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Email marketing: get the subject line right


On Forbes.com, Kern Lewis shares some tips on marketing for entrepreneurs, as he discusses how to write a compelling email subject line.

The author says the most effective emails are usually "brief, focused and, in some fashion, compelling". However, he adds that "even the most finely crafted missive is only as effective as its subject lines – the teaser (50 characters or less) that convinces a recipient to open the message in the first place".


Lewis compares email subject lines to newspaper headlines – they must "communicate and captivate" in a limited amount of space. He offers eight tips for getting it right.

1) Start at the beginning. Lewis advises: "Write the subject line first. It distills the essence of the e-mail itself, and will keep you from straying off point."

2) Customise. When sending essentially the same email to various lists of people or customers, tweak the subject line to appeal to the recipients in question.

3) Inject urgency. If the email contains an offer, include the deadline in the subject line. But do not create an artificial deadline because that will irritate customers.

4) Be consistent. Lewis says: "If recipients are opt-in subscribers, they will see regular subject lines from you. Be consistent – in structure and personality – and never mislead them with bait-and-switch tactics."

5) Be your own focus group. Think about how you manage your own inbox, which emails you delete and the ones you bother to read. Use that logic when you write your own emails and send them to yourself to see how they look in your inbox.

6) Test and test again. Send a trial email to a representative group before mailing the full list. Also use your email service's content checker to identify anything that could be misconstrued as spam.

7) Measure. Analyse results and identify your most successful subject lines.

8) Take your time. Don't leave it till the last minute. Lewis recalls the words of Mark Twain: "I would have written you a shorter letter, but I didn't have the time."

How To Write A Compelling Email Subject Line
Kern Lewis