Writing Email Subject Lines That CFOs Actually Open 

November 25, 2020

People judge emails by their subject lines. 

While an email is a chance to send compelling and valuable information to your customers, it's important to write subject lines that are fascinating enough for people to click through.

CFOs are no different from the average person. In fact, many of today’s buyers, including C-suite executives, spend more time using messaging as  part of the purchasing process. 

Studies show that at least 47% of marketers test different email subject lines to optimize their emails' performance. It may look like an insignificant component of your message but a great subject line is your ticket to boost your customer's curiosity, especially in a crowded inbox.

Naysayers from 2004 who believed emails will be on the decline at the start of a new decade were clearly wrong in their prediction. Emails are still alive and kicking in 2020 and are greatly being taken advantage of by marketing and sales teams at different organizations.

So how do you get your email to be too good to ignore? It all begins with a great subject line. Regardless of your goals, these are the elements your subject line should possess:

1. Urgency

There's a difference between straightforward infomercials and communicating urgency that genuinely calls for immediate action. The former is a no-brainer and you wouldn't want to use that kind of language in your content. 

When writing the subject line, it's best to have a well-defined buyer persona you can talk about your product or service to. Of course, this has to be done in an eloquent, strategic, and time-sensitive fashion–meaning, you shouldn't have to give everything away for just one click.

2. Attention-grabbing

Most email marketing subject lines work due to its sense of mystery. It piques the recipient's natural interest because it implies you have information that they don't or have forgotten. When you add two or three curiosity levers in your subject line, the higher the chances are of your open rate. 

As long as it's enigmatic but still aligns with your brand, you're good to go. For instance, too obscure, hipster-sounding copies are often seen as spam.

Here are some examples of curiosity-laden subject lines you can get inspiration from, according to Wordstream:

  • Your Marketing Sucks: Why You Need to Think Local
  • Today Only! Big Savings on 2 Singer Sewing Machines
  • Why Your 5-Year-Old is More Digital Than Most CMOs

3. Brevity

Keep it short and sweet. Subject lines can't go on forever–even more so on mobile devices where layout dimensions greatly affect open rates. 

While it may be tempting to include everything in the subject line, the recommended character limit is 65 characters. So make every word count by opting for short and concise sentences.

4. Relevance and Timeliness

Connecting to your audience through giving insider information is a great way to establish authority within your area of expertise. Incorporating trending topics, in-depth knowledge of what they already know, or the latest headlines is what gets them to open an email.

Likewise, you can take some advice from direct response marketer Gary Halbert: 

“What I’m doing here is taking the reader by the hand and leading him where I want him to go.”

To get it right in such a small space, your subject line should at least target the reader’s pain points that you can benefit from. For example:

The COVID-19 situation is a widespread phenomenon right now where people all over the world struggle with. With the impact it caused on all aspects of our society, any topic under the sun can be written down in a pandemic standpoint. 

While many companies email blast their customers and prospects on pressing concerns like getting work done and mental health, the screenshot above chose to be light and positive to alleviate the reader’s pain point. 

Plus, an offer was also introduced with a visual media they can consume–further prompting the reader to open the email to find out.

5. Offers 

At risk of sounding like a broken record, another where curiosity comes into play is a cool story bundled with a subtle ad placement. People love new things and experiences, especially when it’s free. 

But at the very least, you’ll be surprised at how many are willing to pay upfront as soon as they see the word “discount”. So open with that in your subject line. 

It’s guaranteed that people are inclined to open their newsletters when there’s an offer directly sent in their inbox.

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