Email isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and making sure your message stands out is becoming harder and harder to do. The average person receives 121 emails per day. That’s a lot of stuff to comb through, and the trash button is typically the quickest way to declutter.

One third of email recipients open an email based on the subject line alone and 69% of email recipients report email as spam based solely on the subject line. Safe to say you have a tough crowd…

So those few characters matter – a lot! There’s nothing more frustrating than creating a great email campaign only to get abysmal email open rates.

It’s so easy to get hung up on the perfect way to get your point across and get a click with just a handful of words. So, how do you do it?

The key is to start with a strong foundation backed by data, then add a little pizazz to some proven methods. Let’s dive into some of the best psychological hacks to get people to open your message, as well as 72 examples to get you inspired.

Key Takeaways: 

  • Start off strong by defining your target audience and any subsections before you start emailing. 
  • The best way to get people to act (or click) is to invoke emotions like curiosity, urgency or even anxiety. 
  • Oldies are still goodies… Strategies like retargeting and being straightforward still prove effective!

P.S. We’ve included a bonus hack at the end of this article… Don’t miss out!

Data Makes the Strongest Foundation

It’s always a good idea to back your strategy with data analytics. For starters, nail down your target audience and the different sub-groups within that audience. Think of their stage in the buyer’s journey, demographics, age group, position, etc. This way you can be sure to target each and every one differently.

Another good clue; measure your email open rates, and take a look at the subject lines that performed well in the past. These are your strongest tells to what your exact target audience is looking for! Chances are, your email subscribers liked the subject line, and it enticed them to open your email.

You should also note that email open rates are also affected by the relevance of the deal you’re offering and the day/time you sent the email. So, keep those things in mind, too. Maybe your President’s Day promotion performed ridiculously well last year, so you’ll definitely want to offer that again.

Another number to keep in mind is length. Only include copy that you need, and optimize subject lines for different devices.

You should try to keep your emails pretty short so they don’t get cut off in a consumer’s email notifications. For mobile devices, a 20 to 30-character count is ideal. But, if your target market mostly uses a desktop, you need to make sure not to exceed 50 characters.

Now let’s talk about the icing on the cake: creativity.

8 Methods to Writing Creative Email Subject Lines

1. Use Their FOMO Against Them

FOMO, or ‘fear of missing out’, is an emotional response that people have when they think there are more fun, exciting, or valuable things elsewhere that they aren’t experiencing.

Craft your email subject lines to allude to the fact that you have something they are missing. This can be anything from a great deal, the next hot style, an invaluable workshop, a secret hack, you name it!

Add an element of scarcity (only 3 spots left!) and urgency (offer ends at midnight). The vocabulary you use here matters, remember you only have a handful of characters to work with.

Here are some real-life examples: 

  • Start Creating Content That Converts | Exclusive Offer (Marketing Insider Group)
  • Clock’s ticking ⏲ 50% OFF 500+ items (Urban Outfitters)
  • Welcome Gift! Offer Inside 👀 (EyeBuyDirect)
  • [URGENT] You’ve got ONE DAY to watch this… (Digital Marketer)
  • You’re missing out on points. (Jet Blue)
  • Grab a ride pass before they’re gone (Uber)

Plus a few more ideas:

  • Earn double-points [today only!]
  • XYZ is back in-stock for a limited time only
  • Free Ebook inside!
  • Only 4 spots left for our content marketing workshop…
  • Don’t miss your chance for XYZ

2. Talk Pain Points

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again; people only care about what applies to them. One of the most prevalent thoughts on people’s brains? Their problems!

Get your consumers attention by letting them know you understand their pain. Mention pain points and – more importantly – how to fix them.

Here are some real-life examples: 

  • 18X ROI From Just .01% of the Marketing Budget (Marketing Insider Group)
  • Your beauty issues, solved (Sephora)
  • Get more kitchen space with these easy fixes (IKEA)
  • Stop wasting money on ink (HP)
  • Repeat meal syndrome? We understand. (GrubHub)
  • Engaging your prospects can be hard. Video makes it easy. (Vidyard)

Plus a few more ideas: 

  • Say ‘goodnight’ to bad sleep for good
  • Expand your winter wardrobe with these staples
  • Stretch your budget this year with XYZ
  • Don’t fall victim to hackers, protect with…

3. Personalize and Localize!

Statistics show that a personalized subject line is 26% more likely to be opened, so make your subscribers feel special by tailoring your message uniquely. Include their name in the subject line and make sure that the email you’re sending is something that they’ve shown interest in.

You can also tailor your subject line according to your recipient’s specific location. Use “you” and “your” so that your recipient feels like you’re talking to them directly. This will help you build rapport with your subscriber and make them feel more familiar with your name and your brand.

Here are some real-life examples: 

  • Award-winning content marketing: YOU’RE NEXT! (Marketing Insider Group)
  • You’re eligible, Giana: We’re giving you an opportunity to earn a $100 referral bonus (CapitalOne)
  • You got a message 💌 (Tinder)
  • Giana – ready to move a few stubborn LBS?! (Flat Tummy Co.)
  • Hey Michael, we picked these for you! (Fabletics)

Plus a few more examples: 

  • Michael, here are 7 marketing tips I think you’d like…
  • You’re going to love these restaurants in Philly
  • Fwd: Giana’s message
  • Happy Birthday Lauren! Here’s a special gift for you

4. Flex your Funny Bone

Humor is one of the best ways to showcase your brand’s personality, and with a strong brand personality, relationship and trust building become a whole lot easier.

