You Had Me at Hello – 5 Types of Subject Lines to Engage Your Audience

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by Kim Stiglitz In the movie Jerry Maguire,  Jerry expressed his love in a long-winded speech to Dorothy and her reply was the simple...

by Kim Stiglitz


subject linesIn the movie Jerry Maguire, Jerry expressed his love in a long-winded speech to Dorothy and her reply was the simple phrase: “You had me at hello.” Your subject line can do the very same thing for your email marketing and leave your readers swooning.

Your readers’ inboxes are a crowded place these days and with all that competition, you’ve got to up your ante to stand out. If you’re sending email on a regular basis to subscribers that have opted-in and want to hear from you, you’re off to a good start.

But you’ve got to hook ‘em with attention getting subject lines, so you can reel them into the content of your email. Here are five subject line types and real-life examples to guide you on your way to success.

1. Humor: Use a little humor, something a bit cheeky or nostalgic in your subject lines to engage your readers. Take for example this subject line from retailer Tory Burch that plays on the name of a popular band, Jane’s Addiction: “Jeans Addiction: Our New Denim Collection.” 

2. Call to Action: This type of subject line has a clear, “do this” message. Our example comes from MZ Wallace with their simple, “Vote to Win.” In just three words they tell you exactly what they want you to do. It also piques your curiosity getting you to open the message to read all about what you could win.

3. Personalization: Placing a reader’s name or other information about him or her in the subject line can be either open-inducing or, it could get you a quick click into the trash bin depending how you use it. In this example, social media network, LinkedIn treads lightly by including my first name to make me feel “special,” indicating this information is just for me, “Top News for Kim: Google Latitude to be retired August 9.”

4. Exclusivity/Offer: With the recent changes at Gmail, promotional emails now get filtered into a special tab in a user’s inbox, but otherwise your promotional emails need to stand out. Try out different subject lines that state free shipping, a percentage off, a dollar amount off or other offer language to see what resonates most with your subscribers. Our example is from Piperlime, a division of retail giant, Gap Inc. Piperlime entices their subscribers with bargain basement language of, “Extra 25% ALL SALE. New styles just added.” They even went for all caps in the “all sale” language. If you do this, do so sparingly as it’s the online equivalent of screaming and that’s never pleasant.

5. How-to: By providing helpful and useful content to your subscribers, you provide them a great service and benefit. That’s what makes how-to content so compelling. Birdy Botanicals, a natural skin care company based in San Francisco, nails it with their subject line for eating right tips, “A Key to Great Skin – Easy Tips for Adding Superfoods to Your Diet.”

Get more subject line tips in our free Savvy Subject Line Writing for Success guide.

Do you have your reader’s at “hello”? How will you use these subject line ideas to keep them hooked on your content?


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