The Four Sneaky Ways to Write Irresistible Email Subject Lines

It happens to the best marketers sometimes.

You’ve something great to share with your email subscribers. You’re excited and write an email. You craft each sentence carefully, use power words to make your email content more appealing. You include a compelling CTA and write a subject line.

You click the send button with high hopes and wait…

Next day, when you look at your email stats, you’re disappointed. You notice the open rate isn’t as good as you’d hoped. Your audience isn’t clicking your emails. It’s depressing, though you’re confused.

“What am I doing wrong?”, you think.

Sounds familiar?

Doesn’t your audience like you anymore? Or maybe your email subject line sucks.

Since a subject line is the most important part of an email, writing it feels like an insurmountable task sometimes. But it doesn’t need to be that hard.

I’ll tell you four simple formulas you can use for writing a compelling email subject lines.

Ready to get started?

1. Ask an Open Ended Question

Questions are powerful. They can pique readers’ attention and raise curiosity level in no time. They can change generations. In fact, our whole evolution is hugely dependent on questions we asked and then quest to search the answers.

If you ask the right kind of question, it’ll generate curiosity, which further forces an action (clicking your email).

So, how do ask the right kind of question?

There are two types of questions:

Closed questions

Closed questions do not spark conversation. They can be answered either in a single word or a short phrase. For example:

- How old are you?
- Is marketing your favorite subject?

Open-ended questions

Open-ended questions: spark conversation. They likely receive a long answer. The listeners have to think and respond. For example:

- How do you manage to raise those children alone?
- What is your favorite memory from childhood?

By asking an open-ended question, you can force the reader’s mind to think rationally and make them curious.

If the reader doesn’t know the answer, he has to click. If he knows the answer, he’ll click to check if what he knows is right or wrong.

Let’s look at some examples:

  • Want to publish a book and make $40k writing?
  • Your social media job is dead: Now what?
  • Are you struggling to lower your bounce rate?
  • Confused about Obamacare?
  • Do you think you can retire at 65? Think again!

As you can see, each of the above subject lines helps to raise the curiosity level. And once you’re curious, you’ll be compelled to click and read the answer.

How to apply this formula:

You can use this formula promoting blog posts, ebooks, or an upcoming webinar.

Let’s rewrite above subject lines promoting your blog post about marketing plans:

  • Want to [outcompete rivals] and make [more customers]?
  • Your [marketing plan] is dead: Now what?
  • Are you struggling [with your marketing plan]?
  • Confused about [piggy back marketing]?
  • Do you think [your marketing plan will work]? Think again!

2. Make It Time Sensitive

It’s an old trick that still works. You just need to offer an irresistible deal for a limited period. You may have seen these types of emails in your Inbox.

Often, people think too hard, wait too long to respond to a situation. Adding a time boundary creates urgency. It forces the brain to respond quickly and cut the delay.

According to behavioral psychologists, urgent situations cause us to suspend deliberate thought and to act quickly. Subject lines that create a sense of urgency can give a 22% higher open rate.

The user will click and take action or move on with the guilt of missing a golden opportunity. And no one wants to live with guilt.

Let’s look at some examples:

  • [URGENT] You’ve got ONE DAY to watch this…
  • Uh-oh, your prescription is expiring
  • Your 7-figure plan goes bye-bye at midnight…
  • [LAST CHANCE] Fourteen courses for $1 sale ends today
  • [ENDS TODAY] Professional writing courses just $10

You noticed how these subject lines creating urgency using keywords like “urgent”, “last chance”, “ends today”, “expiring”, “bye-bye at midnight”.

How to apply this formula:

You can use this formula for anything available for a limited time period. Giving away your product at a heavy discount, or giving away tickets to an event with limited seats.

Let’s rewrite the above subject lines if AWR Cloud would be available at discount rate:

  • [URGENT] You’ve got ONE DAY to [buy AWR at $25]
  • Uh-oh, your [AWR 50% discount offer] is expiring
  • Your [AWR Cloud 50% discount] bye-bye at midnight
  • [LAST CHANCE] [AWR 50% discount] ends today!
  • [ENDS TODAY] [AWR Cloud just $25]

3. Hit the Pride

Have you ever been scolded by your best friend? Instead of being diplomatic or over sweet, he pinpointed your mistake straight. You may have felt insulted or angry at first, but couldn’t ignore his words.

