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October 5, 2011

How to Create Bolder, Jazzier, More Intriguing B-to-B Email Subject Lines

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Many of my b-to-b clients feel stuck in the mud when it comes to gaining the attention of their email subscribers. They use the same very limited number of techniques, strategies and angles time and time again. They realize recipients on their lists probably feel uninterested in hearing from them, which is but one step short of losing them when they unsubscribe.

If this describes you, try these bolder approaches that arouse curiosity, freshen up your emails and improve both open rates and response – without getting downright silly or harming your business image. Along with each idea, I’ve provided an example illustrating how you might put it to work.

1. Ask a surprising or provocative question.
Whoever Heard of a 78% Response to a One-Paragraph Email Blast?

2. Highlight an emotion.
Take Command of Your Meeting Expenses.

3. Refer to current events.
Avoid Going Into a Business Slump From Severe Weather.

4. Issue a challenge.
Would Your Top Salesperson Pass the Gorgonzola Test?

5. Use a line of dialogue.
Pssst, Your Customer Database Is Full of Holes.

6. Provide a specific number (or two).
Ten Reasons Why 51,794 Government Employees Trust Us.

7. Confess something.
Most People Don’t Realize That We Used to…

8. Present a quiz.
Take the Disaster Resilience Quiz.

9. Highlight case study results.

How Cassingham Coffee Won Five New Contract Bids Last Month.

10. Quote a client.
“Tasty. Tempting. Tropical. Tidy.”

11. Say what the reader is probably thinking.
Why Won’t They Just Tell Me What’s What!

12. Guarantee something.
Tougher Exteriors – Guaranteed.

13. Relate to social trends.
Cut Your Carbon Emissions in Half.

14. Promise to alleviate a hassle.
The End of Credit Crises.

15. Compare before to after.
Before: 17.5 Compliance Failures. After: None.

16. Name the exact type of person you’re targeting.
For the Supervisor Who Hates Annual Performance Review Time.

17. Create suspense.
What Will Happen to Your Expense Account With Fareware?

18. Evoke imagination.
Imagine Every Lead Turning Into Revenue.

19. Use un-businesslike language.

Computerwise, They’re Casing Your Joint.

20. Make a vivid comparison.
Some Days Your To-do List Feels Like Grand Failure Station.

21. Tell a story.
Last Year, Disaster Loomed Three Days Before Christmas.

Want to turn the hunt for livelier subject lines into group fun? Order lunch for everyone in the conference room, divide into teams and see which bunch can create the largest number of subject lines using the list above. Offer a prize for the most ridiculous and the most promising ideas. Then collect all the suggestions and separate them into usable and not usable. Have another lunch meeting to turn the seemingly unpromising ideas into better, more appropriate ideas. Sometimes that prize-winner of a ridiculous idea ends up triggering a brilliant marketing campaign!

Remember, the goal is to surprise and interest the customer who is wearily going through their in-box. What you’ll probably find is that your effort to excite that email recipient ends up re-energizing you about the delights of what you sell.


Veteran copywriter and marketing consultant Marcia Yudkin is the author of Persuading on Paper, Meatier Marketing Copy and 13 other books. Besides mentoring marketing departments in copywriting skills, she runs a one-on-one mentoring program that trains copywriters and marketing consultants in 10 weeks. Participants learn no-hype marketing writing skills and business savvy. For more information, go to http://www.yudkin.com/become.htm

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