First impressions count: tips for writing email subject lines that work

First impressions count: tips for writing email subject lines that work

As covered in my last blog, email isn’t just alive, it’s booming. Electronic Direct Mail (EDM) remains a major pillar of digital communication for brands and organisations across the globe. As such, it’s a crowded space. Most people have at some point been overwhelmed by the tsunami of emails that greet them at the start of the day.

You can have the perfect email, a tour de force of visual design and targeted messaging, but it’s worthless if people don’t open it. A handful of words is the difference between being seen and going unnoticed. For this reason, email subject lines are absolutely vital to your success using EDM. If your subject line is an afterthought at the end of your process instead of a key element during your design phase, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

With that in mind, here a few handy tips that can turn your email subject line copy from forgettable to featured.

Start with the important words

When you’re in a crowded inbox, it’s important that you’re up front about what’s inside the email. People will scan through the lines to find the things that stand out, so it’s vital that you don’t bury the lede. Frontloading the important actionable words in your subject line can increase open rates significantly.

This also is a good time to bring up the importance of brevity. Keep it short and on point with your subject lines. Trying to pull off a complex sentence in a sea of unrelated emails is just not an effective strategy – as a rule of thumb the shorter your subject line, the better chance it has of delivering the message. Which leads to our next point.

Preview sentences are your wingman

Most email platforms will prompt you to include a preview line at the top of the email, which is inconspicuous once the email is open. This is because once you’ve opened the email, the preview line has done its job.

Preview sentences offer you the chance to almost craft a second subject line that can work in tandem with the first, adding context or introducing another simple key point without diluting the strength of the subject line. Don’t forget about these either; during testing you should be looking at how these preview lines display with the subject line and how much room you have to add additional info while still in the inbox. 

Numbers don’t lie

Humans love numbers. Science has shown that we’re predisposed towards lists, because they simplify complex subjects into smaller digestible pieces. If you’ve seen how popular Buzzfeed style listicles have become on social media, you’ll already be aware that people click on those items. So when you’re surrounded by a wall of characters, incorporating numbers into your subject line helps you stand out and capture people’s attention.

There’s also been a trend recently with using emoji in subject lines. While you’ll have to decide whether that’s right for your organisation’s tone and image, if you do use emoji it’s important to test how they appear across different platforms and devices. The different ‘dialects’ of emoji can result in some unintended messages being given if you’re not careful.

Get personal

Personalisation is one of the key value points of digital communication and email is no exception. Addressing your mailing list by their names or using pronouns like “you” and “your” give your subject lines a personal touch. Research shows that personalisation can increase open lines by as much as 29 per cent, but a recent survey by Experian showed that 70 per cent of brands are not personalising their emails to subscribers. It’s a simple and effective way to cut through and stand out in the crowd, and it creates a perception of a message sent specially to the viewer rather than a mass marketed message that everyone sees.

With a little more forethought into how your emails make their first impression, you can dramatically increase your open rate and ensure that your message is being read by your audience. A little effort at the start goes a long way with email! 

For further digital & social media advice, please contact Campaign Capital.

Campaign Capital affects change through quality public relations services. We support strategic communication with the community, government and media.

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