Diagnosing Sickly Subject Lines: Are You Turning Away Viewers Before They Even Open Your Message?

by Victor Green
3 mins read

Looking over the subject lines of some promotional emails can be downright painful. Sloppy wording, clunky phrasing and a general theme that does little to inspire can turn your customers off before they even get to the actual content of your email. If this hits a little too close to home with what you’re sending to your members, don’t worry. The doctor is in and with the right medicine – a revamped subject line that knocks your readers off their feet – you can get your emails back to good health and connecting with customers in no time.

Don’t Write a Book

One of the biggest mistakes that brands make when they first draft a promotional email is to abuse the length of the subject line. While it might seem like a great idea to jam everything in there and give your viewers all of the info all at once, nobody wants to read something that’s closer to a novel than an actual subject line when checking their email in the morning. Don’t believe this? Remember that Barack Obama built an email campaign that raised hundreds of millions of dollars with a subject line that said “Hey.” You don’t have to be Mark Twain to make an impact on your customers, so keep it simple and brief and you’ll have a much better shot at having them open the message instead of sending it directly to the virtual trash can.

Get on a First Name Basis

Once you’ve trimmed down the bulk of the subject line, there is one thing you might want to consider slipping into the text. When it comes to striking a note with viewers, a little personalization goes a long way. In the place of a generic line that applies to everyone, sneak in a little name dropping to help boost open rates on your next wave of emails. If you do go this route, don’t go overboard with personalization in the body of the email – it comes off as really creepy to read your name 20 times in a single message. Naturally, you’ll need to get these names either from opt-in information or prior web purchases, but once you’ve added this “contact info” to your database, you can send out emails that make you sound more like an old friend from high school and less like a company looking to pitch a product.

Clichés and Demands Are Not a Good Idea

It never fails that somebody thinks putting “LAST CHANCE” in all caps in the subject line is a great idea. These kinds of tactics, like the always popular “legit” or “one-time deal” headers, do send a very loud and clear message to your viewers – that your email is spam and it doesn’t offer anything worthwhile. If you run some shady Internet operation, then go right ahead and keep on using these types of subject lines. For the rest of you, tone it down a little bit and write a subject line that doesn’t go over the top and turn your readers off. Let it flow into your content naturally by simply stating what the email is all about. Having a fun or catchy line in there doesn’t hurt either, but always err on the side of caution if your title feels demanding or spammy.

Key in on the Right Words

Perhaps the biggest way you can fix up a sickly subject line is by dropping in a few keywords that pique the interest of your targeted audience. While this might sound like it’s in the same ball park as the previous section’s examples, the words we have in mind are on the opposite end of the spectrum. In the place of the standard “special offer,” try using “free” or “freebie.” Forbes found the latter to be especially potent with consumers, leading to high open and redemption rates.Similarly, if you’re a non-profit or looking to do a little fundraising, there’s no harm in putting the name of your cause in the subject line. Just avoid adding in “please donate” or anything else that translates into, “We want your money.”  While that is still the main point of the message, switching in words like “support” and “charity” go a long way to sealing a donation without turning off those who don’t respond well to directly asking for their money. The main point, regardless of what industry you’re in, is that people respond differently to certain words, so once you’ve hammered out all the other points we’ve talked about in this post, don’t leave any landmines in your subject line that could unintentionally sabotage your message before the customer even opens it.

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