13 Email Subject Types Used By The Marketing Pros (Steal These!)
Your email has just landed in your potential customer’s inbox, amongst 20-30 other new emails—from friends, work and their favourite stores, in addition to a sprinkling of spam mail. Now, you have about 65 characters to grab their attention, encourage them to open your email and avoid the delete button.
No doubt, you’re going to have to get a little bit creative. So, what do you say in your email subject line?
I’ve subscribed (and unsubscribed) to many email lists over the years, as I’m sure you have too. So, when we started our own email marketing nurture stream, I began scouring through email headlines from my own inbox for inspiration.
I ended up with a bank of great subject lines, sorted into 13 different types of headlines that use to inspire our own email marketing. Today, I’m excited to share these with you!
1. The Teaser
Open loop or teaser headlines are synonymous with those annoying (yet oddly addictive) clickbait articles you might see on Buzzfeed, Pedestrian TV or while scrolling through your facebook feed. The reason so many of these articles are disappointing is that they never 'close the loop', or give you the answer you were chasing when you clicked on the article.
A teaser subject line can be really effective at piquing interest, but you should only use it if you actually plan on delivering on your promise and sharing something valuable in your email. If not, it's just spammy.
Check out these email subject lines from Amy Porterfield—
- “please stop focusing on THIS”
- “What’s scarier than the Facebook algorithm? This.”
And Jenna Kutcher–
- “I know you’re thinking about this…”
- “my jaw dropped to the floor when I heard this”
2. The How-To
Next up, the how-to headline. These are exactly as they sound, and indicate to the reader that they're about to learn something. Here are some great examples of how to subject lines—
- “How to Use Instagram Highlights as a Brand or Influencer” — Planoly
- “How to Find Your Calling” — Vanessa Van Edwards
3. The Quick Win
Sometimes all people want is a quick win, something to lift their game and move the needle that doesn’t require 100 hours and a masters degree to understand. Emails are a great place to serve up easy tips or content. You can use your subject line to tell people what they can expect when they open up.
Here are some examples of Quick Wins from my inbox—
- “Set your 2018 business goals in 3 easy steps!” —Jasmine Star
- “5 Easy Blog Optimizations to Drive Pinterest Traffic”— Tailwind
- “One thing I'd do differently (to earn more sooner)” – Pat Flynn
- “An under-used shortcut to success” —Ramit Sethi
4. The Open Book
If your subscribers are expecting an email from you, or your email content is THAT good, you may just want to tell people exactly what’s inside— no surprises! I love these examples from Melyssa Griffin—
- “5 online business trends to grow your biz in 2018 (free webinar!)”
- “[Free Masterclass] The easy way to get started with Facebook ads that’s working right now :)”
- “[FREE WEBINAR] 10 habits to make you more productive + focused (and less overwhelmed)”
5. The Challenge
This email subject line is all about challenging people’s expectations, beliefs or ideas. It’s great at grabbing attention and getting click throughs because it’s a statement that’s out of line with what they’ve learnt, do or believe. Check out these challenging subject lines—
- “Heads up! Your FREE content may be stunting your growth…” — Caitlin Bacher
- “It’s OK if you’re not “ready” for B-School” — Amy Porterfield
- “The best things in life are really, really expensive”— Go-to Skincare
6. The Personal Touch
When your inbox is flooded with emails about sales and how-to’s, the emails that stand out like a sore thumb are often those from friends and family because they are informal, short and personal. See how these brands have used a casual tongue and personal touch to cut through the clutter too—
- “Netflix tonight?” — Netflix
- “talk soon?” — Selena Soo
- “Can I get your opinion on this?” —Amy Porterfield
7. The Curiosity Cat
Similar to the open loop, curiosity cat piques our inquisitiveness, but this time, it’s with an unusual proposition, or promise of revealing surprising information.
- “I was naked on stage” – Jasmine Star
- “Surprising results of my FB group experiment.” — Caitlin Bacher
- “What your sleeping position says about you”— Vanessa Van Edwards
- “Business stuff I want to HIDE from you” — Jasmine Star
- “Everyone loves a quickie”— Marie Forleo
- “the real story behind how I got started…” —Jenna Kutcher
8. The FOMO
What’s one thing we hate more than missing out? Losing something we already had! If you’ve ever forgotten to spend a gift card or voucher before it expired, you’ll know the feeling. Injecting some scarcity, loss or urgency into your email subjects can encourage people to take action now and avoid that feeling of loss or regret.
Check out these examples—
- “Group hug? 40% off everything FLASH SALE” — Bonds
- “Want my 2018 goal-setting system? Last chance to sign up!”— Melyssa Griffin
- “LAST CHANCE: Can I add this bonus to your account?” — Amy Porterfield
9. The Comparison Junkie
Oh how we love to compare ourselves to others! We like to know what people who are like us are up to, so we can see how we stack up. Here’s how these marketing pros have used comparison in their email subject lines—
- “3 things every successful entrepreneur has (are you doing this already?)” —Jenna Kutcher
- “How do you stack up against other marketers?” — The Association of Integrated Marketers
10. The Question
It sounds so simple, but asking a question is sometimes all it takes to engage people and spark a conversation. Anytime I use a question in our email marketing subject lines, they are always the emails that people respond to, whether it’s to give us their 2 cents or answer a question, and we love hearing from them!
Here are some examples of question based subject lines from my inbox—
- “Why do smart people get stuck in ruts?” - Ramit Sethi
- “Want to double your revenue WITHOUT launching anything new?” — Caitlin Bacher
- “guess who my biz girl crush is?” —Jenna Kutcher
- “How rude can you be?” — Marie Forleo
11. The VIP
We all love receiving an exclusive invite or early access to a special sale or preview. Give your loyal community a treat with VIP treatment such as access to early or special events, offers or sales. Here are some winning subjects from my inbox—
- “Psst. We Have Something for You (but it's a Secret)” —Grammarly
- “End of Season Sale | Your Exclusive Online Preview”— Witchery
12. The Transformation
This one is golden. We all love knowing how someone else has achieved incredible results or success in their business or personal life. If you have the statistics to back up results you’ve achieved for yourself or a client, try using a subject line like one of these—
- “How Brennan increased opt-ins by 250%” — Ramit Sethi
- “How I turned $77 into $3,200 with this one strategy (Free workshop tomorrow!)” —Melyssa Griffin
- “How I Got 45.5% More Traffic (In 7 Days)” — Brian Dean (Backlinko)
13. The Proof
The last one on my list builds upon the comparison junkie and transformation subject lines, tapping into our desire to measure up to other people and mimic their success. The proof subject line provides people with proof that others are using a particular system, product or service. The proof could be from everyday people or celebrities, like these ones—
- “How Jimmy Fallon (& millions more) got some Headspace”— Headspace
- “New releases that everyone is talking about this week…” — Audible
Well, there you go! 13 subject line types from my inbox to inspire your next email mailout. You can combine them, or use one type at a time. Which one is your favourite? Tell me in the comments below!
If you liked this article and found it helpful, we’d love it if you shares it with someone else who could use an email subject shakeup!