Email Marketing: 10 tips for effective subject lines

By admin

Email Marketing TIps

“You must be from Tennessee. Because you’re the only TEN I SEE.”

Did you swoon at the sheer poetry of this romantic overture? Did it spark your interest in a potential relationship?  No? Well, apply this scenario to your inbox. You wouldn’t open an email that uses a lame or overused subject line, and neither would your customers.

Nearly all self service email marketing services like MailChimp and Emma automatically alert you when you’ve got some real no-no’s in your subject line such as weird symbols, a fake FWD: or an ALL CAPS SUBJECT LINE, so I won’t delve into the things that will land your emails in people’s SPAM folders. Instead, I’m going to give you 10 tips to get your emails read.

1. First things first. In case you haven’t been faithfully reading my other riveting posts on effective email marketing, be sure to have your proverbial ducks in a row with your email strategy before you ever get down to the important business of writing awe-inspiring subject lines. Is your email’s content relevant to your customers’ needs and does it provide information they will find valuable? Yes? Good. You may proceed.

2. Identify yourself. It sounds like common sense, but be clear and concise about who you are in your “From” field and keep it consistent. Here’s a thought—just use your brand’s name. In some cases, you might want to send a note from a particular person, in which case it’s a good practice to use something like “Jeremy at TN Media” that keeps your brand’s name in the “From” field. NEVER use an email address or website in the From field unless your company’s name is a URL. It’s sometimes also a good idea to include your company’s name in the subject line if it will add to the interest, value, clarity or credibility of the message, like “TN Media Digital Conference starts TOMORROW.”

3. TELL what’s inside, don’t SELL what’s inside, as our mates over at MailChimp put it. If you’ve done #1 right, you shouldn’t have to shout, bribe, beg or trick someone into opening your email—they’ll want to if you just tell them what to expect when they click. This doesn’t mean you can be plain jane with your description; it just means entice with substance, not hype.  Everyone avoids people and brands that try too hard.

4. Make them care. Make sure they know why your email is important—is it timely or time-sensitive information? Is it specific to their interests or their account? Is it a trending topic at the moment? Be sure your subject line communicates the information they care about and piques their interest while staying short and sweet—preferably under 50 characters. Does your sale end tomorrow? Are they the first to know about an event or product?  Are you solving a real problem they face? Is it a story that’s too good to miss? Again, substance not hype, but make it irresistible.

5. Don’t cry wolf. I know I’ve just finished encouraging you to make every email irresistible, but that doesn’t mean you should constantly use the same sense of urgency, tone or message. If you do, people will begin to tune you out. Keep it fresh and mix it up. For example, you can’t always be having a HUGE sale or it will quickly just become white noise.

6. Everyone likes a good teaser. As long as it’s relevant to your content, feel free to grab people’s attention in creative ways. Give them just enough information to get them hooked, like “Promise not to drool on our Fall collection.” Asking your customer a question that gets them thinking in the right vein is also a good tactic. If you’re a travel agency you might ask, “Have you ever curled your toes in sand this white?” and then show them gorgeous, pristine beach getaways when they open your email.

7. NEVER bait and switch. Everyone hates being played, so if you trick them—even unintentionally—they’ll treat you to the unsubscribe button. Common ways to commit this error in your subject line without meaning to include ambiguous messaging, offers that have unrealistic conditions (like a low interest rate for which you have to have perfect credit to qualify) or misrepresenting your offer (like saying something is free, but really it’s a BOGO).

8. Make it clear what you want them to do. You’re engaging them in a conversation, so be sure they know how to respond, such as “Last day to RSVP for TN Media cocktail party.” Once they actually open your email, be sure to provide a very clear call to action and directional cues (buttons, links, etc.) so they can’t miss it.

9. Optimize your preview text. Most email clients like Google, Outlook and mobile device email clients show a snippet of your email’s content in the preview pane after the subject line.  Some email marketing services like MailChimp will allow you to specify your preview text, while others will automatically pull from your first line of text. In either case, be sure that text is just as compelling and relevant as your subject line without being redundant.

10. Test and retest. A great way to learn what messages are going to resonate with your audience and result in higher open and click through rates is to continually A/B test your subject lines. Keep tabs on your findings—what length is most effective, what kinds of information or offers, what tone, etc. You can do this several ways, but one way is to take a sample from your email list and A/B test it before you send to the entire list.


TN Media offers targeted email campaigns to help reach your customers.  From auto intenders to mothers living in homes valued at $200k plus, we have many options to help you reach your audience with our email marketing services. Just look how one dealership sold 39 vehicles from just two email blasts. Call us today to see how we can help you reach your business goals.

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