The From Line

Sending, Managing & Monetizing Email
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3 minutes reading time (544 words)

Email marketing and the art of subject lines

On average, marketers have a four second window in which to grab the attention of their audience. In those four seconds, a subscriber will decide to either open or trash your message. The most important factor in this decision is of course, the subject line. The subject line is the most valuable piece of email real estate, as it’s the first impression a message has on its recipient. Marketers can make the most of their subject lines by keeping in mind these five valuable tips:

Ask a question
Ex: “Organic vs Conventional? What chow is best for your pooch?”

Get the customer’s gears turning by posing a question. Engaging them from the beginning is a fool proof way to ensure the message gets opened. For example: A pet supply company may lead an email with a question about whether organic pet food is better than conventional. It's likely their audience has wondered the same thing. By asking the question within the subject line, the audience is encouraged to open the email in order to learn the answer.

Teach something
Ex: “Fuel cost is rising. How to cut your gas cost in half”

Everyone enjoys learning something new. By teaching your audience something, you immediately increase your brand’s value in their eyes. Instead of just selling them something, you have situated yourself as an authority on a subject. Now, customers will see you not only as a retailer, but as a valuable informant. Give them value for their time, and it is likely they will repay you with theirs by opening your message.

Shock and awe
Ex: “MD man battles gunfire to save stolen Kindle”

Surprise your subscribers. If you can evoke “oo’s” and “ah’s” or the occasional "no way!", chances are, you have successfully grabbed your audience’s attention. Surprising your subscriber within the subject line greatly increases the chances of them opening and continuing to read your message. Beginning with a shocking statement also makes your brand more memorable and amplifies the impression your message has on them.

Cause a stir
Ex: “Biden wins, Ryan is seen as lacking. Dems on top.”

A little controversy can go a long way. Marketers should not be afraid to rock the boat within their subject lines. Making a claim in the subject line that causes people to strongly agree or disagree can greatly increase open rates and even responses. This tactic should be approached with caution, though. Too strong a statement may anger subscribers. The goal is to engage customers, not lose them.

Evoke emotion
“Pakistani police make arrests in shooting of 14-year-old activist”

It’s no secret that tugging at the heartstrings of an audience will grab their attention. Making a subscriber feel something just might startle them enough to open your message. Heartwarming stories never fail to elicit an emotional response, and that emotional response is the most common reason stories go viral. Marketers who include an emotion-evoking subject line will increase the likelihood that their subscribers will open their message and even forward that email to their friends.

With only four seconds to grab a subscriber’s attention, marketers cannot afford to waste their subject line with bland content. Remember, you only get once chance to make a first impression. Make it memorable and profitable. 


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