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The average consumer receives 416 commercial emails a month — that’s before personal and work-related emails.
Among marketers, there’s growing competition to capture the attention of your audience. To resonate with a lead, you need to maximize the subject line — your first (and only) opportunity to stand out from a crowded inbox.
First-class marketers have distilled their subject line strategy into a science, ushering new leads through the sales funnel with every “send.”
To see how they’re achieving this, here are 9 resonant subject lines from brilliant marketers, and takeaways to make your subject lines utterly clickable.
MarketingProfs followed a thoughtful “Please tell us more about you” with their annual members survey. Instead of covering up the nature of the email in the subject line, they asked me to give them feedback in a cordial, human way. External surveys usually receive a 10-15% response rate, leaving much room for improvement. This kind of transparency increases response rates by building trust with old-fashioned manners. Yes, please!
Takeaway: Be cordial. Be polite.
Just like MarketingProfs’ subject line, this note from the e-commerce company Everlane works toward building a relationship. “Your Favorite Cardigan. Our Favorite Color” refers both to the recipient of the email and the sender, creating a common connection.
In an e-commerce market that emphasizes deals and scarcity-based motivation, Everlane stands out because of its emphasis on shared values and aesthetic. Not only does this subject line capture attention in a personal way, it reflects their brand’s emphasis on aesthetics.
Takeaway: Stay true to your brand.
Food52 made stomachs grumble with this mouth-watering subject line. By bringing a visceral craving for lip-smacking caramel sauce to our inbox, their marketers create a mental association between your satisfaction and their product.
Plus, Food52 made a compelling pitch: their caramel sauce belongs on everything from bread to ice cream. Because of the product’s versatility, it’s worth the purchase. Marketers in other industries can mirror their approach — without food metaphors — by keeping your sell simple and appealing to natural instincts.
Takeaway: Speak to your audience’s instincts in a fun, evocative way.
Google is ahead of the game when it comes to resonance. Their regular email to me, “Liz, check out your weekly thought-starter from Think” recognizes personalization as the key to effective marketing.
Overall, name personalization increases click-through rates, although the effect differs between industries. According to MailChimp, the legal industry is the only sector where name personalization negatively affects click-through rates.
Takeaway: Use a merge tag to personalize your subject line and increase click-through rates.
Image Source: New York Magazine
During President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, Obama’s staffers sent out 740 different email subject linesincluding “I’m saving you a seat.” Campaign staffers meticulously A/B tested each one to tease out the subject lines that prompted the most donations to his campaign. Some marketers have criticized his email campaign tactics. Despite controversy, they resonated with Obama’s audience, raising the majority of online donations to his campaign.
Takeaway: A/B test everything — and we mean everything.
General Assembly, a skills-based educational company, sends me regular emails about part-time and immersive classes. A “last call” email, this subject line tactfully reminded me of a deadline, creating urgency. Instead of writing “Last Call: Digital Marketing Class,” their marketers used words like “savvy” to provide more intrigue and value. Even though I didn’t want to take the class, the email resonated with me because it offered thought leadership on digital marketing — what does being savvy entail? Am I missing out on something?
The most important aspect of any email marketing subject line is to have a strong balance of creativity and clarityon the content of the email. GA did just that, by being upfront with the urgency and main subject (digital marketing), but also being a little mysterious.
Takeaway: Explore ways to add thought-leadership to your run-of-the-mill sales emails.
Outdoor Voices took a cutting-edge approach to holiday marketing this year. Their marketers used the subject headline “Coal?” as a reference to a line of grey active apparel. Pulling readers in with a snappy title, they followed up with an awesome secondary subject line meant to keep people reading:
By putting a new spin on a traditional Christmas consequence — coal — they caught people’s attention just before the holidays. Through witty copy, they also brought focus to grey apparel, which doesn’t have the same visual impact as brighter colors.
Takeaway: Consider adding a secondary subject line in the body of an email to add depth to a pithy subject line.
Mobile interactions have shortened email subject lines, prompting organizations to get more creative. Creative Mornings, a community for creatives and entrepreneurs, embraced this growing trend by using emoticons or symbols to illustrate an idea. Each emoticon represented an aspect of the events they’re promoting — smart, right?
Research from Experian shows that emails with emojis in their subject lines saw a 45% increase in unique open rates. Just make sure to keep it professional! B2B businesses should reserve use to industry-relevant symbols or celebratory communication.
Takeaway: Use symbols with discernment, and they can increase your unique open rates.
Image Source: Marketing Sherpa
This email subject line succeeded in two ways: it prompted readers to click the headline and set up a clever conversation for Influitive. After a secondary headline, "Don't make referrals awkward," the marketers compare B2B referral programs to awkward pickup lines. This analogy leads into their product, a referral automation system. The email yielded the company’s highest open rate at 25% because of its insightful humor and light tone.
Takeaway: Set up a conversation with tactful humor.
Resonant subject lines grab your interest in different ways: with warm, personable copy or an unexpected emoji. The only way to identify the most effective approach in each circumstance is to constantly be A/B testing. Through a simple compare and contrast, you learn more about your audience, honing in on the techniques that transform click-through rates and foster customer loyalty.
If you're looking for new campaign inspiration to fill your email streams, check out our Spring Campaign Planning Worksheet!