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Email Subject Lines: 5 That Suck and 5 That Rock

How many emails do you get every day? Tons, right?

And how many do you actually open? Let me guess: A tiny fraction of the relentless tsunami that floods your inbox.

The ones that you do open probably have something to do with email subject lines. (And also how bored you are, how much you’re procrastinating, or how much time you have on your hands to clear out your inbox.)

So let’s talk about your company’s email marketing. If your open rates suck, it’s because your email subject lines suck, period. Doesn’t matter how valuable the information you include in the email. Hell, you could be giving away that night’s winning lottery numbers! But if your email subject line is something generic like “Today’s update,” no one is going to open it. 

I’ve been keeping an eye on the worst email subject lines that are landing like a ton of bricks in my inbox. One trend  I noticed: marketing companies tend to write the shittiest, most generic, and most boring email subject lines. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

So let’s look at some email subject lines that suck, why they suck, and how to fix them.

5 email subject lines that suck

Winter Updates

Why it sucks:

  • It’s generic
  • It could come from any company
  • It could cover just about any subject
  • It provides no hint as to what’s inside
  • It doesn’t provide a compelling reason to open it

How to rewrite the email subject line:

The only thing this email has going for it is the mention of “winter.” I know this email contains something about winter, but that’s it. Give me some specifics, like “20 ways to entertain kids on snow days!”

Blog – X Company for 2/16/17

Why it sucks:

  • It’s almost void of information
  • It provides no clue as to what the blog post is about
  • It doesn’t tell us how many blog posts are included

How to rewrite the email subject line:

This email is automatically generated via RSS (real simple syndication) when a new blog post is published. If you have a similar setup, simply log into the email marketing platform and manually add the name of the blog post (or something fun, interesting, or catchy) to the box marked “subject line.”

Neighborhood News for Monika Jansen

Why it sucks:

  • It never changes from week to week
  • It doesn’t provide a compelling reason to open it
  • It doesn’t provide context about my neighborhood. Are we talking about my zip code? My zip codes plus four others? My town and the surrounding towns?

How to rewrite the email subject line:

Tell me what’s new in my local real estate market! Are prices going up or down? Are they flat? What trends are gaining momentum? Did a house in my zip code just sell for a record price?

One thing this email has going for it: it’s personalized with my name.

Our Top 10

Why it sucks:

  • It fails to tell us what the top 10 list includes or why it matters
  • It doesn’t provide a compelling reason to open it
  • It’s not focused on the reader

How to rewrite the email subject line:

First of all, tell us what the top 10 is! Top 10 dog names? Top 10 honeymoon destinations you never heard of? Top 10 reasons to paint your house white?

Second, remove “our” so it’s less focused on the company. Unless you’re sending out a press release via email (which I don’t recommend), the email subject line needs to speak directly to the reader.

X Company Presents … February!

Why it sucks:

  • It’s ridiculous hyperbole – no one creates, owns, or otherwise is solely responsible for the existence of a month
  • It doesn’t provide a compelling reason to open it
  • It’s not focused on the reader
  • It’s the same subject line every month – only the month changes

How to rewrite the email subject line:

For Pete’s sake people! Tell us what’s in the damn email that we will care about!

(As an aside: the monthly email from this company is long, almost completely focused on the company and provides zero value to the reader.)

5 subject lines that rock

Now that we’ve covered the sucky emails, let’s look at five that I can’t wait to open:

15 best podcasts for new entrepreneurs – Jeff Bullas

Why it’s great: It tells me what’s in the email and who should read it.

Last day, Monika, $400 off Social Media Success Summit – Social Media Examiner

Why it’s great: The sense of urgency compels me to take action. And, it’s personalized!

Why can’t we admit when we’re wrong? – OfficeVibe

Why it’s great: I want to open it to find out the answer!

Trend Report: What’s hot so far in 2017 – Envato

Why it’s great: Hot trends report from an industry leader? That’s super valuable information, and I want to read it.

80% of sales occur between the 2nd and 5th call – PandaDoc

Why it’s great: Numbers. This email subject line is very educational – and I definitely want to learn more.

We know that writing email subject lines is hard. So let us help you! Contact us today to learn more about our results-oriented approach to email marketing.

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