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Master this one thing to boost email open rates

Updated: Dec 7, 2020

Everyone's inbox is flooded with promos, newsletters and those forwards from their folks. There's one thing that can help your business break through the clutter and get your emails opened. Spoiler alert: It's the subject line.


Yes, seriously. Before we get into mastering the email subject line, let's make sure we remove all doubt when it comes to email marketing in general.

"Why email? We have social media after all. I can just post my 'stuff' on Facebook."

And you should.

But if you're not leveraging email to engage with prospects and customers, you're leaving money on the table.

Email outperforms all digital marketing channels, generating $38 for every $1 spent for a jaw-dropping 3,800% ROI (Hubspot)

Social media is a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal but here's the thing, you don't own your social media audience. The platforms do. If Facebook or Instagram or INSERT SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM went down tomorrow, all those followers you worked so hard to get would be gone and you'd be starting from ground zero.

That's why building an email list is a must. It's a direct communication channel between you and your audience, unless of course they hit the 'delete' button or worse, 'unsubscribe'.

So what saves your email from the dreaded Trash folder? It's all in how you write it. And that starts with the very first decision someone makes: To open or not to open.

Deconstructing the email subject line

The next time you fire up your email program, pay attention to the emails you feel compelled to open. Unless they're from people you know, the emails that get that all-important click have a super effective subject line.

Here are a few examples of subject lines that have earned my click recently:

  • "Okay Jennifer. Here's the truth (LAST CHANCE)"

  • "Buy one, get nine"

  • "What NO other educators are telling you about making money"

So what do the subject lines above all have in common? They pique my curiosity. Let's take it a step further and break down what's working with each of them.

"Okay Jennifer. Here's the truth (LAST CHANCE)"

  • This one is personalized to me! I realize the sender doesn't really know me but personalizing emails boosts can boost open rates by as high as 50%! (OptinMonster)

  • The truth?! I need to know the truth. Guess I'll have to open the email to find out.

  • LAST CHANCE? Creates FOMO (fear of missing out). If this is my last chance, I won't get another chance so I had better open this.

"Buy one, get nine"

  • Now that's a short subject line. Clear and to the point.

  • It makes a too-good-to-be-true promise but doesn't give away the 'thing' I'm getting so I had better open this email to find out.

  • Buy 1, get 9?! Now we've all heard of Buy 1, Get 1 Free but...9?! Now THAT's different and exciting.

"What NO other educators are telling you about making money"

  • Once again, they're telling me 'something' juicy is inside but teasing me as to what that something is.

  • NO other educators? Sounds like exclusive information to me!

  • Who doesn't want to make money? I should note that the word 'money' is actually a money emoji. Did you know that using emojis in your subject lines can actually increase your open rates? A word of caution though: Use them carefully. Read The 2020 Definitive Guide to Using Emojis in Subject Lines

"Great examples. Now how I put this into practice for my business?"

Tips to write better email subject lines

Get inspired. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and...the quickest path to success. Now I'm not suggesting you do a copy/paste but I do recommend you start deconstructing the emails you receive (like I just did above). Find the patterns and follow the formulas.

Personalize it. Using the recipient's first name in the subject line will boost those open rates. But you can also send a special offer on a recipient's birthday, mention the last thing they purchased from you, etc.

Keep it short. Email marketing software provider MailChimp recommends 9 words and 60 characters. With most emails getting opened on mobile devices, you don't want your subject line to get cutoff. Less is more.

Use numbers. Which subject line would you be more likely to click?

  • Save big on TVs

  • Save 50% on the best flat screen TVs

Adding specifics like dates and numbers help to create excitement and trust around offers.

Have some fun. Try using an emoji or injecting some humour. Wondering if your attempts might fall flat? Most email marketing software platforms allow you to A/B split testing different email components like subject lines, headings and calls-to-action. Remember, the tone of voice you adopt should always be consistent with your brand and appeal to your target market.

The Last Word on the Subject (Line)

Crafting the ultimate email subject line is Step #1. Once you get your audience to open, there had better be a reason for them to read on and take action. Stay tuned to this space for more email best practices guaranteed to boost your bottom line.

Rather hand off your emails to an expert? Give me a shout.

Happy Emailing,



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