Email Marketing: Creating Headlines That Sell

Oct 5, 2020

3 min read

Your email subject line is the ‘to be or not to be’ for your entire campaign.

The header decides whether your recipients will even bother to open it – not to mention ones that delete it straight away.

So you’ve got to make sure your email subject lines are top-notch.

What makes a great email headline?



Always a winner


Let your recipients know how they can benefit from opening your email. Make sure that the subject line, while enigmatic, still aligns with your brand though.


Use the data your recipients provide when they subscribe to make it personal, such as addressing them by their names.


Express urgency and scarcity to help compel readers to click (or act)

Fear of missing out

One psychological principle that is practically impossible to resist is the fear of missing out. You can use this fear in your subject lines by adding an element of scarcity (limited availability) or urgency (limited time).

Funny Subject Lines

If your subject line makes your subscribers laugh, then they’ll simply have to open it. After all, have you ever read a subject line that tickled your funny bone and you didn’t read it?

Short & Sweet

Given that most smartphones only display five or six words of a subject line—and because more than 41% of today’s email campaigns are opened on mobile devices—brevity is critical.


Asking readers a question in your subject line can immediately engage them and create an instant dialogue. Try to keep your questions open-ended so your reader can’t answer them with a quick “no.”


Everyone has a bit of vanity. People love to be liked, accepted and even revered by others… it’s just a part of being human.

That’s why some of the most clever subject lines use vanity to get you to open the email. To do this, you can either promise something that makes the subscriber look better to their peers, or invoke the fear of being shamed.


The how-to subject line offers insight into the specific benefit readers will find when they open your email. And as long as your “how-to” is valuable to the audience, open rates can soar.


Another common trait among all humans is sloth, or the tendency to avoid work. Even people who aren’t inclined to be lazy would prefer a silver bullet over the long and hard route.

You can give subscribers an easier way to achieve their goals by offering a shortcut, or a useful resource that saves a lot of time and energy.


Location-specific language and offers show readers that you’ve done your homework.

You know their vicinity and have a message that applies specifically to them. Many readers open these emails whether or not they’re initially interested, just to see what’s happening in their areas. What a great hook!

Trendy Topic

Style sells. Whether you’re selling fashion, food, technology, or services, most people want to be ‘in the know’ about the latest trends. The latest fascinations are compelling, motivating readers to look inside for more details.


The best subject lines grab attention, and controversy can help you do that. But tread lightly—this strategy requires great care to pull off.

You need to know your audience well and create a balance between controversy and information. It’s definitely a gamble, but the payoff can be extraordinary.

Pain Points

If you really understand your buyer persona, you should know their biggest pain points. Use those pain points to get subscribers to open your emails by solving that problem for them.

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