Do you open every email you receive? Of course you don’t.

You prioritize those you open and you ignore or delete many of the others. Why do you chose to open one email while deleting another? Here are a few email subject line best practices to consider.

The two most important factors that determine whether someone will open an email are:

  1. Is the sender of the email known to me?
  2. Does the subject line inform me that there is something of interest in the email?

People scan their inboxes just as they scan anything else online. They start by seeing who an email is from and then scan the subject line to determine if there is something in the email that will compel them to open to learn more.

The Sender

You’ll want to consider that dynamic when crafting your email subject lines in order to prompt recipients to dig in and read your message.

  • If you are sending an email personally, does your recipient know you?
  • If you are sending as an organization, are your recipients familiar with your brand?

If you answered yes, then you’ve successfully jumped the first hurdle.

The Subject Line

What’s in it for your recipients?

What is compelling or valuable enough about your email to your recipients that will prompt them to open it? The only purpose of the subject line is to motivate your recipients to open.

It’s a teaser. Don’t waste it by, for example, using it to brand your newsletter and tell subscribers what issue number it is. Your subscribers know the email is a newsletter because they subscribed to receive it. They don’t need to know the issue number. What they need to know is what’s inside!

Key Messages

There are instances where it will be more important to ensure your key messages have been seen than to necessarily get people to open your email.

While you should think about weaving your primary key message into your subject lines, when responding to a crisis or using email for change communications, you’ll want to lead with your key messages.

The importance of leading with your key message in the subject line becomes even more clear when you consider that even those people who did not open the email will have seen your key message simply by virtue of scanning their inbox.

Avoid language that contradicts your key message in favor of language that supports it.

For example, an apartment complex undergoing renovations are going to at best inconvenience residents and at worst anger them with the disruption to their lives. Email updates about the renovations should:

  • Not call it a “construction update”
  • But frame it as a “progress update” instead.

For those who open your email, start the body of your email with key messaging. Think about using a a call-out number or statistic to grab the attention of the reader followed by a brief blurb that explains or adds context to that figure by way of illustrating or supporting your key message.

Put bad news in a positive frame.

Continuing with the idea of construction, rather than talking solely about interruptions, frame that disruption with messages about progress to date and highlight the benefits and vision of the future when the renovation is complete.

Consider bolding key messages to harness scanning behavior and include future-focused imagery that reinforces the positive vision of the future rather than reinforcing the disruption and inconvenience of the present.

Need help with your email marketing program? Let’s talk.

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