Marketing / Email Marketing

5 business email subject line tips

Laura Dolan

Updated: Jul 31, 2020 · 8 min read

Toolkit for download in this article

business email subject lines

Many of us receive hundreds of emails on a daily basis and depending on what you’re subscribed to, the variety can be overwhelming. You’re receiving emails from your favorite restaurant about its latest meal deal, emails from Amazon asking you to rate your latest purchase, emails about social media notifications, emails from your mortgage lender asking if you’re interested in refinancing, the list goes on and on.

This can create a daunting amount of unread emails by the hour. Have you ever stopped to think about which ones you actually open and why? Was it because of the catchy subject line? What was it about that sentence that compelled you to learn more and not move that message into your spam folder or trash?

If you own a small business and are using Keap, but struggling to get more attention on your email campaigns, here are five tips to help you create compelling business email subject lines that are sure to increase your open rates:

Get to the point

Less is always more when it comes to email subject lines, as the rule gives you the opportunity to be as clear and concise as possible.

Short, descriptive subject lines with 50 characters or fewer tend to perform much better than subject lines that end up truncated. The reader will see the email’s content summarized, leaving little room for ambiguity, yielding a better open rate.

Brief subject lines are conducive if you’re trying to provide your customer with an update or notification about the status of their order, their latest activity on social media, or thanking them for their payment in the way of a confirmation email.

Some solid examples below were sent by Capital One, Amazon and Synchrony Bank, respectively.

“Your card statement is ready.”

“Your Amazon order has shipped.”

“Your payment has posted.”

None of these subject lines include a call-to-action (CTA), but the wording compels a reader to click for more information. How much is owed on the card? Which Amazon order shipped and when is it expected to arrive? When will my payment be processed?

You always want to make sure you say just enough to give the reader an incentive to actually open the message and get their questions answered.

Include numbers and lists

My husband and I got married almost two years ago and used the Knot to organize our wedding planning. Along the way, the Knot sent helpful blogs on a weekly basis to highlight whichever phase of planning we were in to provide a few more helpful tips. I found their business email subject lines to be great examples, as they perfectly summed up what each of their blogs was about:

“5 Things No One Tells You About Sending Save-the-Dates”

“7 Wedding Planning Tasks You’re Dreading That Aren’t That Bad”

Being on the receiving end and having written plenty of business email subject lines in my career, I found them to be quite effective and the articles were as informative as the subject lines suggested.

Incorporating numbers into your email subject lines is always a good idea, as the human brain is naturally attracted to digits. Top 10 lists make for a quick read and will always yield a successful open rate, as the number 10 is a nice, even number that is visually pleasing.

Avoid sales language

Turning your business email subject line into a sales pitch is bound to repel potential readers from opening your email. It comes off as insincere and “spammy,” causing customers to simply delete the email or mark it as junk.

A bad example of a business email subject line would be:

“Hurry! This Financial Services Special Offer Ends Soon!”

This vague subject line reads like click bait, especially with the amount of exclamation points it’s using. It comes off as too colloquial and doesn’t seem to be appropriate language for what’s being offered, which is something very serious and expensive. You want to make sure your subject line matches the tone of your product. Maintaining credibility involves using more sophisticated language excluding exaggerations and topics that aren’t relevant to your audience.

A better way to approach a subject line like this is to eliminate the sense of urgency–it comes down to knowing who your audience is and directing your subject line toward the correct demographic. A better example below would read:

“Try the Financial Firm That is Built for Small Businesses”

The subject line has become more of a lead generation tool, as it clearly defines who the audience is and includes a CTA that motivates the subscribers to discover why it’s relevant to whomever was receiving it. It also changed the entire tone of the message, as the company wasn’t selling anything, just merely raising awareness of its existence to potential clients.

Make it personal

This does not mean including the subscriber’s name in the subject line. That may turn off some people because it comes off as a bit “stalkerish.”

A better way to incorporate personalization techniques into email subject lines is employing location-specific offers and language, or interest targeting.

I’m subscribed to a company called Eventful and it sends me emails announcing events that will occur in the Phoenix area every so often with links that take me to where I can buy tickets for concerts, sporting events, movies, etc.

The subject line will include Phoenix Events and the name of the band that’s performing or which new movie just opened. Including all of that information can easily cause a subject line to become too long, which is why it’s best to be brief and limit it to just the title of the event.

Another way to make a subject line personal is by using a remarketing strategy. Follow up with existing customers about an event they attended and remind them to buy tickets for when it occurs again or to another event. This works really well with events that take place on a regular basis so you can send reminders about something they may enjoy doing again.

This strategy also works with past purchases. Remind them of something they bought recently and offer them an upsell or cross-sell promotion that will complement the item they already have.

Avoid these spam trigger words

Communicating in the business world should always reflect direct language that doesn’t involve insincerity or boasting. Eliminating these words in the following categories from your subject lines will keep your email campaigns safe from spam filters.

Hyperbolic promises:

  • #1
  • 100% free
  • 100% satisfied
  • Best price
  • Billion
  • Cash bonus
  • Consolidate debt
  • Double your income
  • Earn extra cash
  • Eliminate bad credit
  • Fast cash
  • Free consultation
  • Free gift
  • Free membership
  • Free quote
  • Free trial
  • Full refund
  • Get out of debt
  • Giveaway
  • Guaranteed
  • Incredible deal
  • Lowest price
  • Make money
  • Money back
  • Once in a lifetime
  • One time
  • Potential earnings
  • Prize
  • Promise
  • Risk-free
  • Satisfaction guaranteed
  • Save big money
  • Special promotion
  • Creating urgency:

  • Act now
  • Apply now
  • Call now
  • Get it now
  • Do it today
  • Don’t delete
  • Exclusive deal
  • Get started now
  • Instant
  • Limited time
  • Order now
  • Please read
  • Sign up free
  • Take action
  • This won’t last
  • Urgent
  • What are you waiting for?
  • While supplies last
  • You have been selected
  • Sales jargon and legalese:

  • Ad
  • All new
  • Bargain
  • Beneficiary
  • Billing
  • Bonus
  • Cards accepted
  • Certified
  • Cheap
  • Claims
  • Clearance
  • Compare rates
  • Credit card offers
  • Deal
  • Debt
  • Discount
  • In accordance with laws
  • Income
  • Investment
  • Join millions
  • Lifetime
  • Loans
  • Message contains
  • Mortgage rates
  • Name brand
  • Offer
  • Opt in
  • Pre-approved
  • Quote
  • Rates
  • Refinance
  • Reserves the right
  • Score
  • Subject to…
  • Terms and conditions
  • Trial
  • Unlimited
  • Warranty
  • Web traffic
  • Suspicious terms:

  • Buy direct
  • Cancel at any time
  • Check or money order
  • Congratulations
  • Dear friend
  • Hidden charges
  • Lose weight
  • Mass email
  • Meet singles
  • No catch
  • No cost
  • No credit check
  • No gimmick
  • No hidden fees
  • No interest
  • No investment
  • No obligation
  • No purchase necessary
  • No questions asked
  • No strings attached
  • Not junk
  • Not spam
  • This isn’t a scam
  • This isn’t junk
  • This isn’t spam
  • Undisclosed
  • Unsecured credit
  • Unsecured debt
  • Unsolicited
  • Valium
  • Viagra
  • Vicodin
  • Weight loss
  • Xanax
  • Emojis

    Finally, always avoid using emojis and symbols whenever you’re sending out a business email. There’s just no place for them if you’re trying to come off as professional. It’s very adolescent and will make your business look too playful, potentially turning off some clients who will take their business to a company that is more credible.

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