Email Marketing Tips For Beginners: The Magic Of The Subject Line


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In the past few years brands have been utilising fancy new techniques and capabilities of their email marketing campaigns, from images and GIFs, to embedded videos.

Truth is, a well-written, plain-text email campaign can perform just as well, if not better than all singing, all dancing email that looks like it took a graphic designer half a day to create.

The key here is the ‘well-written’ part of the email design. If your brand is avoiding this part and using your low-paid receptionist to write your email campaigns, your subscribers will stop opening and start deleting every email you send, until they can eventually be bothered to unsubscribe.

But how do you create a great marketing email?

It all boils down to the copywriting practices you put in place, most don’t bother, but the message body matters just as much as the subject line and they should aim to increase your email click-through rate, not just your open rate.

So next time you draft your marketing emails for a new campaign, or just a one-off email, take a quick look at our tips below to ensure you’re making the most of your message.

This particular article will focus on the subject line copywriting, keep on the lookout for a follow-up post to help you with copywriting tips for the body of your emails…

Writing The Perfect Subject Line

Nailing the subject line of any email will determine the open-rate and sets up the message of your email body. It is the first thing your prospects see; if it isn’t interesting enough to make them open your email, it will either be deleted or moved to the dreaded junk folder, marked for eternity.

There goes another high-value prospect. Great.

We could talk for days about the magic of a good subject line, maybe we will, but for now here’s a few tips to get you going…

Using Actionable Language –

There’s two ways we can go about this; strong verbs or encouraging wording.

With email subject lines, actionable language is what will make your prospects open the email in the first place. For brands promoting an event or sales promotion, using strong verbs can come in very handy when trying to make customers take immediate action from their message.

For example, using verbs like “buy”, “ask”, “download”, “reserve”, “take”, “grab” etc. will give the reader exact instructions of what they need to do before they even open the email.

Although this is a proven sales technique, there are other ways to use actionable language without relying on incorporating verbs and can even give you more room to play around with your wording.

Now, instead of telling your prospects what they MUST do, the key is to tell them what they CAN do with the content in the email (should they choose to open it, I’m sure they will). When using this method of subject line, ensure you keep your prospects value at the top of your priorities.

For example, words like “don’t miss”, “purchase”, “be quick”, “be first”, “don’t miss out” etc. will make it clear to to your prospects what they CAN do with the content in the email. We all want to be the first to get something, or hate to be the one to miss out, so these words in the subject line entice your prospects to open the email without a second thought.

Another option is to ask thought-provoking questions that make your prospects think about what’s inside the email and make them curious enough to open it.

Best practice here is to test out a few subject lines and see what work best for your prospects; you may find you need various subject lines for different demographics.


Keeping It Personal –

Consumers love seeing emails with their names in the subject lines, even if they know it’s probably a promotional email from their favourite brand (and the 10th one this week).

We all love to feel important and personalising your emails where possible is highly likely to increase your campaigns open and click-through rates.

According to a previous study by Direct Marketing Association, segmented and targeted emails generated 58% of all revenue for the marketers surveyed, with 36% of revenues were driven by emails sent to specific target selections; the first stat is probably much higher as we near 2019.

This is not surprising when you consider the more you segment your email list, the easier it is to personalise the subject line and provide valuable content to a particular recipient.

The key to sending out personalised emails is to ask yourself this:

How can I make my email subject line more personal? – Don’t just think “hey I’ll use the simple dynamic field [FIRSTNAME]”. As mentioned, consumers have become slightly numb to seeing their name in an email subject line so it’s time to get creative.

There’s plenty of segments you can break down your email list into in the same way you target your digital ads. What’s the point of sending a blanket email to all of your various segments?

Each subject line needs to speak to completely different segments of your email list, so spend some time segmenting your prospects before brainstorming subject line variations for each of your segments (aim for 3-5 variations per segment).

This should take less than an hour to get through.

Well, what are you waiting for?



Clarity Must Be Your Priority –

You’ve probably read countless posts talking about how “catchy” your email subject lines need to be. Although that’s true, you must prioritise clarity over catchiness when it comes to emails.

Your email subject line must be clear first, telling your prospects exactly what they expect to find within the email. Once you have this, you can then experiment with “catchy” wording to either make your recipients chuckle a bit, or bizarre enough to pique their interest and increase your open rates.

Let’s take something as boring as a toaster for example; there’s three very simple subject lines I’ve seen manufacturers use:

“I bet you’ve never seen a toaster like this before…”

“Toast. Impossible Without a Toaster. And Bread.”

“The future of toasting is finally here!”

Now these lines may not draw you in if your looking for new shoes, but for someone in the market for a new toaster (like I was), these subject lines popping up between the social media notifications in your email inbox are likely to make you curious enough to open them.

By incorporating the actionable wording and personalisation with clarity, your brand could be onto a winning formula for your email marketing campaigns.

But NEVER EVER sacrifice clarity for the sake of entertainment value.


Linking Your Subject Line to The Email Copy –

We all know how crucial it is to ensure our landing page offer and our call-to-action (CTA) email copy align perfectly; but few brands know how to craft an email subject line that aligns well with their email message.

“What your subject line promises, your message body must deliver”

We’ve all had an email in the past that has a subject line promising us something, then we open the email to find the message is all about something irrelevant to what the title suggested.

It’s annoying, and to the brands who think they’re smart tricking us like this, here’s a big “F*** YOU” from all of us!

Once your followers begin to realise they’ve been duped, your open and click-through rates will most definitely plummet.

All in all, a great email subject line can be the deciding factor when it comes to getting success from your email marketing campaigns.

You need to spend some time before you launch a new email marketing campaign to carefully segment your email list (demographics are left up to you), and play with multiple subject lines until you think you have the perfect ones for each segment.

By incorporating each of the tips mentioned in this post are sure to improve your email open rate, you just need to find the right combination of wording that suits your product, service, or event.

The thing you must remember though, a high email open rate means nothing with any click-throughs.


Stay on the lookout for our follow-up post: Writing A Sales Email For Beginners & Small Businesses

Also see Predictions For The Future OF Social Media Marketing.


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