I hear you, and I give in!
You want to know how to write subject lines that are so tempting, so irresistible that your readers cannot wait to open your email and gobble it up. Okay then, let’s get to it.
Irresistible subject lines revolve around what I call The Cracker Jack Principle™.
Do you remember the Cracker Jack jingle that ended with “Candy coated popcorn, peanuts and a prize… That’s what you get with Cracker Jack”?
Well, I do. (If you want to hear the whole jingle, here it is on YouTube.)
The last line of that jingle sums up how to write a captivating subject line. Tell us what we’ll get when we open the box! Just like that snappy, singable phrase does. A great subject line promises lots of lip-smacking goodness inside of your email. (Oh, yeah, that’s tweetable! Tweet it now!)
One person’s sweet treat could be another person’s diabetic disaster. So, it goes without saying, the prerequisite for making your subject line (or any copy, for that matter) irresistible is to know who you’re writing to. Again, yes, again, it all comes down to knowing your clients, what they want, think about, what they find irresistible and what they can easily do without.
But let’s get back to the Cracker Jack Principle™ and some helpful tips for writing subject lines.
Man, That Sounds So Good!
Your subject line is like a mini headline. It needs to give your clients a compelling reason to keep reading.
One way to do this is with a subject line that promises your clients they’ll get something they really want and/or need if they just open it up and read. Not something they might want. Or something they may want 2 weeks from now. But something that will benefit them in some way right now.
For instance, if I’m an entrepreneur who needs more clients, my eyes are going to light up when I read a subject line that says something like:
Get 3 new clients today without even trying.
Here are some more examples of subject lines that promise a nifty “prize” inside:
- Lose 10 lbs by Spring
- Make $10,000 with your blog
- Increase your email open rate by 22%
- 5 proven subject lines you can steal
All the above subject lines promise something valuable or desirable, depending on who you are and what turns you on.
I, for one, am a sucker for any subject line that promises copywriting secrets, crock-pot recipes or discounted tickets to Broadway show.
Specifics Are Sweeter
Okay, let’s do a little experiment.
Let’s take those same subject lines above and remove some of the specifics as well as any numbers.
Stripped down versions:
Get new clients today without trying
Lose weight by Spring
Make money with your blog
Increase your email open rate
Some subject lines you can steal
Okay, they’re not bad, but can you feel how weak and flabby they become when they are stripped of their numbers and specifics? It’s kind of amazing, isn’t it, that by just adding some numeric qualifiers, the subject line becomes stronger and more irresistible.
(Would the Cracker Jack jingle have been more compelling if the phrase had been: “Candy-coated popcorn, toffee peanuts and a $20 prize”? Yeah, but it wouldn’t have fit in the song.)
SIDE NOTE: Do you ever wonder what to write about in your blog posts or newsletters? Try writing a list of 20 irresistible subject lines first, then write about those subjects.
Short and Snappy
As a general rule, subject lines should be no more than 50 characters, or under 10 words. Often, shorter is better, as long as it still conveys the tantalizing delights inside.
But no matter its size, your subject line needs to stand out amongst all the other subject lines in your potential clients inbox. They need to have some snap, sparkle and even some sense-appeal (we’ll talk about sensual subject lines next week).
Here’s what I mean.
You could write a subject line like: How to cut an onion without crying.
Now, that’s not bad. I’d like to know how to do that.
But what if you added a little energy, a little snap:
Stop crying and chop that onion!
Stop your crying and show that onion who’s boss.
But again, one of the best ways to snap up your subject line is with specifics, like we talked about earlier.
For example, take this subject line: Men won’t eat what they don’t understand.
Now, this isn’t the best subject line to start with because it doesn’t promise much. And it’s easy to say “Ah, who cares!”.
But it gets a lot snappier when we change it to: Real men don’t eat dandelion greens
I’m telling you, a little sass and some specifics go a long way. Almost always, specific details trump vague generalities. Dandelion greens will beat out “food.” Daffodils will beat out flowers.
In fact, some subject lines that work well focus only on 3 details within the email:
Gratitude, good guys and grunge
Cucumbers, wine and facial care.
Personal and Friendly
I don’t know about you, but when I cruise through my email inbox each day, I have an automatic, internal prioritizing system. I wade through all the non-essentials to first find emails from clients, emails from friends, or anything I must attend to today… like a payment or appointment or a sale on copywriting courses.
I’m imagining the same is probably true for you. You look for those emails you want to open right away. And don’t’ you love getting emails from friends?
This is why subject lines that infer a friendly familiarity often get opened. For one thing, they don’t sound like they’re selling anything. And they imply an intimacy or connection that I think we all crave during the course of a day.
Here are a few from my own inbox. And no, they didn’t come from friends. They were all from marketing and copywriting gurus:
- OMG! You’re not going to believe this
- I really messed up… big time
- Did you see my tweet last week
- Can we chat for a quick minute?
- Hey, call me.
- I can’t believe what happened.
Notice, these friendly subject lines break all the other rules and still work. They’re unspecific, vague and mostly sugar snap-free.
Hey, Look What Happens When You Put ‘Em All Together
Another way too boost the Cracker Jack factor is to take a subject line that is specific and promising, and then make it more personal and friendly.
Let’s do that with the subject lines we used at the beginning of this post.
- I got 3 new clients today…without even trying
- I’m losing 10 lbs by Spring
- I just made $10,000 with my blog
- How increased my email open rate by 22%
- I just stole 5 subject lines
Sometimes, making the subject line about you and the results you’ve gotten, or even the results someone you know has gotten (“she lost 8 lbs in 2 weeks”) can be even more compelling. They feel more intimate and revealing.
So, have a go and play with some of these subject line tips and let me know how it goes.
Next week, I’ll share some more subject line ideas and tips, since we’re on a roll.
Meanwhile, write out 20 subject lines to inspire your clients to quickly open your email. Try them out on your friends and colleagues. See which ones they like the best.
Or… if you dare, share them here by leaving a comment below and we’ll do a subject line clinic, right here! Either way, meet me back here next week for more subject line shenanigans.