Lazy copy - subject lines

13 replies
As a senior copywriter, I have to say I'm surprised at how many emails I get with such lazy subject lines. OK, not everyone's a copywriter, but it's only one line - most of us should be able to make it count. And yet...

Once you've been on a dozen lists, (doesn't take long!) you get wise to these ones: 'Confirmed, free download', 'Account activated', 'Payment received' etc.

What happened to intrigue, individuality?

And if it's a 'free download', tell us what it's for. There comes a time when yet another free gift becomes a bit meaningless of itself. Remember, your 'open rate' lives or dies by your subject line, until you become Frank Kern or Michael Jones...
#copy #email marketing #lazy #lines #subject
  • Profile picture of the author IndigoJack
    Subject Lines are a topic I've raised on another thread from the perspective of someone who seems to write rubbish ones!

    The Subject Line content will make the recipient either open the mail or ignore and later delete it. It's REALLY important to get it right. That one line is the difference between success & failure.

    I've tried witty, straight to the point and using a question - with equal opening stats (poor).

    I haven't tried "Open The Damn Mail!"..yet.

    Anyway, any tips on what to do?
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  • Profile picture of the author Jay White
    No kidding. The more emails I get, the less I'm inclined to open them. And when I do, I'm usually disappointed.

    One thing that's always helped me (and my students) is to not start with a subject line. Write the email first, then pull the subject line from the copy. Chances are, if you've written a halfway decent email, you'll have a line or a phrase that almost jumps off the page when you read it. A lot of you will know what I mean...it could be funny or controversial or maybe even a good quote. At any rate, it sticks out from the rest of the copy. THAT's the type of thing you want to pull out and slap into the subject line. Because if it jumps off the page when you read it, there's a good chance it will jump off the page when it's sitting in the inbox with all the rest of the emails.

    The more intriguing, the better.
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    • Profile picture of the author Jason Fladlien
      Jay that's EXACTLY what I do - write the subject line LAST instead of first.

      My best open rates come from news/timely event style headlines more than big benefit headlines and "marketing" headlines.

      For exmaple this one worked great...

      subject: watch me piss a bunch of people off...

      For my list. It implies something TIMELY is happening, and also inviting controversy.

      another one that wroked.

      subject: Am I being too harsh?

      again, it implies something timely is happening.
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  • Profile picture of the author Scott Murdaugh
    Ben Settle is another good guy to watch for subject lines.

    I'll admit I've been inspired by his emails. A few that come to mind...

    "Brilliant Copy Won't Sell A Turd"

    "When Life Flips You The Bird"

    "Customers I Hate Selling To"

    He's got hundreds of great ones. And because of those subject lines and the quality of his emails he quickly became a guy I open and read daily.

    -Scott
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    • Profile picture of the author marciayudkin
      As a senior copywriter, I have to say I'm surprised at how many emails I get with such lazy subject lines.
      I agree with you!

      Just don't name names here - people get up in arms at anyone with a good reputation in copywriting circles being accused of laziness - even when the evidence is right there in the blah subject lines.

      Marcia Yudkin
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  • Profile picture of the author jedediahd
    I agree, it becomes quite annoying to see the same ones used over and over. I feel like the Payment Received type ones have to be bordering on illegal.
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  • Profile picture of the author willster74
    Man I detest those "Confirmed - Free Download" type emails, partly because so many people do it all the time now it's just flat out tired IMO.

    I find weird type of subject lines - ones out of the norm can be good as well as mixing up different types of subjects will help as well.

    As an aside I keep a swipe file of emails from certain marketers - Jason Fladlien is there as I think he's a great marketer and teacher, but I also keep a swipe of Tellman Knudson as I think he's a great subject line writer.

    Best,
    Dave.
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  • Profile picture of the author cparizo
    I liken the subject line to an article's headline (my old journalism habits die hard.) If the headline doesn't draw in the reader, it's not worth using. Subject lines should be the same way: get the recipient to open the email. If it's a lazy subject, I end up deleting it. I don't need another "Special Offer for You."
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    • Profile picture of the author SDenham
      So I'm reminded of one of my all time favorites, Ben Settle. I used to be on his mailing list. Thanks for bringing up his name, I've been struggling with copy lately, I'm sure it will help to get back to the ones I admire.
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  • Profile picture of the author Dean Jackson
    These guys are complete idiots. As if wasting peoples time would earn trust, let alone have people buy stuff from you.

    I hit the unsub button pretty fast these days. I also do this to folks who think we're stupid enough to believe they just sent a "wrong link" to 50000+ people.
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  • Profile picture of the author natorob
    Think about the amount of time you spend deleting emails with garbage subject lines. But then think about the ones that actually made you stop and open....

    One of the main reasons I am on so many email lists is because I want to see who is actually using their list; and who is sending out the latest big product launch email with the exact same subject line.

    There are some good subject lines that really slap you in the face... I set up a swipe file for the good ones and modify them for my own use.
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    • Profile picture of the author Tina Golden
      Originally Posted by IndigoJack View Post

      I've tried witty, straight to the point and using a question - with equal opening stats (poor).

      Anyway, any tips on what to do?
      Are you sure you're getting poor open stats? I thought my open rates were dismal until I actually brought it up in one of my mastermind groups. Turns out, I have pretty good open rates (normally between 20-30%) compared to a lot of people.

      As I was reminded, most of our lists are getting gobs of email every day. They don't have time to open them all anymore so inevitably many just get deleted without even looking at them.

      Originally Posted by Dean Jackson View Post

      I also do this to folks who think we're stupid enough to believe they just sent a "wrong link" to 50000+ people.
      Dean, I don't have a huge list like that but I have sent the wrong link more than once...lol. I can see how it could easily happen, especially when the sender is in a rush. I know it's been overdone, but I try to give the benefit of the doubt until it happens weekly (one marketer sent that EVERY single email with a link - that one I unsubbed from).

      Tina
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