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Worried about crafting the perfect subject line? Read this.

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Too many brand owners are worried about crafting the perfect subject line, when, in fact, that’s not always the most important factor that will get an email opened.

We’ll explore that today.

But! Before trying any of the tactics I’ll share in this newsletter, know this:

They can only work for you if you use them occasionally, and only if you’ve established a good level of trust with your subscribers.

“Wait”, I hear you mumbling from the other side of the screen, “how do I know if I established trust with my subscribers?”

To keep things simple, these would be the first stats that I would look at:

  • Open rates (are they above the benchmarks of ~20-25%?)

  • Click rates (are they higher than the benchmarks of 1-3%, when the main goal of the email is to get clicks?)

  • Replies (are you getting any? Positive ones?)

  • Unsubscribe rate (is it lower than ~0.5%?)

Now that we know that, let’s dive in.

Subject lines myth busting

Subject lines are not the most important part that would or wouldn’t get your emails opened.

Shocking, I know.

A good subject line would help, for sure, but it’s not the main factor.

What is, then? 

The emotional connection your subscriber has with the sender’s (“from”) name.

Here’s an example:

Last year, I worked with this brand on their email strategy and increasing sales from their emails.

Even before onboarding them, I was an avid reader of their emails. As soon as I saw the name of the brand in my inbox, I knew that I'd enjoy the email. 

But their subject lines were never copywriter-level good. 

And I’m 10x more critical of emails than most people I speak with, and more calculated about whether to open/read/engage with them or not. 

What this brand did, without them even realizing, was build an emotional bond with their brand from the very beginning and provide copious amounts of value in each email.

Even nowadays, after we’ve finished our engagement, I can’t say that their subject lines are the most well-crafted ones in their industry. 

But whenever I catch up with them and ask them about their stats, they report back that their opens are stable at 60-70%, while continuously growing their list.

How my clients and I can afford to send risqué subject lines

Here’s a successful subject line tactic that I used in launches last year (and you may have seen yourself):

“Yuval - meet client name

This subject line works brilliantly because:

  1. It sounds like a real intro you’d get over email

  2. It piques curiosity - who is this person I’m introduced to? Was I expecting an intro?

  3. It sets the scene for an incoming story, and we do love stories!

But there’s a very fine line there between it being just cheeky and it feeling clickbaity.

Some brands would use this very tactic and will be perceived as untrustworthy - because in the grand scheme of things, this email was yet another nail in the coffin of a strategy that’s all about short-term wins and tricking subscribers into opening irrelevant emails.

Other brands might use this and see great success because their strategy is all about building relationships over time, and every email they send serves a purpose.

If your subscribers see you as the sender who cried wolf, this tactic is a no-go. If you nurture trust long-term, you can allow yourself those subject lines every so often. 

An embarrassing mistake turned into an opportunity

I had an important in-person coffee chat this week.

I was looking forward to it and was quite nervous about it. 

After all, it is a key figure in my niche, and I hold most of my meetings online. In other words, I couldn’t use my usual party trick of wearing a presentable top with a pair of sweatpants to make myself feel more comfortable.

Anywho, a day later, I sent this person a thank you email.

Alas, I woke up tired beyond belief and my brain operated on a weird auto-pilot.

The email I sent had the following subject line:

“Thank you for a lovely meeting tomorrow!”

… And I got a wonderful reply in no time.

Obviously, it was an unexpected and silly subject line. 

But I did build a certain level of trust with this person, so the email got opened and engaged with… and the same can apply to your subscribers.

It made me think of using more mistakes like that in subject lines, sporadically.

Not to be confused with dishonest “oops” emails that plenty of brands out there send to get their emailsopened and clicked (and lose some of their subscribers’ trust in the process).

A mistake/pattern interrupt like that every once in a while can show our humanness - and that’s something that especially bigger brands can show more of.

Can you use this tactic yourself? Give it a go.

If you’ve established a good level of trust with your readers it might work, but be careful about the frequency of using it and keep an eye on your stats.

So don’t worry about coming up with the perfect subject line.

Care about the relationships you build with your audience. That’s more impactful than what a single subject line would ever be capable of.

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