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How to make Email Subjects more powerful and compelling.

Ask a question. One of the best ways to get a reader’s attention is to ask a question. It’s like a trial lawyer questioning a witness on the stand—make sure you get the response you are looking for. “What’s the best way to grow your business?” is a great Subject line for business owners.

After all, what business owner wouldn’t want to grow his or her business? Or let’s say you run a health club. An email with the subject line, “How can you lose 5 pounds in one month?” would certainly be compelling. It’s important that your question be relevant to your audience.

Be a tease. A clever Subject line can be enticing. When it’s done right, readers’ curiosity is piqued. They want to know more- and they open your email. Writing a “teaser” style Subject line requires some creativity, and the content needs to deliver on the teaser. A company that sells high-definition televisions could use the Subject line, “You’re not going to believe your eyes” as a teaser to introduce a new addition to its product line.

Tell it like it is. Often, what works best is to say exactly what you want your reader to know. Examples of this straightforward approach are, “Sale on all sweaters this weekend,” “Master jazz pianist plays live this Friday” and “The seven secrets of a profitable business.” This “just the facts” approach works especially well when you can appeal directly to your audience’s interests. It also is the best approach to use when you send a newsletter.

Remember “WIIFM”. When a person gets your email, the first thing she considers is “what’s in it for me?” (WIIFM). She has a decision to make. Does she open your email, leave it for later, or delete it? If there isn’t something about the Subject line that lets her know why it’s worth her precious time to see what’s inside, then the choice will be clear. Delete. Keep WIIFM in mind when creating every aspect of your emails, including the offer, content, images—and most definitely the Subject line. It’s all about them. They know that. Just make sure you know it, too!

Get personal. The more you can make each contact feel that you are speaking directly to him or her, the more effective your communication will be. Whatever style of Subject line you use, you can make it personal by using the word “you.” Professional copywriters know the secret of using this powerful little word. Look around at advertisements, mail, and email you receive, and you will see it’s true. Incorporate this copywriting secret when you write your Subject lines and you’ll understand why the pros do it- it gets results. A few examples are “Find the right swimsuit for you”, “You can save 50% on travel”, and “You’d look phenomenal in a custom-tailored suit.” (Note: “You” is ideal, but “your” works too!).

Not sure which approach is right for you? Try them all, then show a friend or colleague to get his feedback. Pick the one you believe will be most effective for your audience. Whichever approach you choose, it’s always worth spending the time and effort required to write a great Subject line. Because if your readers don’t open your email, they’ll never have the chance to read the important message you’ve created for them inside.

You should also spend some time paying attention to your own email junk folder to avoid copying the techniques that spammers use to gain attention for their emails.

Here are the top five ways to look like a spammer:

  1. Words that come across “spammy” such as free, guaranteed, act now, credit card etc.
  2. ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. Looks like you are screaming!
  3. Excessive punctuation !!!, ???.
  4. Excessive use of “click here,” $$, and other symbols.
  5. Misleading Subject lines like “Be aware of this” or “Hello”.

Keep in mind that some people save your emails. If you use a descriptive Subject line, you also make it easier for your recipients to find your campaigns in the future. A great email marketing campaign is something that your recipients will want to save. In fact, we suggest in our seminars that nirvana in email marketing is when your recipients create a folder in their inbox just for the emails you send to them. If you can accomplish this and you have great Subject lines, then you will be a resource that they will turn to whenever they need what you provide.

Generic subject lines such as “Monthly Newsletter” make it impossible for the reader to track down a specific article, since the Subject lines all look the same. Be sure to also use descriptive names for your campaigns on your email archive.