Why you should hijack boring, administrative subject lines

November 29, 2013 | By | Reply More

As a copywriter, you likely spend a ton of your time trying to come up with new and original subject lines to grab attention.

You've got mail... and er, a heron!

You’ve got mail… and er, a heron!

It’s hard work, right?

So let me ask you…

Should you even bother?

Especially when there’s a way you can hijack existing subject lines – that are otherwise considered boring – and use them to far outperform anything original you might think up.

Hmmm – that sounds interesting.

And get this:

I’ve tested this on a number of occasions, to a responsive email list of over 65,000 opted-in subscribers and each time this technique topped the stats for open rates.

Plus, just so you know this isn’t about getting the open and then losing attention immediately, or causing a spam issue…

Each time I’ve tested it, the click through rate (CTR) has been above average too.

So, if you’re writing email copy and need a new subject line…

This should now sound VERY interesting.

A brief disclaimer about subject lines

Before I explain how you can use this particular type of ‘boring’ subject line to increase your open rate whilst maintaining a decent CTR, let me just point out something fundamental about subject lines.

It’s this:

You must always mix things up.

Though this technique will see you hit some really high opens, if you do it on every single send, your readers will begin to recognise what you’re doing and dismiss you.

There are no hard and fast rules about subject lines (apart from mixing it up) – there are just smart ways you can make certain lines stand out above the rest.

Still, as I say, this technique has worked each time I’ve used it (sparingly, of course) and I do recommend you think about how you can use a similar approach, adapting it for your copy accordingly.

Why you always open certain subject lines

Now…

What I’m suggesting here seems to go against natural thought – why would you hijack a boring subject line that is used all the time?

Surely if people are used to seeing it, they won’t open it?

In fact, you just bloody said that, Glenn. What the Fraggle are you talking about here?

Well, there are SOME boring and essentially administrative subject lines that you almost always open; no matter how many times you see them.

For example, how often do you open emails titled:

Your Order from Amazon.co.uk

Or, maybe:

Glenn, you have a Facebook notification pending

Or, even:

Glenn Fisher (@allgoodcopy) is now following you on Twitter!

Let me tell you… you open them much more than you realise.

Sure, you tend to delete or file them away pretty quickly too – and with this technique the window to maintain someone’s attention here is very short…

But as the CTRs in my testing prove: it is possible.

Yes, using administrative subject lines like this works a treat for increasing the open rate of your emails.

Fair play though, I can already hear you thinking: er, how the hell am I going to lead on into my regular email by referencing a shipment notice from Amazon in my subject line?

*exhales*

To be honest, you’re going to need to figure that one out for yourself depending on what the business you’re writing copy for is all about.

But I defy anyone who thinks they have content that cannot be topped with a subject line that utilises this technique in some way.

In fact, though I’ll probably eat my hat on this, please do pop an impossible suggestion in the comments if you think you have one.

Seriously, though. It just takes a little clever thinking.

For the Amazon one, I was writing for a guide to second-hand selling on Amazon and began the email itself by explaining I was tired of seeing said subject line because it meant I’d spent even more money with them. I then went on to offer a way to actually make some money using Amazon.

With the Facebook notification one – simple – I used that when the business I was writing for was contacting its customers about setting up a Facebook page.

Don’t try to force it: this technique is really ‘an option’.

It’s one of those ideas that you just need to have floating around and then when the right moment crops up (and I’m sure it will) you can smack this into action and BANG…

You’ll see your open rate fly up high.

Really, it works wonders.

So, when you see all those other subject lines in your inbox today trying to find an original way to reference ‘Black Friday’…

Remember that the subject lines getting the highest opens are actually the boring admin ones that couldn’t give two hoots what colour Friday it is.

Best,
Glenn

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Category: Technicals

About the Author ()

Glenn Fisher is a professional copywriter, founder of AllGoodCopy.com and author of Write Better Copy. He is an expert in long copy sales letters, having written copy that has so far generated more than £10 million in revenue. Born in Grimsby, he now lives in London.

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