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How to get more emails opened

“Why rejection is good for you” was the subject line of a recent email from a huge and very well-known worldwide organisation (yes: really!)  It had us clicking delete before we’d even opened it, but it did get us thinking… what subject lines actually make people open an email?

In a world where 105 billion emails are sent every day, it’s no wonder we’re picky about what we want to spend our precious time reading. 24.8% of email campaigns were opened in 2018, and 47% of people open them based on the subject line alone. Which is why it’s important to make sure yours pack a punch and aren’t just an afterthought. It’s no use writing a fantastic email if it never gets read! OR it’s marked as spam; which 68% of people do depending on the subject line!

So, what really works?

  • Marketing analytics firm, Retention Science, found that 6-10 words is the optimum subject line length, gaining an open rate of 21%.

  • Subject lines which include the recipient’s name have a 22% higher chance of being opened than those that don’t.

  • Using relevant emoji’s in your subject line can increase open rate by a whopping 56%! (But be careful as too frequent use can look like spam).

  • 61% of emails are opened and read on mobile devices. iPhone cuts off subject lines at 32 characters, so make sure it’s short enough to fit on an iPhone screen!

  • Including the word “video” in the subject line can increase open rates by 19%, because people like multimedia content (Only do this if you’re actually including a video!)

And what really doesn’t?

  • Clickbait. People hate to be misled, and if the subject line reeks of deception, that’s a sure-fire way to end up in the deleted folder quicker than you can say “delete”!
  • If you write your subject line in ALL CAPS, you’re essentially yelling at your recipient, and no one likes to be yelled at. We certainly don’t, anyway.
  • It sounds like an obvious one but spelling mistakes can be such a turn off. It appears lazy and unprofessional, so be sure to check your spelling and then check it again.
  • Overusing emojis, punctuation, slang or hashtags can really ruin what might otherwise be a brilliant subject line. Make sure any jargon is relevant to your audience; and keep hashtags and emojis to a minimum.
  • Sometimes, being too formal can put people off. People like to be spoken and sold to by real people, not by robotic emails, so try to keep your writing more casual and friendly.

What type of subject lines will stand out in my reader’s inbox?

There are a number of different subject line styles you can use to really grab your readers attention and stand out from the other 121 emails in their inbox. Here’s a roundup of our favourite types…

1. Lists – people love a list (like this one!). It’s an effective way to provide content that’s snappy and build curiosity in the subject line. Try something like “10 ways to be more productive”.

Bonus: incorporating numbers in your subject line creates focus, as our brains are naturally drawn to digits!

2. Fear of missing out – humans suffer badly from “fomo”, email subject lines threatening scarcity perform well as it drives your reader to take action. Try “limited-time offer on ”.

3. Curiosity – we all have a natural desire for closure. You can leave your subject line open-ended and answer it in the email, so subscribers will only be satisfied by opening it! Try something like “there are 27 strawberries in this email” – it includes a number, people will wonder why there are 27 strawberries in the email and make them want to check that there are!

Case study: Etsy sent out an email with the subject “rock the colour of the year”. It makes you want to find out what the colour of the year is, and once you’ve opened the email, you’re presented with products in that colour.

4. Humour – laughing makes people feel good! You can really stand out with a clever subject line, but must be careful not to confuse or offend your audience. Make sure you know them well to reap the highest open rates.

Case study: We like Patagonia’s sleeping bag campaign with the subject line “sleep around”. The email was a one paragraph description of their high-tech line of sleeping bags, but would it have done so well had it not had such a playful subject?

5. How-To – using the subject line to tell recipients about a specific benefit they’ll find on opening the email is a great way to get them to open it. Make it super simple for them to achieve something.

Case study: A transparent subject line from ClassPass, “how to use your free trial” , works well because readers know exactly what they’re going to find when they open the email, it highlights a free offering, and makes it really easy for recipients to take action.

6. Questions – asking a question can immediately get your reader thinking and creates instant dialogue. If you can, make it open-ended so they’re more inclined to open it.

Case study: National Geographic put a hot topic into an ultimatum style question in their subject line “planet or plastic?”. It forces you to choose what you value more, the earth or your convenience.

Bonus: Alliteration is also a great tool to stand out more in a sea of emails.

7. An offer – give your readers an incentive to open the email. Make it clear they’re going to gain something from opening your email to make it worth their time and effort! Try something like “win a trip to [location]” or “30-day free trial”.

8. Solutions – solve your readers problems. Understand your business personas and show them than you really know what gets them down by offering a solution. Try “feed your guests without breaking the bank” or “5 things to do instead of playing on your phone”.

9. Commands – tell your readers exactly what you want them to do. Make it clear and encourage them to take action! Phrases like “celebrate your birthday with 10% off” or “join us in [location]” should get readers to take notice.

10. Sneak peaks – everyone wants to be the first or be a trendsetter. Giving your reader the chance to be the first to see something new makes them feel valued and satisfies that desire. Use something like “be the first to try our new cocktail” or “exclusive look: the latest collection” to make them feel special!

Your email subject line serves as a first impression, with careful consideration and our handy tips, make sure it’s not the last impression your recipient has!

Get in touch with us if you want to know more about how you can use email marketing to help build your business.


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