Six Proven Strategies

Some email subject lines are descriptive of the email content. Others use proven techniques that have resulted in high open rates in the past. The best approach is to combine one or two proven strategies with a short description of the content of your email.

1. Numbers and Counts: The subhead of this section is a perfect example. People don’t read online content, they scan it. Numbered lists, bullet points, and bolding all appeal to the innate organization of how online readers prefer content. 

Example: “4 Facts About Wisconsin Union Protests”

2. Urgency: The half-life of an email is remarkably fast, which is why this strategy is popular with retailers who often send emails daily. If a reader believes they can wait to read your email, it’s unlikely they will return at a later time. Enticing readers with a realistic reason to immediately act is a proven method for higher email open rates.

Example: “Happening Now”

3. Ask a Question: Remember when your teacher would tell you that there are no stupid questions? The key here is to capture the question many are curious about, and then let readers know you intend to answer it in your email.

Example: “Dick Lugar or Richard Mourdock?”

4. Localization: If your email is geo-targeted to a specific city or state, use the name of the location in the subject line. Most are proud of their city or state and are going to want to know why it’s being mentioned.

Example: “Enraging Video from Michigan”

5. Personalization: Many email marketing services allow you to append first names and other data to an individual’s email address. If you want your email to stand out, use a detail about them—their first name or their total donation amount to your organization—as a way to peak their interest.

Example: “John, will you stand with Indiana or Obama?”

6. Timeliness: The best strategy to make an email successful is to focus on an ongoing event, breaking news, or a deadline. Many federal campaigns use the end of the Federal Election Commission’s fundraising quarters and the corresponding reporting structure as a compelling way to ask their supporters to contribute. Many other organizations time their email campaigns around major legislative news. 

Example: “President Obama signs TARP bailout”

Here’s the bottom line: when writing your next email, make sure a good amount of thought goes into choosing the subject line. The tips and proven strategies above can help navigate that email to your reader’s inbox and ensure higher email open rates. In a world of cluttered email accounts, your email subject needs to stand out to enable your message to penetrate the audience. Success means recruiting more volunteers, gaining additional supporters, and increasing the number of contributors to your cause or campaign.

Jarrett Ray is an account manager at The Prosper Group, a Republican consulting firm.