Last week, we started a three-part series to answer the question “I’m working on some emails for a new client and want to make sure I do my best. Do you have any tips you can offer?” In the first part of the series, we discussed a major mistake many people make with the From line of emails and exactly how to fix it.
Today, we’re moving from the From line to the Subject line—and I hope your ears just perked up in anticipation, because the Subject line is one of the most crucial parts of any email.
Why, you ask? Well, the subject line is the one sneak peek into the content of your email. If your subject line doesn’t interest the recipient enough to open the email, the rest of the email is wasted. It doesn’t matter how brilliantly you’ve written the copy inside—they’ll never see it.
Bad (or even just slightly sub-par) subject lines = deleted emails.
Which brings us to the nuts and bolts of Part 2 of the series: a big (read: freaking huge) mistake many people make with their subject lines is to write them without on focusing either a benefit to consumer or an interest factor.
A benefit to consumer, as you know, is how whatever you’re writing about in the email is going to help the email’s recipient. If you’re writing about a new motor oil, your subject line had better tell them straight off what the information in the email will get them. You’d write a subject line along the lines of “A more efficient engine is easier to get than ever” (Which, of course, might not appeal to you, but would appeal to the kind of person who’s on a mailing list for motor oil.)
By immediately telling them what they’re going to get out of your email, you spare them having to guess. And most people don’t guess, they just delete. If a subject line, say, for example, on that I’m sure you’ve seen: “Like Us on Facebook” has the recipient answering “Um, why?” the subject line has no benefit.
A second subject line technique is the interest factor or curiosity factor. I mention this here because I want you to have the full information, but I actually recommend that this be used sparingly and only in certain scenarios.
An interest factor subject line piques the interest of the reader by teasing them with just a bit of information you’re sure they’re going to want to know the rest of. Note the italics—interest factor subject lines don’t work if no one cares.
If your subject line is “Why I Prefer 2% Milk,” you’re probably not going to get a great open rate. If your subject line, on the other hand, is something more like “Why I Will Never Drink Tea Again (And What You Need to Know for Your Health)” or “There’s Something I’ve Been Hiding About My New Program…” you’ve got a decent chance of getting people to open it.
Now, three caveats about interest factor subject lines. First: they really work best for small businesses or emails that seem to come from just one person. People tend to trust these a lot less when they come from big corporations—both the use of the first person and (even if you skip first person), the interest-piquing or hinting can seem very disingenuous.
Second: if they’re not written very carefully, they can sound very gimmicky and turn people off. If people constantly get emails that say things like “My Secret to [This]” or “I’ll Never Do [That] Again”, it gets old reeeeal fast.
And three: if you’re going to pique their interest, you’d better pay it off really well in the body of the email. Don’t get someone all excited with your subject line only to fall flat in the body. Sure, you’ll get great open rates, but your click-through rates will suck and you’ll erode your relationship with the recipient. Suuuuper uncool.
My personal recommendation is to stick with the benefits-laden subject line as much as possible, but to experiment with interest factor subject lines as you go. They’re both crucial to have in your back pocket.
Ready for Part Three? Head on over.
Have something to say? Great! What subject lines have you written lately that have been strong in the benefits or interest department? Or what subject lines have you gotten in your email that you’ve loved—or hated? Let us know in the comments below!