Should You Use Catchy Subject Lines for Your Emails?


The subject line in your email is the most important part. More than anything else, if your subject line doesn’t interest your list then they won’t read the rest of the email because they haven’t opened it in the first place. Which begs the question of whether you should use catchy subject lines or not.

It’s easy to forget that emails are personal messages.

In olden days, you’d have sent a letter. So the “subject line” didn’t really come into it – the letter was personally addressed and that was it.

When direct mail came into mass usage, a lot of copywriters used headlines. Sometimes even on the outside of the envelope and almost always near the top of the letter.

You’ll know from experience that those scream out “mass mail” and your anti being sold to defence mechanism is immediately raised.

It stands to reason that email works the same way.

Except that the sheer volume of emails you get means that you’re much better at determining which ones are important, which ones need to be read, which ones you’ll leave unread in case you come back to them later (which deep down you know you won’t happen) and which ones you delete.

Mail order used to talk about making it to the A-list pile of post – the pile that was least likely to be opened with the trash can opened.

Email kind-of has the same kind of sorting, except the delete button is almost permanently being hovered over.

Which means that your email subject lines need to be catchy enough to get read without screaming out “commercial message, delete me” in the minds of your list.

There’s no easy answer for this.

Some marketers get a fantastic response from their list using long headlines that yell out the fact that the email is effectively an advert.

Others get best response with subject lines that are lower key.

And yet others seem to be able to write a spammy sounding subject line without even trying. I’ve had to rescue emails that I wanted to read from the trash folder on more than one occasion when that’s happened. One or two of the people I follow fall into that category and it’s a real issue for me not to automatically delete them even though I find the content of their emails excellent.

Which brings us back to the question of whether or not you should write catchy email subject lines?

The glib answer is that you need to test your subject lines but that’s not exactly easy to do if you’re writing to your list every day. Which, incidentally, I think you should be doing.

In reality, the only way of testing is to check out what response you get to your messages – how many people click your links and buy the products you’re suggesting – and monitor it over time.

Even that is fraught with difficulty as you have timing issues, different national holidays and much more to contend with.

My personal overall view is that you should write your subject lines as naturally as possible, whether that means they’re catchy or not.

The closer you can get to a subject that you’d write to a single friend, the better.

Because that’s what you’re doing – sending individual emails, even if you’re sending lots of them at once.

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