#fastlain feature: “Flop or Fly.”

I get a lot of email. (100+ a day!)

I delete most of it, but a few grab me. Every week I will be announcing 5 winning and losing email subject lines I received this week, and why they worked or flopped. Stay tuned to soon start to seeing a pattern — and to review your own subject lines with a more critical eye.

First, the winners:

#1:“The Very Best Writing Books, Ever”

From: Jennifer Louden

Why it works:

  • This hits all the right spots! One, it applies to me because I am a writer. Two, it’s to the point. Three, I appreciate the touch of sass with the “best, ever” adds to the tone of the message.

How you can use this:

“Best of” lists are always eye-catchers. And “the very best?” Even BETTER! 🙂

#2: “Whoa, Mama!”

From: Catherine Pooler

Why it works:

LOVE this! Whoaaaaa mama! What a fun subject line — with a hint of curiosity. Of course I am compelled to open. Extra points because it was a unique take on Mother’s Day gifts.

How you can use this:

Amuse you readers and make them smile! Don’t be afraid to be a bit whimsical or playful. Very few topics are NOT suitable for a bit of levity.

#3: “The Most Important Metrics Are…”

From: Contently

Why it works:

We’re trained to respond to words like “MOST IMPORTANT.” They have power, and they’ll get the reader to at least take a look (if you don’t overuse them…). And because I’m interested in metrics of how my content performs, they’ve got me. Add in the curiosity element, and they have a great three-fer!

How you can use this:

Use powerful words judiciously. Make sure the order of words in the subject line doesn’t confuse the reader, but moves them to the next step. In this case, that’s opening the email and reading more.

#4: “Big ol’ “buts””

From: Matt McWilliams

Why it works:

  • I like it, and I cannot lie! 😉
  • Another, great example of how you can add a little jokes and fun to your subject lines. Stop taking yourself too seriously. Instead, pull people in and give them a good laugh!

#5:“New training this week: The Million Dollar Plan”

From: Taki Moore

Why it works:

“New” always commands attention. And when you add in “this week,” a time element increases urgency. And who DOESN’T want a million dollars?!

How you can use this:

Layer on the signals. Taki used innovation, urgency, and CASH to grab attention. Try adding more than one element to your subject line to increase its success. 

Now, the flops:

#1:“Your HomeActions News for Wednesday, April 26, 2017″

from a Realtor.

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

Why it flops:

Boring. Not a fan. There’s nothing here to incite curiosity or to call me to action. I can’t even give them points for clarity, as “HomeActions News” doesn’t brand this from the thousands of other real estate newsletters out there. Delete and hasta la vista! 

How you can avoid this: Write subject lines that contain some type of appeal! Anything is better then simply putting a few words and the date.

My rewrite: “How to Increase Your Home’s Value by $10,000 — THIS WEEKEND.” Give them a reason (cash) to open, and to open NOW.

#2:“Quickly make clear comments”


Why it flops:

This is a case when the sender (Adobe) assumes I’m obsessed by the same things they are. Of course, they spend their days thinking about PDFs and how to make them more useful. But as one of 100 emails in my inbox, this completely misses.

How you can avoid this:

Even if you have a brand as big as Adobe, make it apparent who you are and how this email relates to the reader. Don’t just leave them in the dark and clueless, or assume prior knowledge. Remember that your email is coming in “cold” and warm up the reader before asking them to read your email.

My rewrite: “Let Your Voice Be Heard: Say Goodbye to Static PDF Documents.” This is friendly, conversational, and value-driven. Plus it sets the stage for the recipient.

#3:“10 Reasons You Can’t Miss FC/LA + $700 Savings Deadline”

Why it flops:

Oh geez. These guys made the list two weeks in a row! Again, how am I supposed to know what FC/LA is? I don’t  know and this is not subject is going to make me want to find out.  It’s another case of assuming I know what they’re talking about. 

How you can avoid this:

You HAVE to set the stage. You can’t assume that everyone is on the same wavelength – they AREN’T.

My rewrite: “Make New Friends and Save $700!” ONE compelling reason is way better than 10 lukewarm ones.

#4: “[New post] Infected Want to Know, Who Is Responsible for the Plague”
Why it flops: 

This is plain old confusing. I am I infected? Are you infected? And why are we worried about the plague? Don’t even get me started on the [New post] prefix. If you have to tell me, that means in the past you’ve been sending me OLD stuff?

How you can avoid this: Clarity. Clarity. Clarity.  Add “relevant” to that, and we’re in business.

My rewrite: “Five Things the Plague Has in Common with Your Next Viral Blog Post.” Now I’d read THAT.

#5: “Frozen yogurt maven and electronic signature godfather”

Why it flops:

WHAT DOES THIS EVEN MEAN? We’re done here.

How you can avoid this: 

I can’t even. I think this is one of those emails that would be better off unsent.

The upshot: This week’s reminder: You are entering a conversation that’s already going on in the reader’s mind (I got that concept from the illustrious Jason Van Orden). You are INTERRUPTING THEIR LIFE. Make it worth their while!

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

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