October 27, 2021
We all know how important a powerful email subject line is. Having the right subject line can mean the difference between a customer and a lost subscriber.
In this post, we're taking a look at some of my high-performing subject lines and examples to use in your future marketing.
Ready? Let’s dive in.
This article has been updated on February 22nd 2022.
Always be concise - no need to write a novel. Consider your audience and what technique might work best for them. Remember that the goal of your email subject line is to entice your subscriber to open your email. You don't need to give everything away.
Email subject lines will get cut off if they're too long, especially on mobile devices. And when that happens, whatever you were trying to say won’t make much sense if it gets cut off right at the end.
With up to 80% of email opens taking place on mobile, there’s no other solution than to use short subject lines with less than 60-70 characters to make sure that people scanning your emails read the entire subject line.
If you're struggling to keep your subject line short, think about which words matter less and where you can remove unnecessary detail.
For example, if you're sending an order confirmation, doesn't “Your order is being processed” look better than “Order #9435893458358 is being processed"?
Both of these subject lines will achieve the same goal. But the way it's delivered can make the difference.
The same goes for your regular emails. Don't waste your time including the word "update" or "newsletter" in the subject line. Studies have suggested these words can decrease the message's open rate since it tells readers the email is associated with a series, therefore they can catch the next one.
A lot of studies have found that subject lines in the range of ~65 characters (or 5-9 words) tend to be most effective.
If you look on this picture (to your right) you can see the different between short subject lines (bottom two) and longer subject lines (top two).
Make your subject line specific to what's in the email, but don't give away too much.
The first order of business is to focus on what you're expecting to get from the particular email campaign that you're sending.
For example, let's say you're running a teaser campaign for an upcoming product launch.
The goal of your email is to remind your subscribers that the product will be launched on a particular date and time.
You may write this important detail straight into your subject line.
While this might work, it feels like you just gave away the entire email in your subject line. If I would genuinely be interested in the release of the product, I'm not sure I would be inclined to read the rest of the email anymore. I mean, I know the name of the product and I know it'll be released on June 12th at 11 AM.
If you want to keep your subject line specific, in accordance with the purpose of the campaign, but not giving too much away, you might want to consider some of the following subject line examples.
Using a question as your subject line for interest or curiosity is a well-known tactic for many marketers.
The truth is, even if you don't like to be that brand with subject lines like "Did you miss this, Mark?", it works.
If you don't have a good hook, you're just going to lose the reader's interest.
The goal of the question is to generate an internal response from your reader. You want to craft your subject line so that the question will make the readers answer it in their heads as they read it.
Keep in mind, though - don't give away too much information and make it so the answer is found only within the email.
If you're cheeky enough, you'll give just enough in the email that the full answer can be found on the landing page. Now that's a truly genius hook.
Adding numbers to your subject line can be a powerful tool for email marketing.
Numbers are psychologically appealing and give the reader an impression of completeness or high value. This is especially important when you're sending out promotional emails, as they need to have higher open rates than regular ones in order to be effective.
You might use numbers to refer to the title of your listicle, the page length of the offer you're sending, a specific discount, or the numerical benefit of a particular resource you're providing - like "Join more than 750 others at this event!
However, be careful using it too often. This is not a new tip, and brands have been using this type of subject line for the most part of the 21st century. If we're considering the growth of the e-commerce industry over the last few years, I can't imagine a day where there isn't a discount in my inbox.
Try including numbers within a natural tone of voice. The best marketing is the one that doesn't look like marketing.
This might cause a bit of controversy. I've seen articles suggesting you should include your name or your company's name in the subject line.
That's not necessary. And here's why.
If you want to emphasize your identity or the identity of the sender, that's why you have the sender's name.
Repeating your name within the subject line is wasted space.
There might be cases where you're sending the email from a pseudonym like Mark Jacobs and you want to add your name or company's name in the subject line to strengthen the brand identity. That's fine. However, I would suggest you still use the sender's name in this case. Change Mark Jacobs to Mark from Email Kong. And Voila!, problem solved.
You need to use the space allocated for the subject line to catch the reader's attention, almost like grabbing them through the screen and telling them "You need to read this email"
Your company name is not going to evoke that reaction.
The email subject line is the first impression of your company or brand that a prospect will get, so it needs to be professional and well written.
For example, don’t use capitalize every word in your subject line. IT’S LIKE YELLING. There are some organizations that get away with it, even some that say they get great results when they A/B tested all caps over other formats.
But believe me. It’s too risky. Overusing capitalization in your subject lines will make you look shady and, on top of that, it will trigger spam filters. Even capitalizing one full word in your subject lines significantly increases the chance that your email will go straight to spam without the recipient ever seeing it.
Another good grammar and spelling tip is to use title cases for your capitalization. This will make your subject lines seem more polished and professional. But be warned, if your headline is too long, then using title case can be overwhelming. Try shortening the headline or switching to sentence-style capitalization.
The preview text is the first visible line of text Email Providers will show next to your subject line. It’s visible on Gmail, Apple, Outlook, and many more (The exact amount of text shown depends on the email client and user settings.)
The aim is to make your subject line and preview text work together in order to make your message hit stronger.
Your preview text shouldn’t just repeat your subject line. But it shouldn’t be totally different either. You can use it to build on top of a great subject line – and get more people to open your email.
The same "short and sweet" approach that I recommended on the subject lines applies to the preview text.
