How’s that for a subject line?
We’re going to get into the “weeds” today, talking about something that might seem small or even insignificant.
But I’ve got two bold proclamations to make about your email subject lines….
Email Subject Line Proclamation #1
If the subject line sucks, the email doesn’t get opened.
Whether you’re sending one email to one person about a gig, or 3,500 emails to a big list – the email subject line is what determines whether the message inside gets seen or not.
Think about it.
How often do you decide NOT to open an email based on its subject line?
If you’re like most people, the answer is “all the time.”
Generally, either of two scenarios will hasten that email’s trip to the “Trash” folder…
- We think we know what’s inside based on the subject line, and we don’t care about it
- Or, we don’t recognize the sender’s name, and the subject line does nothing to entice us to open it
In either case, the email ends up in the same place.
Your email subject line is your wingman, and its job is to warm your recipient up to the idea of opening it.
Email Subject Line Proclamation #2
Most email subject lines suck.
Don’t believe me?
Here are some examples from real people (not spammers) that have come through my inbox – each from a name I didn’t recognize:
Yes, keep me
CHARLIE PARR premiers new video “Peaceful Valley” with NPR
Looking to help your Group
What Would You Do?
I’m pretty sure I know the answer to that.
Most of these would have been fine if I knew and trusted the sender, but they all came from people whose names weren’t immediately familiar to me.
(As the sender, you only have a second or so to inspire an “open.”)
Because I’ve missed good opportunities before, I have actually trained myself to open most of these things to find out if they’re asking about a gig.
(Three of the above senders were.)
But you can’t assume your email recipients are going to do that.
They’ll probably glance…decide…and then delete, or simply move on without reading.
Email Subject Lines: Some Best Practices
All of this begs the question…what SHOULD my email subject line say?
Of course, there’s no “right” answer there, but here are two ways I think about it:
#1 – Personalize
One thing I’ve had great success with is using THEIR name in the subject line (rather than mine).
So, for instance, if I’m sending to the Cornell Arts Center because I’d like to get booked to perform there, the subject line might say “Cornell Arts Center 2021 programming,” or “performance idea for Cornell Arts Center.”
Notice what it didn’t say – – anything about me.
There’s no hype, no bragging, and nothing “salesy.”
Using their name in the subject line accomplishes a bunch of things:
- it establishes relevance – this email is for them
- it signals that this might not be a mass email (even if it is)
- it tells them exactly what it’s about
All of which increases your chances of getting the email opened.
(This is all easily accomplished, btw, with any modern email marketing software.)
#2 – Put Their Needs First
If you have a situation where you need to do a little “selling” with your subject line, think about what’s important to the recipient.
Not what they should know about us, but what’s actually important to them.
Let’s say you have a list of prospects and you want to make them aware of your wedding band, “The Majestics.”
TERRIBLE SUBJECT LINE: The Majestics Wedding Band
(What’s in it for the recipient? You’re going to make them open the email to find out?)
WAY BETTER: Hassle-Free (and Kick Ass) Wedding Band
See what happened there?
You took a lame subject line that doesn’t even touch on what’s important to the recipient, and instead you told them you’re easy to work with (which is important to them).
You also showed some personality and “fun factor” with the whole Kick Ass thing.
Let’s stay with the wedding band scenario for a moment
What else might be important to a couple that’s about to be married?
Well, they want to make the “right” choice for music, right? Something like “The right Jazz Quartet for your event” almost guarantees an open.
That its not too loud? “Wedding band that doesn’t piss off Grandma”
That they can afford it? “Perfect (and affordable) music for your wedding”
I’m just making stuff up here, obviously, but you get the point.
Feature what’s in it for them, and more of your emails will get opened.
Marketing copywriters routinely talk about budgeting 50% of their time for composing the email and saving the other 50% to create a great subject line.
It is that important.
So do a little brainstorming before your next email campaign (or even your next “one-off” to someone), and it should pay off for you too.
If you’re sending a mass email to enough people, try split-testing two or three subject lines to a random 20% of the list, and whichever one gets the most opens can then be sent to the remaining 80%. (This too is easy to accomplish through your email marketing software.)
And if you’d like to go “pro” with your email marketing, have a look at the How to Book Gigs Through Email Marketing webinar.
Have you tried a variation on any of these? Let me know some of your favorites in the “Comments” section below.
About The Blog
Since leaving a white-collar marketing job in 1992, Dave Ruch has been educating and entertaining full-time in schools, historical societies and museums, folk music and concert venues, libraries, and online via distance learning programs.
Along the way, he’s learned a great deal about supporting a family of four as a musician.
The Educate and Entertain blog provides articles, tips, encouragements, and how-to’s for regional performers (in any region) interested in making a great full-time living in the arts.