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5 Examples of Awesome Email Subject Lines (& Tips to Create Your Own)

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Email marketing is a fantastic way for small businesses to communicate with their past, present, and future customers. But it doesn’t matter what’s in your emails if no one ever opens them.

You won’t get sales, reviews, appointments, or whatever your goal is to get through email if no one opens your messages. So in this guide, I’m going to help you increase your open rate and get you the returns that you want.

Speaking of, the average email marketing ROI is $40 back for every dollar you spend. That’s going to be our target. That’s what you can expect when you follow the advice and examples in this guide.

Average ROI of Marketing Tactics

PC: Lyfe Marketing

So how do you create awesome email subject lines that increase your open rates and earn high returns? Keep reading to find out.

Why are email subject lines important, anyway?

Your subject line is one of the first things someone sees when your email lands in their inbox. In fact, 47% of email recipients decide whether to open an email based on the subject line alone!

Almost half of your audience might not open your email if your subject line doesn’t hook them.

How do you make your subject line stand out so that people want to open your emails, even if they have a full inbox? Follow these examples from brands already doing it.

5 Examples of Incredible Email Subject Lines

1. HubSpot: “Ohhhh, I wanna chat with somebody 🤖”

When HubSpot introduced their new Conversations feature, they decided to take a non-conventional route. Instead of a sales pitch, they opted for a popular song lyric.

To put it simply: It’s fun. You’ve probably got the tune stuck in your head already! (For those that don’t, here’s a video.)

A quote from a popular (and downright cheesy) song feels much less salesy than something like, “introducing our new feature.” And, because the song is so catchy, HubSpot has the chance to stick their email at the forefront of customers’ minds all day long.

But, what I really want to talk about is their use of emoji.

How many emails in your inbox have an emoji in the subject line? I’ll bet there aren’t many.

The crazy part about that? Consumers are 43% more likely to open an email if there’s an emoji in the subject line.

That makes them a fantastic tool! Even if you’re B2B brand marketing to companies, you’re still talking to a person. This grabs their attention.

So which emojis are best to use? First, it depends on the message you’re sending (it needs to be relevant. But crying emojis tend to perform best in both the U.K. and U.S.

Using Emoji in Email Subject Lines

PC: Mailjet

There’s no real case study (yet) to prove which emoji is the holy grail of open rates. But if you stick to a handful of “brand emojis” and send what feels natural, you won’t go wrong.

2. Sumo: “[$500 Content] Looking for your best idea”

We all want to win $500, right? This subject line example isn’t from a typical sales pitch email, but Sumo is still looking for their audience to do something: Enter a contest.

Here’s what I really love about it: Acknowledgement of the $500 reward is clearly mentioned at the beginning of the subject line, which piques interest and shows I’ll get something in return.

I’m a busy person, and it’s rare that I’ll open an email unless it’s giving value to me. The people you’re emailing likely feel the same way.

So use this tactic when you’re writing the subject line for your next email marketing campaign. Whatever you’re asking for, think about offering an incentive, such as:

  • Discounts on future purchases
  • Free products in return for an action
  • Free customizations on a product
  • Free gift cards

There’s one important thing to remember when using incentives to improve your email messages: Keep it at the front of your subject line.

Three-quarters of consumers say they use a smartphone to check their emails most often.

Email Open Rates by Device

Short subject lines (or those that get to the point quickly) will catch users’ attention, and prevent your incentive from being chopped off their smaller screens.

3. CoSchedule: “*this* blog schedule saves 1 hour per post + boosts traffic by 30% 📈”

This subject line from CoSchedule is fantastic for several reasons. The most important one is that it directly addresses my pain point.

As I explained in my guide to buyer personas, the people you’re emailing are experiencing some problem. That’s a pain point, and it's something you should use in your email marketing campaigns to show targets that you *get* them.

Taking this example as a potential customer of CoSchedule’s, they know my pain point is spending hours on blogging and trying to grow my traffic.

That’s why they’ve given me a free resource to help solve my dilemma, and crafted a subject line to let me know. I already know what I’ll get before I click or read the full email - with specific numbers. That’s golden.

Statistically-speaking, using numbers in subject lines has its benefits. In fact, subject lines that contain numbers see higher open rates than those without.