Do not avoid the Preview Text thinking it's not important. When you don't set the preview text yourself, the email client will automatically pull from the body of your email. That can look messy depending on your email content, and it's also a wasted opportunity to engage your audience.
This is one of the most important steps when sending an email: choosing a name that will be recognizable to your email subscribers. Often that will be the company name, but what I would recommend is to also create a pseudonym for your brand.
Who is going to be the face of your email marketing? What’s their title? What’s their story? Why do they love your brand?
This can be real or fictitious, doesn’t really matter. Write down everything you can think of about this person, give them a name and you have your pseudonym.
To make it even better, add your company or brand name after your persona’s name.
So you’ll have something like:
Russel Brunson, the founder of ClickFunnels and marketing personality, always says that copywriting is what made him rich. And I’m not surprised because what you write and how you write it has more impact on how much money you make with your company than anything else.
This brings me to number 9 on our list to improve your subject lines: curiosity
Ask yourself: What can I possibly say to my audience that they will have no other choice but to open and read this email? And yes, open and read your email. Because once you’ve made someone curious enough to open it, you’ll make them curious enough to read it and *fingers crossed* click your CTA as well.
A few examples I’ve used in the past that worked (30%+ open rates)
👉 Bad news
👉 We’ve changed everything
👉 This … is … not … possible
However, don't use any of the subject lines above without context. For example, you're sending a product announcement and you use "Bad news" as a subject line just to get opens. That won't work. Your subscribers will most likely get annoyed and delete your email. Which is bad for your deliverability.
Readers are tired of generic marketing emails. They don't want the same offers everyone else from your email list receives. Skipping email segmentation is one of the most common mistakes so many brands are doing nowadays.
While segmentation won't directly influence the quality of your subject line, it will give you more context behind who's going to read it. Are they a customer? Are they young? Is their birthday coming up? These various data points will help you craft a relevant subject line and catch your readers' attention in a sea of generic marketing emails.
Segment your customers based on past behavior, demographics, and needs.
As part of the email segmentation process, you need to consider narrowing down your segments based on engagement factors such as:
👉 Purchase Engagement
👉 Email Engagement
👉 Website Engagement
Within these, you need to consider other important sub-factors such as:
For example, if we would take the purchase engagement factor and combine it with the recency sub-factor and frequency sub-factor, this is the type of segment we could create:
👉 Subscribers that have purchased at least once within the last 30 days.
Using urgency might seem like a "dirty trick" to many marketers. The truth is, in today's times, if you don't use it, someone else will. And someone else will get that click.
Remember that when it comes to your subscribers' inbox, you're not just competing with your competitors, you're competing with 294 billion (yes, that's billion with a "b") emails sent each day (2019 Report)
When you break it all down to the individual user, this figure shows just how important it is to make sure you craft a good email subject line.
As a result of this, one of the most relevant psychological principles that can be applied to email marketing is urgency. When a task is urgent, people are more likely to act on it.
In the digital age, the journey to purchase is often lengthy. Strategic use of urgency can generate purchases from impulse and/or frequent buyers.
Are you keen to harness the power of urgency in subject lines? Here are three tactics you can implement to boost conversions:
Restricting the time your shoppers have is an effective way to trigger urgency to buy.
Some examples include:
👉 adding a deadline for next-day delivery
👉 sending discount codes with a set deadline
👉 promoting the date or time your sale ends
You can tease all of these in subject lines.
This is where the numbers get even more powerful. Scarcity is a persuasive way to make customers want to buy now.
You can demonstrate scarcity in your subject line by highlighting how many items are left in stock.
If you send your email to a segment of subscribers that have recently viewed a product, you can take this a step further by letting them know that items they’ve recently viewed are running low.
Optimize your subject line copy for urgency by using the right language. Time-related words are key here. For example:
👉 don’t delay
👉 don’t miss out
👉 offer expires
👉 ends soon
👉 save today
👉 buy now
👉 one day only
👉 last chance
This is based on the psychological principle of loss aversion. In simple terms, we all respond to the possibility of losing out on something, rather than to the promise of gaining something.
The power of exclusivity is often overlooked and under-utilized by marketers. The focus mainly lies in discount codes. But the truth is, there is so much more to exclusivity than saying "Here's your unique discount code"
Here are a few tips you can use to create truly exclusive subject lines:
Exclusivity comes down to creating a sense of belonging and importance. Being a part of a group and having access to unique perks gives people a boost of confidence.
So here's how you can use this to boost your conversion rates on email subject lines: using segmentation.
If you send an email to everyone who has purchased from you two times, you can create a feeling of belonging by mentioning that detail in your messaging. For example:
👉 A special surprise for our second-time customers
And you can expand this in many other ways. For example, you can use the recency of someone's purchase.
👉 Placed an order yesterday? This is for you
Build hype and awareness by having individuals sign up for an upcoming offer or event ahead of time with a dedicated landing page.
This will help you build an engaged segment that you can email and overall nurture towards purchasing the product.
Additionally, when combined with limited quantities, this technique becomes very powerful. Limiting your promotions or offers to a set number of people, increases the exclusivity of the offer.
This will give you so much more room to play with when crafting your subject line.
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Writing great email subject line is challenging for any marketer.
However, by modeling other brands you can reverse engineer what they’re doing and write winning subject lines for your brand.
There are more than 180 good email subject lines in this post. But, ultimately, the best comes from you.
Now it’s your turn. Go ahead and choose one of the subject line examples above to modify and make your own.
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