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Quick Tips for Effective Email Subject Lines

email marketingWhen conducting an email marketing campaign, it’s important to choose each word in your message carefully. But there’s one spot where the wording is particular important: the subject line. In fact, it’s probably accurate to say that these words are the most critical of any in your message, because they can make or break your entire campaign.

For a relatively small group of words, they have an important job to do. This line determines whether or not your recipient will open your message—or hit the delete button. Your email text could be pure gold, but if the subject line doesn’t catch the recipients’ attention and persuade them to read further, nothing else will matter.

Bottom line: your subject line must be great. Yes, it is a lot of pressure, but there are some basic rules and guidelines that can help steer you in the right direction—and avoid some common mistakes that could send your message right into the trash or junk folder.

Be clear, not cute. When marketers try to get too creative or clever with subject lines, it can often backfire because the recipient is confused (or worse, annoyed). Clarity is important so people know right away exactly what the message is about.

Include a date or word that conveys urgency. If you’re promoting a specific event, include the date in the subject line, or at least something that indicates when it will happen. Otherwise, you can include the word “urgent” or “time-sensitive” or something similar.

Keep it short and sweet. Every character matters, especially now that many people read email on their phone or portable device. Cut any unnecessary words, and get right to the point.

Make the recipient feel special. Referring to an invitation or announcing an exclusive or VIP event will tempt the recipient to want to learn more, for fear of missing out on something good.

Don’t hit them with a hard sell right off the bat. Anything that refers to a solicitation, donation request or other request for money will be an immediate turnoff. Yes, that may be the ultimate goal of your email but you need to gradually warm them up to the fact that you want something from them.

Be specific. For an event, include the name of the event or the main speaker. If you’re announcing a workshop or publication, again you should try to include the title (or at least a shortened version). For emails involving a sale or special offer, try to include a teaser (such as the specific savings amount or percentage) in the subject line.

Some final bits of advice: Use action verbs to make the subject line more energetic—and to tell the recipient exactly what you want them to do. Some research also seems to indicate that personalizing your subject line with the recipient’s first name location or other identifying detail can also help your open rates.

It’s important that your email campaign is part of a larger, carefully planned marketing strategy. We can help with all aspects of your strategy to ensure everything works together efficiently.


With more than 25 years of hands on marketing strategy and operations experience, Sheila Kloefkorn is dedicated to developing marketing strategies and plans that help clients succeed. Some of the world's largest brands have depended on Sheila for marketing programs that delivered tangible and substantial results. Specialties: B2B marketing, lead generation, lead nurturing, sales strategy, marketing strategy, competitive marketing strategy, social media, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), mobile marketing, email marketing, website design, marketing plans.