The Secrets to the Perfect Email Subject Line

Persons hands on laptop keyboard, preparing to type a subject line

You’ve created your killer content, and it’s ready to send out to your segmented audience, but there’s one thing missing – the subject line. The thing is, this is perhaps one of the most important pieces in your overall email marketing jigsaw puzzle because it’s ultimately what the recipient sees first.

And when you look at statistics that show a user’s decision to open an email is based 50% on the brand and 50% on the subject line, you’ve got to put in the thought it deserves. So, what’s its purpose? To grab your attention, build suspense, and pretty much tell you you’d be missing out if you didn’t click through to the content.

Your subject line should be designed to get your recipient wanting to find out more, but it can be hard to know where to start. Well, like you, we’ve read a thousand articles on the best subject lines for B2B and B2C marketers to tap into, and each have their own place.

However, for the purpose of this blog, we’ll let you into the secret of the framework we use for our own email distribution. Firstly, start by:

  • Focusing on your audience and link to their persona

  • Make your copy short and snappy – we recommend no more than 50 characters per subject line.

  • Capitalise every separate word to draw the reader’s attention and be accessible

  • Personalise and segment – ensuring you match the message with a consumer and/or company name or the segment.

Quick tip…

Not all subject lines have to make sense. Yes, you read that right. Before you wonder why we’ve said that, let’s stress that we don’t mean they should be factually incorrect, what we’re saying is that you don’t have to use complete sentences. Don’t believe us? Have another look at the sub-header in this very blog…

Abbreviations – WDYT (What do you think)?

DYK, sorry, we mean… Did you know, using acronyms and abbreviations depends entirely on you – and your audience. We’ve found that a lot of B2C brands love to use them because it not only catches their reader’s attention, but this use of language also plays into their organisation’s tone of voice.

If this sounds like your business would benefit from this way of writing – and saving character space with mobile-friendly subject lines – think about using ‘FYI’ instead of a lengthy ‘for your information’ or ‘LMK’ for ‘let me know’. There are tonnes to think about from ‘BTW’ (by the way) to ‘ICYMI’ (in case you missed it), but don’t assume everyone understands them.

Are emojis 👍 or 👎 for your brand?

This is an interesting one for us because we tend to steer away from these in the main – purely because of accessibility for readers. Look through your Twitter feed and, although social media is rife for emojis, people with screen readers or who need audio aids will have a rough time trying to understand what you’re saying.

Again, this comes down to the type of brand you’re representing, but try to think about inclusivity and how you can add value to your customer or prospect.

6 is the magic number

Savvy marketers will know that it takes six touchpoints before an individual is truly engaged in your messaging. That’s a lot of effort, isn’t it? But it’s so worth it when a recipient converts. That’s why your subject lines have to be spot on. Let’s put this into context…

Imagine you’re a recruiter and you’re trying to generate interest in the roles you have available but also promote you as a professional to work with. Try our ‘rule of six’ for your emails here which could be:

Direct and straight to the point

This only needs a small amount of words because it’s designed to do the legwork for the candidate themselves. For example:

Marketing Automation Specialist: Leeds

If this matches your skillset, this would interest you, right?

Next is the verb formula

Again, you’re helping out your customer so you’re providing added value. Here, this subject line should describe what the recipient can expect when they open your email, such as:

Read Our Free Guide On Recruiting In a Pandemic

Hopefully this gets people to tune into your messaging and enjoy the fact that you’re giving away advice at no cost to them.

Evidence your expertise with social proof

You should be hooking in your reader with a strong statistic or compelling fact that you can clearly show has worked for you, and therefore why you should be trusted. For example:

70% ROI Increase In 3 Days

As someone receiving this email, I’d want to know how you did this – wouldn’t you?

Now it’s time for your killer question

This is designed to stir up emotions and thoughts in the audience that invoke a reaction. Be careful here as it can be a risky strategy if you don’t get this right and it instead turns off your recipients. Keep it simple, like:

Is Office Working Dead?

Crank it up now with some ‘urgency’

Can you now turn the dial a little and start driving your engaged audience to you as a recruiter – whether your services, availability, clients or candidates? We think that this type of subject line is one of the most powerful in your entire sequence. If you’re struggling to come up with something here, how about:

2 Recruits You Can’t Afford To Miss

And finally, surprise!

You’ll see our subject lines are getting bolder in their tone as we move along the journey, and the final part of the sequence is no exception.

Here’s the bit where you want to provide a little ‘shock’ to your recipient – but not too much that sees them completely tune out or lead to brand reputational damage. Something such as the below works well:

Urgent: Marketing Automation Specialist Needs A New Home

Tap into the powers of hyper-personalisation

You’ll soon see a recipient unsubscribe or send your email straight to the delete folder before it’s been opened if they get a whiff of your campaign being a generic, irrelevant ‘batch and blast’ send.

The whole point of engagement is to understand and react to what the other person is telling you – you want to get to know them on a deeper level, so they trust and lean on your messaging.

Before we suggest some example subject lines, it’s important to stress that you need the data to be able to get this stage on-point (marketing automation is your ally here!)

So, back to some subject line examples. If you know this style of language works for your audience, opt for:

  • [first name], [company name], Was Mentioned To Me Today
  • [company name] Has Been The Topic Of A Number Of Chats
  • [first name], Some Strong Advice For [company name]

These hopefully deliver a bit of intrigue and show you know who you’re speaking to, and why it’s relevant.

Get these stages right, using your own tone of voice and brand language, and you should start to see some differences in your conversion rate. Good luck!

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