The fight for the email inbox is getting more and more competitive. Subscribers are smarter than ever, and grabbing their attention is only getting harder. That’s why an effective subject line is key to a successful email.
The subject line is your email’s first impression. Your email could be filled with the most engaging content ever, but if no one is compelled to open it, all the content (not to mention all the work that went into it!) goes to waste.
Here are some “dos and don’ts” to keep in mind next time you’re crafting a subject line:
Do get personal. Using personalization (beyond the first name) is a great way to show the subscriber that you’re paying attention to what they’ve shared with you. The Open Table subject line below is a great example of personalization done right. It includes my name, reservation timing and restaurant name, so that I’m inspired to confirm the reservation.
Example: “Ursula, let Chez Billy Sud know you’re coming tomorrow”
Don’t use spam words like “free,” “buy now,” “act now,” or “this isn’t spam” (take a look into your own spam folder for some examples of what not to include).
Do pay attention to character count relative to where your emails are being read. While a longer subject line may be ideal for desktop, it’s not going to work if most of your subscribers are reading emails on their phones. Also, please don’t include the word “newsletter” in your email. It’s redundant, and you’re wasting valuable real estate.
Don’t lie about the content in the email. In accordance with the CAN-SPAM Act, your subject line should reflect the content of the email. Our USGBC candidate handbook emails are a great example of being straightforward. There’s no confusion with a subject line that says, “Here’s your LEED Green Associate Candidate Handbook.” The subscriber knows exactly what to expect in this email—the candidate handbook.
Do be timely. Caviar, a food delivery service, sent me an email the day after Easter, with the call to action of “eat a salad.” It’s relatable and funny because of its timeliness. Bonus points for relevant emoji use!
Example: “So you need to eat healthy because 🍭🐰🍫”
Do A/B test. Subject line A/B testing is an easy place to start. Each test is a chance to learn about your subscribers. You never know what may work.
Examples we’ve tested here at USGBC include:
“Last chance to register for the Wintergreen Leadership Awards next week” vs. “Knock it out of the park at the leadership awards next week ⚾”
“Join a live LEED v4.1 session on Materials and Indoor Environmental Quality next week ✅️” vs. “Get your LEED v4.1 questions answered ✅️”
You don’t need to be an email geek to know that email marketing isn’t dead. In fact, email marketing has an average ROI of 3,800 percent.
Whether you’re working on a one-off email or a nurture campaign, keep these tips in mind for a better email experience.
Write like a human.
Remember that your email is being sent to a fellow human being, and write accordingly. Write in a conversational, trustworthy and upbeat tone. Be concise!
Original copy: The LEED Steering Committee recently added select Parksmart measures to the LEED innovation catalog.
Edited copy: Boost your LEED project score with Parksmart.
Cut the text.
An email is not a webpage. The copy should serve as a teaser and encourage the reader to take action.
Get creative with format.
No one wants to read long paragraphs of text. Use icons or bullets to break down information so it’s easier to read, especially for viewing on mobile.
Original copy: “The benefits of Parksmart are that it enables a frictionless experience for your garage user and the environment through removing parking headaches, welcoming and encouraging cyclists and beautifying your garage”
Reformatted copy: The layout below conveys the same information in a format that’s easier to read:
Include a clear call to action.
What is the one takeaway of the email? What is it that you hope your audience will do with the information? Don’t be afraid to get creative with your CTA either.
Look at your own inbox to see emails that stand out to you. Visit Really Good Emails for some email inspiration.
Use A/B testing.
Don’t be afraid to test! Every email is a chance to learn something new about your audience. Test your send time, subject line or “from” name.