5 Steps to Creating a Compelling Subject Line

by Karolina Kurcwald

We asked our Facebook fans what makes them want to open an email and the two most common answers were a trusted sender and a catchy subject line. While building trust requires continuous effort over time, writing can be improved much quicker. Since I’ve been planning posts on writing good email copy, why not start with subject lines to increase those open rates?!

Some of the key words fans used to describe a good subject line were “intriguing”, “promising”, “personal” and “relevant”. Here are a few tips that could help you create compelling subject lines every time.

1. Relevancy

Don’t you just hate it when you receive offers that have absolutely nothing to do with your interests? Or you can’t take advantage of them because you live on the other side of the country? Or even worse, emails that clearly show the marketers didn’t bother to check whether you’re a man or a woman?

I’m sure you do, or at least you just send them straight to the junk folder. Now hold that thought.

What can you, as an email marketer, do to avoid this fate? Be relevant!

Let’s review the basics, along with some targeting tips that might help.

  • The best way to get to know your target customers is to gather user data via surveys and web forms and build profiles. Capture whatever data is relevant to the purchasing process, starting with demographics and location, then honing in on personal taste and preferences.
  • Prioritize your key selling points or “whys”.  Say, top 4 or 5.
  • When you know who likes what (and why!) then you can segment your list and create very specific subject lines and offers, starting with the most powerful buying incentives… or “whys”.

It’s actually kind of fun, once you get used to the process. Think eHarmony and you’ll know what we’re shooting for (just not 28 pages).

2. Personalization

An email that looks like it’s sent to you is much more likely to succeed – after all, what could be more interesting than your own name? Of course, spammers can get your name too, so don’t stop there.

What else can you do?

It’s easy to sharpen your “profiling” skills, thanks to GetResponse Personalization, Segmentation and advanced Dynamic Content features. But let’s start with the basics. Simply use the [[firstname]] function in your subject when creating your campaign.

But of course, the first name is never enough. You need to follow up with 1-2 of the top “selling points” gathered via #1, and there you have it – a relevant subject line! Now crafting the words is still up to you, but our advice is to keep it simple and strong.

And remember to continue the personalization throughout the email. Otherwise, you’ll do worse than if you never used first names at all!

Need some numbers to convince you? Check out these stats.

3. Spam words

Or actually – NO spam words.  This is pretty clear – even if you include the name of the recipient, their location and interests, all can be ruined by one word that will automatically direct the message to the junk folder. All that relevance gone to waste! Not to mention sales.

What can you do? Avoid spam words. 🙂  Have a spam-list handy if you’re not sure – you might be surprised which words are considered spam nowadays that weren’t last year! Check out our post for some guidance.

4. That special something

Now, this is the tricky one, because it refers to a quality that can’t easily be captured or measured. One thing’s for sure – if your subject line looks like dozens of others, or if it’s just plain boring, it will never catch the recipient’s eye. What will encourage them to open an email is a “promise” of value… something good, along with a sense of urgency.

In other words, you have to arouse the recipient’s curiosity and make them think “Wow, if I don’t open that email, I’ll miss something really cool!”

Role play again. What would get you excited? 🙂

What can you do?

Be creative! Great copy is your best friend in this case, so don’t ignore it. Write something that will stand out in the inbox and shout to be opened (in lowercase preferably!).

This isn’t easy, but if you don’t have a particular flair for language, try something that worked on you. Or, if possible, let a specialist do it for you. Believe you me, it’ll be worth it!

Just remember to use the “priority” buying points and always put the most important information first. You could also try adding a sense of exclusivity.

Another tried and true tip. Ads with questions always get higher response rates. So why not subject lines! You could use a question + modified call to action (“Love high heels? You’ll want these!”)

Just make it concise – as much meaning in as few words as possible. Make sure these words are, you know, juicy (or meaty, if you prefer) and will get your message across. If you’re not sure, try this writer’s trick: say them out loud and gauge your response. Works like magic. 🙂

Tough job, huh? A little complicated at times. But you’ll be surprised how much fun it can be at the same time. Not to mention profitable.

Keep in mind, your subject lines can’t be deceptive. You need to always deliver on the promises you’re making!

5. Test!

Thank goodness for split tests. If you’re still not sure if your subject line is compelling enough, or if you maybe went just a little too far, pick your top 2 or 3 and test them to see which is most effective.

What can you do?

Use different approaches when you test. If they’re too similar, you may be asking the split test to be your editor and that just won’t work. Try something more informative, for example, along with something more dramatic or “punchy”.

Here are some examples to get you thinking:

“Remember That Trip You Were Dreaming About?”

“3 Easy Steps to a New, Better You, Delores.“

“Ann, We Have the Solution to Your Skin Problems!”

“Exclusive offer to our best customers ONLY. Please do not forward.”

Test up to 5 versions, then send the best to a larger audience. Or let GetResponse do it for you automatically.

Hope these tips help you write great subject lines that boost your open rates. Remember, it gets easier. Besides, once you see the results, you’ll become a subject line whiz in no time.

Now if you have any interesting examples of subject lines that worked, please share them in the comments. Thanks!

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