Saying Hello: How to Write Great Subject Lines



Everyone receives many emails a day from work, school, government, family, friends, you name it. Yet, how many of these emails do we actually open?

Some will ignore a bill notice if they cannot sort it at the time, or if it’s from a company that spams your inbox all the time.

For a marketer in any industry, it’s important to know how to write great subject lines to ensure that people at least open your message.

According to bulk email service MailChimp, the open rate for emails sent from various industries is around 20%.

The open rate gives you an indication of how many people actually opened your email message as opposed to skipping right past it or not even seeing it because it ended up in their spam folder.

Keeping this in mind, marketers aim to write great subject lines that give their emails a better chance of being received, opened and acted on. MailChimp also said that people open emails about hobbies, as well as those from the government, artists, media and publishers.

Here are some tips on how to write great subject lines.

Segment Your Email List

Companies tend to have different customer bases, each with their different needs. Many people will ignore or delete an email that is not relevant to them. It is important to segment your email list and write subject lines that you think will resonate with that audience segment.

Some of the factors when segmenting email lists are location, job industry, purchase history, age, gender, online habits and language. When you have your email lists segmented, you will be able to send relevant marketing emails to the right target audience.

Keep it Short and Sweet

Research by Statistica shows that emails sent every day worldwide are increasing and that about 347 billion emails will be sent and received by 2022. This means that more people are engaging via email, but at the same time, it means that marketers need to be more aware of the email subject lines they use as people’s inboxes get more and more crowded.

Keeping your email subject line short and to the point, as you would see with online stores, gives your email a better chance of being seen and opened. Email subject lines like ‘Your Order is being Processed’ or ‘Your account summary’, depending on the industry you are in, are good examples.

Add a Sense of Urgency

This may sound alarmist, but there is a way that marketers can use this to their advantage. Customers will open an email that has an urgent call to action attached to it. Subject lines like ‘While stocks last’ or ‘Don’t miss out! 40% off today only!’ or ‘Offer Valid today only’ are examples of how to create a sense of urgency.

This is a tip that should be used rather carefully. Ensure that the content of the email truly requires quick action from the recipient. If the subject line is seen as click-bait, then customers will begin ignoring future emails from you.

Personalise Your Email

When marketers send out emails, one of the reasons that people don’t open them is a generic subject line. Personalisation of the email subject can range from using the recipient’s name in the subject or targeting various segments based on their location, age group, and so on.

For example, ‘Anne, Check out this offer’ or ‘Check out these deals in New Zealand’ establishes a more personal connection with the recipient than just a general greeting.

Use Promotional Language

Marketers must remember that when sending out emails, they are speaking to both existing and new or potential customers. Offering promotions on subject lines is an effective method of getting people to interact with your emails.

In fact, according to Fluent, over 68% of Millennials will interact with promotional emails and even buy more thanks to such emails. Subject lines like ‘Join now to enjoy your 20% discount’ or ‘Open to get your free item with every purchase this Christmas’ have more chance of getting recipients to act than emails without a compelling offer in the subject line.

Numbers Don’t Lie

People gravitate towards emails with numbers in the subject line. Marketers who send an email titled ‘4 Ways to Spend Your Summer on a Budget’ versus ‘How to Spend Your Summer on A Budget’ report a higher open rate for their emails.

Customers’ order numbers also work well in email subject lines, such as ‘Your order 567/890 is ready for pick-up’. Customers will open this email faster than one merely stating ‘Your order is ready’ due to the extra personalised information in the subject line.

A Time and a Place for Everything

When sending out emails to customers, timing is everything. Research on your customer base is key in order to know when to reach them via email. For example, emails from restaurants are better sent during main meal times to encourage engagement. A bar can send out a happy hour notice an hour before the event to its customers and give them a reason to visit and spend.

Timing also includes the frequency that marketers send out emails. Unless necessary, it’s important to limit marketing emails to no more than one a day. The email should be catchy, effective and aim to encourage engagement with the business.

Simple Email Marketing Do’s and Dont’s

  • Send emails from personalised addresses instead of those that start with ‘no-reply’. Using such addresses will assure you of a higher open rate than generic addresses.
  • Avoid using exclamation points or all caps. Such an email subject is bound to repulse customers.
  • Be careful with humour and emojis on subject lines. Research on your customer base will determine what type of subject line to use. Millennials will likely open an email with humour and emojis more than the older demographic.
  • Don’t mislead customers. The email subject line used must be accurate and realistic. For example, avoid using offers or deals on the subject line if you don’t have any intention of carrying it through. This will make customers distrust you and avoid your emails.
  • Update your email list often, at least twice a year to avoid bounced emails. To have a higher success rate when it comes to email marketing, keep an eye on your email list.
  • Optimise your emails and make them accessible on multiple platforms. When sending out marketing emails, ensure that they can be viewed on a desktop, tablet, laptop and mobile screen. Most people will access emails via mobile devices especially when on the move and an email that can’t be viewed on this platform can be dismissed.

Photo courtesy of Freepik by @katemangostar



Disclaimer – These articles are provided to supply general health, safety, and green information to people responsible for the same in their organisation. The articles are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs.