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Alright, I was a bit tied up with work last week, so without further ado, here is part two of our e-mail copywriting series: writing the subject line.

The subject line is so crucial in e-mail marketing that it warrants a separate discussion, apart from all the other topics related to composing the actual e-mail.

The reason for this, is the fact that the subject line determines whether people will actually open your e-mail or not (there are other factors, like whether your readers trust you, but these factors are largely outside the scope of copywriting). Your “open rate” is obviously a huge factor in your e-mail copywriting success, because people need to open an e-mail before they can read it. So, getting that subject line down is a topic worth thinking long and hard about.

An e-mail subject line is much like a headline in a lot of ways, except that you can’t use clever formatting (large font, striking color) to make it stand out. So, think of an e-mail subject line as a headline that has to stand on the legs of the words alone.

With that in mind, there are three solid principles to keep in mind when writing your e-mail headline. These principles are really quite straightforward, because after all, writing a subject line is a pretty straightforward task. However, just because writing a good subject line is straightforward in principle, doesn’t mean it is “easy” in practice; writing good subject lines is a precise art that needs to be practiced before it can be mastered.

Three subject line writing principles:

1. Keep it short and sweet.

There are two reasons you should keep your subject line short. One, like any other headline designed to get attention, it needs to be direct and to-the-point. Two, your recipient’s inbox won’t show the entire text of a very long subject line, so you’re better off keeping the entire message short enough that your reader can get the point before opening the e-mail. After all, if they need to read well into the main body text in order to get the point, they may never get the point at all.

2. State or imply a benefit.

Benefits are the most valuable commodity in copywriting. It’s good to tell a potential customer what the product does, but it’s even better to tell them how it benefits them. If you can use your subject line to clearly state the most important or attractive benefit of whatever you’re selling, you will get a good open rate. If your most important benefit involves money, you might want to just imply it instead of outright stating it, because directly saying “LEARN HOW TO MAKE A MILLION DOLLARS INSIDE” will set of spam signals.

3. Create a sense of urgency.

If you can convince your readers that they have only a limited time to read your e-mail before the incredible value contained therein expires, you will get a higher open rate then you would have otherwise. Use this to your advantage with phrases like “limited time only” and “offer expires on…” If done correctly, I can guarantee this will get you a better open rate than you would get without it.


That’s it for this installment of ConstantCopy, but be sure to pop in for the next installment, when we conclude this three part series on e-mail copywriting with a discussion of how to use e-mail content to sell.

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