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Cerebral Tips for Smarter Subject Lines

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At this stage in the game, just about everyone understands how important email subject lines are. It’s a first impression, a 5-10 word plea to click. Every day, your audience’s attention is being stretched further, as to-do lists grow and email inboxes continually fill. That leaves your company’s humble email offering teetering precariously, one delete button click away from never being read.

But how do you break through the clutter? Savvy marketers are leveraging human nature and learnings from the field of psychology to gain an upper hand in the war for attention being waged in inboxes everywhere. Here are a few email subject line best practices that even Freud and Pavlov would approve of, adapted from a very good Market Profs online seminar by Nancy Harhut:

According to research by Worldata, establishing a sense of urgency in a subject line results in an open rate increase of 26 – 38% above average. The reason for such a boost in effectiveness is a key facet of human nature: Exclusivity is appealing.  No doubt you’ve heard of the Scarcity Principle, which at its core speaks to the fact that the human mind highly values resources that are limited in nature.  A sense of urgency, or the threat of “missing out”, can effectively prompt your audience to click.

Eye Candy
When we read, we skim and scan. And as you can imagine, psychologically there are certain words that attract our attention more than others, like the ones mentioned in this article. Many of those eye-catching words pertain to “news” – with a few of the most proven attention-grabbers being “announcing,” “finally,” “introducing,” “new,” “now” and “soon.” These words are so arresting because people’s brains are hardwired to notice the new and novel, according to a number of brain-scan studies. In fact, when it discovers something new, the brain releases dopamine as a reward. So, reward the minds of your readers with news of your product offering.

Heads Up
According to a report by Adestra, which uncovered trends of subject lines from over 2.2 billion emails, subject lines containing the word “alert” see an open rate 38.1% higher than average. That’s because the word “alert” triggers a perceived threat of danger or pain in the reader’s mind, while simultaneously offering a way to avoid said danger. Humans are naturally geared to move towards safety and away from pain/danger, meaning this defense mechanism causes readers to be drawn to learn more.

Want to Hear a Secret?
Worldata research has also shown that including the word “secret” in a subject line results in a 17% rise in open rates above the average. Although it might seem counter-intuitive, multiple studies by social psychologists have shown that people find information that isn’t readily available more believable. People want to believe there’s a secret to success (whatever success may be for that individual) – so leverage an “insider” angle as a way to draw your audience in.

You don’t have to be a psychoanalyst to see the potential to improve your subject lines – and the possibilities for boosting open rates are almost good enough to make your mouth water.

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