One of the most basic tenets in copywriting is that your headline is the most important part of your ad. That’s why professional copywriters put as much as 10 times the effort into writing their headlines as they do any other part of their ad.
Well, it’s no different when you’re writing an email. If you think of it in terms of sales copy, the “headline” of your email has three key elements:
1. Your name
2. Your subject line
3. Your opening sentence
Let’s take a look at each of these elements one by one and see what part they play.
Key Element #1: Your Name
Contrary to popular belief, your subject line is not the most important part of your email. The most important part of your email is the name your prospect sees on the “From” line.
Think of it this way…
If you get an email from your best friend, it doesn’t matter how many emails are in your inbox… it doesn’t matter what the subject line is… you’re going to open it!
So the absolute best way to cut through the clutter is your relationship with your prospect; being a trusted person and a trusted brand. Not a brand in the way that Apple is a brand, but a brand in a way that they view your name as someone that is going to add value to their life.
Your ultimate goal should be to get your prospect to instantly recognize your name and want to open your email. That’s the best way to stand out in a crowded inbox.
If they see your name and they get warm feelings (they feel like they know you… they feel like they have a relationship with you… they feel like you bring value to them), then it almost doesn’t matter what the subject line is. Your email is going to get opened!
Key Element #2: Your Subject Line
A subject line (like a headline) has many purposes, but it really only has one primary purpose.
In a sales letter, the purpose of your headline is to stop your prospect in their tracks and sell them on reading your opening paragraph. The purpose of your opening paragraph is to sell them on reading the next paragraph. And so on, ad infinitum.
In your email, the purpose of your subject line is to get your prospect to open your email and read the first paragraph. Your first paragraph must sell them on reading the next paragraph, and so on.
So the reality is, writing a winning subject line is no different than writing a winning headline. The exact same principles apply.
There is, however, one very important additional consideration when it comes to writing a subject line.
A prospect who visits your ad or sales letter may not know you at all. You may be a complete stranger to them. Your prospects inbox, on the other hand, is far more personal to them. A prospect who gets your email already knows you, has given you permission to send messages to them, and (if you’ve added value to your “relationship” with them) already likes and trusts you.
That said, the most powerful way to get your email to stand out in a crowded inbox is to come into their inbox looking like something that’s personal to them. Something that’s written to them like a friend would write to them. Most of the time, that’s what you want to go for.
Key Element #3: Your Opening Sentence
With a number of email providers (such as Gmail), the first few words of the opening sentence of your email are visible in your prospects inbox on the preview line. So they don’t even have to open your email to get an idea of what it’s all about.
In that vein, it’s important to think of the opening sentence of your email as an extension of your headline. Simply stated, the last thing you want to do here is something something boring or trite.
If you’ve infused your subject line with something that stirs up curiosity, then continue to build on that curiosity throughout the opening sentence. If you’ve made a bold statement in the subject line, don’t reveal the details until well into your first or second paragraph.
In short, force them to open your email to get all the dirt!
There is a battle raging in your prospects inbox each and every day, and that battle is to get your emails opened. Just because you have 10,000 prospects on your list doesn’t mean that 10,000 prospects are going to read your email.
The harsh reality is, for most email publishers, the majority of your subscribers will never open your email.
That’s why your biggest asset in email marketing is your relationship with your prospect. Once you start to build that relationship, once you start to build value, once they start to feel like they know you… then when they see your name, they’re going to open your email up and they’re going to take action.
The biggest mistake you can make is not building that relationship with your subscribers.
The Jeff Walker Team
P.S. The best way to quickly build that relationship with your readers is to write like you’re a real, living, breathing human being… and show that you understand that your reader is the same. On the other hand, the kiss of death in the online world is to write with that dreaded “corporate voice”. No one wants to read an email from a corporation.
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