Your Subject Line Matters

How to pick a subject line that gets the open


“…and I tell you… with the right subject line our open rates will grow by this much…”

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“If an email is sent… and nobody opens it… was it ever sent at all?”

One of the most common questions we get asked by people who want to get better at Mailchimp is “how do I make my emails look better?”… we’ve just had an enquiry from someone who wants a half day training session on email design.

Unfortunately, for many people this is going to have almost no impact on their performance… because it doesn’t matter how good an email looks if no-one opens it.

All that time and effort crafting a beautiful email… and no one gets to see it!

Which is why you need to be using all of the tools available to maximise your chances of getting an email opened 

…and one of the key tools that you have at your disposal is the subject line.

Although it seems like a small task, everything starts with the subject line. It’s one of the first things your recipient will see in a crowded inbox. 

Considering the average office worker receives about 121 emails daily, it’s crucial to craft sublime subject lines that are compelling enough to rise above the noise and grab the recipient’s attention – and get opened!. 

Before you start constructing your clickable creations, it’s important to understand the kind of subject lines that get opened and why.

The best email subject lines work because they are targeted, designed to appeal to a specific audience, and trigger an emotional and psychological response. Keep reading to learn how you can use these elements in your subject lines to guarantee they get opened.

Tailor and target

The only way to truly target your subscribers is to understand them. So use what you know about your recipients and give them content that they are more likely to respond to. Tailor your subject line to your reader’s interests and desires, everyone’s different, and all want different things so use segmentation to allow you to target the right people with the right message at the right time.  

You can also make sure you are being relevant by personalising your subject lines and content based on where the customer is on their buyer journey.

Delve deeper than demographics

The more intimately you know your audience, the easier it will be to create subject lines that resonate. Focus on understanding what values influence your recipient to make a decision, What do your customers and prospects want? What are their pain points? How can your product or service solve their problem?

Now address these pain points in your subject line…

Position the true value of what they’ll find inside your email in the subject line. To be truly targeted, be specific and descriptive, letting the recipient understand what they will get by opening the email. 

Appeal to your audience

Adjust the tone of your email based on the type of people you’re sending it to, speak their lingo, and use language which is appropriate and relevant. Keep it short and casual.

People want to hear from, talk to, and buy from other people, not from big brands and companies so write like a human being in a conversational style using contractions like “you’re” rather than “you are.”  

To determine the best way to connect with your email recipients, you should test your emails. Always A/B test your subject line making sure you tweak the wording according to your results.

Choosing variables that are significantly different from each other is the key to a successful A/B test. If you test two subject lines that sound too similar, you won’t learn much. 

Trigger an emotional and psychological response

It’s not hard to capitalise on natural human principles and psychological tendencies to increase your open rates, it’s simple and lucrative.

Here are 5 examples of subject lines that use psychology to compel subscribers to open your email.

1: The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) Subject Line 

A psychological trick that is impossible to ignore is the fear of missing out on something (or FOMO) We have a deep, inherent terror of being left behind, or of missing out so your subject line should show them what they’re missing out on, and how they can get it  now, 

How to use it 

if there is no urgency, there is no reason to take action so Creating a sense of urgency is an efficient way to get people to take action. You can strategically use this fear in your subject lines by adding an element of scarcity (limited availability) or urgency (limited time).

  1. Hurry! Your offer expires today
  2. Today only, earn double points 

2: The Perfectly Personalised Subject Line

Email subject lines that are personalised boost open rates by 10-14% across industries and achieve six times higher transaction rates.

Personalisation helps subscribers focus on what’s important to them and tune out the rest of the noise. Psychologists call this the “cocktail party effect.” The cocktail party effect means that people can focus on one stimulus (such as hearing or vision) in the presence of many others.

3: The Secretive Subject Line

Human beings are naturally curious and we want to know secrets so it’s good to maintain some sense of mystery especially if it pique’s the recipient’s natural curiosity and interest. 

How to use it 

Composing open-ended subject lines can invoke intrigue and prompt your subscribers to engage with you. You can make subscribers curious by asking a question, (especially good if it’s relevant to your recipients’ buyer persona) promising something interesting, even telling them what (not) to do, or simply saying something that sounds strange or unusual. 

Curiosity combined with the need to be “in the know” will get this email opened.

Just don’t be too obscure, or it could end up being seen as spam…

4: The Vehemently Vain Subject Line

Everybody has a bit of vanity. acceptance is a common emotional need. People love to be liked, accepted, and respected by others. It’s just about being part of society. 

That’s why some of the most clever subject lines use vanity to get you to open the email. If you are selling a product or service that helps meet this need, use email subject lines that appeal to this emotion.

How to use it 

To do this, you can either promise something that makes the subscriber look better to their peers, or invoke the fear of being shamed.

  1. You deserve everything new
  2. Hey, [name]! We think you’ll make this [product] look awesome

5: The Endearingly Exclusive Subject Line

The psychology of exclusivity is a powerful thing. People want to be in on the inside information and “in the know.” They want to have access to content that’s not available to the masses. Being exclusive and made to feel special gives your subscriber a sense of belonging which builds loyalty and compels them to convert.

How to use it 

“You’re invited!”

“An exclusive offer just for you”

The best email subject lines work because they are targeted, they appeal to a specific audience and they make your readers feel a certain response. 

But bear in mind that what works for some businesses may not work for others so it’s all about figuring out what works best for you whilst allowing you to hone in on the approach that engages your audience the most.

Your subject line can make or break your email. If the email doesn’t get opened, no one can see what’s inside of it – so make sure you’re investing time in crafting great subject lines – they’ll have a bigger impact on success then email design!!

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Liz Seymour

Liz Seymour

Cheesy as it sounds, Liz is the biz when it comes to Marketing. She's worked in Marketing for around 20 years when she went to uni and studied Multimedia Technology…That's where her love affair for all things Marketing began.  Since then she has worked for household names such as Wickes, The Rank Group, Nuffield Health, Snappy Snaps and Marriot. Not to mention a great variety of B2B and B2c businesses and agencies.

Here at Chimp Answers she deals with all things Marketing focusing on the Content and Copywriting side of things such as Blog posts, Emails and landing pages. Liz is Certified in Direct-Response Copywriting, Google Digital Marketing Fundamentals,Hubspot Inbound Marketing,Hubspot Social Media and of course, Mailchimp Foundations.

Struggling to understand who your customer actually is?...and what motivates them?

Use this FREE Customer Avatar Worksheet to develop your marketing activities with a specific person in mind and ensure you know what to say and where to say it.

Download it now!

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