Fast tip: how not to be boring

Can you afford to send emails that no one opens?

Didn’t think so.

Everyone, except your boss, has to have a super-interesting subject line to get their emails opened.

Email in-boxes are pretty democratic: major national brands like Amazon, Apple, and American Red Cross are in the same boat as you and can’t get away with boring subject lines either.

The difference? Major brands just have more dedicated staff to come up with interesting subject lines and test them.

Clickbait works, but…leaves a bad after-taste in everyone’s mouth.

Don’t know what clickbait is? Here’s clickbait: “You may have already won $1M dollars”

Then you open the email learn that egg noodles are on sale and you can enter a sweepstakes to win $1M dollars with 1.7 trillion to 1 odds of actually winning.

Way to errode trust.

Don’t be that guy.

Instead, be interesting with your services, products, and mission.

Here’s how to do it without a huge staff and on a quick turnaround.

Watch Good Morning America

This is not an advertisement for GMA by any means.

But, by 7:20 a.m. GMA has run out the hot news and they start promoting their lifestyle-but-less-than-burning-news stories.

Make no mistake: millions in dollars of revenue ride on viewership staying tuned into GMA for the lifestyle segments after the top 15 minutes of news.

Tune in at about 7:20 a.m. to see how they promo their upcoming segments.

Here are examples of how they promoted the same “secondary” story more than once. See how they make it relevant to the viewer every time:

“Coming up: a new scam affecting your home computer. How you could be at risk.”

“New development in home computer scams: What you need to know “right now” to protect yourself.”

“What happens at the water cooler? New research on gossip”

“During football season, what you don’t know about keeping your food safe.”

“What you should know when you tailgate.”

Let’s be honest, not all stories covered by GMA are hot topics.

But the show “makes” them hot, by making all story promotions:

  • All about the viewer
  • A cliffhanger, or
  • A question

Here’s the thing, it might be hard at first, but you will build skill and subject line writing muscle if you keep writing subject lines that are “all about the reader.”

It gets much easier over time and the boost your open rates makes it rewarding.

CNN Promoted Stories are “bankable”

Another reference to see what headlines/subject lines are working is to go to Again, not an advertisement for CNN, but this is a great tool for you to use.

Here’s what you do:

  • Click on any story related to your services, products, or nonprofit mission (promoted stories aren’t on the home page)
  • Scroll all the way down to the bottom to the section titled “Promoted Stories”
  • These are stories promoted by the advertiser listed in the grey print right after the headline
  • Those headlines are “bankable” because they are constantly tested for performance
  • See the “recommended by Outbrain?” Outbrain is a company that specializes in driving traffic via click-throughs, so they are on top of all clicking trends in just about every industry.

Screenshot 2014-10-24 09.07.03

Want to get more specific with your audience?

Check out the “most clicked” stories, or the top 3 stories, on any publication related to your product or mission to see how they make the content relevant to the reader in the headline.

Better yet, know the publications your ideal customers or donors regularly read to see what kind of content and headlines they click on. Specialty magazines like these are “gold.”

  • Men’s Health
  • Good Housekeeping
  • Outside Magazine

What if you don’t like using “clickable” subject lines

Even if you personally don’t like it, or it’s not the way you talk about your mission or product, or maybe you feel it cheapens your mission, please keep in mind that your mission or business isn’t served when your emails aren’t opened.

Then go write a high opening subject line.