10 Tips on Writing Effective Subject Lines for Your Email Journeys

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Emails. We get so many of them. Every day when we open our inbox, there are far too many to count.

We all know the feeling. When we’re bombarded with constant information, reading more content can feel overwhelming. 

That means you need to make your email worth opening. Apart from having great content in the email body, you can grab your reader’s attention with effective, catchy email subject lines. Thankfully, it’s not rocket science. 

While you may need to do a little trial and error (using A/B testing) and make sure you get feedback, there are tried and tested techniques that gets great results. 

You don’t need to resort to spammy scare tactics — in fact, please just don’t. Uplevel your email marketing strategy using smart, thoughtful techniques that bring you the click-through rates and conversions you need.

Email Subject Line Best Practices

Email marketing can be pretty simple. When crafting the subject line, think about what you like to see. Go through your inbox — which emails did you open? Why did you open them? 

Think about what piques your interest. Do you like getting free things? Do you like reading helpful tips that make life easier? What about knowing which offers are expiring and which tickets are selling out?

Here at C&C, we always try to think like the customer. While everyone’s business is different, we’ve found that the following strategies work wonders for email click-through and open rates.

#1: Create a Sense of Urgency

To get people’s attention, keep them focused on you, and guide them from prospect to customer, sometimes you need to give them a little push. 

FOMO is real. Most people like to keep their options open, but when push comes to shove, they don’t want to miss out — you can work with this.

Only weeks to go before your new coaching program launches? Is your sound healing ceremony almost sold out? Or are you almost out of the best-selling gorgeous, handmade beeswax candles you sell on Etsy? You owe it to your prospects to give them the best chance to snag what you have to offer before they can’t.

Try phrases like:

  • Last Chance…
  • Snag X Before…
  • Going, going…
  • It’s almost over!

While this tactic can feel a little pushy, the fact is everyone is way too busy to keep track of deadlines on offers and services. Your sense of urgency may give them the incentive they need to buy your product.

#2: Make People Feel Special

Exclusivity is a powerful motivator. Who doesn’t love to feel special? Giving people a sense that an offer, group, or deal is only open to them and a few other select people is a way to pique their interest and launch them into action. 

You can do this in a number of ways — offering pre-orders on a book, for example, or creating tiered memberships with different benefits within are two easy ways to make your email list feel like they’re in a members-only club. When it comes to subject lines, the language you use is critical in cultivating this sense of exclusivity. 

Try phrases like:

  • A members-only virtual event
  • Login required
  • Preorder only
  • Insiders/Invite Only
  • VIP event/VIP subscribers
  • Exclusive Offer
  • A special invitation 
  • To show our appreciation for you
  • Get a sneak peek

Creating exclusivity in your business makes it so much more fun for you and your customers.

#3: Showcase the Value You Bring

If you know anything about content marketing, you know that creating value is one of the best tools in your arsenal. High-value content anticipates and solves problems for your customers, engages and entertains them, and, most importantly, establishes you as a trusted authority.

Great emails don’t bombard prospects with spammy offers. While you should always include a clear call-to-action, you want to naturally embed it within a great piece of content. Even a paragraph or two of helpful information will keep people’s eyes on your email. If there’s no value for them, why would they bother reading it?

So lean into the value you’re about to bring them with a compelling subject line:

Try statements like:

  • One simple way to strengthen your boundaries right now
  • Stay centered with this yoga asana
  • This technique will help you fall asleep in minutes

Providing high-value content is one of the smartest things you can do for your business. Sometimes, hiring help is the best choice. 

#4: Pose a Compelling Question

Asking a question is an efficient way to pique people’s curiosity. Even better, posing a compelling question that is relevant to your prospect’s life, interests, and needs makes opening the email almost irresistible. 

To come up with ideas, consider who your customers or prospects are. Why are they subscribed to you? Why are they interested? What do you have to offer that can help them?

Try questions like:

  • How’s your writing going?
  • Looking for the perfect father’s day gift?
  • Are you speaking your truth?

Remember, value is key to building trust and getting people to open your emails. By asking a compelling question, you are showing that you know what they need and can help them with it.

