I teach AssistU virtual assistants a valuable marketing technique to help them get more/better/different clients. It involves sending “cold” (meaning, sent to recipients not personally known by the sender) but extremely high-touch emails to specifically chosen recipients.

The technique is fairly easy to learn, super-easy to use, and has a huge return on investment and intention (the two ROIs I suggest paying attention to) but one section of it tends to challenge folks the most: how to write smart subject lines that prospects notice and that get doors to open.

A crappy subject line will get your email deleted with relish. A perfect one, though, will get a door opened faster than a little black dress will get you into a nightclub.

I get it. We all write countless emails, but usually to people we know and people we expect to open whatever we send. So we’re not used to having to try so hard or be strategic about the subject lines we use.

In truth, it’s a critical piece of the puzzle when writing to a stranger. A crappy subject line will likely get your email deleted with relish. The perfect one, though, will get a door opened faster than a little black dress will get you into a nightclub.

In case you need help with this for your own email marketing, I wanted to share some thoughts.

Understand first that in order for this to work, your subject line needs to do a few things perfectly well:

  • It needs to let the recipient know the email is meant for her the second she reads it
  • It needs to let the recipient know it’s worth her time to open it

And it needs to do those things using very few words.

That’s where the craft of it comes in. And it’s not a difficult craft to learn. Mostly, it requires thought, sincerity, and a willingness to come from your heart.

Any number of sites have templates for email subject lines. I prefer something less templated and more organic; you’re trying to connect with a person, not a robot. And while I’m completely in on making marketing as efficient as possible, I think trying to shortcut the time you spend crafting a subject line by using a template is foolish. Make the effort and create a subject line that’s significant and personal.

You can do that in any way you choose, but here are five tips to make it easier:

  1. To the extent you can, make it six words or less. The more of your subject the recipient can see when looking at her inbox full of email, the more likely you are to make an impact. If she knows it’s really meant for her, it’s going to get opened quickly. If it’s cut off because it’s too long and she can’t see that it’s meant for her, it does you no good at all. If you have to choose between making it amazing and making it short, go for amazing. But write it so that there’s something the recipient can see before the cutoff point that absolutely lets her know it’s meant for her.
  2. It has to be personal. Pinpointedly personal. And that means personal about the recipient and personal about you. It can’t be, “Jane, love your blog!” In truth, you could probably say that to 10K people in letters like this, swapping out the first name for relevance. But people are on to that type of con, and if you do it with Jane, she’s going to roll her eyes and delete your email.

But look at this instead: “Hysterical interview with Jack…kudos!”

Trusting that Jane knows what she’s created, she’ll instantly know what you’re talking about, that it’s meant for her, and what you think of it. You also pat her on the back about it; it’s always good for a recipient to feel appreciated; no matter the level of celebrity, people never tired of being gushed over when they sense that it’s genuine.

  1. It has to be genuine; no marketing ploys here, please. You can’t say you think the interview is hysterical if it bored you. That will end up coming out whenever you talk with Jane, and not only put an end to the conversation, but to any chance that Jane will ever think well of you in the future or have anything at all nice to say about you if your name comes up in conversation.
  2. It has to be something that has something to do with what’s inside your email. You can’t write, “Hysterical interview with Jack…kudos!” as a subject line for an email that doesn’t even mention the interview with Jack in the content.
  3. If you have room, use her name. While email marketers have been personalizing subject lines forever, and it’s desensitized many recipients because they understand it really isn’t specifically written to them, when a recipient’s name is used in conjunction with a personalized statement, it’s the icing on the cake in terms of how it connects with the recipient.

There you go. 😊

In my mind, there’s nothing more powerful than having the ability to create a personal connection with your marketing. Email provides us with an easy way to reach out to people we want to know and/or work with but we need that little oomph to make it past spam filters and human filters. A perfectly crafted email subject line is what you need. Try the tips and let me know how it goes—I’d love to hear!