Creating Engaging Subject Lines for Your Email Marketing Campaigns

One of the biggest benefits to the explosion of email marketing and email marketing platforms over the past 15 years has been the wealth of data collected and analyzed. Marketers now have access to the type of actionable data which only a few years ago would have been unthinkable. As a result how individuals engage with emails continues to allow proactive marketers the ability to outperform the competition and deliver increased ROI to their business.

One of the more powerful items which has come out of this analysis is that subject lines can make or break an email marketing campaign. In fact 64% of people say they open an email because of the subject line ( Potentially more impactful for marketers is 69% of email recipients report an email as spam based solely on the subject line (Getsidekick). Not only can the subject line impact the success of your campaign, it could also sink it.

In addition to learning about the importance of the subject line, we also know more about what works and what doesn’t work. Based on all of this data, here are some tips and tricks to ensure your next email marketing campaign is your most successful one yet.

Create a Sense of Urgency

How many emails have you received today? In 2011, the typical corporate email user sends and receives about 105 email messages per day. So cutting through the clutter is essential, try and focus on using your subject line to create a sense of urgency. Words such as Alert, Sale, New, Daily, and Weekly have all been shown to increase open rates. On the flip side the word Monthly has actually been shown to decrease open rates.

Create a Sense of Exclusivity

Individuals enjoy feeling they are being included in something others can not access. You can leverage this in your own emails by designing subject lines which indicate the content within the email is only being disclosed to a select few. Including information such a “codes” or other information which seems specific to the user, and creating a sense of exclusivity has been shown to increase open rates by as much as 22% (Email Institute). Additionally think of how many newsletters you’ve been asked to sign up for over the years, just as the sense of exclusivity increases the number of clicks, using broad words such as Newsletter has actually been shown to decrease open rates.


Personalized subject lines have been shown as 22.2% more likely to be opened (Adestra). While obviously hand crafting individual subject lines to everyone on your mailing list is beyond time consuming, most if not all of the email marketing platforms on the market today can allow you to use variables which pull personal information from everyone on your list.

Using these tools you can include information such as the recipients name, or potentially even information on their last purchase. The recipient automatically engages with this information and is drawn towards finding out more in the email itself.

You also can leverage the “reply” affect, where users understand a subject line with “Re:” in it, implying the email in their inbox is a reply to one they sent themselves. In fact this tactic has been proven to work with subject lines of: Re:, Re: Follow up, Re: Update, Re: Introduction, Re: Checking In all showing increased open rates against their competition. However you want to be careful with this approach, as if it is clear you are playing a bait and switch game with your customers their negative reaction could negate any potential benefits of a higher open rate.

Keep it Short

When writing your subject line the key is brevity. Whenever possible keep it as short as possible, don’t focus on introducing the information in the email, focus on getting them to open the email. In fact research has shown subject lines over 30 characters showed a steep decline in open rates. In fact subject lines with less than 10 characters showed some of the highest open rates reaching 58% (Adestra).

Email marketing remains an important vehicle for driving revenue and customer retention. While the content of the email is where you make the sale, the subject line is the single most important factor in getting the return you want from your campaigns. By following the rules above you can ensure your subject lines give your business the best chance to outperform your competition.

About author

Joseph Brady
Joseph Brady 21 posts

Joseph Brady has been involved in growing businesses since 2004. Focused on improving their marketing efforts both on and offline, he has spent considerable time working as a search engine marketing consultant assisting business increase both the quantity and quality of web traffic.

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