#5: Use Action-Oriented Words

Any writer will tell you that using active verbs is preferable to using passive ones. It sounds confident, paints a vivid picture, and gives the reader a clear sense of what they’re in for.

Not only are action verbs and active voice more engaging, but they also tend to be more persuasive. Show your readers exactly what they can get out of being your customer. Help them envision themselves as the subject of your sentence. 

Try statements like:

  • Dine on world-class cuisine
  • Sleep more deeply than you ever have
  • Attract your dream partner

This style of writing also gets to the punch more quickly. Don’t waste your reader’s time with long convoluted sentences. When attention is at a premium, you want to make an impact in as few words as possible. 

#6: Keep It Classy 

All caps? Double exclamation points? Exclamation points and question marks…at the end of an all-cap sentence?

All of these tactics might as well be a big banner saying, “Don’t open me!” By now, most of us are skilled at glossing over the latest, daily batch of spammy emails. They feel aggressive and create a false sense of stress, a deadline that nobody needs.

The same goes for scare tactics like “Open Now! Only 50% off today!” While we admit that creating a sense of urgency can sometimes veer into spammy territory, it’s a fine line. 

So while letting people know that they have a limited time to buy something, you need to keep it classy. You can do this by avoiding aggressive language and punctuation, personalizing the email, or using humor to soften your words.

#7: Add Personalization with Relevant Content

Catering your emails to your individual prospects has never been easier. You have so many ways to find out about your subscriber’s jobs, preferences, and tastes. While you probably can’t do it all the time, it makes sense to occasionally personalize content to your individual customers. They’ll certainly appreciate it, and your value will go way up in their eyes.

Segmenting your email list will help you do just this. This involves separating your email list to account for differences between recipients. You wouldn’t want to send a deal for a barbeque to a vegetarian, right?

Whether you segment by buying habits, how long they’ve been subscribed to you, or what industry they work in, you’ll increase open rates, click-through rates, and conversions by sending targeted emails. 

Whether you segment or not, you should also address recipients by name, and using programs like Mailchimp’s Merge Tags really helps with the process. This simple gesture goes a long way in creating trust.

#8: Keep It Short

Most people compulsively pick up their phones, whether in line at the grocery store or waiting for an appointment. So it makes sense that a huge percentage of emails are opened via mobile. To have an impact on those people, keep your email subject line character limit to under 40 characters or between five to seven words. 

This doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice impact. In fact, concise language often works best. Don’t waste valuable real estate with filler words.

Let’s take a look at a few of our previous examples. Notice that none of them are over seven words, and they all have an impact.

  • Dine on world-class cuisine
  • Sleep more deeply than you ever have
  • Attract your dream partner
  • How’s your writing going?
  • Looking for the perfect father’s day gift?
  • Are you speaking your truth?

Limiting your words also helps honor people’s very limited time and attention. 

#9: Try Numbers and Statistics

Hard data and facts are compelling, objective, and reliable. A statistic, percentage, or number will show that you’re not all fluff. Use them to make a point in an indirect way. 

Show: Don’t tell.

Instead of saying, “You need video in your marketing strategy,” “Why you need a home security system,” or, “Kids love our fruit snacks,” say things like:

  • Video increases conversions by 73%
  • Crime is up 35% in Los Angeles
  • 2 out of 3 moms prefer us

Of course, you’ll want to include these types of emails as a part of a larger strategy. Always work emails with more of a sales angle into the broader context of a content marketing strategy. This ensures your customers see you as a trusted authority, and not just a sales machine.

#10: Focus on Trends

Much like exclusivity, most people want to feel like they know about trends. 

This goes for any industry. In the wellness world, sound healing, the mind-body connection, and emotional boundary work are all very trendy. In fashion, it’s cottage core, eco-friendly materials, and athleisure. Folks in the business world probably notice that being an entrepreneur or creating a career that speaks to work-life balance are trends (and we hope they stick around).

Try statements like:

  • The 5 hottest looks for summer
  • Why everyone is talking about boundaries
  • Create the lifestyle you deserve

Evoke your reader’s curiosity by speaking to trends and get them hooked on being in the know.

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