Email Marketing Is Dead … Long Live Email Subject Lines!

The original MailChimp or Constant Contact, at your service; subject lines are optional!
The original MailChimp or Constant Contact, at your service; subject lines are optional!



Articles cross your online field of vision, informing you email marketing is about to expire–or conversely, that it’s stronger than ever.

How to address this ongoing dichotomy? Whether you use permission-based digital marketing to distribute content or cajole your customers into buying something, email marketing continues to evolve.

According to a 3/2016 ClickZ article about the future of email marketing,

“While emerging messaging channels will come and go and occupy dominant niche channels (think Snapchat and YikYak), email will be the old [battle-ax] that won’t go away.”

I’m not an email-marketing whisperer, but I do understand persuasive writing. After all, a blog post’s headline is your best chance (in combination with an enticing thumbnail image) of persuading social-media dwellers to click and continue reading.

Similarly, subject lines are the characters and words influencing the likelihood your email recipients will open the dang thing, read it, and take action.

Let’s delve into the enchanting world of eyeball-worthy email subject lines.

But First, a Few Characters Regarding Ideal Subject-Line Length: It would be sacrilege to ignore a metric correlated to your email recipients’ attention spans: the subject line’s character count.

Advice regarding the ideal length comes straight from the primate’s mouth–MailChimp:

“Most people quickly scan subject lines to decide if they’ll open or ignore the email, so don’t expect subscribers to dig through your subject line to figure out if they’re interested. Keep your subject line to 50 characters or fewer.

Tough marching orders for a professional writer, which is why I hone my micro-writing skills on Twitter each workday. Aspiring to wittiness in 140 characters or less is welcome discipline for those of us who favor “writing long.” Besides, tweets and email subject lines are practically kissin’ cousins!

By not straying too far from MailChimp’s suggested 50-character cap, your subject lines have an increased chance of thriving on the inbox vine.

And now, say hello to my friends at Digital Marketer…

Digital Marketer Identifies Eight Key Triggers for Email Subject Lines: Before I crank out sample e-mail subject lines for y’all, allow me to present Digital Marketer’s subject-line road map.

I’m referring to 2015’s “101 Best Email Subject Lines” listicle.

The website’s administrators started their annual roundup of e-mail subject lines in 2013. If email is a primary tool in your digital-marketing messenger bag, consider bookmarking the article. Much generosity awaits you.

According to Digital Marketer’s graphic at top, “Every subject line below contains at least one of these 8 elements…” The company recommends incorporating one of them in your next make-or-break email teaser.

FYI, the parenthetical comments are all mine:

  • Self-Interest (AKA ye olde “What’s in it for me?” tactic…)
  • Curiosity (It killed the cat, but it took nine attempts to do so…)
  • Offer (Just don’t go “Godfather” on your subscribers–violence is bad!)
  • Urgency/Scarcity (Homo sapiens remains an emotional hunter-gatherer species…)
  • Humanity (Not every email blast has to have an ulterior motive…)
  • News (Whether it’s re-purposed, or hot off your company-owned iPad…)
  • Social Proof (The digital version of “keeping up with the Joneses”…)
  • Story (Because … who doesn’t love a story with a persuasive opening?)

Now that we know the triggers, I’ll serve up a heaping portion of the By All Writes approach to email subject lines.

Got Content? Good–Consider These Email Subject Lines: Who says pitching your written assets isn’t fun? Not me, that’s for sure. Per Digital Marketer’s aforementioned subject-line elements, chew on these sample teasers:

Graphic Design(er) E-newsletter: Turn your kid’s artwork into designed inspiration  (self-interest; 49 characters)

Accounting White Paper: End your money’s disappearing act! (self-interest; 34 characters )

Personal Trainer Blog Post: The secret to preventing lower-back pain is… (curiosity; 46 characters)

Going Live by Way of Webinar, Podcast, Periscope, or Blab? These Subject Lines Are for You: I’m no podcaster or “Blabbermouth,” but I do know how to gleefully string together letters and words.

Use these sample subject lines to springboard your way to email-blast fabulousness (yes, that’s a real word):

LinkedIn Webinar: Even your babysitter has more LinkedIn connections (social proof; 50 characters)

Environmental/Recycling Podcast: The Earth needs your TLC ASAP! (humanity; 30 characters)

Live-Streaming of a Charity Event via Periscope: It all started with Ty’s wish to hear love… (story + curiosity; 45 characters)

Meditation-Related Blab Session: From stressful day to namaste in 15 minutes (self-interest; 43 characters)

If You’re Going to Shill (Consumer Goods), Give Your Customers a Thrill: Oh, to be a retailer selling an exceptionally fun (or adorable or cool or sexy) product.

When promoting a professional service (accounting, IT support, legal representation, copywriting…), creative methods abound; ultimately, though, you’re selling yourself (and that’s okay).

When promoting a physical product, words are the conduit to someone’s visualization of the item. And when you offer a free sample or discount coupon, it’s difficult to ignore an email’s subject line. For example:

Candy Retailer Contest: The sweetest contest of all awaits you! (offer + curiosity; 39 characters)

Apparel Retailer Discount Coupon: Do you have a passion for discounted fashion? (self-interest + offer; 45 characters)

Adult Coloring-Book Publisher/Seller Free Sample: Color your world for free until Friday! (offer + urgency; 39 characters)

My Emoji-less Knowledge Is Appalling; Yours Doesn’t Have to Be…: Honest reveal I may never recover from–I’m a word girl.

To me, emojis are the equivalent of (virtual) arsenic. The day I become an “emoji-nal” blogger is the day I dissolve By All Writes LLC and travel the world, starting with Prince Edward Island. (It’s an Anne of Green Gables thing…)

Still considered a novel marketing tactic, inserting emojis into your email subject lines seems an intuitive move. (It’s an ever-expanding mobile universe after all; what would Walt Disney do?)

My only contribution here: Consider creating a proprietary emoji for your business. This unique burst of micro-visualization in your subject line couldn’t hurt–right?

For true insight about using emojis in email subject lines, consult with the digital professionals at Campaign Monitor, Hongkiat, and Crazy Egg. So that you don’t think me a complete (emoji) curmudgeon: 💋✎💕✍

Roll Call of Other Email-Marketing Resources for Your Bookmarking Pleasure: Here’s additional “do this, don’t do that” advice regarding the craft of writing email subject lines:

Digital Marketer’s “101 Best Email Subject Lines of 2014” (scroll down until you see the “2014” headline)

Digital Marketer’s “101 Best Email Subject Lines of 2013” (scroll down until you see the “2013” headline)

Courtesy of HubSpot’s blog, sample email subject-line templates

Email subject-line advice via Mequoda

MailChimp’s Subject Line Researcher feature (requires a MailChimp account for use)


Do you currently use email marketing to promote your business or service? If so, what types of subject lines best boost your click-through rates?

Of the eight elements identified by Digital Marketer as those typically included in an attention-getting subject line, which one is your favorite? Which element is your least favorite?

I have yet to join the email-marketing club, but it’s still on my “rhymes with true blue” list… 😭

Lori Shapiro is the owner of By All Writes LLC, a business-to-business (B2B) company in Marlton, New Jersey, that plies its trade via copywriting, editing, and other content-marketing services. She revels in shielding her clients from the time-consuming pain of writing their own print or web marketing and promotional copy.

Please call Lori Shapiro of By All Writes LLC at 856-810-9764 (or e-mail her via to schedule the gratis 20-minute consultation that will resolve your current copywriting or editing dilemma…

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