#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.

#1:“IPPOLITA for you. Yes, Y-O-U.”

From: Rue La La

Why it works:

Ippolita is a brand I’ve purchased before, so seeing the name come up in the subject line pulls me back in. The unusual Y-O-U makes me look twice.

How you can use this:

Sometimes being eye-catching is as simple as a few h-y-p-h-e-n-s. 🙂 And I totally prefer this brand of personalization versus using my name in the subject line.

#2: “Increase revenue by 7 figures, add publicity as a service”

From: Andrew O’Brien/ The Publicity Guy

Why it works:

Straight shooting here Andrew! This makes it super clear but is also super compelling with the “7 figures.”

How you can use this:

Be straight forward when it comes to topics that don’t need the unnecessary beating around the bush. When we talk about revenue being straight forward with people is your best bet. They will appreciate the honesty and dive right in!

#3: “I can’t believe I got talked into this”

From: Alionka Polanco

Why it works:

So conversational, it looks like a personal email. I don’t want to miss out on any good gossip.

How you can use this:

Everyone wants to be “in the know.” Keep it personal and incite curiosity and you’re good to go. (But you better pay off in the email itself or people will feel duped!)

#4: “How To Procrastinate (Effectively) On Really Hard Projects”

From: Fast Company 

Why it works:

We’ve been bagging on Fast Company for a few weeks. This time, they got it right! I love the obvious value from the how to, the built-in curiosity, and the counterintuitive “procrastinate effectively.”

How can you use this:

Use multiple value points to create the ultimate subject line. Go against the grain and show a unique twist on a common topic.

#5:“What 1,200 Calories Looks Like [Infographic]”

From: My Fitness Pal

Why it works:

A unique value-add from a fitness app. The only thing I’d say is lose the [infographic] suffix. It’s not necessary. 

How you can use this:

Think about how you can add unique value to your audience. Can you help them picture something in a new way? Can you turn words into a photo or image, or vice-versa? Think outside the box.

Now, the flops:

#1:“Ending! Spring Price Strike Sale”

From: Groupon

Why it flops:

They almost had it, but blew it with the “Price Strike” and “Sale.” One or the other is plenty. Put both in and I’m confused.

How you can avoid this: 

Don’t overwhelm people. Keep it simple.

My rewrite: “Ending – Spring Sale!”

#2:“Mastering Project Roadmaps v2.0 is now available”

Why it flops:

This subject line is a mess.

It’s a prime example of assuming your audience is mentally in the same place you are. This came into my inbox between an email from my sister and one from a client with info for a project I’m working on. Right in the middle of that, they pop up with reference to a program (software? app?) I’m not familiar with and don’t (yet) care about. It completely misses.

*IF* this email were sent to me because I’d purchased Mastering Project Roadmaps 1.0, it would be so-so… but even then it says nothing about value to the user. What is new and different in V2.0? Why do I need it?

How you can avoid this:

NEVER assume anything. Remember that you are popping up in their inbox like a jack-in-the-box. Make sure you’re the fun and friendly and welcome clown, not the scary kind that you want to immediately erase.

My rewrite for non-customers: “Ready to streamline your project management?”

My rewrite for customers: “You’re going to LOVE this upgrade – TONS of enhancements!”

#3: “Let’s get started”

Why it flops:

First off, who cares? There is nothing compelling in this email from someone who wants me to invest my time and money in their coaching/course. I don’t want to “get started.” I want to save money/lose weight/change my life…

THEN… the first sentence of this email says, “If you’ve been following my emails from last week…”  

Well, this is just dumb. If the reader HASN’T been following… and over half of your subscribers haven’t even opened your email… you’ve immediately alienated them.

And if the reader HAS been following, it’s repetitive.

How you can avoid this:

Avoid being too general. Avoid making assumptions. Avoid being boring.

My rewrite: “Ready to change your life? The first step is inside…”

#4: “We would love to hear your feedback on Google+!”

From: Elements Message

Why it flops: 

They want something but there’s nothing in it for me (I don’t really care what a nameless, faceless business “would love.”) Also, Google+ is a hassle and most people don’t use it. 

How you can avoid this: 

Have an incentive for people to go out of their way to give you a review! And when you do so, make it on a platform most people are familiar with.

My rewrite: “Share your opinion and save $10 off your next massage.”

#5: “there must be a mistake (did you mean to do that?)”

From: an online fitness membership

Why it flops:

I had checked out an online fitness membership, but logged out before completing registration. This was the THIRD email I received in just a few hours about coming back to complete checkout.


There’s “reminding” and then there’s “harassing.” This felt like harassment!

How you can avoid this: No one likes their inbox to be flooded with harassing emails. One follow up is enough. If you want to send out another, give it time and introduce a new topic.

My rewrite: There isn’t on, because I shouldn’t be getting another email!

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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