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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 the email campaign for your next event to perfection—the message so full of what’s to be gained by attendees that they can’t help but click over to your registration site. However, your message is only as effective as your email's subject line—if it doesn’t compel them to open that email, your message is 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 time-sensitive items and offers. Subject lines that call to potential attendees’ fear of missing out are especially potent—not just early-bird specials or other discounts but also event sessions that are limited in size. While everyone likes a good deal, though, it can go too far. 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 Fernandez 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 our company's 2018 Pharma Forum: "Competitive Advantage—Are You Keeping Up?"

4. Promise to make their life easier. While your potential attendees aren’t lazy, they naturally would love a good shortcut. Some sample subject lines Fernandez gives as examples are “Steal these email templates…” (Digital Marketer) and “63-Point Checklist for Creating the Ultimate Opt-in Form” (OptinMonster). The best solutions speak directly to their pain points: Based on your conference content, what type of cheat sheet can you offer 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 could use 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 a bit presumptuous or creepy.

6. Don’t be afraid that you might be boring. Sometimes, a straightforward subject line is your best bet, especially in difficult times like the present. “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 that “the key to making your campaign work for your target list is to consistently provide value in every email. Don’t ever send an email unless you have something important to say; always make sure your campaign is packed with value. If you do this, you’ll train your subscribers to open your emails even without a clever subject line.”

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