email if they are not interested in the topic in question. At the same time, this creates a powerful ‘hook’ attracting their interest to your offer and creating powerful ‘curiosity gaps’.

Recipient Characteristics

Compare the following two email subjects, 

How to be more productive in your line of work

vs

10 guaranteed methods to boost productivity for freelance Java Developers

The second one clearly looks more ‘click-through-worthy’ if your brand sells productivity training programs due to the combination of multiple ‘hooks’ as well as a clear focus on a particular group. In most cases, people subscribe to your resource because you offer something especially interesting for their profession, lifestyle or consumer preferences. Highlighting these characteristics shared by your targeted group may be a ‘safe’ way to personalize your messages. 

Social Proof

This traditional method provides fantastic results in demonstrating your brand credibility. If your products or services are successful or are praised by certain influencers, referring to these facts in your email subject may be a good way to establish communication,

10,000 web designers have found new jobs after completing our 6-month course

or

Here is a review of our course from *Big Influencer Name*

The second ‘rule of thumb’ is to keep the overall line length below 50 characters. Keep in mind that many users are browsing their inbox folders from their smartphones, which frequently leaves even less space for you to convey your ideas.

Email Subject Ideas That Are Not as Good as You Think

While the following instruments were advised by many authors in the past, we would like to discuss them as potentially problematic tools requiring your extreme attention:

Clickbait Headings

False promises, misleading email subject lines, and other similar methods seek to convince the consumer to open the email at all costs. The problem is that the majority of your subscribers are already tired of these tricks and simply delete this type of messages. Others may get furious when their expectations are not met. Why should you start your cooperation with an open lie in the first place?

A Sense of Urgency

This method works well when you want to promote a sale to your loyal clients. Setting a timer for a new or less invested subscriber may anger them since they do not want your brand to set any rules for them. Moreover, we all know that scarcity marketing tactics from unknown brands are as believable as Gene Simmons announcing the ‘farewell’ KISS tour.

Short Messages

While brevity may be a powerful way to increase the readability of your email subjects for mobile device users, there is a fine line between informational messages and brief provocative messages. This technique became popular in recent years and relies on capturing the attention of your prospective readers via such lines as:

  • Hey there!
  • It is finally here!
  • How are you doing?
  • etc.

While some marketers consider these phrases extremely catchy and captivating, imagine getting a text like this from a person you have only met briefly some time ago. Chances are, you will consider them weird and will not proceed to open their further messages.

Slang and the Lack of Common Courtesy

Another problem relates to the idea of using common language to imitate rapport and treat your recipients like your close friends. This technique may be seen as highly controversial since the readers may not trust you yet and may not be willing to be addressed like this either. The rule of thumb here is to be polite and courteous unless you have a unique marketing communication plan or you are targeting a highly specific audience segment. 

About the author

Anna is Marketing Manager for online email writing service 15 Writers. She is an expert in digital marketing and enjoys writing articles on Business, Marketing and Technology.

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