I was helping a client develop messaging for a workshop last week. We focused on the pain, identifying the problems and solutions that he would address in his daylong event. We had identified our market and collaborated to create a crisp, efficient message. We talked about the workshop title—this was really important because he didn’t want to do just a workshop, but a series of workshops, so it needed to be sustainable. We talked very briefly about subject lines, then moved on.
The next day, I was surprised to see his email blast hit my inbox with a very anemic subject line. He had gotten in three keywords, but had failed to create any buzz or excitement around them. Not surprisingly, the response to his blast was tepid. I once asked a client about the subject line and her answer, “I don’t know, is it important?” My answer: “Are you kidding? It’s everything.” Your subject line is a seduction. It determines whether or not someone’s going to take the time to open your email and see what you have to say.
It’s gotten harder to create compelling subject lines
With the surge of mobile users, we now have just 50 characters to entice our readers to click on our emails. And then there are the spam triggers: words like free, reminder, guarantee and offer. You also need to avoid exclamation points and inner punctuation. This is a useful list that breaks down the trouble words that are likely to route your email blast directly to spam folders.
Below are 9 approaches to effective subject lines
Whatever happened to simple and direct?
The direct headline gets right to the point. It works particularly well with strong offers, recognized brand names, and product or service types with which the reader is familiar. No cleverness. No jokes. No wordplay. Sometimes I think this is a lost art.
The big benefit.
Translate your major benefit into a headline. Your number one selling point should always be frontloaded, right? It stands the best chance of selecting the right audience and preparing them to respond. Plus, if they read nothing else, they’ve gotten your message. If you have trouble writing this kind of headline, it’s a sure sign you need to think a bit more about your product or service.
Announce exciting news.
People read newspapers and magazines because they love news—remember that the product or service doesn’t necessarily have to be newly created to qualify as news. It can be new to your reader.
Educate. Appeal to the How-To instinct.
The how-to headline appeals to the need most of us have to improve ourselves or learn something new, a better way of doing something. The how-to must follow through and highlight the benefit or final result–not the process itself. It’s the benefit that will seduce your audience.
Pose a provocative question.
Asking a question is a great way to draw your reader in. The question must relate directly and clearly to the product’s major benefit. This should elicit an answer of “yes” or at least “I’m not sure, but I want to know more.”
Be direct, provide a benefit, and take a commanding posture simultaneously. It’s not conversational, it’s dictatorial — but in an acceptable way that readers have come to expect in clear writing. Be a better writer in 1 month!
Offer useful information.
Secrets, tips, hints, laws, rules and systems that promise to help us gain control, understand or create order. For this one, you’re often promising information that will help people do something or achieve certain results.
A testimonial headline is an endorsement and we all know how powerful these can be. Use a brief, attention-getting testimonial in the subject line, then expand on this and provide the source in the body of your email.