Cool Subject Line. But Did Anyone Actually Open That E-mail?

Sep 2, 2015


If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a hundred times: an abundance of information has led to attention scarcity.  Every one of your prospects, customers, or general constituents gets a ton of e-mail each day and most of it goes unopened. Because of the numbers alone, the chances of your e-mails getting read are already low. But did you ever consider that maybe your subject lines are working against you? It’s not unlikely.

Subject lines are the first (and possibly your last) impression on e-mail recipients. In many ways, your email subject line is as important as the e-mail contents–if not more important. Let’s be real: a great message is worthless if it goes unseen.

There are a number of different approaches when it comes to creating effective subject lines. We’ll be covering 3 different types of effective email subject lines and providing you with examples of each.

Pucker Up and KISS: Keep It Simple, Silly!

Many recipients want just want you to get to the point.  Time is at a premium and subject lines that are direct allow recipients to quickly assess an e-mail’s value to them personally or their organization.

MailChimptm conducted a subject line study and found that short, descriptive subject lines perform better than tacky appeals. Many marketers disagree with the findings and believe that humor and creativity are vital to the creation of a good subject line.  We believe that the concise approach is most applicable with notification emails, in which your prospective reader already has a connection with the content you’re delivering. These kinds of messages have a specific purpose, so write subject lines that match that specificity.

+ Weekly Campaign Update
+ Order 123 has shipped!
+ Problem Processing your Payment

What works here is that the reader knows what they’re getting into before they click through. Chances are they were also eager to find out how things are progressing. You don’t need to do much to jazz these up, but you can be playful. For instance on example #2 you could say: “Get excited! Your order is on its way!”

Say It Like You Mean It: Personalize!

Incorporating personalization into email subject lines is another way to increase open rates. By personalizing we are not referring to incorporating the recipient’s name, but rather specific  language that’s based upon the known interests of each member of your audience. It’s a good practice to simply know how members of your audience want to be talked to and what they’re interested in.

+ Our Next Fundraising Seminar is For You
+ Your Donation Hard at Work

This tactic is a great way to establish trust and continue building a strong relationship predicated on a mutual understanding of what you offer and what they’ve expressed interest in. For non-profits, it’s good to keep donors engaged by showing them what you’re doing with their contribution. For NPO staffers, you can see the sender wants to help you grow and cares about the health of your organization.

Make ’em LOL

An amusing subject line can stand out among the other emails. Since humor can be interpreted differently by members of your audience, it can sometimes prove difficult to appeal to the masses. If you know your audience well and your emails are targeted, a well-placed joke can get your email opened and create loyalty within the recipients.

+ Baby Got (Feed)Back
+ Touch Me! Mobile Interaction Design Tips

Playing off of well known movie or song titles is a great way to pique reader interest, especially the younger crowd. The second example is also effective because it’s just shocking enough to make your recipients curious so you can reel them in.

This advice can actually apply to an array of communications, even like a direct mail appeal. Knowing your audience is arguably one of the most important steps. If you can establish a mutual understanding, your underlying message will stick with them and help to maintain the connection. Instead of testing multiple subject lines, try altering your introduction or various lines throughout your letter (a-hem, versioning) and make sure your letter’s “voice” is appropriate for the recipient. Once you’ve crafted your subject line, find new ways to personalize the content for a bigger impact. After all, the best communications are planned with care and not rushed.

Like what you see? Stay in touch!

SOCIAL-01 SOCIAL-02 SOCIAL-03 SOCIAL-04-04 vimeo-04

You might also enjoy:
+ You Don’t Need to be a Computer Geek to Create Successful One to One Campaigns
+ Your Most Effective Summer Strategy
1:1 Marketing Tactics for E-mail

Like what you see? Stay in touch!

FREE eBook: Fantastic fundraising emails - The complete guide for nonprofits.