#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: “Tasty Keto Breakfast Alternatives”

From: WickedStuffed

Why it works: This one hits right at the value it provides. I love that it’s upfront and clear. You don’t have to guess at what you’re going to get when you open.

How you can use this: Remember: “Clarity over Clever.” Share your value clearly and your readers can’t help but be attracted to your offerings.

#2: “How she dealt with bullying (now 25 million fans)”

From: Lewis Howes

Why it works: Lewis hit a couple of hot buttons here: The idea of bullying, which is a hot topic right now. Then there’s the social proof of “25 million fans.” And finally, intrigue by not naming names. We all want to know who “she” is!

How you can use this: We’ve talked about “layering” before. This is a great example of pulling in several triggers to make an okay subject line into a real winner. Once you have a clear, value-driven subject line, ask how you can add a few more elements to make it even more compelling.

#3: “This one trick can increase your conversions…”


Why it works: I’m a huge fan of ellipses (…). It provides the “open loop” without being too gross about it. Plus, it’s value-driven and simple (ONE trick… not 45!).

How you can use this: Use punctuation to your benefit, and remember: One trick people can use NOW is better than 24 they have to sort through.

#4: “The #1 Content Platform? (Cheat Sheet Enclosed)”

From:Pay Flynn of SmartPassiveincome.net

Why it works: Pat did a great job of combining several elements. We’ve got value (he’s going to answer a question we’d all like to know the answer to), plus a content upgrade (cheat sheet — hurray!). Finally, by asking a question he gets our brains involved. I’m immediately wondering, “Podcasting? Blogging? Videos?” And then I want the answer!

How can you use this: Ask a question that can’t be answered with a “yes” or “no.” Your readers’ minds will go into high gear trying to answer the question.

#5:“Is it too early for peaches?”

From: an online neighborhood message board

Why it works: This was so out of the ordinary I couldn’t help but read the email!

How you can use this: Sometimes, coming out of left field can be a huge pattern interrupt. If you can tie the non-sequitur to your message, go for it. But don’t be strange just for the attention. It’s got to work with your brand and message.

Now, the flops:

#1: “SaaS Website Mistakes: 6 Dire You’re Still Making”

From: an Internet Marketer

Why it flops: First, it doesn’t make sense. “6 Dire You’re Still Making?” Waat? Plus, I don’t have an SaaS website. And “dire” is a loaded word implying life and death. I have trouble believing any of the mistakes I’m making are really THAT bad.

How you can avoid this: Be relevant. Be comprehensible. And don’t overstate your point.

My rewrite: “6 Website Mistakes That Are Killing Your SaaS Business”

#2: “3 Steps to Success”

From: From a Udemy.Com Instructor

Why it flops: Zzzzzz…. Boring. Not specific.

How you can avoid this: Don’t be generic. Write an email that other businesses can’t write.

My rewrite: “You’re only 3 steps away from financial independence.”

#3: “PTO Starts now”

From: an Online Retailer

Why it flops: What the heck does it mean? I thought “PTO” was “paid time off.” but why is an online retailer sending me that? Particularly when I’m not an employee?

How you can avoid this: Make sense! Always.

My rewrite: “Vacation Starts Now. Let’s Celebrate!”

#4: “Become Atlassian product pros with training at Summit”

From: Altlassianevents.com

Why it flops: First, I never subscribed to this email list. Second. What is Atlassian? Third, this is grammatically incorrect. Fourth, who cares?

How you can avoid this: Be relevant. Don’t spam people. And give value, always.

My rewrite: “Join us in August and all your wildest dreams will come true.” I have no idea who these people are or what they do, so I figured I’d have some fun. 🙂 

#5: “My New Book….FREE!”

From: an Internet Marketer

Why it flops: I don’t care about your book until you MAKE me care about it.

How you can avoid this: People care about how your product or service can help them, not how they can help YOU.

My rewrite: “506 tips for improving your business — FREE!” 

The upshot: Remember the hierarchy of Clarity + Value FIRST. If you do that, you’re golden.

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

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