"On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar."
-David Ogilvy (considered the father of modern advertising)
Not judging a book by its cover is a good practice when it you are hanging out a Barnes & Noble, but the truth is, we all do judge within a glance.
The same is especially true when we are opening emails.
The average open rate across all industries is roughly 25%. So that tells us that 75% of emails hit the trash for various reasons. Probably the most common reason for poor open rates could very well be poorly written subject lines.
Q: How can we increase our odds of getting opened?
A: Follow Ogilvy’s advice and spend most of your time crafting an awesome subject line!
Crafting emails that will get opened, read and hopefully acted up, is well...we already said it, a craft.
In true Ogilvy-fashion, we should spend 80% of our time working on our headline (in this case, a subject line) and 20% of our time in the body copy.
That may be easier said than done, but it should serve as a guiding principle of where to spend time and resources when it comes to writing your emails.
Whether you are sending one email at a time, or you’ve got a whole sequence of emails stacked in the queue and ready to go, here are some good examples to follow. It’s helpful to write 2-4 headline options, and then pick the one that best fits the purpose(s) of either yourself or your client.
Quick note: [The comments in bold and in [ ] wouldn’t appear on a subject line, but are given to show what the headline is seeking to accomplish.]
These are subject lines for a fictional nutritional company, but the principles could be applied across various industries. You’ll get the idea...
1: Purpose of the email: ‘Welcome’
- Too good to be true? Affordable & easy eating plan [appeal to curiosity]
- Who said you can’t eat right and save money? [challenge assumptions]
- Is this too good to be true? [open ended, “is what too good to be true?”]
- Change your life for only $47/month [Is that possible? Let’s learn more by opening]
2: Purpose of the email: Identify pain points
- What if eating right AND on the cheap, was possible? [challenging assumptions that eating right isn’t cheap; also teasing a solution]
- Eating healthy takes too much time...but we got you! [identifying problem, we’ve got the solution]
3: Purpose of email: Offer a solution to problem
- Eating right just got a whole lot easier [appeal to curiosity, “how” has it gotten easier?]
- How you can eat right + save time & money = more happiness! [lay it all on the table...this is what we do for you!]
4: Purpose of email: Explain benefits and features
- We’ve discovered the secret ingredient to fresh eating on a budget…[Discovery of secret knowledge is always enticing]
- Extreme couponing (& saving!) WITHOUT the time commitment [Benefit of saving time and money]
5. Purpose of email: Build trust through the use of testimonials
- “I look forward to cooking for the first time ever!” [Tap into a hidden desire]
- “Meal times are no longer a battle” [“What if” this could be true to me too?]
- “I’m eating right, losing weight + saving money!” [The trifecta of benefits]
6: Purpose of email: Offer a special deal or savings
- Best deal of the year...Save 20% on your membership today! [Straight-forward approach]
- Seriously...a “sweet” deal for you inside! [What’s “sweet” about it? Quotation marks are some mysterious]
- You’re gonna freak when you see this deal! [Appeal to curiosity. Is it too good to be true?]
7: Purpose of email: Prove your claims from outside authority
- Doctors agree eating this way eliminates these common ailments…[Appeal to authority, Begs the question, “What common ailments?”]
- Still need convincing? Read these life-changing stories... [Testimonials are often the most powerful tool to sell your product]
8: Purpose of email: Offer the last chance to buy
- We only do this once a year…[Last Chance offers help drive up slouching sales and slow-to-respond customers]
- Don’t let FOMO keep you from reaching your goals! [Fear of Missing Out appeal]
- This is a win/win! You CAN change your life for $47 a month! [Eliminate price objections]
9: Purpose of email: Thank your customers
- We appreciate you! (Freebie inside) [Quick win, and everyone loves freebies!]
- [First Name] YOU are making a difference [Personalization always feels, well...personal :)]
Remember, writing a good subject line is not an exact science, and does require some trial and error.
When you’ve narrowed down your headline choices, you can find which one fits best by sending it out to 2 different groups with 2 different subject lines and see which one performs better. This is called split testing or A/B testing. It can be a very valuable tool in helping you understand your target audience and what they respond to by opening.
This exercise of crafting your subject lines before you begin writing also help inform your writing. Get a good subject line down, and your writing process will not only be breezy, but it will also be more cohesive.
Spend 80% on your headline, 20% on your body copy, and you’ll (likely) be 100% satisfied.
Written by Cara Ray of Avocado Toast Marketing
Avocado Toast Marketing helps entrepreneurs and small businesses make an impact in their markets by creating on-point messaging through copywriting, email marketing campaigns and branding strategy. Cara Ray is the avocado-holic behind Avocado Toast Marketing, and you can connect with her on Instagram, Facebook and on her website.