One of the biggest mistakes a person can make in their email marketing is…not putting enough effort into their subject lines. Many entrepreneurs spend upwards of an hour writing a great email…choosing exactly the right words.

But once the email is perfect, they slap a subject line on it and send it.

The whole process is a little mixed up. After all, what are your contacts going to see first? Not your perfect email. The first thing they see is your subject line. And it’s your subject line that will determine whether or not they even open your email.

So where should most of your efforts be spent? That’s right! On your subject lines.

As you learn to give subject lines the time and effort they deserve, you will see measurable improvements in your open rates.

Let’s get started writing open rates your contacts respond to.

Watch the “Thoughts” Your Subject Lines Inspire

Bad subject lines seem to be ruling everyone’s inboxes. Take a look at a few that have gone out recently:

“Children are the bridge to heaven”
“The truth about Aztec gold”
“OMG. What a day. Our little Mister-Man”
“STOP Waiting for Strange Women to Make You King”
“Don’t buy this course…”
“It’s been awhile but…”

Email marketing is supposed to be an “ongoing conversation” with your contacts. What are your contacts “saying” after reading your headlines? Here’s  an idea (based on the subject lines above) of the thoughts that might be going through a person’s head as she reads these:

Children are the bridge to heaven
Hah! Not today they’re not…

The truth about Aztec gold
Is there a lie about Aztec gold?

OMG. What a day. Our little Mister-Man
OMG, I don’t need to hear about your day, I’m having a day of my own.

STOP Waiting for Strange Women to Make You King
If I open that, it’s going to take me straight to a porn site.

Don’t buy this course…
Okay, I won’t. (This reverse-psychology strategy has been done very effectively. This one just didn’t come off quite right.)

It’s been awhile but…
…it’s going to be a while longer.

Really good subject lines won’t leave room for dismissal, argument, or disinterest. As you come up with options for your subject line, choose the one that is compelling and starts a conversation with your contact. A conversation they want to continue.

Too many times, people come up with something clever or puny or that they think is intriguing. But if your contact doesn’t, that email is going straight to the trash. Is there room for humor? Yes, depending on your audience and purpose. Is there room for curiosity? Absolutely! If it comes off right – if your contact reads it (and reacts) the way you were hoping they would.  

But unless you “play it safe” with your subject lines, you’re taking the risk of looking very foolish.

Need a real life, bad example? Several years ago, at a company called Infusionsoft, most of their clients were new to email marketing and they were making poor choices that affected the deliverability of all Infusionsoft customers. They needed to get their customers on an educational webinar and fast!

Someone made the analogy that when one person “peed in the pool” it affected everyone in the pool. That analogy became a subject line that read, “Don’t pee in the pool.”

No one got it. They didn’t get it even after they read the email. When in doubt, go with a subject line that can’t be misinterpreted.

Okay. You’ve seen what happens when a subject line starts the wrong conversation – or gets you tossed in the trash. Now let’s look at how great subject lines help you achieve the right results.

Offer Your Contacts What They Need/Want…
And They’ll Open Your Emails

When writing your subject lines, the most important thing to remember is this – your contacts are busy!

And not only are they busy, but their inbox is cluttered with hundreds of marketing messages. As they sort through their email (deleting messages as fast as they can), your message has got to stand out.

How do you do that? By making your subject line beneficial. Use your subject line to show your prospects you have something they might be interested in. Because all the other headlines they’re reading are just noise.

Want some examples?

Let’s say your prospects are business owners. And you have a 92 page ebook that shows them how to increase their profits. What would you write to cut through the clutter and get them to open your email? How about:

9 proven building blocks to double your sales

(That subject line not only got people to open, but the email itself led to over 200,000 opt-ins in just under a year.)  

What if you promoted autism education through a webinar and wanted more people to sign up? You could try:

Webinar Invite: get puzzling questions about autism answered

(Using this as a headline on a sign up page got close to a 20% opt-in rate from cold traffic.)

Want one more? What if you wanted to tell your contacts about a new event they had probably never heard of? You might couple it with a benefit you know, for sure, they want. Something like:

More valuable resources at SuccessCon

(That subject line got a 46% open rate and a 7% click rate. The link took people to the event website.)

Once you get your contacts into the habit of opening your emails, then you can be a lot more flexible. You can try humor. You can tease them with content that piques their curiosity. You can use one word. And they’ll still open the email.

