How Your Subject Line Could Be Killing Your Emails

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How many times has this happened to you? You’ve spent hours composing the perfect email to showcase your content, you’ve carefully segmented your list to a specific audience, you’ve queued it up to send at the optimal time…and a week later, your analytics reveal a dismal click-to-open rate. Ouch!

It’s frustrating and discouraging, the kind of thing that can make you second-guess everything you know about online marketing. But it could be that the only thing holding back your campaign’s potential is the email subject line.

Don’t underestimate the power of this one simple sentence. As I’ve mentioned in the past, email marketing is the most effective means of online marketing. The gateway to that email—the first thing your customers see—is your subject line. It has to contain hints of everything your email has to offer—the specificity of your product, the authenticity of your brand, the urgency of your offer. It has to convey not only your knowledge and authority, but also your personal empathy for your audience’s needs. Tall order, right? Fortunately, crafting an enticing subject line is not rocket science. The best subject lines can be broken down into five basic strategies, each built along a simple formula.

Strategy #1:  Focus on the Benefit

With this strategy, you focus on the end result your reader wants most.
Meet your readers where they currently live by speaking to their wants, desires, interests and concerns.
Answer their question:  “What’s in it for me?”
Here’s an example of a benefit-driven subject line:
⇒ Example: “See How Easily You Can Learn to Paint”

⇒ Formula: See How Easily You Can Learn to [insert topic you are going to teach]

Strategy #2:  Be Specific

Set the hook for your readers by hinting at something super valuable contained within your email.
Identify your target audience very clearly: age group, professional demographic, special interest
Give a couple of specific details to ground your hint—let them know that you know what you’re talking about.
Here’s an example of a highly specific subject line:

⇒ Example: “What Every Accountant Ought to Know About New Tax Laws”

⇒ Formula: What Every [identify your target audience] Ought to Know About [something specific you will teach them]

Strategy #3: Get Relevant

Relevance = useful + timely. Your reader should know this and act on it…right away!
Localization (mentioning a neighborhood/city/state of your target audience is proven to increase opens…even for people who don’t live there but are curious)
Make reference to an upcoming event, current trends, news items
Here’s an example of a subject line with powerful relevance:
⇒ Example: “Feeling out of control? Your Guide to Family, Food and the Holidays.” ⇒ Formula: [Bring up something–a feeling, situation or new development your customer is interested in] This [your content] can help you with [upcoming event, season or timeframe].

Strategy #4: Make It Personal

This works best when you already have a strong, loyal following.
Use your subject line to show readers that you’re on their side, that they are not alone, that you are here to help them.
Hinting at a related story of your own will increase their trust in you, and their curiosity to see how you addressed the issue.
Here’s an example of using highly personal connection: ⇒ Example: “How I finally stopped skipping my workouts.” ⇒ Formula: How I [action] [something your audience wants too]

Strategy #5: Call Out a Problem

We all want to make less mistakes, feel confident to overcome challenges, and take risks with more confidence.
This is another strategy that serves to help your readers identify with you, and teases them to open the email and find out how you tackled a problem.
The key to this strategy is integrity. Steer away from scare tactics—you’re here to offer constructive awareness.

⇒ Example: “Here’s How Goal-Setting Can Hurt Your Business” ⇒ Formula:  Here’s How [fill in the blank] Can Hurt Your [fill in the blank]

There’s definitely an art to crafting irresistible email subject lines. And as with any art, practice makes perfect. Try crafting at least five subject lines each day to feel out the different approaches and find what works for you. Then pick the best one to perfect for your email that week.

Daily practice will give you the confidence to not only write your marketing emails faster, but will serve to ground you in the knowledge that you have something valuable to offer the world.

Thank you

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