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Ahhh, The Elusive Email Subject Line

February 17th, 2017 COMMENTS

effective email marketing subject lines

Anyone who writes marketing or sales emails sweats over subject lines. Admittedly, I’ve read quite a few articles from experts, each with kernels of wisdom. Yesterday, I read a great one from Tina Brown at Warp Corp, a builder and printer of tension fabric structures in Seattle. Tina brought it all together in a tidy, well-written package. So, I’m sharing.

5 Tricks to Mastering the Elusive Subject Line

Guest Post: Tina Brown, Warp Corp

Just when you thought you wrote something brilliant, you find that your open rates are less than impressive. How could writing 5-7 words be so hard? You used to write 2,000-word papers in college. You can form a sentence in your sleep. No really, you’re a sleep talker.

E-mail marketing The truth is that subject lines are the doorway into your email campaigns. If that doorway isn’t enticing, no one will go on to click your emails, let alone buy your products. In fact, Convince and Convert reports that 33% of email recipients open email based on subject line alone. Even more challenging, your readers are inundated each and every day by a tidal wave of other emails vying for their attention. So how do you write email subject lines that cut through the noise?

Let me first reveal that subject lines are everywhere—on billboards, in songs and commercials, magazines, news articles, and even everyday conversations. To create your own, all it takes is knowing how to shape it, and the inspiration will start flooding in.

I’ve spent the last three years working in demand generation with one major goal in mind: crack the code on writing the perfect subject line. After hundreds, if not thousands, of subject lines tests, I have boiled it down to these five tips to improve your subject lines and increase your open rates:

1. Front-Load the Important Words

You know that one friend who’s horrible at telling stories? You know, where 15 minutes into telling their story, you begin thinking “Where is this even going? Are we ever going to hear the good part?” And by the time they finally get to the good part, you’ve already checked out. Yeah, some subject lines are just like that—don’t let it be yours.

People want to know why your email is more important than the thousands of others in their inbox, so put all the important, actionable words in the front of your subject line to entice opens. In other words, get to the point! In my experience, changing the structure of the sentence line to front-load the important keywords has increased open rates by 10-20%.

2. Ask a Question

Effective Email Subject Lines

I’ve been told several times that the most well-liked person in the room is the one who does nothing but asks folks questions, showing genuine interest in their lives and saying very little about their own. Why? Because people love to talk about themselves and their interests. Ask your subscribers questions and it’ll not only pique their curiosity, but they’ll respond positively by opening more of your emails. For example, imagine you’re sending out a new ebook on “The Holy Grail to Higher Revenue.” In your subject line, instead of just repeating the title, you could write “Looking for the Holy Grail to higher revenue? We have it!”

3. Use Numbers

People love numbers and lists. They’re easy to read, help us make sense of more complex concepts by breaking it into smaller parts, and let us know exactly what to expect (e.g. 5 Things Your Subject Lines Are Missing). The New Yorker even published a piece on “A List of Reasons Why Our Brains Love Lists,” which goes into this in depth. Numbers can also be used to create a sense of urgency or emphasize a discount.

4. Get Personal

There’s usually at least one person in every office who can’t seem to remember anyone’s first name. Mike is Matt, Joe is John, and Stacy is Stephanie. They might try to get around it by using nicknames like sport, bud, pal, dude, man, bro, and fella. For the record, no one likes that, especially not your email subscribers.

Address your subscribers by their name or insert pronouns like “you” or “your” to give your subject lines a personalized touch. According to Experian, emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened (although it varies by industry), yet 70% of brands are not personalizing emails sent to subscribers. That’s a huge opportunity for your brand to stand out!

5. Use Rhymes, Alliteration, and Puns

This might seem weird, but I have always seen subject lines that use rhymes, alliteration, or puns do really well. Have you ever read a word or name over and over again until it either sounds weird or gets funnier each time? My word is “hullabaloo,” which means a great noise or excitement. Or have you ever read a subject line that was so clever it deserved to be opened?

If you can write a subject line that rolls off the tongue, you will get a higher open rate. It’s like music to the ears! It’s not easy to come up with these but when you do, they will perform exceedingly well. In fact, I’ve seen extraordinary subject line performance where I’ve beaten the control by 30-40%! For some inspiration, just take a look at some of the session names from SXSW. Some of my favorites from previous years? “Social Music Marketing: Bands, Brands and Fans” and “An Unusual Arsenal: Tech Tools to Topple a Tyrant.”

