By Gary Hernbroth

“Irresistible attraction.”


“Immediate attention.”

No, I’m not describing the light-headed feeling of romance. I’m describing three of the most critical elements that the subject line in your emails should contain.

Just how important is the subject line? VERY. Without one — and a good one, too — your email is more likely to end up in the “delete” trash heap. TechJury reports that our average email inbox is 200 each day, with approximately 50% of them being spam. Alarmingly, 69% of email recipients report email as spam based solely on the subject line. Ouch!

So what chance does your email have?

Your first and foremost task for any email is to GET IT OPENED (we’ll discuss what comes next in a minute). Ask yourself, “Would this subject line make ME want to open this email?” If you’re not enticed to open your own email, then who will be?

Studies show that people give precious few milliseconds to deciding whether or not to open a particular email. How many glazed-over people have you seen sitting at airports or waiting in lines somewhere, mindlessly swiping their cell phone screens as they scroll through their slew of email messages? Swipe, swipe, swipe. Are they swiping past yours, or are they opening it?

Here are some proven subject line techniques that will get more of your emails past the moment of truth, that critical tipping point between “open” and “delete”:

Use their first name: People like to see their names in print

* Brevity: Suggested length is 50 characters or less; using five words or less increases your open rate by 50%

* How does it read: Is it urgent, important or both? Is it spammy/salesy, or specific?

* Offer a hint of value: Does it get the recipient to ask “What’s in it for me?”

* Snag their interest but avoid amateurish overkill such as !!! and ??? — This isn’t high school

* Build trust by not misleading the recipient: Make sure the body of your email relates to — and delivers on — what your subject line describes

On the last point, “getting it opened” may be the first task of an email, but it isn’t the endgame. You ultimately want someone to read the body of your email in order to take action, be aware, make a decision, etc. But you don’t want to trick anyone.

I once got an email from an ad firm rep that I knew, with the subject line of “We’re ready to send the new golf clubs you’ve just won.” Well, being a golfer and knowing him I took the bait. Then I read the email: “HaHa! Gotcha! There are no free golf clubs but we want to know if you would be interested in our…”

That infuriated me. My trust of him and his firm was undone by the trickery. Sure, they got me to open the email but they didn’t get my respect or my business. It wasn’t cute or funny. It was contrived and cheesy.

Your email should be of consequence as it relates to the subject line. Be creative yet forthright in your crafting of the body of your email. Authenticity counts for a lot to many people.

As far as the nitty gritty details of crafting the entire body of a winning email, that’s a bigger discussion for another time. For now, let’s concentrate on your subject lines. If done artfully and effectively, a whole lot more pairs of eyes will be opening your email messages instead of sending them to the dreaded junk mail heap.