Think about the last time you checked your email’s inbox. Were there dozens of emails from all those companies you gave your email address to, just so you could get 10% off your next purchase? Our inboxes are slammed every day with messages that people desperately want us to see. But how often do you open one? And if you do open one, you can be sure it was because the subject line piqued your interest.

Subject lines, the text that shows in your inbox and at the top of emails, are key. I just looked at my Promotions tab in my Gmail inbox and saw an email from Sephora. It said “Happy (early) Birthday, Anna! Special present inside.” Did I open that email? You bet.

Sephora did two great tricks to get me to open their email: they used my name and they offered me something for free.

In this issue of our e-newsletter, which you opened (yay) we’ll give you some tips to make your subject lines stand out from the crowd.

  1. Define your target audience.
    When sending bulk emails, think about who you’re sending them to and if the subject line is applicable to everyone. If you have a national email list and you sell outdoor apparel, there’s a large part of the country that won’t open anything saying, “Sale on our warmest winter coats!” Instead, create separate email groups for cold climates or write a more general subject line, such as “Great end of year sale – up to 60% off!”
  2. Make it personal.
    Like the email I opened from Sephora, personalizing your subject lines is a fantastic tool. Using the recipient’s name is best, and you can use your email service provider to do this. An easier way to personalize is to use the words you, your and you’re. This will increase the open rate of your email because the person is more likely to think the email is actually for them. Generic subject lines that don’t create a personal connection are far less likely to get opened. Some good examples include, “You won’t believe this…” “You’re about to learn the coolest thing,” or “Your time is valuable, so we kept this short.”
    It is really important to tie in a personal connection to what you are selling or marketing. People are investing their time and resources in your company and organization, so the more personalized you can make the experience, the more valued the reader will feel and more compelled to open your email. With this in mind, I think with most bulk emails or e-newsletters, quality is better than quantity.
  3. Use emojis.
    Subject line showing emojisIn a recent Time Magazine article, 36% of millennials think that emojis communicate their thoughts and feelings better than words do, according to a survey conducted by Harris Poll. The majority of people of all ages said they feel more connected to people they communicate frequently with if they use GIFS and emojis. And that’s what you want your subject line to do: connect to people so they read what you send. Here’s an email from Domino’s Pizza that does this well. They use emojis that are all about love and pizza.
  4. Test different approaches.
    Most email services allow you to use different subject lines so use this feature to see what works for your audience. Maybe you discover subject lines with emojis are opened at a higher rate.
  5. Keep subject lines short.
    If people can’t read your full subject line, it’s going to be even harder for them to become interested in your email. Short phrases or words can work well for subject lines, you don’t have to write complete sentences. A good rule is to use no more than 55 characters with spaces in the subject line. Don’t miss out on the pre-header text, either. This is text that follows the bold text of the subject line, in a lighter font, great for adding context. Look at the Domino’s email again. The subject line says “Mmmmmix and Match.” The pre-header text says “SO MANY WAYS TO MIX AND MATCH!”
  6. Should you ask a question? Yes.
    A few years ago, the question mark was considered a no-no in a subject line. It was an indicator to email service providers that the email could be inappropriate and triggered SPAM filters and most of the time went into junk mail. Now the question mark and other punctuation are becoming more acceptable again. Try not to use this strategy too often and, if you do, avoid words such as special, quick, offer, buy, sell or big. These words, when used with punctuation, can find their way to the junk mail folder pretty quickly.
  7. Create urgency.
    Using words such as today, time, and deadline can increase open rates. So, if your fundraising event is a week away or your product is on sale for two more days, be sure to use these words to let your audience know they need to take action. If you don’t indicate that your email is important or needs attention, then it might get lost with all the others.