There’s a lot of competition in that inbox, and email copywriting is what will set you apart.

Email is your most valuable marketing asset and your subject line determines your success (open) or failure (deleted without reading).

Email copywriting: the subject is all about the context

Every time your email arrives in someone’s inbox, it is unexpected and often uninvited. Yes, they signed up. Yes, you told them you’d email once every two weeks. Yes, you kept up your end of the bargain. But, each and every email from you is a new intrusion into an already busy inbox.

This happens to me all the time. I’ll get an email from a company that I receive email from once a month, and every time it arrives I think ‘Oh yeah! I forgot I signed up!’ And every single time, I weigh the subject line against my to-do list and context. Every email is judged not just as ‘should I open this or not,’ I also judge it as whether I want to KEEP getting those emails.

Because of this intrusion factor, your subject line must tell your reader what your email will give them or show them. It must be specific and useful.

Remind your reader who you are

Although the ‘from’ field is your first point of trust for getting the all-important open. You can remind your reader who you are and WHY they are getting the email in the first place by putting a mention at the beginning of the subject line.

For example, if it’s a regular newsletter, consider writing the subject line in a way that catches attention and explains what they are receiving (hopefully reminding them why they sign up in the first place).

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Write it like a headline

Write your subject line with your reader’s context firmly in your mind: solve their problems, get them to agree, make things easier for them.

When your reader says ‘yes, I want this,’ you will get the open. Here are some criteria to judge your subject line by:

  • Is it useful? Fulfil the promise you made when they signed up; don’t be clever, just tell the reader what is in the email, preferably right away at the start of the subject
  • Is it specific? Don’t be mysterious; if you have 3 things to say, tell them that: “3 thoughts on the future of email marketing”
  • Is it remarkable? Say interesting things, not cute things; stand out from the rest of the inbox
  • Is it urgent? Remember what is urgent to you is not always so to others; use urgency when your content truly is, but not all the time (or you run the risk of being the ‘boy who cried wolf’)

What about ‘free’ and spam?

Is it okay to use words like ‘free’ in the subject line? Well, things change all the time. Daily in fact.

I know that good spam checking software knows better than I do, so I rely on it when sending out email marketing. Run your messages through your provider’s spam checker and adjust as necessary. (BTW, ‘free’ is okay to use, sometimes…)

Shorter is better

Tighten up your writing to get just the most relevant and useful content into the subject line. That might mean dropping leading articles (the, a, an) and it might also mean dropping conjunctions in favour of readable punctuation (, – ; : )

The most important thing with subject lines is to create trust by following up with great content.

Next in email copywriting 101: Improve your email content, make it customer service

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