Email Subject Lines: 6 Quick Tips for the Best Results

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Blog post By Paula Chiocchi on 2016-10-19

The importance of subject lines in email campaigns -- and how to craft them to make them appealing to your target audience – cannot be underestimated. Every B2B marketer should have a handle on the exact words that do well and the ones to avoid.


Email technology provider Adestra recently put together a study that addresses this topic. It examined more than three billion emails and measured the performance of more than 300 keywords across several industries to determine which words deliver higher open rates, and which caused more unsubscribes. The results – and these six takeaways – should be of great interest to B2B email marketers:


  1. Give thanks: According to the report, two of the top four performing subject line words are “thanks” and “thank you.” While these are usually words associated with an automated message, such as the close of a transaction, there are some lessons here for marketers. The first would be, intuitively, that email recipients are most willing to open emails related to an engagement to which they have agreed. A thank you presents a perfect opportunity to cross sell or relay a bit more about your company or offering. But why stop at transactions? Try thanking your prospects for registering for a webinar, downloading a whitepaper, or even signing up for your newsletter or merely contacting you. Lastly, it seems recipients respond well for being thanked for providing their business or contact information, so take every opportunity to thank them for their confidence. (You’ll thank yourself later)


  1. Exercise your pipes: Also appearing twice in the report’s top five are topics separated by 3 or 4 “pipes” or vertical lines – i.e. “|” (e.g. “topic xyz | free webinar | register today”) The takeaway here for marketers is that readers these days quickly scan for content and meaning, and pipes facilitate this easily. In other words, your subject line need not be a long, grammatically correct sentence – get to the keywords quickly and swap out unhelpful words with pipes.


  1. Provide fresh info: the rest of the top 10 successful subject line words revolve around delivering helpful, current information of interest to your audience. These words include “monthly,” (#3), “bulletin” (#6), and “breaking” (#9). This means that your “monthly newsletter,” your “important bulletin” or “breaking news” on a particular subject should be well received by your target prospects.


  1. Convey event benefits: For in-person events (conferences or tradeshows) or online occurrences (such as live webinars), subject line words that describe what the participant will gain – such as “advice”– score the best. (i.e. “advice on safeguarding your data.”) Words that focus on the event itself or on logistics – “agenda,” “keynote” or “speakers” – score the worst. The takeaway here for B2B marketers should be concentrating subject lines words around what the participant will learn (the benefit), and less on how this will happen and who will be providing it (the feature). Besides, unless you have a household name at your event or webinar, chances are your audience probably hasn’t heard of your keynote speaker anyway. Finally, encouraging event registration urgency in subject lines with words such as “buy” and “save” perform well, whereas “register” or even “early bird” do not do as well.


  1. Use news: For B2B / professional services, “news” was the subject line word that performed among the best, while words such as “white paper,” “report” or “forecast” performed less well. The takeaway here is that while B2B buyers may be open to the most current developments, they are less open to mundane, long and perhaps out-of-date reports.


  1. Don’t bore your readers: In line with above, the bottom 10 performing subject line words include “forecast,” “white paper,” “intelligence,” “report”… and the very worst word: “journal.” These words themselves may be outdated, as they seem to have a negative connotation of lengthy, dull content that will be difficult to decipher and gather meaning. As a result, B2B marketers should get right to communicating the bottom-line benefit, and perhaps provide the data as a backup source. Don’t make your audience wade through a boring report to get to the important lesson – they may likely never get that far – give it to them (or offer it) straight up front.


Your email subject lines are likely to be seen by your audience – whether your email gets opened or not. That’s why using the right words can create a positive psychological association between your message and your company’s brand. And while there’s no single “magic word” that will work for all B2B marketers with every subject line and every email campaign, the insight above should serve as a guideline for success.




Outward Media’s accurate, targeted email data can help you achieve better email marketing ROI, and convert more prospects into customers. Ask us how. Also, take a look at our complimentary new e-book on building a successful B2B email marketing database.


Image copyright: mikkolem / 123RF Stock Photo


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