Partners in Performance Blog

Email Persuasion Tip #1: Create A Magnetic Subject Line

magnetIn writing persuasive emails to your clients, the subject line holds the magnetic words that will compel them to open your email.

“Open Sesame!” are the magical words used by Ali Baba in the Arabian Nights to open the door to the den filled with gold. So popular is the phrase that it has earned its place in the English Dictionary to mean “something that allows a person to enter something successfully and easily and unfailingly brings about a desired end”.

Without a magnetic subject line for your client email, there is little to drive them to open your email…Nor open it with any sense of urgency.

Remember, just like you, your clients are overwhelmed with 100’s of emails every single day. The first thing they see is the subject line. They skim over the ones that are boring, aren’t relevant or don’t scream “urgent”.

The ones that immediately capture their attention and make them take notice are the ones they open first. The problem is that most people don’t know how to craft a subject line that screams “Open Sesame!”

Crafting a magnetic subject line begins with understanding the core principles that motivate the reader.

3 Simple but Proven Principles That Get Your Emails Opened

In his book To Sell is Human, Daniel Pink cites the research of three Carnegie-Mellon scientists. They discovered that effective email subject lines fall into one of two categories: 

  1. Utility
  2. Curiosity

The subject line either demonstrates usefulness to the reader or makes the reader curious about what’s inside. Along with utility and curiosity Pink adds a third principle:

  1. Specificity

Brian Clark, founder of the popular Copyblogger copywriting website reinforces this principle and recommends that subject lines should be “ultra specific”. A vague subject line like ‘Improve Your Emails’ is not as effective as ‘3 Simple But Proven Principles That Get Your Emails Opened.’

The ‘You’ Principle

Another principle that must stay top of my mind when crafting emails and subject lines is the ‘You Principle’. Your focus of attention must be on the reader, your client. Yes, you have a message you want to convey. But shifting from the perspective of ‘self’ to the perspective of your client ensures that what you say will resonate for your client.

How do you shift your focus of attention? It’s no accident that the word ‘you’ is one of the most persuasive words in the English language. That’s why it’s useful to include the word ‘you’ or ‘your’ in the subject line.

And if not in the subject line it better appear in the opening line of your email.

Focus of Attention on Self Doesn’t Work

I recently received an email Outlook invite from a supplier and the subject line read “Phone meeting with Tanja Parsley”. Of course the problem with this subject line is that when the meeting time comes and I open the event I will have no idea who I’m meeting with based on the subject line. The supplier will know. At his end it’s clear he is meeting with me. Had he included his name along with mine then we both would be clear. This is a blatant example of a subject line written from the perspective of ‘self’ rather than ‘client’. It was useful for my supplier but not for me, his client.

Another example: When auditing emails written by a client sales team I observed a trail of emails relating to a major installation.  The subject line repeatedly used their client name and a project number internal to my client…a number not relevant for their client: ABC Company Project # 2455. This subject line made it easy for my client to search internally for emails that relate to this project. But for ABC Company it’s not useful. ABC Company knows their company name is ABC.  And as for the project # – they have no reference for it.

I asked my client to reconstruct their subject lines from the perspective of their client. Simple changes were made but the results were astonishing!

Asking these four questions will help you focus your attention on your client:

  1. Utility: Will this be useful and relevant for my client?
  2. Curiosity: Will this pique his curiosity?
  3. Specificity: If I was sitting in my client’s chair would the message be specific and clear?
  4. You: Can I edit the subject line and use the pronoun ‘You’ or ‘Your’

One of the most useful resources I have found when it comes to persuasion, selling and writing is Copyblogger. I follow their blog religiously and they never disappoint. If you want to learn more about writing killer email subject lines check out their Magnetic Headline Series. It’s filled with great tips and templates you can use for compelling subject lines.

What challenges or questions do you have about email subject lines? Drop me a comment below. I would love to hear from you.

This entry was posted by admin on April 16, 2014 in Email Sales Communications, Persuasion. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback.

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