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Crafting an ‘open me now’ subject line

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When you need to send a message to a group of customers, board members or an entire department, you don’t want your message to become lost in the hundred other messages they receive that day. The quicker they receive and respond to your e-mail, the easier it is for you to plan your meeting, gather feedback for your boss, or do whatever it is you’re trying to do.

How do you write a subject line that compels them to open—and read—your e-mail right away?

Five surefire tips for writing compelling subject lines, from Fuel, a newsletter for direct marketers:

1. Keep it short and simple. “People tend to make subject lines too long and, because of overcommunication, people today want simplicity,” says Grant Johnson, CEO of marketing agency Johnson Direct.

2. Test it. A direct marketer might test different headlines on different segments of his market. How to steal this idea: Test two or three different subject lines by quickly running them past a co-worker and asking, “Which one of these would you be most interested in?”

3. Pose a question such as, “Ready to hit the surf? Hawaiian summit coming up.” Bob Bly, author of The White Paper Marketing Handbook, says, “Anything that can pique the curiosity of the recipient is bound to have a better chance of getting opened.”

4. Make it about them, not you. Example: If you’re taking the recipient’s needs into consideration, you might change “We’re having a sale” to “You can save money.”

5. Inform before you sell. Good marketers know that if you use the subject line to describe what’s in the e-mail, a recipient will be more likely to open it. Lesson: Avoid being too clever.

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