#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, 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.

Before we jump in, check out these 5 subject line tips:

#1 Character Count

Look at how long your email subject line. In general, shorter is better. Most computer inboxes show about 60 characters, but that’s reduced to 25 to 30 on mobile.

#2 Personalization

There are mixed thoughts on this technique (some feel it’s too “salesy”) but the research does show that putting the recipient’s name, company, or even the location in the subject line can increase clicks. 

#3 Always Include a Subject line

This one seem like a no brainer. Always. ALWAYS. Always! include a subject line! If there isn’t a subject line it looks like spam. 

#4 Use Logical Keywords or Prefixes for Search and Filtering

If I’m sending out course emails, or emails in a series, I like to use a prefix… Something like [COPY] or [Day1]. This is such a huge help for the recipient when they’re looking for the course or series materials. You can also add a keyword to the subject: “Awesome Copy Course Day 1.” Remember, clarity first!

#5 A/B Split Testing

Not sure about what is working and what is not? SPLIT TEST IT! Most email programs will let you shoot out half your emails with one subject line and the other half with another. Keep everything the same in both email except the small changes in the subject line. Stay on top of the responses to see your subscribers liked best and adjust from there.

First, the winners:

#1:*PROOF* the middle class is squeezed

From: Grant Cardone

Why it works:

  • The asterisks catch my eye immediately, as does the use of all-caps.
  • “PROOF” makes me curious. I want to know more about what he’s proving… so I opened!

How you can use this:

Try unusual characters in the subject line to interrupt what people expect to see. *DO IT!*

#2: Video can be awkward at first ?

Why it works:

I love the word “awkward.” It’s fun to say and read. And the emoji isn’t used much in subject lines, so it was a nice addition. I also like how he’s speaking to a problem many people have, and offering reassurance… in a light-hearted manner.

How you can use this:

Relate to your reader’s fears and worries, and help them relax. Use emojis when appropriate (but don’t overdo it).


#3: ? Schedule Posts & Track Fan Engagement — FREE!

From: Snips Media

Why it works:

Another emoji that’s right on the mark – a megaphone fits perfectly with the title. It also is value-driven, as it’s telling me how I can accomplish something of interest to their readers (and that it’s not going to cost me — even better!).

How you can use this:

Lead with value, throw in an emoji, and make it free. I’m in!

#4: “We’re meeting at 2pm ET today, right?”

From: Matt McWilliams

Why it works:

When I read this I was slightly in a panic. Did I forget something in my calendar? Oh no! So, I opened. he  Matt McWilliams, you got me.

He went on to talk about a free webinar he was offering (which honestly, I didn’t attend – but I was tempted!).

How can you use this:

Add a little mind trick — but don’t be a jerk about it. This worked because it was a legitimate offer to meet.


#5:“SICK & TIRED of Being FAT, SICK and TIRED?”

From: Brian Johnson

Why it works:

So much I can relate to here… and maybe you too? Am I right or am I right?! I don’t mind the caps because it’s a problem that many people feel passionate about (and if you know Brian, you know he’s passionate about helping people deal with health issues).

This also works because who’s going to say “No” to that question? (One word of advice – don’t ask a question the reader can answer “No” to!)

How you can use this:

Don’t be afraid to be big and bold. Let people know what you stand for, and get your message out there.


Now, the flops:

#1:“THE final: [3] Nadal vs [4] Thiem – Barcelona Open 2017″

Why it flops:

Wow. A lot going on here. They have capitalized words, numbers in brackets, and a hyphen – and I honestly had no idea what they were talking about. I honestly thought someone’s 2-year-old  had hijacked the keyboard. I did a little research and realized it was soccer… and this was NOT a soccer list.

How you can avoid this: Don’t overwhelm your reader. Use emphasis selectively and get your point across without confusion.

My rewrite: “Barcelona Open: THIEM for the WIN!”


#2:“May Newsletter”

From a local salon

Why it flops:

Boringzzzzz.

How you can avoid this:

I advocate simplicity, but that’s not the same thing as BORING! Give me something – ANYTHING – to hook onto.

My rewrite: “May for Moms! 20% off all services!” or “Your Neck Misses the Sun – Schedule your trim today.”


#3:“We Appreciate Your Feedback”

Why it flops:

Once more, BORING. Nothing in this makes me want to open. DELETE.

How you can avoid this:

Try. Just a little bit… please? You can be simple AND entertaining.

My rewrite: “You Rock! Our Thanks Inside.”


#4: “[New post] Daniel Hansen’s New Science Fiction Fantasy!
Why it flops: 

While I’m in favor prefixes, this one flops. I know it’s new, otherwise you wouldn’t be telling me. This was from a general book announcement list, and it’s going to people who are readers, but not necessarily SciFi/Fantasy fans. So I don’t know who Daniel Hansen is, so his name doesn’t do anything here.

How you can avoid this: I’m more inclined to read the book  (or at least the email) if you give me a reason why.

My rewrite: “A Blend of Harry Potter and ‘Alien’ — Your Next Must-Read”


#5: “Congrats to Leonard Fournette!

From Tapatalk

Why it flops:

I have no idea who this person is or why I should be congratulating him. Next.

How you can avoid this: This is one of those cases where you gotta send people stuff they want to read. Tapatalk is a mobile online community app, and they are randomly pulling posts and sending them out as updates — even to people not in the communities. This is a sure way to get me to unsubscribe (which I’ve done).

My rewrite: “Here’s that picture of Hugh Jackman” (now THAT is something I’d open!)


The upshot: The subject line is the headline for the email. If you don’t get it right, people aren’t going to read any further.

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

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