First impressions really are everything when it comes to marketing: in fact, they're pretty much the only thing. No matter how effective the content of your email is, whether someone decides to read it at all rests solely on how your email appears in their inbox. Essentially, that means you have approximately fifty characters to convince them. No pressure!
So, with that in mind, here are five ways to make that subject line work hard for you.
1. Make the value obvious
Think about what you want to achieve with your email: are you making customers aware of a new offer or a new service, for example? Sometimes the best approach is to simply say so! MailChimp says the ‘best subject lines don’t sell what’s inside they tell what’s inside’. So, you don’t always need a clever pun or a slick mail merge -- if you’ve already segmented your audience into particular customer categories, chances are they will be interested in what you have to offer -- all you need to do is make clear what that is.
Once the value of the email is clear, readers who go to read it are also much more likely to click on your call-to-action, and become leads! It’s less work for you, and it’s more likely to create results.
2. Focus on action
The evidence shows that people respond more enthusiastically to active, verb-led phrases than passive, noun-led ones. If that sounds a bit gross and grammatical to you, think of it in terms of dynamism. 'Grab your 20% discount today' sounds more lively and energetic than '20% off sale starts today' -- the first inspires you to do something, to act, whereas the second is just a general FYI with no specific sense of urgency. The first also puts the reader in the driver's seat and makes it clear that there are steps they personally need to take to acquire their personal discount, right now, before it slips away! Quite the contrast to a vague sense that there is a universal discount available somewhere... I don't know... who cares? Yawn.
3. Keep it short
If your subject line is more than 45-50 characters you run the risk of people not being able to read it all. But don’t worry, keeping it short is actually a blessing in disguise: the fewer characters you’ve got, the clearer you have to be. Having said that, try to stay clear of slangy text-speak acronyms and shortened words like 'u', 'thru', 'lol' etc. as this is likely to give an unprofessional impression of your business. Be snappy, be concise, but be eloquent.
4. Make it urgent
It’s a relief to know that the traditional marketing phrases we all recognise like ‘today only’ actually do work! As we touched upon above, if readers get a sense of urgency they are more likely to click on your email as soon as they see it. But don't feel like you have to go way overboard with this urgency: seeing 'FLASH SALE TODAY ONLY!!!!! DON'T MISS OUT!!!! END OF WORLD!!!!!!' pop up in your inbox could, and probably will, have the undesirable effect of stressing your readers out and scaring them off. Think of it more as giving them a deadline or a timescale -- if the offer is seen as not time sensitive then it will be put off and forgotten. So, logically, if it is only available for a limited time it will be prioritised. Simple really.
5. The first line
OK, not just subject line, but the first line of your email often also comes up in the preview, so it’s worth thinking about. First, make it consistent with your subject line -- prove that you're not leading them to an email about something else entirely. You could also make your first line a link so readers know they can easily get to your 20% discount with no effort. This also gives them the chance to get down to the meat of the message and do what you want them to do without even reading the rest of the email, increasing the chances of conversion and decreasing the chance that readers will lose interest before they click.