How a killer subject line can land you more email opens

Small but mighty: how a well-written subject line can improve your email open rate

With dozens of emails landing in our inboxes every hour, a strong subject line must have the power to cut through the noise.

Like a witty A-board on a high street or a perfectly adorned shop front, an email subject line’s job is to capture the audience’s attention and entice them to investigate further. The reverse is equally true: when email subject lines fail, your open rate will suffer. Even so, subject lines are often treated as an afterthought. To put an end to lacklustre subject lines from this day forward, keep the following principles in mind:

1. Less is more

Whatever you do, keep subject lines short. Remember, it’s a line – not a paragraph. Apple Mail on iPhones, the most popular mobile client, has a cut off of 41 characters. For most email providers and devices, more than 30 characters and your subject line won’t display on mobile, leaving a truncated message that doesn’t convey your intended messaging. And when you have a strict character limit, every word counts. So, think carefully about your most compelling message and how you want to say it. Use active words. Pique the readers’ curiosity with intrigue and have fun with wordplay. Keep it relevant to your brand, though, or risk losing your audience.

2. Don’t forget the pre-loader

When every word counts, the opportunity to tease more information is not to be missed. A good pre-loader will work in tandem with the subject line. All the same principles of the subject line apply: keep it short, keep it interesting and don’t be afraid to pop in a relevant emoji.

3. Put it to the test

Most email send tools will allow you to A/B test, an excellent way to gain customer insights once you’ve gathered the requisite volume of data. When you’re running a new campaign or wondering which messaging will land better, testing will give you some insights into what motivates your audience to open. The simplest way of doing this is testing two subject lines and measuring which email gets more opens. Potential testing options are pretty much limitless: personalised vs non-personalised, humour vs benefit, emoji vs no emoji and so on. Continual testing is required to pin down what truly motivates your audience to open an email. What works this month isn’t guaranteed to work next month.

4. Make the most of your tools

I’m not talking about fancy systems or pricey plug ins. I’m talking about your keyboard. Choose your words with care. Use emojis. Think about the way you’re framing your messaging and who you’re targeting. Use social proofing, humour and urgency. Words and phrases like ‘limited time’, ‘expiring’ and ‘last chance’ can boost open rates, whilst words like ‘free’ and ‘discounts’ send people scrolling past if you’re lucky enough to get them past spam filters. Put the most important points first. At Flourish, we use search insights to help us drill down into what’s really relevant to audiences.

5. Get personal (but not too personal)

Personalisation goes beyond using your audiences’ names. Incorporate what you know about them – for example, is their favourite product back in stock? Do they already own one product of a family? Are they due an upgrade? Make the most of the insights in your back pocket. Just make sure you use it sparingly. No one likes to feel their data is being watched – even when it is.

6. Above all, be yourself

With audiences increasingly demanding authenticity from brands and services, clickbait is quickly becoming a thing of the past. No one is falling for over-hyped headlines anymore with their off-putting hyperbole. In fact, subject lines that aim to shock people into opening them are now having the opposite effect, with certain clickbait phrases reducing read rates by up to 9%. So, be yourself and stay true to your brand identity – but make it your best self.

7. If all else fails, leave it to the experts

If this all sounds like hard work, get in touch with us at Flourish. We’re experts in email marketing, and our creatives will craft you subject lines made to bring you an upswing in open rates.




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