Guest post: “Subject Lines: Are you reading this?”

Kristin Harad writes irresistible, conversational email subject lines. I feel as if her emails are addressed to me, so I open them even when they’re part of a mass mailing.

I’m delighted that Kristin shares her subject line secrets in her guest post.

Subject Lines: Are you reading this?

by Kristin Harad, CFP®

When you send email communications to your list, is your subject line an afterthought or a strategic decision? When I started my marketing career, I worked for an agency managing direct mail for a large bank. Unbelievable amounts of time, testing and creativity went into figuring out which 5-10 words on the outer envelope would entice the recipient to OPEN the mailing. To call the practice strategic is an understatement. Open rates were the first measure of success for these expensive campaigns.

In the new world of overflowing Inboxes, email subject lines serve the same purpose as those teasers from the old world of mass direct mail. The primary objective of your subject line is to persuade the recipient to open up your email. You may feel jaded just thinking about trying to be strategic for every subject line you send as you communicate with your database. Relax. To be deliberate with this critical ‘lure’ you just have to select the right style for your specific message and keep the words conversational.

Match your email content with one of the FOUR TYPES of subject lines:

  1. Matter of fact: “Here is the information you requested.” This kind is tried and true. You are delivering information that the reader asked for from you. Without a doubt, this type of subject line has a high open rate. As it should. These can also include compelling How To’s such as “5 ways to lower your heating bill”
  2. Time Sensitive: “Last chance! Registration closes at 5:00pm EST” “Urgent last minute teleseminar” Very effective when you actually have a deadline for an event or an offer. Beware of crying wolf! If everything is always on a deadline, you lose your credibility. Used periodically, these are quite powerful.
  3. Personal: “Kristin, have you seen this?” or the less personal “Did you see this?” A cool feature of some email service providers is the ability to pull in first name into the subject line. Tip: Questions work better than statements. People will actually think you are only asking them. Exclusivity entices.
  4. Evocative: “OMG!!!!!!!!!!!” “A harrowing tale…” Esoteric in nature, these subject lines leave the reader asking “WHAT?! I MUST know.” Try using only one word or make up a crazy word. No one can resist solving a good mystery. Curiosity drives action.

As you can see, what makes a subject line effective depends on the situation. Test out different ones to see what works best for you and your brand. Keep your eyes peeled for the subject lines that make you click and the ones that you delete. Remember, your subject line objective is to engage the reader’s interest just enough to open the email. Then it’s all up to your email copy to drive your reader’s next action.

About the Author:  Kristin Harad, CFP® is the President of VitaVie Financial Planning, a fee-only financial planning firm in San Francisco.  She offers a free video series on marketing strategies for financial advisors at

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