Email marketing remains a very popular and surprisingly efficient means of reaching out to one’s consumer base. Email has existed since the 1970s and remains an effective means of communication, having also become a valuable marketing tool in recent times. However, a curious challenge that businesses face when employing this tool is email open rates; as few as 21% of marketing emails are marked as spam, but open rates still leave much to be desired. Across all industries, the average email open rate is slightly less than 20% – therefore one can deduce that many emails are neither marked as spam nor opened, but are simply either left unopened or deleted outright. Since the very premise of a marketing campaign is to create engagement, it is important to explore this predicament to avoid wasting resources. The inevitable and understandable goal of any such campaign will need to be to use optimal, catchy email subject lines that customers won’t resist clicking; it all begins with the title, after all.
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The importance of subject lines, in numbers
At their core, marketing emails are sources of information – and as with all sources of information, first impressions matter. Content is an entirely different task to optimize all in itself, which many SEO-savvy professionals such as those at Movers Development can attest to – but accessing content depends heavily on customers not resisting clicking on the emails to begin with. In this regard, a title and a name hold much more power than one may at first imagine;
- Out of emails marked as spam, 43% are marked in part due to the sender’s name
- Out of emails marked as spam, 69% are marked primarily due to the subject line
- Out of opened emails, 35% are opened due to the subject line
It thus becomes evident that both the sender’s name and the subject line itself are massively important. In terms of the subject line, the length is the most vital, yet often most overlooked factor;
- Out of all opened emails, 55% are opened on mobile devices
- 35% of working professionals use email on a mobile device
- Out of all marketers, 82% send emails with subject lines of 60 characters or less
Therefore, a catchy email subject line undoubtedly needs to be short. It is a vital, determining factor in email open rates, as it creates the first impression. And evidently, due to the medium that is mobile devices, length also matters – the shorter the better.
Those concerned about subject lines need to take into account that emails are often read on mobile devices.
Less length does also incur less space, however. A title needs to speak to human psychology and natural tendencies to be able to spark engagement; it needs to be compelling and interesting, creative and informative. With limited space, it is much more difficult to live up to such standards, since one must condense the entirety of the subject into very few characters instead of having the luxury to be bombastic and wordy.
Roughly 47% of all marketers have stated that they test different subject titles to evaluate and optimize their performance – and most studies on the matter seem to conclude that visually impressive yet slightly humorous titles tend to perform better. Those are by no means the only ideal qualities of an effective subject title, of course; it is vital that it is short, precise and clear, yet simple and logical – even personalized when one can afford it to be. All of those qualities can, and to a degree must coexist for the perfect, catchy email subject line to resonate with recipients.
Since there cannot be a single universal approach to subject titles, it is much more efficient to break down the various categories that have proved to be efficient instead.
Humorous subject lines
A discrete, healthy touch of humor in a subject line can be very effective. It is in fact, as mentioned previously, among the most effective approaches to subject lines.
Humor hinges on creativity and, quite often, on contemporary trends and knowledge, so humorous subject lines may be more demanding. Humor may also not resonate with all potential customers due to regional, cultural, or other differences – but it is extremely rare that it can have a negative effect when even if it doesn’t. When it does, however, it can be a very effective means of boosting email open rates and, in turn, potential sales.
Here are some examples of humorous subject lines that have been used by publications across the web;
- The Muse: “We Like Being Used”
- Travelocity: “Need a day at the beach? Just scratch n’ sniff your way to paradise…”
- OpenTable: “Licking your phone never tasted so good”
- Groupon: “Deals That Make Us Proud (Unlike Our Nephew, Steve)”
Personal subject lines
Personalized subject lines are, quite predictably, also very effective. Across all industries, it has been observed that adding a name to the subject line can boost open rates by as much as 10-14%.
Including a name is by no means the only personal touch a subject line can have; more casual language, an implication of friendship or familiarity, the use of emojis, or a personal subject matter can all also invoke such a sense. Personalizing marketing emails does also include a degree of risk, of course; a subject line can come across as too informal or too misplaced, or even intimate enough to be perceived as transgressive. Therefore, a certain degree of diplomacy must be employed to reap the benefits of a fittingly personal title.
