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6 Ways to Craft Subject Lines that Work

Your event’s email marketing campaign may be brilliant—but if no one opens it, it will fail.

You have honed your email event marketing campaign to perfection, so full of what’s in it for them to attend that they can’t help but click over to your registration site. But your message is only as good as your subject line—if it doesn’t compel them to open the email, your message is forever lost to the trash folder.

In an article on the Conversion Rate Optimization Blog, OptinMonster’s Mary Fernandez outlined several types of subject lines that will move your prospects from “delete” to “open.” Here are six that are especially relevant to event marketers:

1. Mention early-bird specials and other discount offers. Time-sensitive subject lines that call to potential attendees’ fear of missing out, or FOMO, are especially potent. While everyone likes a good deal, it can go too far, she warned. If you make the deal too good to believe, they won’t, and your click-through rates could actually decrease.

2. Pique their curiosity. Ask a question, or make an open-ended cliffhanger statement that will make them want to click through to learn more. A couple of examples she gives include “What They Eat in Prison” (Thrillist) and “Last Day to See What This Mystery Email Is About” (Grubhub).

3. Appeal to their ego. This can go two ways: Either promise them something that’ll make them look better to their boss, or make them worry that if they don’t open it, they will fall behind everyone else. One we used for the Pharma Forum this year: "Competitive Advantage—Are You Keeping Up?"

4. Promise to make their life easier. While your potential attendees aren’t lazy, they, like everyone else, would love a good shortcut. Some sample subject lines she gives to exemplify this are “Steal these email templates…” (Digital Marketer) and “63-Point Checklist for Creating the Ultimate Opt-in Form” (OtpinMonster). The best solutions speak directly to their pain points: What cheat-sheet based on your conference content can you use to lure them in?

5. Get personal. Fernandez cites a 2015 Experian Marketing Services study that found email subject lines personalized by name increased open rates by 29.3 percent across industries. In addition to or instead of including the person’s name in the subject line, you also can use familiar, casual, friendly language to make it sound more like a personal invitation than a blanket marketing campaign. Again, you have to be careful—if you take this too far, you may end up sounding obnoxious, possibly even creepy.

6. Don’t be afraid to be boring. Sometimes, a straightforward subject line is going to be your best bet. “When in doubt, make your subject line simple and straightforward,” she says. “Contrary to what you might think, these ‘boring’ subject lines can actually convert really well.”

Ultimately, Fernandez says, “The key to making this work for your list is to consistently provide value in all of your emails. Don’t ever send an email unless you have something important to say: Always make sure your campaigns are packed with value. If you do this, you’ll train your subscribers to open your emails no matter what the subject line says.”

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