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Six Subject Line Tips that Work

Critical business and sales emails won’t work for you or your company if nobody opens the message. If you consider that some of your top clients or prospects receive upwards of 100 messages a day, you get why a savvy, effective subject line is the key to email open rates. Here are six tips sure to help:

1. The best advice is to get to the point. For business communications in particular, it’s best to let recipients know what the message is about. That way, they can discern easily when scrolling through a list of messages whether your email needs immediate attention. It’s not a good idea to trick or deceive to get people to open your message. One study a few years back found that a clear subject line led to more than 500 percent greater open rates than clever ones. 2. And keep it brief. Studies have shown that subject lines should be brief, but there is a limit. In other words, don’t aim for so few words that your message is unclear; two words are not necessarily better than five. Try to keep your subject line under 10 words if possible. 3. Use the second person. By using “you” or “your” in the subject line, recipients know right away there is either something in the message for them, about them or pertaining to them. They’re more likely to open it. Combine no. 1 with the second person for the best effectiveness: “I need you to review this report today.” Or: “See how your stocks performed this week.” 4. Personalize the message. This takes the second person a step further. The subject line is a great place not only to use a personal message, but to test how it works in your sales and marketing efforts. A company called Retention Science studied more than 200 million email messages and found that those with the recipient’s first name in the subject line were opened 2.6 percent more often than those without. 5. Ask for action. Much like the closing of a letter, message or presentation, you can suggest or ask for action in your subject line to generate interest in the message. In addition to our examples in no. 3, consider this comparison: “Employee newsletter attached” is passive. You don’t even recommend that employees open and read it! A subject line that reads: “Find out about our new lunchtime fitness classes” might generate more interest in the email, the newsletter and even fitness! 6. Or promise something. When you make it clear in your subject line that this message contains an offer, especially an urgent or short-term one, you usually get a better open rate. The only drawbacks to using promises in subject lines are: failing to follow through on promises and overuse of the techniques. Recipients tune out “free shipping” if it’s offered every day.

No matter what you promise or how you word your subject line, always double-check it. The subject line deserves the same proofreading attention as the body of your email. A typo might be enough to turn off a prospect or could cause a big problem for you and your company. For example, you might promise that a sale lasts two days longer than planned!

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