If you can master subject lines, you will gain new prospects--and clients.

That’s a promise.

Might sound like we’re being a bit crazy here at Slice International, but we’re speaking the truth.

From our own personal experience and that of our peers ( check out our latest blog on how email marketing can rock your business), we know that email marketing works. Big time.

And we also know that the biggest key to effective email marketing is as simple as the subject lines your business is putting out into the world.

We’ve shown you some pretty sweet subject lines that have ignited inboxes the world over.

But how can you create these magic subject lines for yourself?

Lucky for you, today’s blog is going to show you some tricks of the trade.

Get ready to leave your competitors in the dust.

Our 7 Subject Line Mottos

Just so our team doesn’t forget the importance of subject lines, we’ve created 7 “subject lines mottos” so you’ll also never forget what’s important.

1. Haste Makes Waste. Just because a subject line is short, doesn’t mean it should be a quick write. Speed does not make for a good subject line. Want to hear the truth? You should be spending as much time on the subject line as you do on the rest of your email put together.

The reality is a subject line for an email is the most important component of all; if it doesn’t work, the email will never be opened and your message will never be read.

2. Leave The Best For Last. Write your subject line LAST. Trust us. You’ll find that once you’ve actually written the content of your email, your ideas and thoughts will be more fully developed. You will have had time to work through your logic and know exactly what it is you are trying to communicate. If you write your subject line first, the danger will be that you will not have allowed your thoughts to fully germinate and your words will just not be as strong.

3. Short And Sweet. These two great words describe what an email subject line is all about. If it’s too wordy, it will likely get cut off when delivered to the inboxes of your audience, and they won’t be able to even read the entire message. If it’s too complex or difficult to understand, people will skip it based on the time it takes to decipher it alone.

4. Don’t Waste Time. Write the most important words first. How do you figure out which ones you should prioritize? Come up with a short list of the words you’d like to include in your subject line, then work backwards from there. The words you choose should accurately describe what you’re trying to convey through your email, yet also be compelling.

5. Be Clear Or Be A Tease. In general, there are two types of email subject lines – one which clearly describes what people can expect to find inside (i.e. 1,004 Ways to Make Your Website Wow), or one which is much more cryptic in nature (i.e. Really? Or Sorry!). In our experience, your subject lines should be 75% clear and 25% tease.

Warning though: regardless of which you choose, it’s incredibly important that the email makes sense to your audience based on what they read in the subject line. Nothing will have people running faster towards the unsubscribe button than opening an email, only to feel disappointed by the contents or that you’ve played a ‘click and bait’ on them. Just be honest with your audience – they’ll greatly appreciate it.

6. Focus, Focus, Focus. When you’re writing a subject line (or the entire email for that matter), focus on one main point for each email. Don’t confuse your audience by pulling their attention in multiple directions.

7. Be Your Client’s Best Friend. Personalization is key. And personalization can come in many different shapes and sizes! You can simply use each prospect’s name in the email message as a way to add a personal touch. A word of caution though – don’t go overboard with this to the point of making the email feel ‘spammy’ or ‘gimmicky.’ Used in moderation, this can be a great technique for getting your audience to pay attention to what you have to say.

Or you can go ahead and call out the client on what you know is a pain point for them. For example, if you’re selling dog food, maybe think about calling out a typical problem for people searching for dog food: 21 Ingredients Your Dog Should Not Be Eating.

Now that we’ve talked about some of our mottos, let’s get a little more specific and talk about some subject line ideas that you’re going to want to use…over and over.

Your New Subject Line Templates

Uninspired for your next email marketing campaign? Check out some of our top subject line templates. With all of these templates, feel free to use them as a “guide” and switch up the language for your own.

1. “Reason Why” Subject Line – A reason why template is an irresistible draw. Every. Single. Time. Because ‘reason why’ subject lines combine the ‘curiosity’ factor with great information (not to mention a possible solution to their problem). They invariably enjoy high open rates.

Subject Line: X Reasons Why X Person Has X Problem

For example:

  • 3 Reasons Why You Should Be Using Coconut Oil
  • 5 Reasons Why No One Ever Loses Weight
  • 20 Reasons Why Every Entrepreneur You Know Fails

2. “Benefit-Oriented” Subject Line – Tell your readers what they will gain or how they will benefit from reading your awesome email.

Subject Line: How X Can Be Completed in X Amount of Days

For example:

  • Lose 10 Pounds in 10 Days
  • Write a Book Easily in 30 Short Days
  • Your Guide To Healthy Eating For The Next 30 Days

3. “Ask a Question” Subject Line – Find an intriguing question, then ask your audience. They’ll naturally want to discover the answer.

Subject Line: Question?

