Writing an Effective Email Subject Line

By June 11, 2012 Marketing No Comments

Email remains a strong medium of mass communication in business. However, the presence of SPAM has made it more difficult for marketers to get their emails delivered and opened – even when the message is warranted, relevant, and sometimes requested. To that end, a compelling subject line is paramount, especially when reaching out to recipients for the first time.

The internal marketing department, or corporate marketing partner, should be responsible for coordinating all mass emails. This way a group of (presumably) experts that can determine appropriate timing, content, theme, call-to-action, and place of each email message in the marketing plan. That said, there are times when an email needs to be sent to a small group of people (i.e. fewer than 20 recipients) and there’s literally no time for the approval process.

In these instances, the sender (usually a salesperson) is responsible for determining the specifics, and with those specifics, the email subject is arguably among the most important, because it’s the first thing the recipient sees after the sender’s name/email address.

So, for those rogue marketers, here’s an abridged list of best practices for writing effective email subject lines:

  • 60 characters (max) – most devices cut off anything longer, and shorter is often better
  • Reiterate the point of the email
  • Be friendly and avoid sounding corporate (“Let’s grab lunch next Tuesday” vs. “Join ABC Corp. for a Lunch and Learn next Tuesday”)
  • Include the basics: where, what, when (the sender’s email address will indicate the “who”)
  • Never mislead the recipients
  • Avoid spammy (see below) and unnecessary words, excessive punctuation, symbols, and ALL CAPS
  • Check for spelling/grammar errors
  • Remain positive and relate to the recipient (e.g. “Nice meeting you at happy hour last week!”)

TIP: When sending a small marketing email on your own, always BCC the recipients.

In general, people open emails based on how important the email is on an individual level. So, when writing the subject line, consideration should be paid to the individual recipient’s motivations.

Here’s a short list of spammy email words. Hopefully you get the idea:

  • Free
  • Now
  • Save
  • sex-related words
  • medical-related words
  • Credit
  • Apply now
  • Double your
  • Enlarge
  • Buy