Write Subject Lines To Get Clients Opening Your Email

Photo credit by Cristina Gottardi

Photo credit by Cristina Gottardi


If you are reading this post, you have probably given email marketing a shot, and have realized how it can be challenging to get people to click to open.

One of my colleagues recently told me that her personal inbox has over 1,000 emails in the inbox. With that many emails, what would make her open one email over another?

The subject line make an impact despite the limited space it occupies. This post looks at a few strategies to keep in mind when writing subject lines, and gives resources to learn more about this subject.

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Keep it concise

Remember that no matter what email platform someone is using, there is always a limited amount of space available for the subject line. This means that you should structure your language in the most economical way that will still have impact for the reader.

You can cut out words that are none descriptive and use language that talks directly to your client. For example, the subject “This is an article that you will like about email marketing” should be changed to “{First Name}, email marketing that works for your business.”

The two subjects communicate the same idea, but placing the client’s first name and the word “you” in the first 50 characters makes the subject more eye-catching. Synthesizing the purpose of the email give readers more of a reason to open the email.

Use action verbs

In my last post on direct response copywriting, I gave six guidelines for copy that will get clients to take action. The same premise applies to email subject lines.

Tell people what you want them to do and they will be more likely to do something. The subject line “November Newsletter” is not as informative as “Travel to another time and another place with these photos and stories”.

The world travel inspires action, and is more likely to get someone to read more. Even if they cannot travel in person, the email suggests that the reader can travel vicariously through photos and stories. This is much more inspiring than any two-word subject line.

Personalize the subject line

For a three-month period, I regularly A/B tested subject lines varying for if having the clients name in the subject line affected open rates, and the correlation was always positive.

Think of how special you feel when someone uses your name when addressing you, and how you perk up more when you see your own name in a written text. The same applies with subject lines.

If you don’t know the clients first name, think of how you can make the subject line feel more personalized. Maybe you can include their location, and if not, use “you” and “your” to increase your open rates.

Create a sense of scarcity

People don’t like missing out on opportunities, even if it’s something that they may not initially feel like they want or need. One way to do this is to set a deadline for an offer.

This works because people are more likely to take action in the first few days after learning of a deal. The deadline is often the extra push needed to make the purchase. You can offer a limited edition of your product.

This makes the product seem more special and increases the perceived value. You can also use copy to create a sense of urgency due to scarcity, like “act now” or “act fast” or “shop today” are all terms the are likely to get people to open your email.

Be funny

Think back to my colleague who has 1,000 email in her inbox, then think of how you can barely wait to watch the latest season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or how many time you re-watched Parks and Rec… or think of whatever your favorite comedies are (I just told you mine).

How much more attractive your email would seem if it could spark the same chuckles and laughs. Like all comedy, the challenge is knowing your audience well enough to know what will be funny to them.

If you’re not sure what will work with your audience, A/B test till you know your audience. You can also check out this article on Sleeknote that dives into the different types of humor that have been successful with email marketing.

Make Writing Subject Lines Easier

More resources are available

Often times the best way to get better at something is by practicing and analyzing what works and what doesn’t.

This post gave five tips for subject lines that will get clients opening your email: (1) keep subjects concise, (2) use action verbs, (3) personalization your message, (4) create a sense of scarcity, (5) be funny.

If you want to learn more about this topic, check out the following resources: