Imagine having to distill your entire marketing pitch not into an email message but all the way down to just a few dozen characters. Next to impossible? Yet you do it all the time. The Subject line is the ultimate condensation of your entire approach and it is a factor of such critical importance that the way it is composed can make a considerable difference to your response rates.

Turn Your Customer On, Not Off

Personalization is extremely important in email marketing yet the one place you want to avoid that is the Subject line. Quickly scan through your inbox and see how many times messages from people you know personally have used your name in the Subject line. Almost never. Therefore whenever a customer receives an email with their first name (or even worse first and last name) it absolutely smells of mail merge.

There are few phrases more boring in a Subject line than: February 2010 Newsletter. After all, the date stamp will tell the user when the email arrived, and you should be able to come up with a more descriptive and interesting title than Newsletter. Change up your Subject lines to reflect the content of your message for variety and relevance.

It is nearly impossible to test too much in email marketing. If you are blessed with a substantial list, then you should constantly be trying different Subject line approaches on various segments of your list and poring over the result statistics to identify the variants that worked the best. When you think you’ve tested enough, test some more!

Place Yourself In The Customer’s Position

People are busy and they do not sit idly by their computers just waiting for your next email to arrive. Therefore it is imperative to demonstrate in the Subject line what the benefit is to them. If there is a clear and unambiguous advantage to them to open up and read your email right now, they almost always will.

Controversy galvanizes and hinting at a hot button topic or making a risky statement in a Subject line can definitely attract attention. You can also go too far with this approach and antagonize or offend your customer so sensitivity is the key.

Most email clients top out at around fifty characters that they can easily display, so typing your entire inventory list into the Subject line just screams of desperation. Keep the Subject lines short for the best readability and save the descriptive verbiage for the body.

Keeping It Real

Naturally what you say is as important as how briefly you say it. Although a call to action is imperative, it’s important to find the right balance between triggering a response and alienating your customer. Blatant sell words like buy spell S-P-A-M, so try to use verbs which ask the customer to act for their benefit such as:

  • enhance
  • focus
  • upgrade
  • refine
  • discover
  • realize

Not only will your customer respond better, but you’ll also bypass the various ISPs’ spam filters which will catch words like free, sale, guaranteed, etc.

ALL CAPS IS NOT FOR SUBJECT LINES, nor are ellipses … or multiple exclamation marks!!! If you’re using this for Valentine’s Day »-(¯`v´¯)-» or this to indicate a face ‹(•¿•)› or this as a spacer -:¦:-•:*'””*:•.-:¦:- you might as well not even send the email.

Your Electronic Business Card

The Subject line is your email’s electronic business card, store front, and identity all wrapped up into a handful of characters. Concentrate on writing the best Subject lines you can possibly manage and you will reap the benefits in increased response rates.