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Email Marketing 101 - Subject Lines and Copy Best Practices

Posted by Aislinn Shoveller on Nov 5, 2015 11:59:00 AM

Email Marketing 101 - Subject Lines and Copy Best Practices

Lesson 2: Subject Lines and Copy Best Practices

Your copy is the bread and butter of everything you do. All of the testing, coding, designing, and (maybe) sweating may end up useless if your content doesn’t resonate with your subscribers. We’ve already discussed in Lesson 1 how to create a relationship built on trust and two way conversation; clearly copywriting is your half of the conversation, don’t blow it.

How to Craft Winning Subject Lines

Subject lines are your first impression – make sure you nail it. MailChimp did a survey of 40 million emails sent and analysed the success of subject lines specifically. Below is a selection of the 20 highest and lowest email open rate subject lines:

Best Open Rates (60%-87%)

Worst Open Rates (1%-14%)

1. [COMPANYNAME] Sales & Marketing Newsletter

1. Last Minute Gift - We Have The Answer

2. Eye on the [COMPANYNAME] Update (Oct 31 - Nov 4)

2. Valentines - Shop Early & Save 10%

3. [COMPANYNAME] Staff Shirts & Photos

3. Give a Gift Certificate this Holiday

4. [COMPANYNAME] May 2005 News Bulletin!

4. Valentine's Day Salon and Spa Specials!

5. [COMPANYNAME] Newsletter - February 2006

5. Gift Certificates - Easy & Elegant Giving - Let Them Choose

6. [COMPANYNAME] Newsletter - January 2006 [ *|FNAME|* *|LNAME|* ]

6. Need More Advertising Value From Your Marketing Partner?


7. [COMPANYNAME] Pioneers in Banana Technology

8. Happy Holidays from [COMPANYNAME]

8. [COMPANYNAME] Moves You Home for the Holidays


9. Renewal


10. Technology Company Works with [COMPANYNAME] on Bananas Efforts

* Study only included campaigns sent to at least 100 recipients.


Based on their findings, they concluded that subscribers want you to “tell it, don’t sell it.” This all goes back to building a relationship on trust. If someone has subscribed to your email newsletter and you said you’d only promote company news and events, they will be surprised to find an email with “20% Off Blowout this Week Only!” as the subject line. The same can be said for the opposite situation; if they signed up for promotional material, they may be confused to be part of your events and news emails. So give your emails the best chance of being opened by being frank about what the reader will find inside.

How to Enhance Your Body Copy

Once your email is opened, what is your subscriber looking to find? Today’s email subscribers are reading emails while on the go (on a tablet or phone), as Inbox Marketer data found in the first half of 2015. Mobile accounts for 57.4% of opens but desktop users are still 20% more likely to click. Companies that aren’t shortening their email copy to account for a mobile audience are losing their customers’ attention fast!

Some key notes for body copywriting:

  • Use “you” over “we” – speak to the customer, not at
    • What do your customers want or need?
    • What problems can you solve for them?
  • Keep it simple – “Never use a long word when a short one will do” – George Orwell.
    • Easier for scanning and maximizes audience understanding.
  • Keep it short – write for scanners and mobile users who have a smaller screen.
    • Bullets, short paragraphs, and to-the-point writing focuses readers on your goal – the CTA.

Your copywriting should act as your half of the conversation. If you demanded that your friends assist you all the time and give nothing in return, you’d have very few friends left. Think of your customers in the same way; that give and take we learned in Lesson 1 becomes extremely important when actually having the conversation.

Topics: Copywriting, Email Marketing, Subject Lines

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