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What's Your Best Subject?


As B2B marketers, many of our clients have had to forego direct mail in recent months. After all, why spend money to send letters or packages into empty offices? More people are home and sitting in front of a computer screen. So, an increase in email volume was a perfectly predictable — and logical — outcome.

Sure enough, commercial emails (sent by businesses to either business people or consumers) saw an uptick between March and May, increasing to about 110% of usual volume by week 11 of the pandemic. Open rates and click-throughs also increased — although inversely to volume. In other words, when there was measurably more email in in-boxes, response rates were lower. When the surge in emails sent died down, response rates stabilized and then increased hovering at about 120% of pre-Covid levels.

Unfortunately, for some email "marketers," stay-at-home orders were akin to shooting fish in a barrel. Scammers have taken advantage of changing at-home media consumption — and widespread worry and anxiety — to increase their nefarious activity. Data from security firm Barracuda Networks demonstrates a 667% spike in phishing emails since February.

So, how do you stand out in not only more emails in general, but many more hostile emails? The first and by anyone's count most important place is in your subject line.

According to business2community, 35% of email recipients make the decision to open (or not to open) based solely on the subject line. Those limited characters have to work for you and work hard.

Here are some pointers that are at least as important these days as they were before:

  1. Brevity is the soul of wit
  2. Create a sense of urgency (but not panic, please)
  3. Make it personal
  4. Add pictures (yes, they're a gimmick, but emojis do increase open rates)
  5. Send it from a real person and — ideally — someone who's familiar
  6. Follow the three Es: entertain, engage, or educate
  7. Include high-response words like "Free" (Worldata publishes updates on key words regularly)
  8. Test, test, test and then, test

In the quest for the perfect subject line, you're not entirely on your own. Some simple websites will predict subject line effectiveness for you. Try, and

The next time you write an email, take Julie Andrews's advice. Start at the very beginning. A great subject line is a very good place to start.


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