Tag Archive for: email subject line

Improve your email subject-line vocabulary with “The Hamster Revolution”

Boosting the power of your email subject lines is the best way for most people to boost the effectiveness of their emails. It’s a focus of my email presentations.

In this post, I share subject-line tips from The Hamster Revolution: Stop Info-Glut—Reclaim Your Life! by Mike Song, Vicki Halsey, and Tim Burress. Some of their suggestions may be most useful to team members who email each other frequently.

5 powerful keywords for email subject lines inforgraphic


Start email subject lines with these keywords

The Hamster Revolution suggests starting your email subject lines with words that define their category. “These categories build context and rapid comprehension for your reader,” say the authors.

Here are the category words recommended by the authors:

  1. Action
  2. Confirmed
  3. Delivery
  4. Info
  5. Request

1. Action and 5. Request

The authors don’t say when to use “Action” instead of “Request.” I see the two as overlapping. Either word could start a subject line saying “help George to prepare plan.” In my opinion, you can drop “Action” in favor of “Request,” which is #5 on their list.

2. Confirmed

“Confirmed” can precede the details of an appointment or agreement. For example, “Confirmed: Oct. 15, 3 p.m. meeting.”

3. Delivery

The meaning of “delivery” in an email subject line isn’t immediately clear. For this reason, it’s most appropriate for use with members of your team after you train them in its meaning.

Here’s how Hamster Revolution defines it:

Delivery is used when you’re responding to a specific request. It’s your way of saying “I’m delivering exactly what you requested.”

4. Info

To me, “Info” signals that an email simply provides information; it doesn’t require a reply. If I’m waiting for that information, I quickly realize that the sender has satisfied my needs. On the other hand, I may be able to file the email without reading it. That’s a time-saver.

I’m more likely to use FYI than “Info,” but either is fine.

Handy abbreviations

Abbreviations can help teams to communicate more efficiently. When I led an investment communications tea m at an investment management firm, we used “EOM.” As I discussed in “Fit it in your subject line EOM,” EOM appears at the end of the subject line and is short for “end of message.” It means that there’s no need to open the email because the entire message appears in the subject line.

The Hamster Revolution suggests two more subject line abbreviations:

  • NRN for “no reply needed”
  • NTN for “no thanks needed”

I can imagine both abbreviations saving time for teams. However, NTN could seem a bit obnoxious, as if you’re saying “You really ought to thank me, but I’ll let you get away without doing it.”

Best for team emails

These subject line tips will be most powerful when used with your team members, especially after you’ve trained them on their use.

When communicating with clients, you may prefer to skip category words in favor of other powerful words. For example, if clients are waiting for information on the XYZ Fund, the subject line “XYZ Fund info” more efficiently conveys your message than “Info: XYZ Fund.” This is because readers focus more on the first words of your email subject lines.

Stay away from abbreviations such as EOM and NRN with clients, unless you know they understand them. You’ll confuse them.

Disclosure: If you click on the Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I only link to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.

4 reasons your emails don’t get results

Emails are essential to your marketing and client communications, but bad emails sap your effectiveness. I see four main reasons why emails fail. Once you recognize these weaknesses, you can fix them. By the way, you can jump-start your email effectiveness by asking your company or professional association to hire me to present “Writing Effective Emails.”

1. Your subject lines stink

A good subject line is like an airplane landing strip. Without landing strips, the pilot must survey the entire landscape, wondering “Is that a dangerous obstacle here? A gully there?” It’s exhausting when pilots don’t know where to head. The same is true for your email recipients when your subject lines don’t offer guidance. An example of a bad subject line is a simple “Hello.”

Good subject lines also appeal to readers’ interest in WIIFM (what’s in it for me), as  I discussed in “Focus on benefits, not features, in your marketing.” Readers decide whether or not to open emails based partly on WIIFM.

What else do readers look for?

  • Action items with deadlines, such as “Enroll by March 3 to save $400”
  • Personal connections, as in “Referred by Allan Loomis,” which I discussed in “Top four email mistakes to avoid when you have a referral.”
  • Entertainment—for example, my e-newsletter with the subject line, “Ssh, don’t tell my husband,” got an above-average number of opens

2. Your email doesn’t get to the point quickly

For the best results, start the body of your email with a summary sentence or paragraph. This may be all your recipient reads before deciding what to do with your email.

If you write a long, meandering email, you’re likely to lose your reader. Even if they skim the entire message, they’re unlikely to respond as you’d like.

Getting to the point quickly is one of the kindest things you can do for your readers. Why? Because you don’t make them work to figure out “What is the point of this message?” Getting to the point quickly also boosts the odds that you’ll achieve the results you desire.

3. Your email lacks a “call to action”

Almost every email needs a “call to action” suggesting the next step that recipients can take for their personal benefit. It could be something like “Click to receive a free e-book when you subscribe to my e-newsletter” or “Sign and mail your beneficiary form to Charles Schwab.”

4. Your email suffers from common writing problems

The best written communications achieve the three Cs. They are compelling, clear, and concise. Emails that lack these characteristics are likely to disappoint.

If you’d like to write better emails

Want help boosting your emails’ effectiveness? Your company or professional association can hire me to present “Writing Effective Emails.” I also offer email and e-newsletter critiques for a fee.

 Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Email subject lines: How to handle boring disclosures

What subject line should you use when you send clients a disclosure via email? This question came up came up when I spoke to the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts in 2013.

The problem: Losing your clients’ attention

You send some emails because you need to move clients to action. Others, such as disclosures required by regulators, are less compelling.Choose your subject lines carefully, if you don’t want these emails to discourage your clients from reading your emails.

Here’s a list of disclosures that advisors told me might be sent via email:

  • Client agreement
  • Fee disclosure
  • Form ADV, Part 2
  • ERISA-related disclosure, such as a Rule 408(b)(2) disclosure
  • Privacy policy

Sure, it’s important for clients to understand the legal nature of your relationship. However, most of them won’t read boilerplate disclosures. Even worse, when they receive one boring email from you, they become less likely to open your future emails.

Solutions: Label clearly or bundle

The worst thing you can do is to send the disclosure with a vague or misleading subject line—something like “update from XYZ Advisors.”

Instead, label the email clearly, making it easy for your clients to decide whether to open it. You could write something like “annual disclosure of _____,” dropping the key topic in my blank.

Another possibility is to avoid sending the disclosure as a standalone email, assuming that’s okay with your compliance experts. For example, you could include the disclosure with your quarterly client email or monthly client e-newsletter.

YOUR solution?

I’m curious to learn how you handle this challenge. Please comment.