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How to Write a Catchy Email Subject Line

As a small business owner, you send A LOT of emails. Nothing is more frustrating than spending hours slaving away over an email jam-packed with value only to get dismal open rates and even fewer results. Your emails don’t have to get lost in your client’s cluttered inbox. A good subject line is a key component in any successful email marketing campaign. Use these tips to write a catchy email subject line that stands out and gets your emails opened.

Why do email subject lines matter?

Email inboxes are crowded, noisy places. If you want your email to make it through the chaos and actually get opened, you have to write catchy email subject lines that stand out. A study by Super Office found that 45% of people open emails because of who it is from and 33% because of the subject line.

That means, if you have built a relationship with your potential client by consistently sending them super valuable content and you are writing good email subject lines, you’ll drastically increase the odds of your emails getting opened.

Although that may sound too good to be true, the emails we write for our clients consistently have higher-than-average open rates because:

  • We’ve mastered the art of enticing email subject lines.
  • We provide value in every email we send.

Here are some of our best subject lines and their open rates to prove it:

Subject Line: Recent Client Wins! 🎉
Preview: The results are in. Our clients are crushing it!
Why it works: The desire for success
Open Rate: 41%

Subject Line: “I see you 👀”
Preview: I know how hard this is.
Why it works: The appeal of empathy
Open Rate: 47%

Subject Line: Let’s Get Negative!
Preview: It will lead to positive sales. I promise.
Why it works: The pull of the unexpected
Open Rate: 45%

The average email open rate for the marketing industry is about 12%. That means our emails perform over 3x’s better than most marketing emails. Would you like to see results like those in your business?

Take a page from our playbook and use these 9 tips to write good email subject lines that will stand out in even the most crowded inboxes.

9 Tips for Writing a Catchy Email Subject Line

Tip 1: Tell the reader what they’ll get.

Although we all love a good mystery, we don’t open our email inboxes looking for problems to solve. People are drawn to emails that provide answers and solutions. Instead of using a click-bait style subject line that has nothing to do with your content, write great email subject lines that allude to what problem the content of your email will solve.

Tip 2: Know your audience.

Every email you send should provide value to your ideal customer by solving a problem or answering a question your prospective client has. However, to create emails full of valuable information, you have to know your target audience well enough to be in tune with their wants and needs. If you are sending emails that truly help your prospective customer, it will make a huge difference in your email open rates.

Tip 3: Make your subject line irresistible.

Our brains love a good story. Not only do stories help us connect but they also entertain us. One of the best tactics for writing good subject lines is to use what Donald Miller, the author of Building a StoryBrand, calls opening a story loop. Essentially your email subject line starts, or alludes to, a story. Customers have to open the email to learn the ending and close the story loop.

Here are some subject line examples that effectively open a story loop, making the email simply too irresistible to pass by.

Examples of Catchy Subject Lines

You can use these subject line ideas and examples to help you brainstorm your own great subject lines.

Focus on your client

Good marketing always positions the customer as the hero and the company as the guide. So, it makes perfect sense that a catchy subject line would allude to a story about the customer.

  • Is this your next home?
  • Are you taking advantage of this free tool?
  • Your company message is almost ready!

Ask for help

People love to help one another. Asking your customers for feedback is not only a great way to get insight, but it is also a wonderful way to increase your email open rates.

  • Can I ask you something?
  • Which subject line would you pick?
  • Help me decide!

Reveal a secret

Who doesn’t love a good secret? For emails full of off-the-beaten-path tips and tricks, these email subject lines are a perfect fit.

  • The marketing secret they all kept from you.
  • The truth about social media.
  • The dark side of business no one talks about.

Be personal

Sometimes a very personal subject line, like one you might send to a close friend, is just what you need to catch your potential client’s eye. Here are some great examples:

  • We on?
  • Hey – you around?
  • Are you coming?
  • Just checking in.

Another great way to make your email subject lines personal is by adding your client’s name to the subject line and greeting of the email. Personalized emails are 26% more likely to get opened.

Offer a warning

No one likes a fear monger so you don’t want to use this tactic in every email but an occasional warning can be a great way to spice up your email subject lines.

  • Don’t invest in another Facebook ad without reading this first!
  • Beware of these 5 common marketing mistakes.
  • Don’t ignore these warning signs, trust me.

