How To Write Effective Subject Lines For Email Marketing

mail boxes built into wall with papers

You write hundreds of emails per day, you receive hundreds of emails per day. As a small business owner, how do you define what’s relevant and what goes straight into the spam folder at the speed of light?
The subject line. Subject lines for email marketing are fundamental to the success of your business.

As your inbox quickly fills up, finding the time throughout the day to read emails is like trying to find the holy grail. So, you become selective about which emails you actually open. Not surprisingly, this is the story of everyone’s life.

The subject line is the shiny outfit making an email stand out in a row of boring emails.

We’ve touched briefly on the basis of successful email marketing and how you should be addressing email (pun intended) as a marketing tool. Now, let’s talk more specifically about the do’s and don’ts of subject lines and how they can be make or break for a new business proposition, a new project or an email pitch.

Let’s delve into the best practices of subject lines and start actually answering questions.

So, why the need for a catchy, attention-catching email subject line?

Statistics speak for themselves, 47% is a very high quantity of people that you might be missing out because of a poorly worded subject line. Optimize your chances of being seen and opened by simply using your creativity.

Statistics speak for themselves, don’t miss out on almost half of your subscribers because of a poorly worded subject line.

How can you write email subject lines that are effective, clickable increase open rates and generate conversions?

How can you condense what you’ve written into a short 65 character (on average) space they call “Subject”?

But mostly, how do you convey and seed excitement every time an email pops up with the name of your business?

Optimise your chances of being seen and opened by simply using your creativity. Witty subject lines are always revered but don’t forget the subject line needs to correlate to the content of the email. Look to these key points when brainstorming:

Impact Your Readers From The Get-Go.

By inserting a good-quality subject line you’re mid-trajectory to convert and impact your recipients. After your readers open the email, the most difficult part is done.
From there, converting a reader into a client/customer (as long as the content fits their preferences) should be easier. Think of a subject line as the perfect billboard, to not only advertise your email but also to tease your audience a little with a sneak peek.

Connect With Your Audience On A Personal Level.

By writing a good subject line, your already existing audience is going to connect with you on a much more personal level. The reason for this, is because an email it’s pretty much a 21st-century version of a letter and who doesn’t love to get a letter specially written for them? Attracting new users and connecting with your already existing users, it’s a win-win situation. Make use of MERGE tags to personalise subject lines, email greetings, and calls to action. Word of caution, if you do decide to use MERGE tags as a method of personalisation, ensure your database is correct. Barry only like to be called Julie on a weekend.

Publicise / Advert Promotions, Sales Or Events You’re Creating.

The subject line is actually a pretty good place to publish a promotion, a sales or an event your business is hosting. It’s an “I help you, you help me” sort of situation. You read this email, therefore, you’ll get this perk. Just check this example below of Forty8Creates client newsletter: The subject line says “ April Newsletter: Spring Cleaning + Free Coffee from Holy Shot”. The “Free Coffee from Holy Shot” works as an incentive to open and read the email. Just be careful to not come across as too “salezy”. Previous customers are easier to convert than cold prospects, so make sure you are using this database too!


So What To Do / What Works:

Friendly Tone of Voice

Depending on the subject of course, it is best practice to keep it friendly, conversational and quirky. (But not too much!) Keep it light and breezy so your ideas come across effectively, clear and transparent. There’s also a benefit in keeping it light and friendly which is your main point and argument of the email come across as the point of focus rather than if your write too formerly which takes away the spotlight from the topic in question.

What’s in it for me?

Show how readers can benefit from reading the email: appeal to their self-interest. Utilising the email subject line with a “how” or “why” question incentivizes and encourages the reader to learn more about the answers. Make sure your subject line has language that communicates clearly the idea that your readers could benefit from reading this particular email. Phrases such as “simply transform”, “easy steps” or “one skill needed” add to the idea of simpleness and easiness which results in the idea of a beneficial-mutual-relationship from the get-go, without any extra effort from their side.

