3 ways of using subject lines to increase open rates

3 ways of using subject lines to increase open rates

Email marketing is one of the major channels used by digital marketers as part of their strategies. Over 333 billion emails are sent and received each day, with a significant amount of those being marketing campaigns and newsletters. Nowadays there are many platforms that can be used to construct email campaigns, collect data and generate reports.

When creating an email campaign, it’s important to consider the various elements you want to include in order to maximise engagement. There are numerous components that can be added within the email itself, specifically HTML campaigns. Images, branding, hyperlinks and CTAs all help to build a campaign with personality and a purpose, which is essentially to drive click-throughs. However, the first part of an email that recipients will see, and also one of the most important elements to get right, is the subject line. Here we’ll give you a quick breakdown of how to create the best possible subject lines to increase open rates for your email campaigns.


1) Inject some urgency

In sales and marketing, a common strategy for increasing engagement is by injecting urgency into the content. Urgency is a way of giving users a limited period of time to interact with your CTA, such as making a purchase or registering for an event. This can be done by using the metric of time itself, i.e. they have a certain amount of time before the offer is over, or it can be done using a limited number of products or space remaining. 

In the example of purchasing a product, voucher codes with a 24 hour validity period may be sent out to users who have been identified as looking at a specific item. This then encourages the users who were in the consideration stage of the marketing funnel to then progress into the conversion stage. 

With email marketing, the content of the email being sent out is to identify prospects, generate leads, or even conversion itself. Therefore urgency can be a great way of encouraging people to open your email and click-through. Including a timescale in the subject lines to increase open rates is a way of creating urgency for the user; often the shorter period of time, the better. However the actual purpose, or content, of the email needs to be engaging for the urgency to work successfully.


2) Get personal

When an email lands in a person’s inbox, of course the subject line is the first aspect of it they see. If the subject line is personalised to the recipient, it may give them more incentive to open it. When we say personalised, this doesn’t necessarily mean it only includes their name. However, addressing the recipient by their first name is a useful technique. 

Beginning the subject line with their first name may bridge the gap between an entirely cold sales email, to at least a company or businesses that user has interacted with in the past. People are much less likely to open cold emails; content received from a sender that is of no recognition can mean red flags for many people. As with email marketing in general, it’s important to find the balance between sales-focus and personable. Consumers are more likely to engage with emails that feel as though they have been sent from a person, rather than an automation. 

As well as names, a clever way of personalising a recipient’s subject line is including an anniversary or birthday. Often when signing up to a website, the user will be required to input their date of birth. This can therefore be used as a way to wish them a happy birthday, which straight away comes across as more warming and less cold. The same logic applies to the anniversaries for when they first signed up. In an Experian Marketing Services report, it was found that including ‘Happy Birthday’ and ‘Happy Anniversary’ in subject lines had more engagement on average, whether its opens or clicks. 

Being more comprehensive and taking a deep-dive into your customers past behaviour may help you to identify their interests. If you have seen a contact engaging with content that talks about a certain product or theme, then you can use the subject lines to increase open rates in any subsequent emails. For example, a customer’s transaction history on your website may help indicate what style of products they might be most interested in, which you can therefore use and send them content on new ranges or sales within that product line.


3) Out of curiosity…

Curiosity is something we all feel at times and it often leads to us investigating an idea or topic further. Well, the same can be applied to email marketing and subject lines! The subject line can be used to invoke curiosity, in order to make a recipient intrigued and want to open it. 

This can be done in a variety of ways, and most of the time it depends on the industry and subject matter itself. It can be tricky to get right, as it requires leading the reader seamlessly into the email content, with only a short amount of words. 

A typical technique would be to use a question that the recipient wants an answer for. Perhaps an interesting fact, or a new exciting update from your business or the industry you work in. 

A particularly effective strategy is to use the personalisation mentioned above with a question. Directly addressing the recipient using their first name, followed by an engaging question, may increase the chances of opens even further. 

In the fashion industry for example, sustainability is a major topic and one that consumers are becoming increasingly interested in. A subject line could read “Rachel, how much CO2 is being saved in our new denim range?”.



Email marketing is a channel that is used by thousands of businesses, ranging from small local businesses to global consumer giants. There are many components of an email campaign that need to be successful for higher open and click rates. However, the subject line is always the first part of an email that recipients will see. Because of this, its key to get it right.

There are many examples and templates available online which can help spark creativity and ideas for your campaign. With that being said, often it’s best to use the best practices and core techniques behind the examples in order to create your own that are targeted specifically to your customers. 

At Inflowing, we help businesses generate more leads and conversions by creating fully-realised email marketing campaigns in a variety of industries. As well as creating content, we also aim to provide honest feedback and insights using various data reporting tools in order to adapt and produce the best possible email campaigns.


About Inflowing

Inflowing is a B2B marketing agency. We help B2B organisations do meaningful things with marketing. Whether that’s getting more leads, more visibility, or supporting their sales teams.

We’re an experienced team of marketers with an incredibly strong background in B2B. To learn more about B2B and improving your marketing, check out our other blogs or get in touch.

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