It's Not You, It's Your Subject Line

We live in a message saturated world. Here at Return Path, we found the average person receives more than 500 email marketing messages a month! People are being bombarded with messages to buy the latest car, see the newest movie, and so on and so forth. With so many messages fighting for your client’s attention, the inbox has become the marketing battlefield. Every time a consumer enters their inbox they are met with messages battling to not only grab their attention, but also to keep their attention.

Since your subscribers are already receiving thousands of messages a day, a subject line without enough punch will not only leave your email unopened, but can also create distance between your subscribers and your brand. An eye-catching subject line can pique your subscriber’s interest, leading to higher conversion rates and ultimately a better ROI. Although there is no formula for the perfect subject line, here are some  tips to help you come up with a subject line that will not only help survive—and thrive—in the email marketing world.

1. Employ humor. Laughter has traditionally been known to be the best medicine. When it comes to subject lines, humor is a great way to get your subscribers engaged with your mail and also brighten up their day. Here are some examples from companies who used humor in their subject lines:

Go Ahead….. we won’t judge you (

Oh, please. There’s always time for shopping (

We’ve got a Gold thing going (

These companies do a great job of having their subject line focus on their product while also drawing in their subscribers in with a comical punch. When using humor, it is important to use references your subscribers can relate to. Also, be sure to stay true to your brand when coming up with your hilarious subject line. Your subscribers are signed up for your email because they are interested in your brand first and foremost.

Humor is a great way to break down the barrier between company and subscriber, and your creative and captivating subject line can help create an instant connection. However, it is critical that your humor not offend your subscribers, so steer clear of off-color humor or insults. You want to keep them coming back for more!

2. Stress urgency. Creating a sense of urgency can be another effective tool for your subject line. No one likes missing out on the party of the year. The same concept applies to email—no one wants to miss out on the exclusive offer or the flash sale that only lasts for the next 24 hours. Without a sense of urgency, subscribers are prone to putting off your email until the last minute. Creating a sense of urgency sets off alarms to your consumers and prompts them act. Here are some examples of subject lines that create a sense of urgency from my own inbox:



3. Test different options. Since there is no “formula” to creating the perfect subject line, the best way to see what your subscribers are drawn to is to test the waters. Testing your subject lines on a small sample of your subscriber list will help you gain better insight into what attracts your subscribers and keeps them engaged. Before you begin testing, make sure your sample is large enough to be statistically significant. If your subject line is a home run with your test group, try sending it out to a larger group to see what type of response you get.

To help our clients optimize their email programs, Return Path recently launched a new product within our Email Optimization Suite: Subject Line Optimizer. This tool compares subject lines across thousands of brands and industries. Specifically, it takes the subject line you are testing and compares it to successful subject lines from other companies within your industry and provides historical data to show what subject lines have worked in the past. All of this can be done before you deploy your campaigns, saving time and resources.

To demonstrate the Subject Line Optimization tool, I entered the subject lines from the humor examples above to determine their read rate lifts. Not surprisingly, these humorous subject lines experienced a higher than average read rate:





Using humor and urgency in your subject lines can lead to more clicks and a better bottom line for you. Return Path’s new Subject Line Optimizer tool will not only save you time, but also give you insight into what strategies have worked within your industry and hopefully inspire you to create new and unique subject lines. In the end, everyone wins!

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