FOMO, Timeliness, no all caps and ‘Inviting’ Leads Can Make Subject Lines (and Readers) Special

OptinMonster reports that 47% of email recipients still decide to open your email based on the subject line. Their advice is to “leverage natural human tendencies and psychological principles.” That’s a bit heavy but when you break it down to things like FOMO (“Don’t Miss Out!” “See Who’s Attending”) and timeliness (“Just Added!” “UPDATE”), it makes a lot of sense.

“A poor subject line is more than just bad: It can contribute to your email being marked as spam, dinging your reputation with your customer and search engines. In fact, 69% of email recipients report email as spam based solely on the subject line.”
—Campaign Monitor

When it comes to length, they write that “the sweet spot is a subject line that’s between 6 and 10 words in length.” As for thinking more concise for mobile, it’s hard to say now. Prior to the pandemic, the number of people opening our emails on their mobile device was climbing. But desktops have now risen back to 3-to-1 for us. As more people go back to the office, that should change.

Of course, everyone advises to A/B test. One common way—which can be automated on many platforms—is to send out 10% of your email to two lists with two different subject lines, see which wins and send the rest to that one. Also test the times you send. The work-from-home revolution has changed a lot of open habits.

Here are more subject line best practices:

Lead with your strength.
The National Endowment for Democracy sent me this one: “INVITE | Democratic Deconsolidation and Declining Rule of Law in Poland: Restoration, Resilience, and Resolve |” The invitation peaked my interest. The International News Media Association starts their weekly newsletter with, “What’s New at INMA” before giving some headlines. “Reminder” is a good way to start if it’s something we’ve signed up for. I just received one: “Reminder for Award Winning NatGeo Documentary Short | Q&A w/ Director |*LIMITED SEATING*” The limited seating also got me to open it quickly. These days, signing up for something is just half the battle. We need to be reminded of the event and why we signed up. These words also score well: update, alert, weekend, thank you, bulletin, upgrade, new and available. I’ve read pros and cons for the word free.

Use the fear of missing out (FOMO) and a… trip?
I liken this to passing by a restaurant or brand store and seeing a line outside. What am I missing? I need to be there. “Almost sold out.” “Today’s your last day to save.” Framebridge sent out an email with five green boxes and the line, “Solve for 15% off.” The email led you to Wordle, where the answer was “frame”; but you had only until midnight to use that word to get a 15% framing discount. Sounds like an interesting way to partner. Alliance Francaise sent out an email with this subject line: “We are taking you to the South of France…” (for a virtual talk.) I’m sure that got a good open rate this time of year.

Personalize and make the recipient feel special.
This just came: “You’re invited to the Halcyon Incubator Future Builders Showcase!” (I came to the last one.) If you have members and/or subscribers, reinforce that what they’re getting from you is especially for them. “Wow, RONN, check out your benefits,” Aetna wrote. Writes Litmus: “80% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a brand that provides personalized experiences.” Sharing location-specific information tells your subscribers you’re paying attention to them. People have an innate curiosity about events taking place in their local area.

“Avoid spammy words, special characters, and SHOUTING.”
“Nothing says ‘spam’ to email recipients and internet service providers more than special characters (#%*@), [exclamation points] and messages in ALL CAPS,” writes Campaign Monitor. “At best, these will earn you an unsubscribe. More commonly, they’ll end up right in the spam folder.” I have read that putting the first word in ALL CAPS drives open rates up and that we shouldn’t shy away from emojis. The National Academy of Sciences did both today with this subject line: “TOMORROW Wrong Answers Only Wine Edition 🍷🍇.” I’m in.

Remember to add preview text.
“If your email’s subject line acts as the title of your email, then the preview text is like the subtitle. It’s that small bit of text after the subject line that displays in your email subscriber’s inbox before they click into the email.” Gives you a chance to tell a little more about what’s in the email.

Use numbers.
Numbers can speak volumes—and feel louder than words because we know that what’s coming up will be finite and manageable. “5 Associations Using Social Media the Right Way,” GLC writes. “13 Inclusive Images that Avoid Tokenism + more!” writes Brevity & Wit. “Three Steps for Building a Successful Marketing Strategy and more.” Those are in my in-box today. (I preferring using the numbers to spelling them out.)

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