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The Subject Line

The Complete Guide to Email Marketing

We can't stress how important this is. This is the line that your customer reads in his or her inbox and they'll base their decision to open the email based on it. First impressions count. They're why people dress up to go outside, why some birds have elaborate feathers and why the front door of a public building is usually more impressive than the back door.

Be Interesting
If you remember only one thing, let it be this. Times, trends, rules and people all change. So what works one year might be spam the next. But if you write your headlines so that they are interesting in context with what else your client receives, you're halfway home. You want your headline to be the one that stands out and demands to be opened.
Know Your Limits - 55 Characters or Less
You could write a longer subject line, but some email clients, like Yahoo, cut off your subject line after 55 letters or spaces. If you go over this limit, you risk an incomplete thought. Imagine the confusion you'd have if you wanted to send out a Father's Day themed newsletter and your subject line gets truncated as in "The Third Sunday in June is a Day When We Honor Those Who Are Fat…"
Ask a Question
People love to ask and answer questions. It's how we learn about the world. Just don't be insulting, boring or cliché – ask something that most people think about:
   - Looking for halloween ideas? Here's a new twist.
   - What's the best pizza in town?
   - Need new shoes? We've got new styles.
Name Drop Some Brands
People love brands because they've proven their worth to them as consumers. They'll open your emails because they use the product:
   - Tide On Sale Now!
   - Starbuck's Gift Card Giveaway
   - New Styles from Guess Jeans

If you segment your list by past purchases or brand preference polls, you can even target those customers that expressed interest in those brands while creating different subject lines for your other segments.
   - We have plenty of Pepsi in stock
   - Coca-Cola lovers rejoice
Name Drop Celebrities or Anything
Enquiring minds want to know. If you can piggy-back your promotion on something or someone famous, you might just get more opens. You must be truthful, though, being careful not to claim a false endorsement. Don't claim Brad Pitt is at your store or using your product when he isn't. But if you can tie in a mention of a hot TV series in a casual way, you might have something:
   - What We'd Wear If We Were on American Idol…
   - You Won't See These Homes on Flip That House!
Use Top Lists
People like lists. They're quick access to information and not a wall of text. Cater to their short attention spans and need-to-know curiosity:

  - Top 10 Sellers for June
  - Five ways to save money in Hawaii
  - The A to Z of Financial Management
Avoid Spammy Headlines
You know what they are because you get email yourself. Do you open any message that says "Buy Now" or "Don't Miss Out"? Instead, use words that mean something to your audience without coming across as pushy. People are savvy and tired of being hustled and hassled. Respect that and just give them the facts they care about.
So Put the Pertinent Infomation Up Front
Remember that the people on your list are already expecting great things from you because they signed up with you. Dispense with the pleasantries and give them a reason to open up your email marketing: a deal or announcement on what they care about:

  - Four homes on Oak St. for under $300,000
  - 20% off all major brands pet food this weekend
  - An interview with Polynesian coffee makers
  - Twelve new health plans for the self employed
And Get Emotional
It's okay to be a little personal. It helps people to connect with the product and to your business.

We love these new Clark & Henley scented candles...

Again, consider your audience – "We love the new RAM chips" for a computer store might not fly as well. But don't forget that trust is emotional, too – "Finally, RAM we can depend on" works.
What's the Benefit?
If you can illustrate to a potential reader that they have something to gain by opening the email, you've already halfway sold them. Here are some good words to use:

Upgrade, Discover, Accomplish, Relax, Find

Don't Use Trigger Words
Spam filters are ruthless because they have to be. There is so much junk email, and they're charged with eliminating it before it ever gets to the reader. Certain words are denoted by these filters as likely to contain junk email. While there are many spam filter trigger words, here are a few to avoid:
  - Afford
  - Opportunity
  - Save
  - Free (especially in combination with certain words)
  - Earn Money
  - Eliminate Debt

Using these won't automatically put your message in the trash, but there is a scoring system in play. If you have a good reputation, you're in better graces, but don't forget that the readers themselves have probably developed a natural aversion to those types of words. If you're still not sure, your email marketing service should have and easy to use Spam Checker right in your email creation dashboard.
Use a Thesaurus
If you have a Mac, you have one on your dashboard. You can also visit Thesaurus.com or use a good old-fashioned book version. The point is that there are many ways to say the same thing. Here are synonyms for free:
  - Complimentary
  - On the House
  - Gratis
  - No Charge
Finally, Don't Use ALL CAPS
Because that's a quick ticket to the Spam box.