Often, people are sweet in their emails. Your subscribers don’t expect from you to be so straight in their face. When you do so, they listen.

However, this trick is risky. You may get the click but at the cost of customers. A little over, you’ll be kicked out.

Use only when you completely understand your audience. You know the taste, perception, desire, behavior and all the other important factors of your audience.

Let’s look at some examples:

  • Shut up & draw: A non-artist way to think visually
  • Your email marketing sucks: 3 tips to make it more effective
  • Why you will never be successful in internet marketing
  • Stop using your ineffective reminder app
  • Your golf instructor is a hack

As you can see, all the above subject lines sound little insulting, and able to catch the attention at first sight.

How to apply this formula:

Do you know something your audience religiously believes in but that’s totally wrong? Or some weakness your reader may have but afraid to confess? This formula can work up there.

You can use this promoting blog posts, case studies, product sales, or ebook giveaways.

Let’s rewrite the above subject lines as if promoting your ebook about SEO:

  • Shut up & [learn SEO]: A [dead simple] way to [rank in Google]
  • Your [SEO] sucks: 3 tips to make it more effective
  • Why you will never be successful in [SEO]
  • Stop using your ineffective [SEO strategies]
  • Your [SEO trick] is a hack

4. Get Personal

Would you prefer to read an email from a friend telling you about new business ideas, or an email from a company informing you about its new boring blog post? Pretty simple, eh?

So, how to create that friendly connection merely with a subject line?

You can include the recipient’s name in the subject line. Use your actual name as your “from” address. Your emails will look more personal that way. A research by Retention Science found subject lines that include the recipient’s first name had a 16% higher open rate.

So just including a name can make a personal connection with your subscribers.

NO! You’ve to get personal in real. Send emails discussing your failures, lessons, and dreams. Show a glimpse of your life. No one likes people who talk about their business and success all the time.

Yes, it’s a bit more work. You might get uncomfortable, or vulnerable. But that’s how you make connections. And trust me all this work is worth it.

All this work is worthwhile because once you successfully make a personal connection with your readers, they will click and read your emails even if your subject line sucks.

Let’s look at some examples:

  • Janice Morgan, your children can earn top grades
  • John, are you a zombie without morning coffee as well?
  • David, 9 out of 10 Americans are completely wrong about this fact
  • Mary, check out these hand-picked looks
  • Happy Birthday Lindsay — Surprise Inside!

As you can notice, almost all the above subject lines use the receiver’s first name. It’s for making a direct connection. It shows that the email is written for them only. It sounds personal and cozy.

How to apply this formula:

You can use this formula sharing a case study, requesting input for a survey, thanking your subscribers, sharing blog posts, or simply telling a personal story.

Let’s rewrite the above subject lines promoting your recent blog post about SEO tools:

  • [John], [these SEO tools can get you top on Google]
  • [John], are you [clueless about SEO tools] as well?
  • [John], 9 out of 10 [marketers] are completely [unaware of these SEO tools]
  • [John], check out these hand-picked [SEO tools]

What Next

Like I said, a subject line is the most important part of an email. Your emails will be useless if not clicked and read. You must write subject lines that can pop out from the sea of other subject lines. They must be hypnotic and seduce the reader to click.

Do not limit yourself within rules and so-called studies. Experiment, analyze and see what works for you. You’ll be amazed at the result.

However, your job isn’t simply sending emails, writing click bait subject lines, and improving your email stats.

If people are reading your emails, they trust you. They are investing their most valuable resource (time) on you. It’s not just a chance, but a responsibility too. Educate people, enhance their perception, and make their life better.

Your emails will be the first that people click in the morning.

What is the best subject line you’ve ever sent or received? Share with us in the comments!

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.

Author: Munender Singh

Munender Singh is a B2B freelance writer and blogger for hire. He specializes in digital marketing, productivity, and WordPress. You can contact him on Twitter.

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