Write a subject line that can’t be ignored


I’ve tested and tested and tested subject lines for a wide variety of industries (ecommerce, retail, b2b, salons, health coaches). You name it, I’ve tried it.

Are there generalized strategies that get more opens? Yes, there are a few.

BUT mostly, methods for developing subject lines depend on your brand and the experience you want your customers to have.

Like anything in the marketing world, it’s important to TEST your content to hone in on EXACTLY what resonates with your ideal customers.

But here’s a tried and true place to start that will set you lightyears ahead of your competition.

What Works In The Short Term

1. Subject lines that have nothing to do with the content of the email (i.e. click bait).

Your order information inside.
»»» Important updates to your account

I have seen these subject lines used for a weekly promotional email. I fell for it, opened the email and was immediately miffed (do people still say miffed?)

I have also worked on campaigns that tried this method and tested it against a more content appropriate subject line.

The click bait type of subject line got way more opens.

Guess what else the click bait type of subject line got way more of? UNSUBSCRIBES.

Yeah, people don’t like being tricked. It’s almost like they’re normal humans who appreciate respectful communication. Weird, right?


2. Sender names that are not immediately recognizable as your brand.

Taylor Borgenstein
Billeremy Smithwisen

I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten an email from some random name.

The subject line doesn’t tell me much about how I know them either.

Is it SPAM? Is it someone I met a long time ago and forgot their name? Is it my potential new best friend?

Who knows?!

I open. I see who it’s actually from and then guess what I do? I UNSUBSCRIBE.

Again, I’m not alone here. I’ve tested and the same results happen.

Try this instead:
Taylor Borgenstein | Corporation Inc.
Billeremy Smithwisen from Do-Gooder 501(c)(3)
Sammabelle of ​Really Cool Company Name

What Works In The Long Term

1. Think customer first.

When developing a subject line, always remember, WHAT’S IN IT FOR THEM?

That should be at the core of your content strategy to begin with. BUT we all need a starting point.

Here are some examples of subject lines I’ve gotten in my inbox.

See DTE Energy’s email? They sent out a survey, which good for them for wanting to improve.

The subject line is “DTE Energy would like your opinion.”

My first thought, Well isn’t that nice.

What’s in it for me?

Why would I want to take precious time out of my day to fill out their survey, especially when I have at least 20 other emails in my inbox begging for my attention?

DTE didn’t think from their customers’ perspective.

We need to give them an incentive to open the email, read it, click it, then complete the requested action.

Here are some better, customer focused examples:

XX-minutes of your time to shape the future of energy.
Giveaway time! Give us 2 minutes of your time and enter a chance to win _______.


 2. The formula for creating a subject line that connects



= ↑ Open %%%

Lemme break that down.

  • What benefit are you promoting in your email?
  • Giveaway
  • Special offer
  • Products/Services/Content that’s gonna change their world

Include this word to bring home that this life changing offer IS JUST FOR THEM.

Including a personal qualifier like “YOU/YOUR” has been proven to increase opens.

See these examples of subject lines?

They know the importance of including the word “you” or “your”.


Why now?

Is there limited time pricing/quantities?

Is space limited?

Is there a deadline?

Don’t expect your audience to know:

  • You only have a certain number of items
  • Your services are only available for a certain number of clients
  • Your offer ends on a certain date
    The price goes up at a certain time

Tell them why they need to take action right now.

3. Appropriate Emojis/Characters

People love throwing emojis and characters into subject lines.

If used appropriately, they can boost your opens.

But don’t just throw them in willy-nilly.

Genuine marketing always gets the long-term results. It connects with your audience and creates a feel-good experience.

So if your audience is the type that would appreciate an emoji/character here and there, then spend some time familiarizing yourself with what might work with your content.



Includes directories of thematic emojis (holidays, seasons, events)
Shows how an emoji will appear on different devices (android and iphone emojis are different!)

There are more options than emojis!
Characters display differently than emojis (unicode is more universal)
See if you can find anything that resonates differently with your content.


Now, what can you do to play with your emails this week?

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