Here are some examples of personal subject lines that have been used;
- Jon Morrow: “Quick favor?”
- Revolution Tea: “Thanks for helping us”
- Rent the Runway: “Happy Birthday Mary – Surprise Inside!”
- John Lee Dumas: “Are you coming?”
- Syed from OptinMonster: “300% increase in revenue with a single option + a neat growth trick from my mastermind!”
Frivolous and vain subject lines
While a traditionally frowned upon human quality, vanity is still a very human trait. In fact, vanity in this sense and context is a primary factor that drives the market; peer pressure and healthy competition are powerful purchase motivations.
To leverage vanity, then, a subject line can invoke a feeling of superiority over one’s peers, or stoke fear over a missed offer or knowledge that may reduce one’s standing. Of course, such subject lines can also border on excessive; they may end up being perceived as more vain or provoking than is acceptable to the customer, so one should exercise caution when crafting such subject lines.
Here are some such examples of subject lines that evoke some sense of vanity;
- Pop Physique: “Get Ready. Keep the Pie Off Your Thighs Returns.”
- Sephora: “Products the celebs are wearing”
- Fabletics: “Your Butt Will Look Great in These Workout Pants”
- La Mer: “Age-defying beauty tricks”
- Jeremy Gitomer: “How Have You Progressed Since the Third Grade?”
Straightforward subject lines
What may very well be the least appreciated category of subject titles to the uninitiated marketer, straightforward subject titles are actually quite irresistible. This honest, to-the-point, arguably even borderline bland approach to subject lines is in reality very effective, boasting such high open rates as 60-87% in various studies. Approximately 55% of consumers also cite “relevant products and offers” as a primary reason to open an email – given the aforementioned lack of text space, straightforward subject titles are likely the best at conveying such information effectively.
Straightforward subject lines are very unlikely to be seen as spam since they are often short and clear in their message.
This may be the simplest type of subject line to create, but an additional layer to this category is consistency; 73% of marketers send emails to their customers, so recipients are often consistently exposed to weekly emails. Beyond the first impression of individual emails, a longer impression of straightforward intentions may be derived by consistently straightforward subject titles. Not only does this approach help increase engagement with new recipients, but it also bolsters regular readers – a reader who is consistently reassured that emails are straightforward and contain value will grow to open such emails regularly.
Two of the most notoriously straightforward email marketing subject titles ever used were likely Al Franken’s “Yes, this is a fundraising email” and Barack Obama’s “Hey”. Other frequently used company templates include;
- “[Company Name] February 2020 News Bulletin!”
- “[Company Name] Newsletter – February 2020”
- “[Company Name] Sales & Marketing Newsletter”
- “Invitation from [Company Name]”
- “Happy Holidays from [Company Name]”
Retargeting subject lines
Very different in target group and function, retargeting subject lines are arguably a very distinct category. Most of the aforementioned categories mostly intend to generate engagement with new audiences – but retargeting subject lines mostly intend to retain or restore existing audiences that may drift away. In this regard, retargeting subject lines are very similar to re-marketing, both in style and function.
Such subject lines are reserved for audiences and customers that either unsubscribe from a list or otherwise disengage from the sales funnel; not making a purchase after a free trial, abandoning their cart, and so forth. Therefore, such subject lines need to be alluring to ensure customers won’t resist clicking. They can be a call to action, reassurance that their potential objections have been addressed or rectified, or a promise of an enticing bargain.
Here are some examples of retargeting subject lines;
- Animoto: “Did you miss out on some of these new features?”
- Target: “The price dropped for something in your cart”
- Nick Stephenson: “How you can afford Your First 10,000 Readers (closing tonight)”
- Syed from Envira: “Mary, your Envira account is on hold!”
- Bonobos: “Hey, forget something? Here’s 20% off.”