Five Tips For Writing Email Subject Lines That Can DOUBLE Your Open Rate

By Derek Gehl

In the last issue of “The IMC Insider,” I gave you ten tips on how to get your emails into your subscribers’ mailboxes. And that’s a big step in building those all-important relationships — the ones that turn your subscribers into buyers… and your buyers into REPEAT buyers.

But getting into the mailbox is pretty much the same as knocking on the door. You’re not in there yet!

It seems that one of the biggest problems people are having is getting their readers to OPEN the emails in the first place!

Truth is, you can be promoting the best product in the WORLD, and have the most enticing email copy possible, but if you’re not writing compelling subject lines that get the emails opened, all your hard work is lost…

So today I’d like to give you FIVE tips for writing effective email subject lines that can easily DOUBLE the open (and click-through) rates on your next email.

Tip #1: Use personalization for added attention

Ever been in a large crowd, and you suddenly hear your name being called?

Even if you’re hundreds of miles away from home and it couldn’t possibly be someone calling you, you still look up automatically, without even thinking, right?

Hearing your name instantly gets your attention!

Now imagine how much more powerful your emails could be if your customers could “hear” their names right in the subject line.

Sending out an email with a personalized subject line is the equivalent of calling someone’s name in a crowd: it has that same power to grab their attention.

So instead of a subject line that says something like:

“I have the information you’re looking for”

… you could try something like this:

“Dave, I have the information you’re looking for”

Pretty simple, right? But it really works!

In fact, according to a recent report by MarketingSherpa, by writing personalized subject lines that include the first name of your customers, you can get almost TWICE as many people to open the email and click through to your offer.

And if you wanted to take personalization one step further, consider adding another personal detail to the subject line, like the city your customers live in (you’d need to collect that data from them, of course).

Start with a subject line that looks like this:

“Want to get out of the city this weekend?”

… and then make it really compelling by adding personal details:

“Janet, want to get out of Tucson this weekend?”

And the great thing is that, as long as you’re collecting your visitors’ first names (and any other data you think is useful), there are plenty of tools out there you can use to automatically merge their names and personal details into your emails.

To see the one we like, check out http://www.marketingtips.com/icontact

Tip #2: Keep your subject lines SHORT

Here’s a test: open up your email program, and take a look at the subject lines in your inbox.

Are there any that stand out more than others? Any that you read first, or get you interested in learning more?

Chances are it’s the shorter subject lines that grab you, right?

It’s actually been proven that subject lines that are less than 35 characters had HIGHER opening and click-through rates than those with subject lines longer than 35 characters.

So keep it short and sweet! You don’t need to explain in detail what the email is about in the subject line, you just need to give enough information to make people want to open the email to read more.

And if you REALLY want to increase your open and click-through rates, make sure you put your benefit, offer, or most important element right at the beginning of the subject line.

That way, if someone’s email program cuts off the end of the subject line (which is pretty common) you’ll still get your main point across.

Tip #3: Keep the formatting simple and understated

If you sent an email to a friend, asking her if she wanted to shopping, would you type your subject line like this:

Would You Like To Go Shopping On Saturday?

Or how about like this:

WOULD YOU LIKE TO GO SHOPPING ON SATURDAY?

It’s pretty unlikely, right?

So why would your emails to your customers and subscribers have subject lines that were formatted like that?

The more your subject lines look like personal emails from friends, family members, or business associates, the more likely it is that they’ll be opened. The more they look like spam, the less effective they’ll be.

So avoid capitalizing each word (or the entire subject line), and avoid exclamation marks and dollar signs, which can increase your chances of having your messages flagged as spam, and will be sure to set off warning bells with your recipients.

Tip #4: Use a compelling “angle” to get your readers interested

Of course, getting your readers to open your emails requires more than personalization and formatting. You’ll still need to come up with an interesting angle that grabs your customers’ attention, and makes them WANT to open the email.

Here are some ideas for subject lines that we’ve had success with in the past:

  • Make an announcement or share news: People want to be the first to find out new things, especially if your site covers a specific industry.
  • Make your reader curious: Make your reader curious about what’s in your email by suggesting they are missing out on an important offer or piece of information.
    When you use this technique, make sure you leave something to the imagination. For example: Paul, are you making this common mistake?
  • Create a sense of urgency: Consider creating a sense of urgency in your subject line by limiting time (Frank, only three days left) or quantity (Mary, only 250 copies available).
  • Emphasize benefits: Another powerful approach for your subject line is to state how your readers will benefit from your email. If you can tell them how they’re going to save money, save time, make their lives easier, etc, by opening and reading your message, you’ll have the most success.

Tip #5: Make sure your subject line relates to the content of the email

Nobody likes to be fooled or tricked, and deception is the WRONG way to earn your customers’ trust and respect, so make sure your subject line is related to your actual messages.

(In fact, it’s a legal requirement under the CAN-SPAM Act that the subject line be authentic and not misleading).

So if your subject line says Mary, three ways to save money, you need to make sure you actually are talking about that, and preferably within the first few paragraphs. Otherwise, your visitors will feel cheated, and that will hurt your credibility.

By following these simple tips for writing and formatting the subject lines for your emails, you should be able to increase your open rates and click-through rates by up to 50%. And considering your opt-in list is where you’ll find your most valuable customers, think how that could crank up your bottom line.

To your success,

Derek Gehl

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