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We don’t hold the Magic 8 Ball of subject lines because there’s no one magic subject line or tactic that works across all industries. It all depends on the audience you are reaching out to, whether it’s a consumer or B to B audience. What works for one industry may flop in another.

But, one thing is for sure – a subject line functions like a news headline in a newspaper, magazine or on a roadside billboard. You just have milliseconds to grab the reader’s attention and get him to take that next step – open your email.

Since we don’t hold the Magic 8 ball, we encourage customers to test subject lines to find the tone and tactic that resonate best with their email lists. We recommend the following tactics:

Five Tactics to Get Your Audience to Open Your Email – Now
1.) Quantifying
Use numbers in a subject line. This lets your readers know exactly what to expect in your email. If they see, “3 Proven Landing Page Designs,” the readers understand the takeaway right off the bat. Quantifying the message can put the reader at ease because you’ve communicated a digestible amount of content to him.

2.) Personalizing
This is effective, but I encourage you to personalize beyond the use of a reader’s first and last name. In the B-to-B market, using a company name in a subject line can really peak interest.

3.) Using Symbols
It’s all about catching the reader’s eye – something to distinguish your message from the others in the inbox. For more details, check out our blog post, “Will using special characters increase response rates in email campaigns?” at

4.) Using a “How-to” or “What-to”
It’s all about playing off a person’s desire to learn more about a particular topic. This is useful in a newsletter or blog article – where you share knowledge. This isn’t intended for a hard-sell type of email message for a product or a service. An example is: “What website updates you need to address in 2014.”

5.) Posing a Question
This is a teaser because you’re banking on the reader wanting to see how you answer the question posed in your subject line. But, it can also push a potential customer to move off center, with questions like, “Are you ready?” or “Is it time to …?”

Two Tips as You Apply These Tactics
1.) Direct is better than being mysterious
You can be cute and witty, but not to the detriment of your message. Being vague and mysterious will likely come off as deceptive. If you want to peak your readers’ curiosities, tease them with actually tangibles – things related to the content in your emails. If you have something of great value to offer your customers, tell them in the subject line. For instance, a sweepstakes, product deal or video debut should be front and center in your email subject line.

2.) Brief is better … most of the time
There’s a big debate over what’s more effective – a short subject line or one that is more descriptive. Many tend to keep their subject lines to 45-60 characters to avoid them being truncated in inbox preview panes and cut off in email browsers. But, longer, more descriptive, subject lines can be successful, too. Either way, test, test, test. Whether its brief or more lengthy, we recommend front loading the subject line with the most important point of the email. Then, if you do run the risk of it getting truncated or cut off in the inbox, you don’t lose the best part of your subject line.

One More Thing … Don’t Be Afraid to Combine Tactics
Personalize and pose a question. Or, combine a quantifying statement with a “how to” subject line. Just make sure when you’re testing subject lines – to only test the subject line. Conduct a split test. Don’t test any other variables within your email message so it doesn’t get muddled.

What are you waiting for? Go write those subject lines!


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Beth is our VP of Digital Marketing Strategy who, besides drinking a ridiculous amount of coffee, helps clients generate more business. Whether they’ve partnered with Proximity Marketing for a decade or just joined the family, Beth helps clients achieve success and achieve measurable results.

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