That’s it! 5 tips to improve your subject lines and get your emails opened. I hope that these tips inspire you to get out there and write subject lines like no one has ever seen before. Remember, subject lines exist everywhere. All you have to do is keep your eyes and ears open.


My sincere thanks to Tina for allowing Classic Exhibits to share this in the Trade Show Tales blog. Please let her know if you enjoyed her post.

–Mel White



Trade Show Tips to the Beat of the 2010s

August 15th, 2016 1 COMMENT


The Keys to a Successful Trade Show:  The Follow-Up

Advicertainment by M. Christine Delea

The two biggest mistakes regarding trade shows? People not planning ahead of time, and people not following up once they get home. Some people claim trade shows aren’t worth the cost — but if you don’t continue the relationships you start at shows, you haven’t fulfilled the potential of the show. No wonder some people get so stressed out.

Your Lips are Moving

lipsSo open your email, pull out your phone, and say hello to those people you met a few days ago. No hard sell, just a friendly greeting. Get your lips moving and connect with potential customers — remind them who you are. Send an actual handwritten note to loyal customers. I’m not the only one who will tell you that leaving a blank space is a huge mistake. Nothing fancy is necessary. Just get ahead of the wave, and you will stand out.

The fact that business tools are changing is one of the few rules of business that doesn’t change. Use every aspect of technology at your disposal to show off how incredible you were at the trade show and to reconnect with people who attended as well as those who did not (those who had to stay home can get some cheap thrills vicariously, as well as learn from your great photos and notes).  As usual, all of your business correspondence should have as its underlying principle: I would do anything for you.


Act as if there is a countdown clock for the ideas and inspiration you learned at the trade show, and share those as soon as possible with colleagues who weren’t there. Tell them everything at once if need be. Shared ideas can spur more innovations, and you need to look ahead to the next trade show.

And speaking of those colleagues, be sure you thank and congratulate all those who made the trade show so successful. It’s not tacky to let folks know that you really like them. Everyone likes to be appreciated.

Make your trade shows pay off. Follow up and follow through once you get home. You can be the Queen or the King of trade shows if you keep up with others after the show is over. Your customers will appreciate you remembering them.

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Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or



Trade Show Tips to the Beat of the 2000s

August 9th, 2016 COMMENTS


The Keys to a Successful Trade Show:  Packing Up to Leave

Advicertainment by M. Christine Delea

It’s exhilarating and tiring, and by the end of the trade show, you are ready to escape. Your own bed, your family, your car, your pets, your routine — everything you want is at home. But before you take off, be sure to wrap things up right. Check all the small things before heading out.

Look over your lead notes. Expand on anything you might forget after a few days go by. If I told you that you will not recall which product Lorraine Mastellone wanted and all the things she said, or that you won’t be able to decipher a phone number you wrote down, would you believe me? You should, because no one has an infallible memory.


AvrilCatch as many folks as you can during those last few hours at the show or after it is over. Tell new associates how much you have enjoyed meeting them and that you look forward to working with them. Make plans to talk soon with those people, but don’t make things complicated. Even a quick wave and an enthusiastic “Hey, ya!” in the hotel lobby will make a great lasting impression.

Sorry to Mom out on you, but remember to pack carefully (I know you are exhausted and rushing to catch a plane). It’s no fun to get home and see a stain on your suitcase from a bottle of mouthwash that wasn’t closed completely or a cracked bottle of wine you bought for your dog-sitter. Take the time to pack right, and you won’t have to worry about a thing.

It’s a Beautiful Day

U2Did someone at the hotel, the show venue, the caterers, or the coffee kiosk help you be your best? Be sure to tell them thank you and wish them a beautiful day.

In case you don’t already know this, you should be leaving a tip for the hotel maid each morning, rather than all at once as you leave the hotel. The reason? Different maids will be assigned to your room on different days. Be sure to make it obvious that the money you leave is for the maid (a short note is fine).

Here I go again with the Mom thing, but double-check the bathroom, all the drawers, the closet, and under furniture before you leave your room for good.

Bye Bye Bye

And if your trade show is one of the big ones and you find yourself waking up in Vegas, be sure to escape without cleaning out your bank account. Okay, now you can leave. Bye Bye Bye.

