Growth Marketer Academy: Episode 15 – Supercharge Your Email Open Rates With These Killer Subject Line Tricks

When it comes to email marketing, your subject line will make – or break – your campaign.

No matter how great your offer, if you can’t get your lead to open your email, you’re efforts are wasted. I hate wasted time.

Even worse, you could get tagged as spam.

Fear not! We have some tricks up our sleeve to ensure your emails get opened…

Isn’t email a dead medium? Who cares about a subject line?

By the end of 2017, there was an estimated 3.7 billion email users.

To put that in perspective — Facebook has 1.94 billion users.

90% of adults in the US use email.

Email is the most popular online activity across all age groups.

Better yet — ROI.

For every dollar spent on a successful email campaign, you can expect $38 in returns.

Open Rate is key.

Open rate is how many people actually open your email.   

The average open rate is 25%.

But, you should try to outperform average.


Infamous design principle “Keep it Simple Stupid.”

Clear and concise subject lines perform extremely well.

Remember: the average person receives 121 emails per day,

Short and sweet is effective.

MailerMail recommends limiting subject lines to 28-39 characters.

Inbox with long subject lines

2. Arouse Emotions To Motivate Action

People make decisions based on emotions more than logic.

Fear of missing out

Use the subject line to trigger a feeling of urgency or loss aversion

Hint at time-sensitivity.

Mention an upcoming deadline

Refer to limited time remaining to take advantage of an offer

Get readers to act fast and click-through.  

Use phrases like

Today Only”

or “Get this deal before it’s gone”

Subject lines that create urgency get a 22% higher CTR. (according to Email Institute)

Tip: Don’t overdo it.

You don’t want people to get fatigued

If everything you send is tagged with urgency, recipients will think of you as the “brand who cried wolf.”

Alternative: tease a recipient’s curiosity.

The subject should create intrigue

Generate interest without giving away everything

Give them a reason to click-through.

“Ever had this problem? Tell me about it.”

Your brain wants resolution and closure.

Use your subject line to open a loop to initiate interest.

Once your reader is hooked, close the loop in the body of your email.

3. Be Personal And Friendly

The emails we look forward to seeing in our inboxes are from family or friends.

These are people who we know.

They refer to us by our first name.

We are accustomed to seeing our own name in an email.

Subject lines that personally address a recipient enjoy 30% higher click-through rates. (according to Experian Marketing Services)

Personalization makes the email unique to the recipient.

Warning: So many marketers are using the name method to personalize email that people are associating such emails as spam.

Consider instead referring to the recipient’s location.

“The Best Coffee House in Carmichael”

“Secret to Saving on Home Insurance in Spokane”

4. Add Some Visual Jazz

Some marketers have started adding emoji to subject lines

example email subject line with emojis

Cute and visually engaging

Can save valuable real-estate,

Can convey emotion

Helps your email subject line get noticed in a crowded inbox.

Warning: badly-placed emoji can negatively impact open rates.

Guidelines for adding emojis to subject lines:

Popular emojis aren’t necessarily relevant to your subject line.

Pick an emoji related to your message, regardless of its popularity.

Consistency with your message

Consistency with branding

Example: “Traditional” industry like finance or construction – quirky emoji will likely lead to negative reactions from your audience.

Your recipients won’t all use the same email client.

If their email doesn’t support emojis, it will convert a part of your subject line into an unrecognized symbol

You will seem spammy.

Emojis can be effective if used carefully.

Don’t go overboard or use them in every email subject

Recipients will tune you out.

5. Numbers And Lists Are Your Friends

Numbers and lists help the mind breakdown and visualize information

Makes the message seem more easily digestible.

“5 Ways to Help Your Kindergartener Read Proficiently”

“Top 10 French Restaurants in Alberta”


Don’t spell out a number. Use the actual number itself.

Start subject line with a number instead of one being featured later.

Use odd numbers as much as possible.

Psychologically, odd numbers such as 5 or 7 are easier to remember than even numbers

Odd numbers have a 20% higher click-through rate.

6. Focus On The Benefits

Citing a common pain point creates immediate interest

Done well, readers want to learn more.

Universal pain points:

Instead of listing a feature, be specific and tell them something they care about.

Instead of “how to increase your conversion rate”

be specific: “how to increase your conversion rate by 50% in one week.”

7. Social Proof

People conform to the actions of others

Creates an allusion that the behavior is correct if “everyone is doing it.”   

In psychology, this is known as social proof.

Most successful brands include reviews or “as seen on” social proof on landing or product pages

Drives a sense of product reliability.

How to include social proof in your subject lines?


why [influencer] uses your product”

or “why more than [number] people use your product.”


A good subject line has to grab a reader’s attention and convince them that your email is important enough to warrant a click.

You need to stand out from the crowd of other messages in their inbox.

For every email campaign, prepare at least 5-7 subject lines and analyze which subject line has the best click through.

This will cue you into the most effective subject lines for YOUR audience.