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Craft Email Subject Lines That Get Opened

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By Noelle Abarelli

Whether you spent days, hours or just a few minutes crafting your latest email campaign, we encourage you to pause before you hit send. For your campaign to be successful your email needs to be read, and before it can be read, it needs to get opened! And, the fact is: the decision whether to open or delete an email often hinges on a good subject line.

The subject line of your email is your single chance to convince readers to open your message. So before you hit send, take a good look at that subject line and be sure it is:

1) Concise. While there doesn’t appear to be a one-size-fits all rule for the length of a subject line, the general consensus is that short and sweet works best.  Many experts advise that an email subject line should be less than a total of 50 characters, as most email clients can display 50 characters or less.

Research from e-mail monitoring company Return Path showed that subject lines with 49 or fewer characters had open rates 12.5 percent higher than those with 50 or more characters. The study also found that click-through rates for subject lines with 49 or fewer characters were 75 percent higher than for those with 50 or more characters.  In a study we conducted here at Yesware, we actually found that the ideal subject line contains just 3 words!  

2) Precise. Will your prospect be able to quickly identify what your email is about? While it may be tempting to ‘arouse curiosity’ by being a bit ambiguous in your headline, we encourage you not to do so. Time Magazine reports that spam comprises the vast majority of e-mail messages sent. According to one estimate, 78% of the 210 billion e-mails sent each day are spam e-mails. With so much junk e-mail floating around, most anything that hints of spam will get deleted immediately.  Your subject line should describe what your email is about – plain and simple.

3) Action-oriented. A good subject line leads to action. The copywriting trainers at American Writers & Artists, Inc. (AWAI) teach a 4 Us approach to writing a headline that proves helpful with creating action-oriented subject lines.

  • Be useful to the reader
  • Provide a sense of urgency
  • Convey the idea that the main benefit is somehow unique
  • Do all of the above in an ultra-specific way

Keep in mind that you’re writing to a person. Try to connect in a meaningful way, whether you’re writing dozens of emails, hundreds of them or thousands of them, mastering the art of personalizing your messages–and subject lines–will ensure more higher click-through rates.

In my experience, the most effective campaigns involve both a strong list and an effective subject line. For example, before a recent tradeshow a client of ours received a list of pre-registered attendees and sent them and email with the following subject line:

Experience a game-changing CRM

In the email they explained a bit about their company and their product and invited the attendees to stop by their booth to test-drive their solution.  They also mentioned an Xbox giveaway to create more synergy between the subject line and the email content.  Booth traffic was heavy, and many attendees mentioned they were at the booth because they had received the email.  Notice, there is nothing too flashy about this campaign. It was simply clear and concise and therefore effective.

For more helpful email templates like handling objections, prospecting in emails and email templates to stay in touch, click on the topic you need.

And finally, always write the content of your email before crafting the subject line – this is the only way to create a subject line that truly embodies the spirit of your message. And, when in doubt, experiment with your subject lines! Create two small test groups from your greater list. Send an email with one subject line to one group and another to the other. Use the subject line that performed best in the test for your greater campaign.    

Noelle Abarelli founded Soleado Marketing in 2003 to provide B2B technology providers with access to highly skilled marketing expertise. Noelle’s expertise centers on marketing that drives sales and generates revenue. Prior to founding Soleado, Noelle was the International Marketing Director at Manhattan Associates (NASDAQ: MANH).