#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:“An email a day for 16 YEARS?!

From: Jaime Masters/Eventual Millionaire

Why it works: This is a perfect example of using intrigue/curiosity with surprise, while still hinting at the value to come.

How you can use this: We’ve talked before about layering – value + curiosity + surprise = WORKS.

#2: “She’s the WORST marketer…EVER!

From: Ryan Lee/Freedym

Why it works: I had to open this — we get so many emails about the BEST of this… the TOP of that. But this turned the common hook on its head and I bit!

How you can use this: Be unexpected. Disrupt people’s expectations by turning the ordinary, the expected, upside-down.

#3: “LAIN, come back to Jiffy Lube (R) and Save!”

From: Jiffy Lube

Why it works: Another great layered subject line: Personalization plus “what’s in it for me?” was a winning combo. I knew exactly why I should open. And I did — even though I don’t use Jiffy Lube!

How you can use this: You don’t have to be cutesy. Be direct. If the offer is good, people will read.

#4: “WSJwine. Watch me sip, watch me rose”

From: RueLaLa

Why it works: RueLaLa does a great job of funny (or “punny”) subject lines that relate to current culture but in a tongue-in-cheek way. A great approach for a retail site.

How can you use this: What’s a quote or song lyric or movie title you can draft off of?

#5:“A Daddy of a Deal”

From: Paper Source

Why it works: Like RueLaLa, Paper Source does “fun” really well. They were able to combine a current event (Father’s Day) with a sale in an unexpected way. Well done!

How you can use this: If it fits your brand, don’t be afraid to play a little bit. It adds personality and interest.

Now, the flops:

#1:“NEW! MCDEM Weekly Preparedness Updates!”

From: Paradise Valley Neighborhood Email List

Why it flops: Explain yourself! If it’s new, obviously I’m not going to know what the acronym stands for. Government agencies are notorious for this – thinking we can read their acronym- and jargon-addled minds. We can’t. BORING. CONFUSING. BAD.

How you can avoid this: Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. What information do they need to understand what you’re talking about? Don’t assume they have the same level of knowledge you do — they don’t.

My rewrite: “BE PREPARED with our new emergency updates.”

#2:“Ready to build your podcast website?…”

From: Internet marketer

Why it flops: Don’t ask a question that people can answer with an emphatic NO.

How you can avoid this: Um, don’t ask a question that people can answer with an emphatic NO.

My rewrite: “Time for a podcast website? Here’s how to know…”

#3: “remind me what your paypal email is”

From: Internet marketer

Why it flops: It screams “spam.” In the email itself the person offers to send you $ for making a time to chat with him – but it sent my BS filter so far into overdrive that I don’t believe him.

How you can avoid this: Don’t try to be tricky. Just be upfront about your intentions. It’s okay to be clear and open.

My rewrite: “Would you be open to this…?”

#4: “It;s my birthday…Giving you a cool “gift” :)”

From: Internet marketer

Why it flops: The typo in the subject line kills it for me. Looks like spam. Plus, the “gift” in quotes makes me think it’s not REALLY a gift but a sales pitch.

How you can avoid this: Focus on WHAT’S IN IT FOR THEM. Not on the fact that it’s YOUR birthday (no one cares). Proof for typos — ALWAYS.

My rewrite: Not sure what to do with this one! I’d lead with the value you’re providing — not with a pseudo-gift.

#5: “compare leads to despair”

From: Internet marketer

Why it flops: I can’t decipher what this means. Am I being asked to compare leads? Or does comparison lead to despair? Or something else?

How you can avoid this: BE CLEAR.

My rewrite: “The sure-fire path to misery.”

The upshot: Internet marketers apparently need to up their games. I’m available for consults. 😉

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

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