Your guide to creating the ultimate email marketing subject lines

By Hannah Sheffield IMI Marketing Coordinator

So you have something to say. You want to use email because it generates revenue. How do you get potential customers to actually look at the information? How do you get people to open the email in the first place?

We know how. Here are five examples of subject lines to help you increase open rates for your email marketing:

Pop-culture references/integrations. Ever heard of DJ Khaled? Popular news service TheSkimm used a saying from this Snapchat-famous entertainer in a marketing email targeting millennials and Gen Z. The subject line was “Major Key Alert.” Because young people in this target audience were more likely to be familiar with DJ Khaled and understand the “major key alert” reference, they were more compelled to open the email message.

Timely conveniences (for the customer). Yes, there are “best practices” for when to send emails. Does your company have to stay within those parameters? No. Companies can generate business by sending emails during off-peak hours. One example of a timely convenience would be a food and beverage magazine sending an email at 5:15 p.m. The subject line could be “Where to Get the Best Beer Right Now." How convenient would that be for the target audience? Even if you’re not sending an email during an optimal time for open rates, that's okay. There are other benefits to sending a creative subject line at off-peak times if you think creatively. You might even see an increased click-through-rate by venturing outside the established parameters. 

Indirect testimonials. Use these to appeal to professionals who want to see results. This type of subject line should showcase benefits of your product or service. One example of an indirect testimonial is “How (target business name) can build a presence on social media." The key with this tactic is to personalize the subject line. Insert the name of the business to which you’re sending the email.

Subject line and preview text working together. This doesn’t mean starting a sentence in the subject line and finishing it in the preview text. Each should be a complete thought that complements the other. One example subject line from Buzzed is: “Not Cool, Guys." The preview text that followed: "Okay, WHO left the passive-aggressive sticky note on my fridge. Honestly, who acts like this?” This authentic, light, conversational tone draws you in. Use appropriate brand voice for your company, though.

Scary/inspiring. All right, maybe not scary. But, you should write a subject line to position your product/service as time-sensitive. Doing so will create a sense of urgency. One example from fashion designer Tory Burch urges readers to open before an upcoming holiday. The subject line reads: “There’s still time: great Valentine’s Day gifts." Another example: Wayfair, a furniture retailer, inspired and complimented in one of its latest subject lines by writing, “Hey there, trendsetter. Save on must-have modern accent furniture."

Check out the other examples in the infographic below:

Remember to keep in mind...

It's important to align your message with the personas for your target audience. As the writer, you don’t want to come up with something that your audience just won’t understand. For instance, yes, a lot of people watch The Bachelor. But if one of your email segments is adult males between the ages of 45-54, you don’t need to make references of what “Sarah” from the Bachelor did last night. Got it?

We want to hear about other clever subject lines! Share your favorites with us in the comment section below.