6 tips on how to write successful email subject lines

As a small business owner email marketing is a gift.  You can speak directly to your audience, you have control of the data (as long as you adhere to GDPR regulations) and you have space to start the conversation.  Done in the right way it can help to not only continue the conversation with your clients, retaining them, but it can also help you generate leads.   It is an essential part of the marketing mix for any organisation regardless of size.  With an anticipated 4.3 billion email addresses by 2023 the number of email usage is just increasing. Successful email subject lines can make the difference between someone opening the email, engaging and not.

But where do you start?  You first need to start the conversation and that is where a good email subject lines comes in.  In fact 47% of email recipients open an email based on the subject line alone and 69% of recipients report an email as spam on the subject line alone.  There is some debate between leading deployment tools such as Mail Chimp, who suggest that the most obvious of subject lines works more effectively eg: “The Company’s Annual Report”.  However, I am not convinced that as a consumer it is the most engaging.  So what makes an effective email subject line?

In our blog this month we share 6 things for you to consider to help increase the chances of a successful subject line:

  1. Keep it short and sweet.  As with all writing, keep things succinct and to the point to help grab attention, being single minded is always the most effective way forward.  If you try to make it too complicated or try to pack to much in, even in a subject line, then it will not get the engagement and ultimately the open rate you are looking for.
  2. Personalise the content.  You can personalise the email by putting the person’s name in the subject line, making it relevant but proceed with caution.  You need to make sure you have collected the right data but at the same time also don’t do this too much.  
  3. Segment your list.  When you segment your email database you can group your audience into sections of information they wish to hear about, making it relevant.  If your subject line reflects this, offering relevant content, people will be more likely to open it.
  4. Timing is everything.  Testing and refining the best time to deploy your communication for your business is important. Typically you can expect to see someone open the email within four hrs of receipt and it is cited that for a professional business sending at about 9.30am Tuesday – Thursday is the best time.  This will vary by industry, if you are a personal trainer for example, you may find that sending on a Sunday evening, may work better as people plan for the week ahead.
  5. Good content.  As with all marketing, good content is king.  Making sure you are sharing useful information to your audience will ensure that they open and engage with your email.  Think about how you could create some urgency or curiosity in what you are sharing.  If relevant for your business do share offers, but use sparingly.
  6. Test and refine everything.  This is key.  Be clear on what success looks like and track performance.  Email is great as you can pretty much see instantly if something has been successful by looking at the open and click through rates, if you can also tie into your website so that you can track through to purchases and sales revenues so much the better.
  7. Use a familiar sender name to avoid the spam filter.  Spam filters can be a hinderance.  Eg Yahoo and Hotmail addresses are more likely to go into a spam filters as a result of the security breaches over recent years.

A couple of tools to use to sense check and test your subject lines: 

  1. Subjectline.com, CoSchedule and Zurb.com are great tools to help you check your subject line.
  2. Is Not Spam also have a great tool to check that your email subject lines won’t drop into the spam filters.

Here are some examples of good subject lines to show what we mean:

  1. JetBlue: “You’re missing out on points.”
  2. Topshop: “Get a head start on summer”
  3. Digital Marketer: “[URGENT] You’ve got ONE DAY to watch this…”
  4. HP: “New must-haves for your office”
  5. Travelocity: “Need a day at the beach? Just scratch n’ sniff your way to paradise…”

Read on to discover more great subject lines.

To discover more about how we can help you build successful email marketing campaigns please do get in touch

If you would like some help in kick starting your email marketing we are also running an “Email Marketing Master Class” on 9th July, why not join us?  In our workshop we will share our top five strategies to help you build successful emails with plenty of opportunity to ask questions – hope to see you there!


Sophie Comas

A highly successful self-motivated and results driven, senior marketing professional. My passion lies within developing and delivering marketing solutions which make a difference in today's complex digital market place. A marketeer with a strong academic background and broad ranging level of experience working with small businesses and in the travel and hospitality sector, across the Thames Valley, I love a challenge!

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