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How to write email subject lines that get opened

copywriting blog

How much mail do you throw away on a daily basis? Not emails. I am talking actual physical mail that gets delivered to your mailbox. Unless you are an extreme couponer, the answer is probably a lot

You throw this physical mail away not because you're a bad person that hates trees, but because most of it isn't relevant to you. 

Famous copywriter and marketer, Gary Halbert, described this as the "A" pile and "B" pile. When we look through our mail each day, we instinctively separate our mail into two piles –– the "A" pile and the "B" pile. 

We throw all the s*** that isn't relevant to us in the "B" pile –– cheesy promotions, the 27th credit card offer and ugly flyers. And, we throw all the stuff we want to take a second look at in the "A" pile –– personal letters, the electric bill and checks.

The "B" pile goes in the trash and the "A" pile gets opened. 

The same can be said for emails. When we skim through our emails each morning, we only actually open up roughly 20% –– you can see the exact percentages by industry right here on Mailchimp. This means, that roughly 80 out of every 100 emails that get sent to an individual never get opened. 

80% of emails get placed in the "B" pile and 20% of emails get placed in the "A" pile. 

In the world of direct marketing (or physical mail), copywriting greats like Gary Halbert were known for attaching $1 bills to envelopes just to get the recipient to bother opening them up. But, in the world of email... there is really only one way to get your email opened. You have to write catchy email subject lines. 

In a previous post I wrote, 19 kick-ass examples of email subject lines that sell like hell, I put together several catchy email subject lines that have worked really well for me. But, in this post, I wanted to highlight one of these email subject lines and pick it apart, using it as an example.

While I don't mind if you steal it, I do recommend you take the time to read all the way through this post –– knowing how to write email subject lines that get opened is far more valuable than just having one catchy email subject line. 

Anyways, the email subject line I will be dissecting today is, "Quick question." It is my go-to subject line and it is one that has worked extremely well for me in the past. Allow me to explain why. 

Write email subject lines that get opened by pulling on the recipient's curiosity

Anytime I write an email subject line, my main goal is to make the recipient curious. If I can make him or her curious, they will open it up. "Quick question" is an email subject line that leaves the recipient with a "huh?" feeling –– it piques the recipient's interest.

Imagine how you would feel if a complete stranger walked up to you at a coffee shop and said, "quick question", then turned and walked the other way. How would it leave you feeling? Curious. 

So, how do you write email subject lines that get opened? You make your prospective customer curious. Which of the following subject lines make you the most curious? 

"Just saying hello"... "Introduction"... "I hope all is well"... OR...  "I found your pen"... "I have some ideas that can make [brand name] money"... "Doug?".  

I would argue the last three...

But, I digress. 

By Cole Schafer. 


You gotta check this out -- Sticky Notes is my email list reserved strictly for entrepreneurs and creatives looking to sell like a Florida Snow Cone Vendor on the hottest day of the year.


Cole Schafer