Be sure to do a happy dance when you close the big deal. You deserve it.

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Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or


Trade Show Tips to the Beat of the 1990s

August 2nd, 2016 COMMENTS


The Keys to a Successful Trade Show:  Staying Fit

Advicertainment by M. Christine Delea

As a smart marketer, you attend as many trade shows as you can, all while managing the day-to-day operations of your business. Eventually, you may feel as if you’ve been everywhere. You may question if another one is worth it.

Remember that your team worked hard to prepare for this trade show. You ended up on imaginative roads that regular workdays often don’t inspire. The pressure of a looming trade show got your office brainstorming on that wonder wall board more intensely than you have in months. Give me one reason why you would let all of that hard work be for naught.

Resolve to be your best, which means staying healthy at the show. That recirculated air is working against you, but you can beat it. This is how we do it.

No Scrubs

TLCIf you are not washing your hands regularly, break from the old routine and become a little OCD about your hands. Wash throughout the day with regular soap for as long as it takes you to sing the Alphabet Song in your head as you scrub.

Get up early every morning and stretch for a few minutes. Take a few deep breaths (good exercise for your lungs) and resolve to swim in the hotel pool before you go to the show, stroll around the grounds after lunch, and/or get to the workout room where you are staying before you go to sleep. Don’t linger after meals. Skip dessert and take the stairs up to the social event you need to attend.

So Smooth

SantanasmoothCarry your water bottle everywhere. Stick with fresh foods as much as possible — salads and fruit/cheese/nut plates will keep you full and energized. Need to indulge? Try a smoothie with a boost of Vitamin C.

Get enough sleep. This will help you stay physically fit as well as mentally sharp. When a colleague calls your room at midnight to ask you to join the fun at the bar, (politely) say that you ain’t going nowhere and go back to sleep. You can always call them at 6:00 am and see if they want to join you for a swim!

On that last night, click up your heels and have a little fun dancing to the hits of the 1990’s. It’s hammer time!


Posts in the Series:


Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or


Trade Show Tips to the Beat of the 1980s

July 27th, 2016 1 COMMENT


The Keys to a Successful Trade Show:  Handling Mistakes

Advicertainment by M. Christine Delea

What do customers want? It’s not complicated. They expect you’ll be good to them. How you respond makes all the difference, and saying and showing them that I’ll be good to you sets the right tone. However, even when you are paying attention and putting customers first, unexpected things can and will happen. Being human means that mistakes happen.

How we handle our mistakes is what sets us apart from our competitors. Admitting that your customer is correct — it’s a mistake, you take responsibility, and “Where is my mind?“— will go a long way toward repairing the situation.

Straight Up

StraightUpClear communication will be remembered more than the original mistake if it is sincere and straight up. And what goes around comes around, so it benefits your karma to treat others well when they stumble.

At the trade show, when a coffee clerk messes up your order, put it in perspective. When you are stepping out of the elevator and a distracted child spills juice on you, give that kid your sweetest smile. It’s all about attitude.

  • When your colleague steps on your foot,
  • When you realize someone at the office packed the wrong cards,
  • When the cab driver goes to the wrong address,
  • When the venue lists your meeting in the Abracadabra Room instead of the Magic Room…

Keep the faith and remember that things can only get better.

Salt In Your Tears

M_BrileyNo one wants to deal with a loud, belligerent, angry jerk — and that is why they sometimes get what they want, because a reasonable person just wants to get rid of them. However, those people also get spit in their soup, lost spa reservations, and no vacancies for next year’s trade show. The calm, pleasant person is more likely to get problems solved, and can eat their meals worry-free. That’s a good thing.

Sometimes it snows in April. Sometimes a butterfly in Costa Rica flaps its wings and your luggage ends up in Allentown instead of Georgetown, the location of your convention. That’s life. Accept the fact that mistakes happen, and it’s best to deal with them pleasantly. You’ll feel better about yourself if you own your mistakes and forgive those of others. And the jerk with the red face and the gross soup? Let him blunder his way to high blood pressure. He’s not worth the salt in your tears.

With accountability and a forgiving attitude, you can be a Zen master at the next trade show. Who knows, you may even be asked to come dancing to some Classic 1980s tunes. It’s all part of the positive karma of participating in a trade show.

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Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or