The Dalai Lama Rides A Bike – Today Only! (Or How To Get Your Emails Opened)


Let’s face it. You could send an email explaining that you are giving away $100 bills but if no one actually opens the email, your stack of money will sit untouched.

Same thing applies to your email marketing. The subject line of an email is the only thing you have to hook your prospect initially. It’s essentially your headline in miniature. If your subject line doesn’t compel the recipient to open the email, no one will take advantage of your offer or product regardless of how great it may be.

There are many schools of thought regarding email subject lines, and they run the gamut from schmaltzy gimmicks to straightforward statements. So, what line do you toe? While some may argue it depends on your product, it is your audience that truly plays the biggest role.

Now, if you are “batch-and-blasting” an email to your entire list, taking specific needs of the recipients into consideration may not be your priority. And, although “batch-and-blast” has its time and place, if you really want to target specific audience segments, you need to consider their needs and wants.

Here are some questions to ask yourself before you type out that email subject line:

  1. Is your product being offered for a greatly reduced price?
  2. Will this product (or product at this price) only be available for a very limited time?
  3. Can your product provide the reader with tangible value or solve one of the reader’s problems?

Create a Sense of Urgency

If you are selling something greatly discounted and/or for a very limited time, what I like to call a “screamer” subject line could potentially work for you. “$100 Off – 24 Hours Only!” comes to mind. There’s no mystery, there’s no personalization. It is the offer, up front, no bones about it. If your recipient recognizes your address, this could work quite well – especially if you are selling bicycles built for two and your recipient is in the market for just that.

Provide a Benefit

But, this approach can backfire if your product or service is more nuanced or does not have a huge discount as a selling point. In these cases, my preference is to consider what that particular audience may need that day. For example, selling investment newsletter subscriptions but the market just tanked? Appeal to the recipient with a subject line that explains how your product can help. Something like, “Invest with confidence – even during down times” is a subject line that is tailored to your investor/trader audience. They need some trusted advice right about now, and your publication can give it to them. You are providing your reader with a tangible and timely benefit.

Grab Their Attention

Another route is to pique the reader’s curiosity. Write something that is going to make them stop at that particular email in the midst of scrolling through the hundreds in their inbox. To do that, you need to add a bit of mystery and entice your reader to open your email over all others. Let’s say that your shop just got a shipment of lovely Tibetan wall hangings. “Do you know the Dalai Lama?” is one subject line that may grab the reader’s attention and tempt them into opening your email, where you can artfully display your wall hangings replete with His Holiness’s image. You could take this even further and throw in some personalization (although let’s use this sparingly as it gets old – fast). Used in small doses, adding in the recipient’s name can go a long way. “Jim-Bob, do you know the Dalai Lama?” could work quite well.

Of course, even the most excellent subject line of them all can’t actually earn you revenue. That’s up to the quality of your offer and the depth of your content. But, a great subject line CAN get people to take the first step: actually opening your email.

Lee Emmons is a marketing expert for Absolute Perfection Media. They create comprehensive online marketing campaigns combining video production, email, search engine optimization and social media to generate leads for customers in the Baltimore and Washington DC area.

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