Don’t be afraid to insert wit and humor (maybe even a little bit of snarky marketing) in your email subject line. It’s a great way for you to catch the attention of your recipient and get them to open your email.

Another pro-tip: include a social reference in your joke to let your audience know that you’re a real person who knows what goes on in the outside world. Try asking your Gen Z employee what people are talking about these days…

Here are some real-life examples: 

  • Tired of Creating Content? Save time (and Advil) 😉in 2022! (Marketing Insider Group)
  • Where to Drink Beer Right Now [Sent at 6:45 am on a Wednesday] (Easter Boston)
  • Deals That Make Us Proud – Unlike Our Nephew, Steve (Groupon)
  • Call me Thigh Fieri (Chubbies)
  • Zero bull-sheet (Brooklinen)

Plus a few more ideas: 

  • You just got lucky…
  • Warning: The deals might make your head explode!
  • New flavors, who dis?
  • It’s the savings for me…

5. Invoke Curiosity

People are curious by nature. Writing a good email subject line that makes your consumer wonder is a great way to get that click.

Create a cliffhanger with your subject line, but make sure the body of your email answers the question you’ve posed. No-body respects click-bait and it’s a quick way to lose trust.

Here are some real-life examples: 

  • How to Write the Perfect Page Title for SEO (Marketing Insider Group)
  • 9 Disgusting Facts about Thanksgiving (Eat This Not That)
  • They did WHAT with a pair of Crocs? (Crocs)
  • Is this the hottest career in marketing? (Digital Marketer)
  • You can’t come in (Glossier)

Plus a few more ideas: 

  • Don’t tell anyone…
  • We’ve been keeping a secret!
  • Do Not Read
  • Only 1 in 5 people know this fact

6. Give Your Reader The Easy Way Out

Everyone loves a short-cut, especially when it comes to their job. Work smarter, not harder, right?

Send your subscribers life-hacks that will make their lives easier. Offer resources, data and plain old advice whenever you have it.

Here are some real-life examples: 

  • How To Cut Your Paid Advertising in Half and Boost Revenue (Marketing Insider Group)
  • Steal these email templates… (Digital Marketer)
  • ✔ 63-Point Checklist for Creating the Ultimate Optin Form (OptinMonster)
  • Struggling with a business decision? I made you a 1-page framework to help. (ByRegina)

Plus a few more ideas:

  • X ways to double your email list by tomorrow
  • Impress your C-Suite with this proposal
  • Instant money-saving hack inside
  • Budget advice from our CEO

7. Retargeting Emails

If every marketer gave up after one touch-point, there would be a lot less successful marketers in the world! It takes an average of 8 touchpoints with a potential lead before a sale is made. One of the best strategies here is retargeting emails, which have an average conversion rate of 41%.

A retargeting email is what you send when a consumer abandons their cart, exits a form before completing it, or leaves your website after browsing for a bit. Basically this viewer did something that indicates they might make a purchase in the future. So you’d be crazy not to contact them again!

Here are some real-life examples: 

  • Start Creating Content That Converts | Exclusive Offer (Marketing Insider Group)
  • The price dropped for something in your cart (Target)
  • Hey, did you forget to open this? (Dollar Shave Club)
  • You left your stuff at our place… (Shinesty)
  • Hey, forget something? Here’s 20% off. (Bonobos)

Plus a few more ideas: 

  • Only 3 left in stock of XYZ
  • Looks like you’re forgetting something
  • X item has been restocked: here’s a $10 coupon!

8. Straight-to-the-point Emails

There are times in life it’s better to get straight to the point than dance around it. People appreciate direct-ness.

Emails like this need to offer something of value and often include useful information like important documents, ebooks, newsletters, etc.

Here are some real-life examples: 

  • 18X ROI From Just .01% of the Marketing Budget (Marketing Insider Group)
  • Yes, this is a fundraising email (Al Franken)
  • $1 a week: Save on insightful reporting. (New York Times)
  • Try our favorite recipes (My Spice Sage)

Plus a few more ideas: 

  • Happy Holidays email
  • Happy Birthday email
  • Our latest newsletter: XYZ inside
  • Hot Items This Spring

BONUS HACK: Use Emojis

People use emojis when texting or posting on social media, so why not use them in your email subject line?

It’s a cute and trendy way to get your recipient’s attention and pique their curiosity. In fact, 56% of brands that use emojis in their email subject lines experienced a higher unique open rate.

When your objective is to stand out, emojis can truly be a blessing.

Subject Lines Matter

Your email subject line is the second thing your subscriber reads (after seeing who it’s from) when they receive your email. So, make sure that you tell your recipient what they can expect in your email, or use a little personality to reel them in.

Entice them to open the email by conveying a sense of importance and relevance, and center it around the individual you’re sending the email to. Don’t forget to A/B test your email subject lines as well to determine what works and what doesn’t.

Make sure you deliver in the body of your email – no one likes empty promises! Include that discount code, a link to the product you’re highlighting, the ebook to download or the blog page to read.

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