Your Subject Line = Your Sales Pitch

In order to make your emails relevant to the recipient, start with the subject line.

In the last article it was outlined why getting your email marketing RITE (Relevant, Interesting, Timely, Engaging) is so important. We’ll now look at how to make your emails relevant to your audience and explain a great way to start – with your subject line. Your subject line is your sales pitch so is a key aspect of the RITE method.

R is for Relevant

You have so little space or time nowadays to get their attention. The only thing your reader is interested in is themselves – “me” – the things they like and don’t like. Other people are “at the edge of their universe” and they don’t really care about what they’re doing.

Nobody is interested in your recent business news, sadly, unless you can translate it into a clear benefit to them.

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People don’t want brand-centric emails anymore.

Your social media and content marketing fails if it’s all about you because people won’t feel a connection with you.

Customers are used to being spoiled, indulged and considered in everything that we, as companies, do now.

How do you make it Relevant?

You will need quality customer insight to understand what your customers are really interested in. Talk to the sales team or other customer facing colleagues if you don’t have the chance to speak to them directly. Note the language (and jargon) they use, are they in/formal, are their challenges topical (Brexit, GDPR, Christmas!) or ‘evergreen’ – motivation, time management, lead generation – and their level of knowledge.

You pique your readers’ curiosity by making the benefit to them by answering “what’s in it for me?” and then you test. Even the free versions of email software allow you to test things and can give you a rating on whether your subject line will work.

As an exercise, go through your email inbox and look to see what you’ve received that catches your attention and has a strong headline. Of the emails you’ve opened:

  • what was it that appealed to you?
  • Was something intriguing or funny, or a clear benefit to you?
  • Did you recognise the business or sender as someone who’s a good source of information?

These same reasons are what will encourage people to read your emails, so think about how you can adapt these to your business.

If you’re looking for topic ideas, look at a newspaper. A good example is The Sun, a daily UK paper aimed at the less serious-minded consumer. They write corking headlines, which get your attention, draw you in and make you want to read the story, even if they don’t directly relate to it.

Women’s magazines, Cosmopolitan in particular, are another good source for ideas.

But any tabloid or publication aimed at the ordinary man or woman in the street is a great place to look for subject lines, language and topical content.

Why not start here

Subject Line

The first four or five words of your subject line are crucial and need to grab the reader’s attention. Ideally, use the word “you” or “your” in the subject line, and give them a really clear benefit to opening that campaign.

The first two or three words of the subject line are even more important if your email is being read on a mobile device. You have so little space or time to get their attention.

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It will make a difference if they’re used to getting emails from you that are ‘worthwhile’. They are more likely to open your messages and give you some time.

Sender (Gender) Bias

It’s important for your emails to be relevant to your recipient. There is a cultural bias around the “from” name the email is sent by. A female name gets a higher open rate than a male name, and although the reason for this is unclear, statistically that’s the case.

Sender ‘Turn Offs’

Things that won’t work are names such as “sales@” or “info@”. You’ll also find when you’re building your list that the email software doesn’t like these generic email addresses either, because they’re likely to divert to a spam inbox and affect their statistics. Never use a “do not reply” email address to send correspondence, because what a lot of people will do if they like your campaign is click reply and tell you so.

They say the challenge in email marketing is to get this one read and the next one opened.

Plain Text v HTML

Another thing to make sure you’re relevant and which can affect open rates is that a lot of the email clients (the software we use to read them) have a default setting where images in an email are turned off. If you use design files or images in your template, make sure you’ve used the alt tags behind these images, so that people can see what they’re about. Senders will often use a smart call to action in that alt tag, so readers can click to view a product or service.

Get Personal

I always use my own name and often readers reply to say hello and share their news with me. This comes straight to my inbox, I know who it’s from and the sender knows they’ll get a reply.

Named senders appear more trustworthy.

Big organisations know this too: the daily e-publication Social Media Examiner uses personalised emails, as does their ‘head honcho’ Michael Stelzner. You know if you hit reply it will go to them and not get lost in the ether.

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Closer to home, the North East Times has this option too, which shows that there’s a real person who will see your message.

This is something anyone can do. If you’re worried about having a clogged-up inbox from too many replies, consider setting up another email address just for email campaigns.

The next article should come with a warning label as we are going to look at how buyer personas make your email marketing hard to resist.

Check out these related articles (and video) to help you get started.

How to Get Your Email Marketing RITE

Why your Buyer Personas Need the Sales Team’s Customer Insight

Get the Right Message and Get Their Attention


*Photo by Ioana Cristiana on Unsplash