April 26, 2017 by Ashwini Murthy

Subject lines can drastically change the success rate of your email marketing campaign. With almost 35% of the recipients deciding whether they should open a mail or not based on the subject line, The importance of a good subject line increases manifold. The usual pointers like “keep it concise”, “personalise”, “Don’t use caps”, “Don’t use too many exclamation marks”, have been thrown around too much that it has almost become common sense now. With so much of data on what people like and don’t like and how to ace email marketing, a conversion rate of even 2% becomes a cause for celebration.


This is how a regular inbox looks. Your subject line has to disrupt all the noise and stand out. Like Seth Godin says, you drive along the highway and spot multiple brown cows. After maybe the 2nd cow, you’re not even going to take a second glance. But what will happen if you see a purple cow? Your subject line has to be that purple cow.

So where is it that all the companies go wrong? It’s not just subject lines. There are obviously many more reasons. Instead of writing one long preachy article, we’re going to take baby steps. Whatever is being written in this and the upcoming articles are tried and tested methods of what has worked for us and many of our clients. So, let’s delve into how to write better subject lines.

  • Shorter the better

This rule is over-repeated for a reason. It is absolutely necessary that your subject line doesn’t exceed 5-8 words. If it exceeds 30 characters, there’s a high chance that the whole subject line won’t even show on the Gmail App screen. When the concept of emails was initially introduced, the common subject line was “Hi!”.  And, you know what? ‘Hi!’ works very well now for business emails. We get over 80% for it, because…nobody says ‘Hi!’ anymore on email subjects!

  • Trickery isn’t going to work

Email subject lines with “Re:” or “Fwd:” to make the recipient think it’s an email thread is downright deception. The recipients aren’t going to be happy when they open the mail to find out. False promises fall under the same category. “Your free voucher is waiting” or “Download free guide” may have better open rates but it might get you to the spam list if you don’t have any actual vouchers/ebooks. A marketer of a very well-known startup said that they consider Re: as “Regarding” and use it on subject lines. No, smart alec!

  • Create a sense of urgency

Something as generic as “Quick request” can work really well because the word “quick” creates a sense of urgency. Slapping a time period on it, or using words like “only” has the same effect. Urgency is one among a few psychological principles that get people to click on your email. We’ve seen our customers using ‘Quick Request’ and get over 70% opens consistently.

  • FOMO subject lines

FOMO Stands for Fear of missing out. If used in a smart way, it can improve the email opens of your next email marketing campaign by a huge margin. We can use this to create scarcity and urgency for our offers. In fact use of words like “urgent”, “important”, “expires” have a track record of improving open rates. Just make sure this subject line is used for a real scarcity. Also, overusing the FOMO can decrease its value and result in people not taking the emails seriously.

  • Use familiar names to grab their attention

Subject lines like “#Companyname vs. #Competitor” have some of the highest open rates. Using familiar names induces a strong sense of FOMO which causes people to click. Every company wants to know what their competitor is doing. Using competitor names usually works really well. But one has to be careful on how the name is being used. Nothing too innocuous.

  • Subject lines are moving targets

When a subject line works really well for a particular campaign, it should be used only until the point where the open rates stay the same, if not increase. If the open rates start to reduce at any point, the ship must be abandoned immediately. Subject lines are not evergreen. Each subject line will stop working at some point in time.

So, when do you know your email marketing campaign is performing well?

Generally, an open rate over 50% is good. If you have anything above 75%, you’re rocking it. A response rate of 5-6% is good. Anything above 10% is brilliant. This, of course, applies when you’re sending over a couple of hundreds of emails.

Got any more questions about email marketing? Feel free to reach out to us!




Ashwini Murthy

Content marketer @ PipeCandy

A writer by day. Illustrator by night. Currently trying to conquer the B2B marketing world one baby step at a time. Loves everything outside her comfort zone.