Invite an audience to open your email

Leads invite you to read a story. A straight lead gives a chronological summary, an anecdotal lead teases us with something relevant, while a zinger baits us with an attention grabbing sentence. Then there are feature leads, summary leads and question leads that leave us curious.

Great leads make us read a story.

Email subject lines are similar. They invite your audience to open your emails.

They fight for our attention but subject lines like: “I am working all weekend for you,” make me nervous.

Bland subject lines disappoint me. “Something amazing is heading your way…” (Qatar Airways). Do I really care?

And, the perennial mediocre subject line: “Time is running out…” (Sling TV) makes me wonder if people ever open those emails. Let’s not forget the end of the year routine: “How will you start the year off right?” (Zoc Doc).

Subject lines that tickle my ego for a response make me anxious. “You are the expert…” (Indeed). If I am an expert, I wonder who the other reviewers are!

15 years ago, I tested subject lines to mobilize volunteers during Hurricane Katrina. Simple, specific subject lines got the most effective results: “250 volunteers needed: 6 pm at Salvation Army.”

People want clarity and a call to action.

Here’s an effective one from my child’s music school reminding me of her guitar lessons on Mondays: “Allegro: Lesson reminder.” Or, the apartment complex that says: “January rent due,” instead of “buy one get the other half off.”

Hotstar, an Asian streaming service recently had an interesting email subject line: “IND V SL. Jan 5. Stay Tuned.” Cricket lovers get this. Hotstar will stream a match between India and Sri Lanka on January 5, so stay tuned. Isn’t it better than: “Don’t miss the epic match of the century…”

I was disappointed when the “Houston Chronicle” carried the following subject line for their December 31 newsletter: “New cash crop is a tasty crustacean.”

A better subject line would have been: First baby of 2020.

Simple marketing ideas work

I recently tried a simple marketing concept at work.  A well-regarded faculty member was celebrating his 60th birthday and he didn’t want his friends, relatives or former students to send him presents or wish him well on his birthday.

Instead, he wanted them to donate to a scholarship endowment to help students who faced hardships during their externships.

I talked to the professor and came up with a simple idea. Why don’t we highlight the professor’s age and encourage everyone to donate a minimum of $60 on his 60th birthday? Next, we focused on identifying the best medium to disseminate his message. The professor, a great Peanuts fan, had an office adorned with Schulz and his characters. We created a simple, yet humorous e-blast featuring a Peanuts character and a message from the Professor urging well-wishers to donate $60 to the scholarship.

We planned two dates to disseminate the e-blast. The first was send a week before his 60th and the other hit in-boxes three days before his birthday. The idea worked and over 50 individuals gave varying amounts to the endowment.

This effort generated many well-intentioned conversations. The Professor felt proud and said he couldn’t have got a better 60th birthday present than the response from his friends, former students and relatives. We made a simple iphone thank you video and emailed it to all who donated and they also received a hand written note.

Sometimes, simple marketing ideas generate larger conversations. They create deeper impact than complex, metrics driven content marketing.