Compelling And Urgent: Offers And Subject Lines

November 29, 2006

I really notice lousy email subject lines and offers when I finally see good ones.

I opted in (by accident) to the email list of my favorite national clothing store. They have no e-commerce capabilities, so all email has the goal of driving the reader to the bricks and mortar location. They bore the reader with subject lines and no-offers like, “Shine this season at [our store]” and “Suede, Denim and more now at [our store].”

The company makes it worse by sending the whole ad in one picture. Many email programs, like Thunderbird or Outlook, may not open up the picture unless you click on the “show me the pictures” button (requiring yet another click. And clicks are precious.)

This week, though, their mail carried the subject line, “Hurry! Take an additional 20% off already reduced merchandise!” Not only did I open it, not only did I click to see the picture, but I printed it out and put it in my bag so that I could redeem the coupon.

You don’t always have to do a sale to get noticed. I only got onto this mailing list by asking them to please tell me when their brushed cotton winter pants came into stock. So even a nice little personalized text message about product availability would have been more interesting to me than another email about what fabrics they had in stock. “Sale – New Reductions Just Taken” would have been so much more compelling if it had been written, “Limited Time Sale! 50% off selected merchandise.” It really was a 50% sale, so the offer was compelling but the subject line fell flat.