Years ago, there was a marketer who made a huge mistake when sending an email out to a list of 200k. He forgot to include a link to a resource he had referenced. When you do something like that, there’s only one choice to make it right…send another email.

The second email went out 10 minutes after the first. And the subject line contained a single word:


The company’s marketing team  was carefully tracking the open rate on the first email to see how many people were affected by the mistake. But an interesting thing happened. About 20% more people opened the Oops email than the original email. And then…they saw a huge bump in the open rate of their first email.

It would not be a good idea to purposely using a tactic like this one. It was a very stressful day for that marketing team. But it did tell them something about subject lines. And they learned that once you’ve built a solid relationship with your contacts, you can get away with a lot more creativity. Or mistakes.

However, until you reach that point, focus your efforts on proving the content inside the email is worth being opened.

There is just one more section to cover.

Unless You’re Testing…Shake Up Your Approach

If you’re into automated marketing (and anyone serious about growing a business should be), then you know how easy it is to send out a lot of emails. And send them frequently. But the ability to “set it and forget it” with your marketing means a lot of business owners make assumptions they really shouldn’t make.

For example: just because you’ve sent 3 emails about the same topic to your contacts, doesn’t mean they even saw them. But that doesn’t stop business owners from writing subject lines like this:

Did you read it yet?

You haven’t been responding to my emails

What else do I need to tell you?

You get the idea. The subject lines get more aggressive but without any proof that they need to. Maybe your contact was on vacation for 10 days and never opened their email. Maybe their computer crashed and they didn’t see the 2 emails you sent because those emails were never recovered.

Give your contacts the benefit of the doubt.  

On the other hand, don’t assume the person has NOT read your emails just because they didn’t take action. Maybe you just didn’t hit the right emotion with your copy that day.

So how do you handle sending multiple emails on the same topic to your contacts…without getting too aggressive or alienating someone who thinks they aren’t interested?

Switch up the content – especially the subject line.

As mentioned, maybe what you wrote the first time didn’t hit the right buttons. No biggie. You focus on a different benefit or approach. Because more often than not, your product or service has multiple benefits or sub-benefits. You’ve got to find the one that matters to your contact.

Here is a series of subject lines from a marketer who understands what she’s doing. (By the way, her name is Amy Jo Berman, and her copy is fantastic!):

Day 1: Struggling without an agent this pilot season? Is so, you need this…

Day 2: The worst way to try to get an agent is…

Day 3: [Shaira’s Story] She got an agent! Here’s what she did…

Day 4: [EXPIRING] Save $44 on Representation Domination (last chance)

If at first you don’t succeed? Try again with a little different approach. In 4 emails, you’ve got the straight-forward benefit, a curiosity approach, a case study, and exclusivity with an expiring offer.

When you automate…keep it fresh and exciting. You’re sending a lot of emails. Find the right buttons to push.

Now, are there other subject line types? Absolutely. But some like “humor” or “curiosity” aren’t here on purpose. First of all, there isn’t usually a template for those styles. Second, they are really difficult to get right. Master these other types first and then try your hand at some of the more unique styles.

Writing subject lines doesn’t have to be difficult, but you should give it the time and attention it deserves. If you can’t come up with a subject line on your own, use a template. The more emails you send, the better you’ll get until subject lines become second nature.

Still not feeling confident about coming up with your own fabulous subject lines? Get access to over 50 subject line templates when you buy a membership with Ready To Go Copy today! They are immediately available upon purchase, so what are you waiting for? Your business is waiting on you to make it grow.

Get Instant Access to
“The Write Time to Grow™”

Our Fast and Easy Content Creation System


With a step-by-step guide, simple checklist, super efficient content tracker, and monthly suggested content calendars, you’ll always know what marketing pieces you should be working on. And you’ll have the tools to quickly create content your prospects and customers desperately want from you.  Terms and Conditions

Check your Inbox for details to access your Fast and Easy Content Creation System.

Newsletters, like mom jeans, are making a giant comeback. And we’re over the moon you’re interested in ours.

When you sign up, here’s what you can expect from us:

Every Thursday you’ll get digestible content suggestions, marketing insights, and maybe a little hand holding (for those of you that need it) from a seasoned copywriter.

Our promise? No fluff. Usable content and insights in every email we send.

Enter your email and sign up for free right now.

You have Successfully Subscribed!