–> New #fastlain feature: “Flop or Fly.”

I get a lot of email. Like, A LOT. (Like 100+ a day.)

I delete most of it, but a few grab me. I thought it would be useful for other content/email marketers out there to create a  roundup of the top 5 winning and losing email subject lines I received this week, and why they worked or flopped. I think you’ll soon start to see a pattern — and start to review your own subject lines with a more critical eye.

First, the winners:

#1: “JUNIOR ALERT-MOVE UP MASS SWEATSHIRTS AVAILABLE FRIDAY”

From… My daughter’s high school

Why it works:

  • The all-caps. I don’t recommend this as a matter of course, but in this case it worked because it’s something that I needed to know, and it really is super-important.
  • The “junior.” My daughter is a junior, so I knew immediately that this would be something that was applicable to me.
  • The word “alert.” It’s actually not a word that’s used much, and it immediately put me on high (ahem) alert. Love it. I’ll be using it myself!

How you can use this:

Look for little-used, emotional words to catch attention. And when you have a legit reason to go all caps, DO IT! (But not too often.)


#2: “Because she’s the BEST”

From: KEEP Collective (a jewelry company)

Why it works:

  • The curiosity factor. Who is the best? I wanna know — maybe it’s me!
  • The positivity. So much negativity in the world. I’m pulled to something that says “best.”

How you can use this:

Curiosity is always great for subject lines — something I try to use as much as possible without being an @$$. Stay positive, too — if it appeals to your audience.


#3: “1,300 people perished while doing this (true story)”

From: Brian Tracy

Why it works:

  • Death sells. I hate to say it, but it’s true.
  • The word “perish” adds some intrigue.
  • The “True Story” addendum really helps – it automatically creates trust (He’s telling you the truth!) and separates this from the “Fake News” trend these days.
  • The number. The only way I could improve upon this would be to make it something like, “1,362 people died doing this.”

How you can use this:

Numbers continually perform well in subject line tests — as does death. But don’t overplay your hand here. Make sure you can back up the promise you make in the subject line. Also, another example of using underemployed vocabulary. Try it!


#4: “Low Class Grade Alert”

From: My other daughter’s school.

Why it works:

Talk about hitting right at someone’s pain points! This email subject line is PERFECT. It is directed at me. It’s urgent. It hits me where it matters. ‘Nuff said.

PS Just in case you were curious – apparently a “B” is cause for a “Low grade alert” at my daughter’s middle school. Geez.

How you can use this:

Funny how both schools used that “alert” word! Give it a shot. Try using some emotional, attention-getting language — when your message warrants it.


#5: “Where can I find you?”

From: Nicole Liloia.

Why it works:

  • It’s personal. It could come from a friend.
  • It focuses on ME.
  • She’s asking a question that I’m not asked every day.

How you can use this:

Get personal. Write like you write to a friend. Ask questions (especially ones no one else is asking!)


Now, the flops:

#1: “My New Book – Special Opportunity”

(I’m not throwing anyone under the bus here, so these will remain anonymous!)

Why it flops:

Honestly, I don’t care about your book until you MAKE me care. And the “special opportunity” isn’t anywhere NEAR enough to get me to open. DELETE.

How you can avoid this: Stress the value to the reader, not the value to YOU. Be specific. Be INTERESTING.


#2: “The Real Reason Ina Garten Never Had Kids”

Why it flops:

I. Don’t. Care.

I barely know who Ina Garten is — certainly not enough to care why she did (or didn’t) have kids.

This reminds me WAY too much of the clickbait links you see online all the time. DELETE.

How you can avoid this: Know your audience. If you’re trying for pop culture click bait, pick someone people can relate to and care about.


#3: “So Intelligent and a Free Book!”

Why it flops:

I have no idea what this subject line means. There’s no connection for me between intelligence and a free book. I don’t get it. DELETE.

How you can avoid this: Make sense or at least be funny. This scores a big ZERO for me.


#4: “An Invitation to Share Your Unique Insights”

Why it flops:

Maybe they were trying for the vanity play here, but to me all it said was, “share your thoughts and opinions with us for free and we will profit from your effort.” DELETE.

How you can avoid this: People are super sophisticated and read between the lines. If you want people to take a survey or give you their opinion, just ask. Don’t make it sound like you are doing THEM a favor by LETTING them share their thoughts with you. And be prepared to pay — a freebie, a $-off coupon, something.


#5: “Will you be prepared for your next conversation about mobile?”

Why it flops:

I don’t think I’ve had ONE conversation about mobile, let alone worrying about my NEXT conversation. This is a perfect example of not asking a question unless you know the answer.

How you can avoid this: Make sure you are asking about something people CARE about and WORRY about. Otherwise you just sound silly.


The upshot: People are busy. If you don’t capture them immediately, you won’t capture them at all.

Got your own submissions? List them in the comments below!

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