Unexpected combinations

Another great way to stand out is by putting together two things that logically do not go together at all.

  • 3 marketing lessons from my preschooler.
  • Congress wants to help you buy a hybrid water heater.
  • Customer service tips from my dog.

Personal stories

Although you want to stay professional when interacting with potential clients, there is nothing wrong with giving them a glimpse into your personal life, as long as it is related to their problem or need.

  • This comment made my week.
  • I’m so embarrassed…
  • I don’t really want to do this.

Ask a question

This is quite possibly the easiest way to open a story loop. Questions help spark curiosity, compelling readers to open that email marketing campaign you worked so hard on.

  • Are you accidentally spamming your email list?
  • Is your website driving away business?
  • Are you sending customers the wrong message?

How to…

This email subject line idea may sound too simple to be effective. However, one of our recent emails had a 66% open rate with an incredibly simple subject line: “Shortcuts to saving water”.

As long as you are providing a solution to a problem your ideal client is actually facing, you can’t go wrong with these actionable subject lines.

  • How to write emails people actually open.
  • How to grow your business in 30 days.
  • How to become a successful small business owner.

Tip 4: Use Numbers

Our brains love numbers, especially odd numbers. Emails with numbers in the subject line have a 45% higher open rate.

Tip 5: Avoid Spam Words

Most email inboxes are divided up into folders. If you want your email to end up in the main inbox, where it is most likely to be seen, you have to avoid spam traps. Commonly used spam words trigger filters that will send your emails into the dreaded promotion tab, or worse yet, the junk mail folder.

Common spam words include: “free”, “act now”, “guarantee” and other money-related terms. Using too many exclamation points, symbols (e.g., !#@*&), or emojis can also get your email sent to the spam folder.

Although there is nothing wrong with occasionally using symbols or emojis to make your subject line more visually appealing, you don’t want to overdo it.

Tip 6: Be Clear and Concise

Clarity builds trust and understanding — two essential ingredients to any successful relationship. Since the point of email marketing is to build a relationship with potential and existing clients, choose your words wisely.

In your subject lines, and in your email marketing campaigns, use language that even a fifth grader with no knowledge of your business would understand. Ditch the complicated words or insider language and never prioritize being cute and clever over clarity. Clarity wins every time.

Tip 7: Keep it Short

Most email recipients read their messages on mobile devices, meaning they will only be able to see the first 40-70 characters of your great email subject line. To stay within that character limit, stick with 7 words or less.

Always take advantage of the preview section as well. The preview text allows you to provide around 100 characters of additional information.

Tip 8: Add Personality

You are in business because you have a unique solution to a problem. At the same time, you are still an actual person. Don’t be afraid to add a bit of your, or your business’s, personality to your email content and your email subject lines. People get emails from other businesses all the time. Stand out by emphasizing your human side. People readily connect to other people, not businesses.

Instead of writing your email campaigns to a sea of anonymous individuals, write to a client or prospective client you know well. (If that isn’t possible, write to your customer avatar.)

If you had to summarize your email body into one short sentence or phrase, what would you say about it? Ask yourself, how can I grab the attention of my readers without sounding too serious or mundane?

Tip 9: Practice makes perfect.

A great subject line can be the difference between someone clicking on your email or sending it straight to the trash can. So, don’t be afraid to invest some serious time in making sure you get it right.

Draft multiple subject lines before choosing one. I usually spend at least five minutes brainstorming good email subject lines before I pick one. First, I go through the list of ideas above and jot down anything that comes to mind, good or bad. Then, I use tools like this free subject line generator to help me come up with a few more ideas. Lastly, I experiment with different words and phrases until I feel I’ve found the best fit.

Catchy email subject lines are one of the keys to successful email marketing. While writing the best email subject lines can be tricky, it’s not impossible. With these 9 tips, you can write catchy, captivating subject lines your potential customers won’t be able to resist.

If the very idea of following these nine tips every.single.time you write an email is giving you a tension headache, contact Guide MKTG and let us write emails and catchy subject lines for you.

Your business deserves to stand out in the sea of monotonous emails that flood your ideal client’s inbox each day. Follow these nine tips or schedule a call with Guide MKTG today to get started.


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