Subject Lines That Include Numbers

PC: Yesware

You can take advantage of this by using hard data in your own subject lines. Ideas include:

  • The number of 5-star reviews you’ve collected
  • How much money you’ve spent on a recent product launch
  • Your percentage rating on a third-party review site
  • A case study sharing a previous customer’s ROI with your product

Let’s put that into practice: “128 companies filled jobs this week. Yours could be next” could be a fantastic subject line for a staffing agency selling their services.

Since you’re proving you can fill jobs quickly (and giving a figure to prove it), why wouldn’t your target customers want to open it and get involved?

4. Brain.fm: “🎧 Get back in the groove and save 30%”

Personalization is key in email marketing. It can improve sales conversions by as much as 19%, and boost average sale value by nearly 50%!

Brain.fm nailed it here. How? Their subject line is super personalized.

They’ve scanned my account history and know I’m not “in the groove.” I’m not listening to their products. So they’re letting me know they understand me, while also giving me a 30% discount incentive to hook me back in.

This is a great tactic for re-engaging people who’ve disappeared or stopped interacting with your website or product, whether it’s:

  • After a free trial of your software
  • After they’ve abandoned their online cart, or
  • After someone’s accessed your lead magnet

You could use this personalization and discount code hybrid to bring people back in, and convince them to stick with you or make a purchase.

But why is the subject line such a great place to do this? The answer is simple: You’re combining the 47% of people who decide whether to open an email based on the subject line with the 26% of people who open an email to see an offer.

Reasons for Opening an Email

PC: SuperOffice

That’s already 73% of the people you’re emailing who could be more likely to hit “open”!

5. Simply Business: “Elise, Today’s the day 🎉”

If there’s any type of email that you’ll struggle to craft subject lines for, it’s a series of launch emails.

Since you’re emailing the same person multiple times (potentially in a short timeframe), it’s tricky to create small snippets that keep them engaged - especially if your launch isn’t very exciting.

However, I love the way Simply Business announced their launch date. Instead of making it generic (like “it’s launch day!”), they personalized the subject line and addressed me directly.

Remember what we said about personalization in example 4?

Although it might not sound like a big deal to include a first name in a subject line, it could help improve the results you get from your email marketing campaigns. That’s because click-through rates (CTR) are as much as 35% higher when using the recipient’s first name in the subject line.

Putting this into practice is simple, really. You can use any of the formats listed in this article and pop a first name tag (or merge field) into the subject line area.

Mailchimp Merge Fields

PC: Mailchimp

The best part? Email marketing software can do this automatically, meaning you won’t need to waste time going through each message manually typing in names.

(For reference, here are the how-to documents for automatic name tagging in ConvertKit, MailChimp, GetResponse, and AWeber.)

Don’t forget to split-test your email subject lines.

Now that you’ve cracked the code on creating perfect email subject lines (congrats, by the way), you’re ready to see your open rates skyrocket.

But it’s still critical to regularly split-test what subject lines your audience are interested in and - more importantly - which get opened more. This is also called A/B testing.

While the audience of a real estate company might not use flash sale discount codes (since they’re promoting high-ticket items), a B2C eCommerce company (whose customers are more likely to make last-minute purchases) might.

Certain email providers allow you to split-test subject lines automatically.

AB Testing Example

PC: TheNextWeb

When this happens, your overall subscriber list is split, each receiving a different subject line variation. Once the emails have been sent, you’ll be able to analyze the results, and see which works best for your audience.

That kind of data is invaluable.

3 Final Steps to Consistently Create A+ Email Subject Lines

Before rushing off to create a list of email subject lines for your upcoming messages, use these three final tips to make sure they’re all A+.

1. Use segments to split your subscriber list. This will help with personalization since you’re able to send a targeted subject line to a specific group of people.

2. Create a sense of urgency. Give people a reason to open your email now, rather than later. This increases the chances of your email being opened at all.

3. Play to your audience’s emotions. Can you make them feel happy or create a fear of missing out through your subject line? If so, they’re invested and potentially more likely to open.

Now that you’re fully in-the-know about how email subject lines work, the benefits of crafting an awesome one are yours for the taking!

If you can convince your audience to open your message, you’re already over the first hurdle.

From there, there’s no reason why you couldn’t see an uplift in CTRs, responses, and conversions - especially if you’re following general email marketing best practices and always promising value to your subscriber list.