#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: “Writers hate this part”

From: Jeff Goins

Why it works: Jeff knows his audience comprises writers and wannabe writers, so this works on two levels. First, writers immediately perk up their ears. And second, those who are wannabe writers want to know what the real writers are up to. Jeff calls out something we care about (the part “we” hate) and also incites curiosity by not telling us what “this part” is. Well done!

How you can use this: Make your readers feel like part of the in crowd by identifying them as something they aspire to be.

#2: “Own the Room at Your Next Networking Event – RSVP to Learn How”

From: CreativeLive

Why it works: Total value-driven headline. We know what they’re offering, they personalized it (“YOUR” next event), and they give a clear CTA (RSVP).

How you can use this: Be super-clear on what you offer, who it’s for, and what your reader can do to claim it.

#3: “Don’t panic if you’re not one of the “cool kids” (yet)”

From: Tara Gentile

Why it works: Like Jeff, Tara also appeals to those who want to be part of the “in crowd.” She hits some emotional buttons (both “panic” and “cool kids” touch on that high school angst!) and she promises transformation as well.

How you can use this: This headline is deceptively simple. There’s a lot going on, and I’m pretty sure it took a while to create. Spend extra time refining your subject lines to see if you can increase emotion, add extra triggers, and make it more compelling.

#4: “Hard Work + Loyalty ≠ Career Advancement (Here’s Why)”

From: Career Attraction

Why it works: This subject line plays off common wisdom that loyalty and hard work lead to a desired result. It also promises to explain why that isn’t true.

How can you use this: Offer a pattern interrupt by showing why something people believed is not true — then tell them why.

#5: “You have 16 hours only. No sleeps

From: RueLaLa

Why it works: I love RLL’s tongue-in-cheek subject lines. They’re sassy and current without making old fogies (like me!) feel left out. The feel of urgency was clear with this subject line, yet it was still playful.

How you can use this: Think of a fun way to convey your message. Play with it. Don’t take it so seriously!

Now, the flops:

#1: “SDCC Revel Preview: The Devil of Hell’s Office”

From: Lootcrate

Why it flops: Ummm… what?

How you can avoid this: Be clear. Please?!

My rewrite: I don’t know. I googled “SDCC Revel” and couldn’t even find anything to explain what this was. Typo? Not sure! I did find out that SDCC is “San Diego ComiCon.” As for Devil of Hell’s Office? No clue. 

#2: “Concord & 9th Masterclass is ON!”

From: Crafting Site

Why it flops: Because I used to be in the crafting industry, I knew that the Concord & 9th referred to a rubber stamp manufacturer. But if I were new to this list or to the community, I wouldn’t have the first clue what this was about. Nothing about it makes me interested or curious.

How you can avoid this: Don’t use insider language. Take a “beginner’s mind” approach to writing; if a newbie wouldn’t understand it, use something else. And don’t forget to convey VALUE.

My rewrite: “Learn 5 new stamping techniques in one hour – TODAY.”

#3: “The Process: Step #4”

From: an Online Marketer

Why it flops: I didn’t read (or see) steps 1-3 so this just made me go, “Hunh?!” The funny thing: “The Process” is all about effective email communication! Der.

How you can avoid this: Give context. Don’t assume people read (or even get) your first emails in a series.

My rewrite: “Give Subscribers EXACTLY What They Want (Step 4 in the ASK Method) ” 

#4: “Abundance NOW LIVE Is in Less Than A Week!”

From: An Online Marketer

Why it flops: This is the epitome of a lazy headline. A little rewriting would make it crystal clear. Instead it sends my mind in about five directions at once. Is the event Abundance “now live?” (as opposed to previously being not-live?). Or is the event called “Abundance Now Live?” Or is it “live” as in “liiiiiivvvvv” and not “lyyyyyyv?” I had to think to much!

How you can avoid this: Don’t make readers think. Remove ANYTHING that can cause confusion. Your subject lines, in general, should be scannable.

My rewrite: “Less than 7 days to “Abundance Now” LIVE!”

#5: “20 Tweetable Quotes to Inspire Creative Genius [SlideShare]”

From: Anonymous

Why it flops: Ayiyiyi. Another hot mess. Do I care that these quotes are “tweetable?” Why is the suffix [SlideShare] even included? And will reading the quotes, or sharing them, make me a genius?

How you can avoid this: Get your value statement down before you write a single word.

My rewrite: “20 Creative Quotes You Can’t Help But Share”

The upshot: Don’t be lazy. Clear, simple writing takes work!

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

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