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EMAIL SUBJECT LINES

5 tips to help yours go from "meh" to "must-read!"

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The inbox loads, and there they are.

Those bold, little headlines, staring back. Vying for your dream client’s attention.

If you’ve been struggling to get more of your stuff read by your people, this post is for you. You can give your email open rate a serious boost, simply by paying greater attention to the little workhorses of the copywriting world:

Your email subject lines.

Read on for 5 tips to help your emails go from “meh” to “must-read!”:

1) Think like a reader, not a writer.

Decide the effect you want to produce in your reader.

Robert Collier

When we’re creating content, it’s easy to take an overly favorable view of our own stuff.

(“I mean, who wouldn’t want to read this?! It’s spectacular!”)

Yet, to make sure our email subject lines are connecting with our readers, we need to put ourselves in their shoes.

See, when it comes to the emails we send our list, it’s not really about what we think is intriguing. Or what we think is click-worthy.

Our ONLY task is to connect with our people.

And that means we need to do our research. To use what we know about them.

ASK YOURSELF:

  • What words, phrases, questions, etc. have elicited the greatest response from my community so far?
  • What words, phrases, etc. do they tend to use in their own communication online?
  • Which of my emails subject lines have performed especially well in the past?

2) Be clear + descriptive.

Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.

Leo Burnett

I’m a broken record over here, so everyone say it with me:

Above all, be clear.

After all, if your dream client doesn’t understand what you’re trying to say, they’re not likely to stick around for long!

This goes for every blog post, social media caption, marketing material, page on your website… everything.

And your email subject lines are no exception.

A common tendency is to try + be clever. And sometimes that works!

But, more often that not, the most effective email subject lines are the ones that accurately forecast excellent content.

ASK YOURSELF:

  • Is the general topic of this email clear from the subject line?
  • What descriptors can I add to help build anticipation in the reader?
  • Are there any special offers, surprises, or unique features of this email I can highlight in the subject line?

3) Avoid clickbait.

The most powerful element in advertising is the truth.

William Bernbach

There’s no use pretending otherwise, friend:

We’re living in the age of clickbait.

Even if you’re unfamiliar with the term itself, you’ve surely experienced it:

The headlines that promise something so shocking or exceptional that you’re compelled to read on… only to be met with the hollow thud of disappointment in content that falls far short of what was promised.

We see it nearly everywhere now…

In the viral posts on Facebook. In the Buzzfeed articles vying for our attention. Even in our news feeds. (You know, the ones that are meant to convey actual… news?)

I’ve even seen it in the email subject lines of content creators I’m subscribed to. And let me tell you: It’s made me seriously question whether to remain subscribed in those cases. (After all, I don’t want to go on supporting the very behavior I’m advising against, right?)

And while it’s true that a healthy dash of salespersonship is key to compelling copy, that doesn’t mean bamboozling, misleading, or underdelivering in order to engage our people.

So, what separates clickbait from good, ethical copy?

Clickbait:

…relies on initial impact to win a reader’s interest
…prioritizes number of clicks over meaningful engagement
…favors content volume over content value

Good, ethical copy…

…uses initial impact to spark a reader’s interest… and then deliver excellent content
…prioritizes meaningful engagement, always
…is written for the primary purpose of providing true value to the reader

Apply these principles to your email subject lines, and you’ll have the pleasure of engaging your readers, all while standing firmly in your integrity.

ASK YOURSELF:

  • Does this subject line pass my own internal gut-check? Would I feel disappointed or misled by whatever content is waiting on the other side of it?
  • Is there a way to jazz up my subject line without compromising my own integrity?

4) Personalize it.

Copy is a direct conversation with the consumer.

Shirley Polykoff

If clickbait is the bane of our modern email existence, then the corporate mass mailing is the irritant that simply won’t die.

Nothing’s worse than finding your inbox jammed with generic, impersonal, corporate messages.

And while we’ve come to expect that from the “big business” entities to which we’re subscribed, we certainly don’t wish to be greeted that way by the people who actually care about us.

So, how can we create a more personalized experience for our readers from the moment their eyes land on the subject of your email?

It doesn’t have to be complicated. You just need to know a thing or two about your dream client.

Do they regard you as a trusted resource? A warm + welcoming friend? Both?

By using the same tone in your email subject lines as you do in your actual emails, blog posts, and social media posts, you’re inviting your dream client into a seamless, uninterrupted flow of communication with you.

The specific, personal touches you choose to add will depend on your unique style, but here are a few ideas:

  • play around with different sentence structures (e.g., if you use a lot of questions in your content, try posing questions in your email subject lines)
  • consider adding emojis to your email subject lines
  • try incorporating the recipient’s name via your email service provider’s automated merge tag function (e.g., |FNAME|)
  • make use of strong calls-to-action

ASK YOURSELF:

  • How can I bring more of my own unique style to my email subject lines?
  • How can I make my email subject lines feel more personal to my dream client?

5) Test, tweak + repeat.

Like every other form of copywriting, there’s plenty of room for experimentation

Not only is it fun to play around with different word combinations… it can also yield some useful insights about your dream clients!

One strategy I recommend + use often with my copywriting clients is a basic split test.

Split testing simply involves trying out 2 different versions of a piece of copy and comparing the results.

You can use this strategy with just about anything you write, but I love it for testing email subject lines.

For instance, earlier this year, when I emailed my list about a new blog post I’d written on my productivity “secrets”, I split tested 2 different email subject lines:

Everyone on my list received the same exact email, linking to the same exact blog post.

But…

For half the folks on my list, the email appeared in their inbox with the subject line: My productivity “secrets”

And for the other half, the subject line read: How to get s#&% done

Which group do you think had the higher open rate?

The second one did. By a greater margin that I expected!

Interesting, huh?

Now, that doesn’t mean I’ve been peppering my email subject lines with expletives ever since.

But, it did reinforce my belief in the power of experimenting with copy.

You’ll never know unless you test it out, right?

ASK YOURSELF:

  • Are there 2 versions of an email subject line I’m considering? What if I tried testing them both out on my email list?
  • How can I tweak my email subject lines in the future, based on the lessons I’ve learned through testing?

 

LET’S TAKE ACTION!

OK, here’s your action step for email subject lines today:

  • Using the tips above, sit down today, set a timer for 20 minutes, and see how many fresh email subject lines you can generate! (Share your ideas in the comments below, so we can encourage you!)

Cheering you on!


When it comes to attracting the people you love working with most, you already have a powerful asset at your disposal! Ready to learn what it is, and start putting it to work for you + your business TODAY?

CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW TO GET STARTED…

TAKE THE QUIZ + FIND OUT!

 


HI!  I’M MICHAELA. 
I help health + wellness professionals connect with their dream clients through genuine, engaging communication. After spending over a decade studying, researching, and teaching psychology + communication principles, I started this business to empower health + wellness professionals like me to “preach what you practice”. I share practical guidance so you can get clear on your unique value, communicate it with heart, attract + serve the people you love working with most… and actually have fun along the way.
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