7 Things Every Subject Line Must Have for Effective Email Marketing

Brian July 17, 2016

Email is one of the best ways to reach out to customers, giving businesses the opportunity to bring in more sales. However, as the medium has grown in popularity, brands face increasing challenges to be heard over all of the noise. The average office worker receives 121 emails each day, leading many to scan past salesy content to find the information they need in the moment.

The key to reaching today’s busy consumers is the subject line. As device users scroll through their inboxes, they’ll be looking at items that capture their attention. Here are a few tips for creating subject lines that get results.

Action Verbs

Experienced marketers know that action verbs drive action. In the context of a subject line, that means issuing a directive rather than stating a fact. “Check out our new beverages” is more powerful, for instance, than, “Our new beverage line is now available.” Research has revealed that just one word can make a big difference in how consumers process a message. Using power words like “free,” “you,” and “instantly” may boost results. Studies have also shown that when customers are given a reason to take that action, they’re more likely to respond.


First you should do serious research into your audience and create subject lines that are likely to grab their attention. If you can split your email messaging to address specific groups of customers, take advantage of that tool. Inserting a person’s first name into subject lines can also get results, but alternate this technique with other ways of personalization.


For existing customers, urgency can make a big difference. Letting customers know that this is the last chance to save 50 percent will not only convince them to open the message, but they’ll also be more likely to take action. Some brands use this technique regularly, launching a new sale only weeks after the last one to consistently drive customers to their website.


When done professionally, a little humor can create a bond with customers. They’ll begin to see your emails as lighthearted and fun and look forward to reading them. Your funny subject line could be connected to the products you’re selling or be completely unrelated. One brand poked fun at outdated technology to sell its cloud services. When businesses inject humor into their subject lines, they show that they don’t take themselves too seriously, which actually endears customers to them.


Experts recommend keeping subject lines below 50 characters and between five and seven words. Since so many consumers now read emails on their smartphones, longer subject lines can be truncated, which means the shorter, the better. If you’re trying to capture someone’s notice while they’re reviewing hundreds of emails at once, a one- or two-word subject line may be even more powerful than one that is longer. Try to put yourself in the vantage point of a customer with an inbox full of messages and come up with a subject line that would get your interest.


Sometimes simple works best. A subject line that states exactly what the message wants to convey can often work best. “20 percent off your next order” can be more effective than turning the subject line into a teaser with, “A special offer enclosed.” The latter is an example of a spammy-sounding subject line that customers see constantly, making them more likely to scroll past.

A/B Testing

Since each business’s audience is different, it’s important to monitor click-throughs and use the information to create more effective campaigns. Through the use of A/B testing, you can try out various approaches and study the results to see which works best. In the case of subject lines, you could try a call to action with one group of emails and first names in a second and see which works better. This approach requires careful measurement to be effective.

With so much competition, it’s important for brands to find a way to stand out in a customer’s inbox. By choosing powerful subject lines, businesses can find success. It’s important to continually test different approaches to determine which type of subject lines work best for your unique customer base. Over time, you’ll create a strategy that consistently gets results.


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