Remember your first day in email marketing?

Eagerly sitting down in front of the keyboard, spending hours typing the best email ever, throwing in a subject line, and hitting send? Then spending the next seven hours staring hopefully at an empty inbox? Any minute, now, right? Or … Maybe that was just us.

The hard truth About Email Marketing

Jaded Experienced email marketers have a different reality: They know that only 25% of the emails they send will even be opened, let alone read. And that’s on a good day. Question is, how do you get more good days? What does it take to consistently meet and exceed a 25% open rate?

It takes subject lines. Really, really good subject lines. Without them, you may as well be sending your emails straight to the trash. 

But what makes a good subject line?

Let’s take a look at the seven best email subject lines ever, and how you can apply them to your own email marketing campaigns.

#1: Permission to Close Your Account?

From Bryan Kreuzberger’s Breakthrough Email program

It’s happened to all of us: A new prospect seems really interested in your product, then just disappears on you. They won’t even open your follow-up emails, let alone respond. When this happens to you (and it will), stop chasing them. It’s obviously not working. Instead, be the one to walk away with the breakup email.

You don’t even have to open an email with this subject line to know what’s at stake. This is the powerful “response needed” email subject that no prospect with even an ounce of interest in your product could ignore.

Those that don’t? You probably never would have gotten a response anyway.

Note: Only send the breakup email after a couple of follow-ups, when you really mean it. You can’t come crawling back from this one.

The Takeaway: Fear of missing out is a powerful motivator. Use it to revitalize (or close) inactive subscribers.

#2: Best of Groupon: The Deals that Make us Proud (Unlike our Nephew, Steve)

From Groupon

Groupon is the master of humorous, quirky marketing, and this subject line is their masterpiece. And it was four words that made all the difference. Imagine if their subject line had just been, “Best of Groupon: The deals that make us proud.”

It’s not a bad subject line, per se. It probably still would have had a high open rate, if for no other reason than the brand behind it. But would it have gone viral and revitalized humor in marketing? No, probably not. That is why this example is one of my top subject lines for emails.

The Takeaway: Used well, humor upgrades your subject line from “Blah” to “Hah!”

#3: Enjoying Your New eBook?

At Reply, we love situational emails. If you want high reader engagement, send emails personalized around their recent activity.

Take this subject line, for example. It could be sent a couple days after a user downloaded an eBook from your website.

The eBook will still be fresh in their mind, making the email incredibly relevant. If they’ve read it, they might want to share their thoughts. If they haven’t, then the email serves as a great reminder. Case in point is that this is one of the best subject lines to get email opened.

Situational emails aren’t just limited to eBooks, of course. Send them out based on recent blog activity, trial signups, referrals, and (especially) visits to the upgrade or unsubscribe page.

Timing is key. The quicker you send situational emails, the more relevant they’ll be. The more relevant they are, the more likely they are to be open.

The Takeaway: Customize your email drip campaign around your user’s recent activity.

#4: How I grew the KISSmetrics Blog from 0 to 350,000 Readers a Month

From Neil Patel

How do you feel about recycling?
Neil Patel, co-founder of KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg, starts many of his subject lines as blog headlines. If the headline performs well, he recycles it into a marketing email centered around that post, picking the most effective subject lines to convey the message.

This one in particular stands out because it gives the reader something to relate to and aspire to. Zero is a number anyone can connect with. We’ve all been there, and many of us still are.

And now THE Neil Patel wants to show me how to grow to 350,000 monthly readers? Yeah, I’d open that email.

The Takeaway: Make your subject lines relatable and aspirational.

#5: Steve, Where Are You?

From Unbounce

According to Unbounce, this is by far the best email headline (sent to unresponsive webinar registrants) with a whopping 43% open rate and a 15% click-through rate. How’s that for a good day? They’re obviously doing something right.

They start by personalizing their subject line with the reader’s name, which always stands out in a crowded inbox.

But they don’t stop there. They follow that personalization up with connection. When they say, “Where are you?”, they’re really saying, “We’ve noticed your absence. Please come back.”  This is what makes it a good subject line for sales follow up email.

The Takeaway: Everyone likes to feel special. Prioritize personalization and connection for important emails.

#6: Buffer has Been Hacked – Here’s What’s Going On

From Buffer

Nowhere is communication more important than in a crisis, and Buffer has proven themselves crisis communication masters.

In 2013, their servers were hacked and a large number of their user accounts were compromised. Buffer was transparent and communicative through the entire process through constant email updates and a real-time blog post.

But the shining moment was their first subject line. It’s bad news, no doubt about it, but they delivered that bad news in a calm, collected, and matter-of-fact way.

The Takeaway: Have bad news to deliver? Take control of the situation and communicate with authority.

#7: Last Chance to Register: Email Marketing for Startups

Not every great subject line has to be clever, catchy, or creative. Sometimes a little good-ole-fashioned urgency is all it takes to get someone’s attention. Everyone procrastinates. Life is busy and there will always be time to sign up for your webinar tomorrow, right? Then tomorrow gets busy, so it’s pushed to the next day. And then it’s too late.

The only cure for procrastination is urgency. With the “last chance” subject line like this, you take “tomorrow” off the table. If your readers want the value you’re offering, then they need to take action today.

So long as the value you’re offering is relevant, you should get your best open rate and see the click-through rate skyrocket when you add deadlines and cutoffs.

The Takeaway: Use urgency to break through procrastination and get commitments

Finding the Right Approach for Your Market

These seven examples brilliantly illustrate some of the most important principles of effective subject lines, but here’s the bottom line: What works for one market may not work for all markets.

The only way to know what will connect with your audience is to just send emails and track data. To really see what subject lines are producing results in your market, track your open and click-through rates with an email marketing solution like Reply (Hi! We have a free trial!).

Alright, you have the knowledge, some successful email subject lines for your inspiration, and the tools. Now the only thing left is action. Boot up your computer, log in to Reply, and start emailing!