We’re going to focus on setting up, or improving the results you get with email marketing. This is mission CRITICAL.

All great copywriters have swipe files. You don’t have to be a great copywriter if when you have an abundance of proven ideas around you.

In addition to saving any and all email messages that get my attention, I also use a swipe file like this to inspire me with ideas when I need them.

Subject Line Swipe File

The subject line is a crucial part of your email campaign. If your subject line doesn’t capture interest or curiosity, your email doesn’t get opened. And if nobody opens your email, we don’t have to tell you what happens then.

Your Subject Line’s Purpose

The only job your email headline or subject line has is to get someone to open your email. The subject line isn’t supposed to sell them on a product or to give them deep insight into a topic. All it should do is get them to OPEN the email. Your actual email message will take over once the email is opened.

Subject Line Templates

Curiosity is often key for subject lines. Unlike blog posts where you will likely more frequently combine description and curiosity, emails that are strictly about curiosity can produce very good open. Of course, the key is to still be relevant and subject lines shouldn’t trick or confuse your readers.

NOTE: Where most headlines are generally capitalized (first letter of each word) the whole way through, creating a more natural email subject line (as a friend would write to a friend) often works wonders on open rates in curiosity-type subject lines.

You can use the following in your own emails. Just fill in the ___________ with your topic, etc…

This is what I’ve been talking about…

  • Why they’re wrong about ____________
  • It’s just about that time
  • This is the reason why…
  • Frustrated by _________? Here’s an idea
  • A complete and unbiased review
  • I’ve had enough!
  • A sneak peek at __________
  • Must-have freebie
  • Why some people never ___________
  • What ________doesn’t tell you about ________
  • For ________ only [insert a particular audience: “women”, “those who want to improve their backhand”]
  • [NAME], did you see this?
  • Does this bother you too?
  • Are you ready for ___________?
  • What if I told you __________
  • There’s still time (but only if you do it now)
  • 5 important ways to __________
  • Good news!
  • Do you have a few minutes?
  • Pictures from [insert your name, company name, event, etc]
  • ______ ends tonight
  • Just ____ more hours
  • Can I ask you a quick favor?
  • Here’s the __________ we promised
  • How to get more [insert benefit]
  • End of the week wrap up (Good stuff inside)
  • You get to see this first [Use this one for a special offer you give your customers, before everyone else, for example]
  • I found it…finally!
  • Thought about [buying a certain product, taking a certain course of action]? Check this out

Other Tips

  • Keep your subject lines at about 50 characters, including spaces.
  • Look at email messages you get and create your own swipe file. What piques your curiosity and gets you to open?
  • Look at magazine and newspaper headlines. The grocery store checkout may be boring, but it’s the perfect place to scan headlines and see what gets attention.
  • Test or split test your open rates. Many mailing list programs give you the tools to test your email marketing effectiveness.
  • Try personalization. Test a subject line with your subscribers name and test the same subject line without it.
  • Try adding your company name or personal name to the subject line. If your readers look forward to your emails, this may catch their attention.
  • Create urgency by setting deadlines. For example, “It end tonight” or “Only ___ more hours”.
  • Readers often crave consistency from publications that they like. You may want to let your readers easily identify for your emails by including your company name, publication or include a prefix something like this:

[Jane’s News] The crazy thing that happened the other day…

  • Match your subject line tone to your personality. If you’re a formal person, be formal in your subject lines. If you’re friendly and on the more personal side, try things like “Hey [insert name], I just saw this…”

Overall, the key is to test things out. In addition to testing open rates, test the overall success of a campaign. Because while high open rates are good, if people aren’t taking action on the offers, you may need to do more tweaking.


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