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How to write the best email subject lines. [Free Guide]


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Written by Ashlie Jones
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When you think about it, email subject lines are like first dates. Whether you're a subscriber or a marketer, you want them to be exciting and engaging. If the date is lousy — awkward silence, no chemistry, the person has nothing to say — the relationship is going to fizzle out faster than a pint of Ben & Jerry's on a hot summer day.

The same goes for your emails. If it doesn't sound interesting, they're not going to give it a chance to make an impression. Convince & Convert reports that 35% of email recipients open emails based on the subject line alone if you are still in doubt. 

This guide will share tips on writing the best subject lines that get emails opened and read every time.


How To Write Irresistible Email Subject Lines

Whether you're sending emails for personal or professional reasons, you don't have much time before they hit the trash or spam folder. Note that it's impossible to achieve a 100% open rate. But you can ensure your email subject lines can get your email campaigns to reach the standard success rate for most industries. This study shows that an excellent open rate across industries is 20.94%.

The key is to make them catchy enough to entice people without misleading them about what they will find on the other side of the click. You might be surprised at how easy it is to write the best email subject lines once you understand how they work and what makes them effective. 

Here are some tips for writing catchy email subject lines that people want to read:


Highlight the benefit of opening the email

A common issue with many emails we send is that they miss the benefit of opening them. "Come to our event," "read this blog post," or "buy this thing" are all phrases you might see in an email subject line, but they don't necessarily show the benefit of opening that email.

A subject line should let the customer know, 'What's in it for me?'

Include words like "free," "sale," and "coupon" to let subscribers know they can expect something of value. To further sweeten the deal, include a dollar amount off or percentage discount in the subject line. Some things to highlight in the subject line are free offers like guides, videos, webinars, access to limited offers, etc. You should be asking yourself: "If I saw this subject line in my inbox, would I open it?"


Create urgency

A great way to do this is to offer your subscribers a limited-time deal. This could be an exclusive coupon code that expires in a few days or a special discount on a new product. For example, you could add some urgency to your subject line using phrases like these:

  • TODAY ONLY! Get 50% off our seasonal collection
  • 24 Hours Only: 10% Off Your Next Purchase
  • Last Chance! 30% Off Sitewide Ends Tonight

By adding the words "last chance" and "only" in the subject line, subscribers will know they need to take action urgently. They'll want to know what they could miss out on if they don't take action right away.

Another tactic you can use is to create scarcity is by limiting the number of products available. You can show how many items are left in stock or how long customers have left to get the deal before it expires. For example: 

  • 2 Spots Left: New Blogging Course Starts Tomorrow
  • 3 Spots Available for Our Webinar This Thursday

Create curiosity 

Human beings are naturally curious. Curious is also just another term for "nosy." But in a marketing sense, there's a positive side to this innate personality trait. Mysterious subject lines that require investigation or deduction encourage the reader to open your email. So they will read the content you provide or click through to where you give the link.

Instead of just sitting there and looking pretty, these subject lines do real work. And that's why it's essential to use this tactic in your email marketing campaigns.


Talk directly to your buyer personas and their goals

Your buyer personas are the people who will be looking at your email. You want to craft your subject line to appeal directly to them and their goals. When writing your email subject line, always consider what your buyer personas want most. Write a few different variations on that topic or theme and test them out.

The more directly you can speak to their needs and desires, the more likely you will see your emails opened, and action is taken.

This is especially true for B2B marketers who often focus on the business itself (e.g., "Improve Your Sales This Year") rather than the person who makes purchasing decisions (e.g., "You Want To Improve Your Sales This Year").


Use personalization

A survey of more than 1,000 consumers found that 71% feel frustrated when a shopping experience is impersonal. That makes sense: If your subject line isn't addressing each subscriber, why should they bother opening?

You can use personalization in your subject lines by using personalization tokens in the following ways:  First, use a subscriber's first name or reference a past purchase or other customer data point relevant to their relationship with your brand.

For example, an online clothing retailer might send an email saying, "Hi, [First Name], These Dresses Were Made for You!" and include a selection of products that the subscriber has browsed in the past. Simple, right?

Secondly, you can also personalize emails based on other customer data points, like location (if you sell in-store) or past purchases (if you're an e-commerce business). For example, suppose you own a brick-and-mortar store in Boston. In that case, send an email with the subject line "This Weekend Only: 15% off to Celebrate Red Sox Opening Day!" which would be much more relevant to Bostonians than a non-location-specific discount offer.


Follow email marketing best practices

It sounds like such simple advice: keep it short, use the word 'Free,' and don't forget to test! It even sounds obvious. But the truth is that following email marketing best practices can be more complex than it seems: it takes discipline and time to execute well. Surprisingly, even small changes like using specific characters or emojis can get you higher open rates.

If you follow the best email practices, you'll have a better chance at gaining more email sign-ups and customer loyalty, but you'll also feel pretty accomplished afterward.


Key takeaways

  • Your email subject lines can make or break your chances of getting a reader to click on your message.
  • Always follow best email practices to increase customers' awareness of your business, brand, and desire to invest more in your organization.
  • To determine whether your subject lines are fascinating -ask yourself, "If I saw this subject line in my inbox, would I open it?"

Sending email campaigns is frustrating. Some of your emails can  'bounce' while others can get opened. But you may never know why some of your emails are successful while others are not. So wouldn't you like to know how to write better emails to increase your email return on investment?

Eternal Works can help you get proven best practices to open your emails, increase your email return on investment and save you time and money.  Learn how to get better results from your email marketing. Download this email marketing best practices guide!

Button to download Email Marketing Best Practices guide.