Subject Lines That Get Your Email Opened and Read
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We all have inboxes full of messages vying for our attention. How do you get your email to stand out?
As a busy financial advisor with a growing firm, you know how quickly your inbox fills with messages. Unless it’s urgent or directly tied to getting your job done, you’re going to skip it, delete it, or file it away for a later date that never comes. No matter how important you consider the messages you send to clients and prospects, they’ll likely overlook your email.
Creating an attention-grabbing subject line is a critical first step to getting your contact to open your email. A creative subject line will not only capture your reader’s attention but will make them curious enough about the content of your message to want to open and read it. This is important in your regular interaction with clients. But it is also essential when it comes to lead nurturing in your marketing campaigns. If you are not sure what this is or why it’s important, you can see my article, What is Lead Nurturing, or start at the beginning of the series, Marketing Funnels for Financial Advisors.
Here’s what to do and what to avoid when writing email subject lines.
Five subject line styles proven to get attention – and get opened
“How can I help?”
There is a misconception that financial professionals are viewed as salespeople. In reality, they are advisors who help people with their financial lives. Why not address that in the subject line of your email? People want to feel as though you are offering them help for something they need and are there because you have a genuine desire to make their stressful lives a little easier. By using this subject line, you are letting your client or prospect know that you’re not trying to sell them something but want to provide a service that can help them.
When it comes to email subject lines, sometimes less is more. Marketers have found that a simple, one-word subject line stands out against the wordier messages in a contact’s inbox. Singularity creates curiosity. “Tomorrow” can have quite an impact as a subject line because it implies a sense of urgency. Your client or prospect will feel that there is a quickly approaching deadline that may need their attention today.
Don’t overuse the one-word subject tactic and always make certain that the word you use is relevant. If you want them to open an email with the subject line, “Tomorrow,” there must be a reason that they need to open the email before tomorrow. For example, you’re hosting a webinar tomorrow, you’ve had some last-minute space open on your calendar tomorrow, or tomorrow is the deadline to register for an upcoming event.
“Any questions, [name]?”
While it is never a good idea to use your own name in a subject line, I recommend using your recipient’s name occasionally. Just like you hear your own name above the noise in a loud public space, your contacts will notice their name among a sea of messages in their inbox. It’s human nature to pay attention to your own name and using it in a subject line can be a great way to get their attention and a response in return. Researchers have found that when someone uses your name during a conversation, you’re more likely to like that person. We are wired to appreciate the attention and feel the connection when our name is used. The same holds true for written messages, such as subject lines. But use this approach sparingly, or else you will sound like a salesperson who peppers your name repeatedly throughout a conversation as an overly slick technique they learned in a seminar.
If you are sending an email out to your whole list or a large portion of it, most email service providers have a way that you can easily use subject line customization to automatically insert your contact’s first name. Just be sure you have your contacts’ first names saved in your database and specify default text to use when you don’t.
“[Mutual connection] mentioned you to me”
When cold emailing a prospect or someone you’d like to make a connection with, you need a way to let them know from the start that your message isn’t spam and that you aren’t a total stranger. By referencing the name of a mutual connection, you are far more likely to get your reader’s attention as well as a response. People will be more likely to warm up to you instantly if they can associate you with a trusted friend. Out of respect for their friend and a sense of obligation, they will usually hear you out and consider what you have to say.
But there’s one important caveat. Only do this if you have the mutual connection’s permission. Never assume that someone would think it’s okay for you to name drop; get their permission first. The last thing you want is for the person to check with their friend only to find that person is annoyed that you’ve overstepped.
“What would happen if…”
By using this subject line, you are alerting your client or prospect to a potential unforeseen problem or solution. The curiosity of what it could be will inspire them to open your message and can be a great way to prompt them to respond with feedback of their own. Think of it as a cliffhanger; they’ll want to know what comes next.
The idea with this subject line is to make the message intriguing and leave an information gap that can only be filled by opening the email. That said, you need to deliver on the interest you’ve stirred up and close the gap in a meaningful way. ‘What would happen if... the sky turned neon green?’ wouldn’t serve anyone, but ‘What would happen if... you increased your 401(k) contribution by 5%?” could be helpful.
Five email subject line mistakes
Just as there are some best practices for what to include in your email subject lines, there are also some things you should avoid.
Spam trigger phrases
Certain words or phrases are likely to send your emails straight to your contact’s spam folder. Anything that comes across as sensationalized or over-promising (think infomercial speak) or topics that refer to illicit activity may trigger a spam filter. But in the financial industry, be careful not to use words that get rich quick and money scammers use, which can be challenging. Phrases such as “your income,” “investment decision,” and “no fees” can be a problem.
Excessive punctuation, emojis, or all caps
Don’t try to grab attention through formatting. Using all caps is always a bad idea. It’s okay to use punctuation and emojis in your subject lines sparingly. But excessive use is often prevalent in spam subject lines and can trigger spam filters. Multiple exclamation points, a mix of punctuation marks (Want to save on taxes? Act now!), or strings of emojis should be avoided if you want to land in your contact’s inbox. Not only this, but unnecessary punctuation and overuse of emojis also can come across as unprofessional.
We’ve all fallen prey to clickbait at some point, and it’s never a good feeling. When a headline piques your curiosity, grabs your attention, and causes you to click, only to find an article that does not fulfill the headline’s promises, you feel as if you’ve been deceived and annoyed that you’ve wasted your time. When it comes to email, you want to grab their attention to get them to open, but you also want them to read and take action; when you pull a bait and switch, it only damages your reputation and may even cause them to mark your message as spam.
While it’s important to create some sense of urgency, don’t overdo it. Nobody will believe your messages are immediately important and time-sensitive every time. You’ll quickly begin to come across as the advisor who cried wolf, and they’ll start to ignore everything you send.
Boring subject lines
It’s easy to fall into a routine of always using similar subject lines, so take the time to think about your choices. For example, “January Newsletter” isn’t very interesting; instead, refer to a compelling topic covered in the newsletter. Switch things up, experiment, and test new subject lines. Most email service providers allow for A/B testing, so for broadcast marketing emails, see what subject lines resonate with your audience.
The bottom line
Your email subject lines should focus on your audience by being personalized, generating curiosity, and clearly setting the message up to deliver on what the reader expects. Make subject lines short and sweet, relevant, and urgent. You want the recipient to be concerned that they will be missing out on something if they don’t open, but without being deceptive. Nothing breaks trust and makes someone dislike you like opening an email and realizing that it has nothing to do with what you said it did. By following these simple tips, your emails will get read, and you will be surprised by the response and return you get for your efforts.
Want to learn more about email marketing? See my series The Financial Advisor’s Guide to Email Marketing.
Crystal Lee Butler, MBA is the owner of Crystal Marketing Solutions, a full-service marketing agency dedicated to working specifically with independent financial advisors. Since 2011, she’s helped financial advisors cut through the noise to attract ideal clients and grow their businesses using proven strategies that we use with our clients every day. As your “Chief Marketing Officer,” our goal is to help you grow your business and put time back on your calendar so that you can focus on what you do best: serving your clients.