For example:

  • Tired of Being the World’s Best Kept Secret?
  • Why Is Love So Hard To Find?
  • What Do You (Really) Think About Vaccinations?

4. “Borrowed Interest” Subject Line – Take someone or something that’s popular, and reveal something interesting or newsworthy about the topic. Readers will be curious to know the celebrity ‘secret’.

Subject Line: Why X Is Doing X?

For example:

  • Why Donald Trump Buys His Cars Here
  • Why Kate Middleton Uses This Shampoo
  • What Congress’s New Tax Hike Means For You

5. “The ‘How To’” Subject Line – Find something that your audience is interested in, then tease the ‘how to’ in your email subject line. This method also works well as a leeway into a story or testimonial.

Subject Line: How To Do X

For example:

  • How To Play Guitar in 7 Days or Less
  • How To Make Bread Like Martha Stewart
  • How I Grew My Business from 0 to 1 Million in 18 months

6. “Discover” Subject Line – Share a secret or intriguing piece of information that will cause your audience to want to click through to the email to find out the answer.

Subject Line: Discover X Secret

For example:

  • Discover the Secret to Long-Term Weight Loss
  • Find out the 5 Secrets to Facebook Advertising That Works
  • Unearth The Easy 3-Step Method To Financial Freedom

7. “Targeted EmailsSubject Line– This type of email is used to target a particular audience or niche.

Subject Line: For the X Person Who Is Looking for X

For example:

  • For 40 Something Women Who Can Never Find Anything to Wear
  • For College Students Who Are Looking To Earn Extra Money
  • For Software Engineers Looking To Be Hired by Silicon Valley’s Newest Hot Startup

8. “Lists” Subject Line – Apparently, readers have an inexhaustible appetite for lists. These are always very popular subject lines.

Subject Line: X Tips for X

For example:

  • 25 Tips For The Tired Mommy
  • 7 Proven Strategies For New Email Marketers
  • 100+ Ideas for Saving Time with Housework

9. “Teaser Email” Subject line – This type of subject line is like a ‘preview’ to a film or story.

Subject Line: You’ll Never Guess What Happened To X

For example:

  • You’ll Never Guessed What Happened When I Got In My Car Yesterday
  • Guess How I Made 1 Million Dollars In One Month
  • We Checked Our (Statistics) – You Won’t Believe What Happened Next

10. “Time Sensitive” Subject Line – If you want your audience to respond quickly, try using a time sensitive subject line. Don’t overdo this one, as it may start to seem gimmicky after a while – but if you really have a deadline, be sure to mention it (i.e. Reply by Friday to receive…)

Subject Line: You Have X Amount of Days To Complete X

For examples

  • You’ve Got One Day Left to Win The Lottery
  • Your Billing Payment is Overdue
  • Don’t Miss the Promotion (It’s About to End)!

11. Personalized Subject Line – Make it personal. You can literally use the reader’s name in the subject line or simply say an informal phrase that is personal. There are a host of variations on this theme so be creative!

Subject Line: Call Out Prospect

For example:

  • Thank You (This is apparently one of the most successful subject lines out there!)
  • We Need Your Help (Reader’s Name)
  • Were We Boring You? (For those who aren’t opening emails.)

So, now that you have a few proven ideas to try out, let’s turn to some of the words you might want to avoid in your subject lines.

Words You Need To Avoid To Be Subject Line King

To be subject line king, you need to be careful with what words you chose to communicate with.

There are certain words that almost certainly guarantee your email a trip to the spam folder or trash bin – without even being opened first.

Here are some of the top words to avoid ( to see the full list, hop over to Hubspot or SMB Adviser (here):

  • Opportunity
  • Bargain
  • Free
  • Order Status
  • Discount
  • Price
  • Wife (I know, right?)
  • Limited Time
  • Deal
  • Warranty
  • Billion
  • No Catch
  • Insurance
  • Romantic
  • Score With Babes
  • You’re A Winner!
  • This Isn’t Spam
  • Fees
  • Half
  • Free Money
  • Social Security Number

As you can tell, many of these words are very spammy or just plain scary (social security number, anyone?)

In conclusion, subject lines are the engine behind your entire email marketing campaign (and thus, your sales funnel as well). Use them intelligently. Craft them wisely. And soon you’ll find yourself king of your kingdom with your competitors peering over your moat to check out what you’ve done to get such great results.

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About the Author

Nicknamed the 'female David Ogilvy’, Sue Rice is famous for her exquisite writing skills and strategic savvy. A native Californian and Stanford University graduate, she launched her career on Madison Avenue in the 90s and eventually helped run BBDO Europe in Paris as their Communications Director. Now a 7-figure entrepreneur, Sue helps businesses create high-quality content that attracts clients, builds brands and skyrockets sales.