Keep it Short and Sweet

Don’t forget that people need to be able to read the email subject line so make sure you keep it short and readable, we haven’t got time to read everything that finds its way into our inbox. If you can’t read it in your subject line, quickly and understand the context then you probably shouldn’t use it.

Question it all

Questions tend to do well in subject lines. As a reader, when you read a question you can’t help it but answer it in your own head. Play around with that concept and see how that works for your audience. Try to think of a question that couldn’t have a negative reply, something like: “Do you want ice cream?” Or “Do you know the muffin man?”.

Oh, stop it! – Make people feel special.

Flattery will get you everywhere. Compliment people and make them feel special because it builds on the idea of exclusivity. This will get them to read your email. It helps if you do some research as well. Notice that is a person just finished writing a new blog post? Add in at the subject line “ + BTW Loved the new blog on your website.” and see the results come through.

Emojis Accepted

There are different approaches to the use of emojis in the email subject line, but here at Forty8Creates, we believe emojis should be accepted and encouraged. Emojis convey emotions and stand out from the email inbox so why not use them? Not only that, they can be used to shorten the sentences and add some personality to the email – ideal to convert readers and make them feel closer to your brand.



Joke around

No one ever died for adding a cheeky joke to the subject line. On the contrary my friend, jokes make any situation 100x better and could get you that extra click that turns into a conversion So go ahead and make like an open mic night at the Comedy Store.

P.S. If you’re not naturally funny maybe avoid this one.

Sense of Urgency

It’s a good technique to write with a sense of urgency as if the email would expire in three seconds. It feeds into the idea of exclusivity and elitism. Something like: “Final countdown for the release of new product” or “ Readers get a meal for less – today only!”.

Like many of these examples what works for you may not work for everyone. You should test your subject lines and see how your audience reacts to it, from there you’ll know what kind of email subject lines to implement.

What Not To Do:

Come Across Too Whiny

No one wants to be the cry-baby in the office, much less the cry-baby in the industry.
Subject lines that sound like the apocalypse is coming are no fun to read in the morning and are a great addition to the bin folder.

Too Sale-zy

Avoid spam for the love of God.
Starting a subject line with “Buy this £450 mattress!” might not be the best tactic to attract new customers. Many email clients are very clever as well, removing any email before it reaches the inbox if they contain so-called “stop words”. Here’s a blog by Hutspot in which they list most of the stop words you should avoid into the subject lines.

Overly exclamation

Exemplification: !!!!!!!!! You can’t miss this!!!!!!
While exclamation can be used to express your enthusiasm, avoid doing this especially if you don’t know if the enthusiasm is being shared by the receiver of the email. Applicable to questions marks as well.

Avoid Clickbait That’s Not Necessarily Truth

That’s called lying, and what did Mumma teach us about that? If you’re saying in the subject line that you have an amazing deal and then your deal turns out that you have to make a human sacrifice to get 5% off then the subject line should differ (Disclaimer, we do not recommend encouraging people to make human sacrifices in order to get money off). Not only would you be putting off loyal, regular readers, your audience might not appreciate the dramatic clickbait.

Here we are, the dos and don’ts of email subject lines. Hopefully, this will help slay those email headlines and get yourself a new business proposition, a new project or a new pitch.

Like many of these examples what works for you may not work for everyone. You should test your subject lines and see how your audience reacts to it, from there you’ll know what kind of email subject lines to implement.

Now go out there and start drafting.

Categorised in:

Penny for our thoughts

Personalising your content: Try Podcasting!

Read more

How To Start A Business with No Money

Read more

Communicating To A Millennial Target Audience

Read more

Targeting and Understanding the Millennials

Read more

Did We Forget An Entire Audience? The Zillennials

Read more

What We Need From Clients Before Commencing a Website Design

Read more

Everything You Need To Know About TikTok

Read more

How to Use Email Automation [Guest Post] – Elisa Abbott

Read more