8 top tips to that elusive email open

8 Top Tips to that Elusive Email Open

Today, the average email inbox has morphed into the cyber version of the humble letter box, clogged daily with virtual catalogues, restaurant menus and letters from real estate agents sprouting a prospective buyer for your home.

How do you stand out from the crowd?

With one essential hook that can capture the attention of your audience and earn that elusive click.    The Humble Subject Line that's what. 

The major advantage for the email marketer, of course, isthat people actually invite you into their inboxes by signing upto a particular marketing database.   However, being officially sanctioned entry does not automatically equate to an email being read.

In fact, far from it.

Reality bites

In a recent email survey I conducted, 45% of survey participants indicated they received between 5-10 promotional marketing emails each day.

This equates toapproximately 70 emails a week, over 300 a month and a total of some 3,640 marketing emails a year!   These numbers do not  include the multitude of work emails or those sent from family and friends.  (Phew I am exhausted just thinking about it!)

And of these marketing emails, how many did people say they read?

  • 12% indicated they don't read any at all,
  • 45% of participants indicated on average they may only open one email a day
  • Not one single survey participants indicated they read ALL of the marketing emails theyreceived

So no matter how you look at it – that is pretty stiff competition to get the attention of your readers.

How to hook the email reader

When asked what prompted them to open up an email 77.4% survey participants attributed it to the email subject line catching their eye and their interest.

So that humble subject line wields A WHOLE LOT OF POWER.

Now there is of course no holy grail of subject lines that will achieve a 100% open rate but you can take eight simple steps to make your subject line work!

1. how long is too long?

The actual length of a subject line has a lot of impact.

When writing your subject line you need to keep in mind that accessing emails by mobile phone is sharply on the rise and that each mobile cuts off subject lines at different points.    So you need to get to the point from the start.

Which is your preference for the email length?

Which is your preference for the email length?

When we compare this telecommunications company's short and to the point email subject line “We’re Sorry” with that of one company's lengthy tale it is easy to see how a long email subject line can lose its impact.

In this instance (and in many) short and to the point wins with most recommendations for subject line length falling between 30 to 50 characters long.

2. a subject line extender

But if you are struggling to get all the key information in a short and too the point subject linedon’t forget there the preview panel that can extend the subject lines original offering.

Extend your email subject line with the preview panel.

Extend your email subject line with the preview panel.

When you compare the two furniture company's email subject lines - both focusing on chairs - the second company effectively uses the preview panel to expand upon the theme of their subject line providing readers more valuable information to entice them to CLICK.

3. avoid the point

Yet, while short and to the point does win,  being too literal can also be totally uninspiring.

Take for instance the email newsletters sent regularly by my accountants (a company that really knows their tax but not their subject lines!)

Will this inspire you to click on the email? 

Will this inspire you to click on the email? 

The actual preview panel is selling the email much better than the subject line

While they are sending out regular email communications to their database (great email practice) the subject lines they are using "February Newsletter" are totally dry and boring.

By all means - behind doors call it theFebruaryNewsletter- but using it in the subject line can be complete email suicide (especially if you are in an industry that is trying to fight against stereotype).

Basically you need to get creative and...

4. sell the benefits

Attempt to hook the reader in by selling the benefits of what is in your email and how it will improve their life.

As they say:

Selling the dream!

Selling the dream!

When writing your email subject line put yourself in the position of your readers - what in your email content is goingto “change” their lives or"solve" their problems.

Each of the below email subject lines is selling the benefits of their email content luring the readers in with cheap family holidays, comfortable heels and for those looking for ink inspiration.

The benefits upfront and centre!

The benefits upfront and centre!


5. keep it truthful

But of course while you need to make it creative – you also need to keep it truthful.

If your subject line is not backed up by the email you are sending you have broken that initial trust.  Once that trust is broken the email relationship will cease to exist.

And in marketing maintaining the relationship (just like in real life) is of utmost importance.

6. be Friendly BUT NOT TOO Friendly - BE JUST RIGHT

Speaking of relationships - one question is how personal should we get? Using the name of the person within the email subject line seems to be one that divides many.

Mailchimp says that it improves open rates (and undoubtedly they would have the data to back it up) but many who have tested itindicate that it made little impact on theirs.

In my email survey, only 37% of participants said they even noticed subject lines with their name in it with one participant noting:

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Maybe try some A/B Testing to see whether your particular database has a preference. 

But if you ARE going to personalise the email subject lines it is essential that your database is in schmick condition.

I am talking names spelt the right way, capitals where they should be, and the right name correspondences with the right email address. (For months I continually received am email from one company that was addressed to a completely different name. Poor sloppy work.)

7. bend the rules of grammar

In writing your subject line your prime mission is for you to stand out from the crowd and catch the reader’s roving eye.   Sometimes breaking the rules of grammar can do this.

I don’t mean misspelling words (a NO NO) or using ALL UPPER CASE(way too SHOUTY) but for instance mixing up upper case and lower case letters (NoT in tHE OnE WoRd But in THE Sentence),  using numerical numbers (3) or simply putting dots where they don't belong.

Look at the examples below for how the rules of grammar have been broken to attempt to catch people's attention.

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All three subject lines have broken the rules of grammar to grab the attention of their readers.

8. if at first you don't succeed try again

Noonesubject line will work on every person (no matter how much you follow the rules),  however email marketing systems give you the capability to resend an emaill with an alternative subject line  to anyone in your database who did not open the original.

This is something this Australian clothing company understands with every second email listed below actually being the same as the above – just with a different subject line.

email marketing tips


It is industry best practice.

Try it and help your business's marketing emails stand out from the crowd and increase your open rate.