The email subject line has often been referred to as a keyhole. Your recipients use your subject line to take a peek into your message to make a split-second decision to turn the key. By clicking to open your email, they are acknowledging two things. First, that you are important to them. Second, that your subject line promises to deliver value. "Great to meet you," "Thanks for taking my call," and "Just checking in" do not promise value. They guarantee that the recipient's time will be wasted. There are many forms of value you can allude to with your subject line. Something personal. Something unusual. Something timely. Something the recipient doesn't want to miss. Something they've been waiting for. Something they would love to learn. Something that will make them laugh or smile.
Do you allude to value like this? Do you grab the recipient's attention? Or are you promising... nothing?
Here are 9 ideas to start getting more opens by using your subject line like a keyhole that promises value:
1. Say something different. Often, recipients will click to open if your subject line is simply different. It triggers the idea that your message will be too. Make sure you don't disappoint. Instead of saying the same old thing like, “Following up from our meeting" or “Haven’t heard from you in a while, " try saying "Caution: This message will self-instruct" or "Thank you for the email I haven't gotten from you yet." Then, follow up with a message that makes the recipient laugh and respond.
2. Play to their sense of professional responsibility. Recipients respond to team project emails. They often don't respond to vendor sales emails. Go figure. If you can frame your subject line to sound more like an everyday project email, you will generate more opens and thereby more responses. "I need your input." "Clarifying your comment." "Rescheduled time." "The info you requested." Is 2:30PM better?" "OK with you?" Got it? Actually that's a pretty good one too. "Did you get it?" (Stay away from setting your emails to "urgent" or actually writing "Important" or "Urgent" in your subject line. It's a desperation tactic.)
3. Ask a great question. The very act of asking a question prompts recipients to give an answer. Ever been at a professional seminar when the speaker asks a question appropriate for a 10 year old, like "Show of hands. Can anyone name 3 animals with stripes?" Out of a room of 100, 50 hands shoot into the air. Humans love being the one with the answer. Your question should call for their personal input, not an obvious yes or no answer. Try "Would this offend you?" Or "What side would you take on this?" Or "What's the 1 thing holding you back?" Or "Can you name 3 animals with stripes?" No really. Try it. It's better than what you've been using.
4. Use incomplete thoughts. Using incomplete thoughts has a way of getting a person to. See how odd that last sentence is? It's incomplete. It refocuses the recipient as they're scanning their inbox. They want to know the rest of the story! To do so, they have to open your email. Here are a few examples: "I like it when you said –" , "Did you mean to say –" , "What I meant was –" , "Thank you for the –" , " This completely changed the way I think about –". (Use a hyphen to end your phrase, not '...' because characters that repeat can hurt your spam score.)
5. Refer to the contents of your email message. Statistics reveal that subject lines that directly summarize the contents of the email itself consistently get the highest open rates. "The proven process for selling your house in a week." "3 truths everyone should know before investing." "A hidden gem in our policy handbook."
6. Use numbers. Articles or answers that include a numbered list do well because they're definitive. The keyhole view they promise is a short, important list . "The 8 best tips for getting 1000 LinkedIn followers." My personal best open rate for an email with over 100,000 recipients was, "2 quick questions." Use it and see if it works for you.
7. Avoid industry jargon. Don't use acronyms or words you use inside your industry that customers find unfamiliar. If you're in the technology sector and you need to give a customer access to a demo, say "Click here to see our main demo" not "Your core system access credentials."
8. Keep it short. Some of my examples in this article have been longer. Shorter however, is better. 3-4 words is your sweet spot. It's another reason why "2 quick questions" worked.
9. Have fun and make it personal. Your recipients are human beings. Humans don't respond to corporate language, canned expressions, or the same old thing. They respond to having fun and anything that's about them. Inject more of that into your subject lines and you can nickname your emails "boomerangs" because they'll return to you with a reply!