Ten Emails I’m Glad I Didn't Have to Read Last Month

by Stephen Steger, 28 Jan 2019

Subject lines are still top dog in email marketing. Have a good one and you draw readers in and set the stage for a successful communication. Go out with a bad one and, well, it turns off prospects faster than a Nigerian Advance-Free scam.

Most marketers are pretty familiar with the baseline requirements of a good subject line: keep it under 40 characters, personalize if possible, and make it meaningful. It’s table stakes at this point, right? Wrong. Open up your spam folder. What you see may astound you. Just last month, I found many emails with unclear and sometimes just plain wrong subject lines. It made me glad I have a spam folder to winnow out the bad ones from the fifty or so emails I typically need to look through each day. Let’s take a look:

UMarketing (Stephen) – Hi Stephen, When I co-founded…

Nice try with the personalization. But the company name is wrong and why put brackets around my name? It looks like a programming error. The rest of the subject line offers no reason to open up the email or even continue reading.

Webinar Reminder – Hi Stephen Webinars are…

I know I didn’t sign up for a webinar. If you’re trying to get me to sign up for yours, you’re going to have to tell more than just background on webinars in general.

What’s NEW in FEB ’19 – Vol. February, 2019 …

Lots of things are new this February. Unless I was waiting for you to send this to me (I wasn’t) or I knew the sender (I don’t), this subject line provides zero reasons to open the email.

PDF Update – PDF Update Hi Stephen I am with …

This is perhaps the most bland, confusing and uninspiring subject line of the bunch. How did it ever get out of the marketing department?

The Discomfort Zone: Turning Difficult conversations

This one could be close. There’s a bit of tease to the message that got my attention.  But it falls flat after that. Maybe “Turn hard conversations into helpful insights” instead? That would be about 10% shorter and include a reason to read on.

RE: Pilot task for IT Partnership – Hello Stephen, I am …

I have no idea what they’re asking here. And why am I being included in the sender’s response? I’ll take a pass, thank you.

Subject Line: Chicago SWEAT

I’m going to assume this is a programming or deployment error. Why else have “Subject Line” as your subject line? Maybe “Chicago Sweat…” led to something great but I’ll never know. Email filters flag this sort of thing as spam and bury it.

My “Promotions” tab in Gmail has its share of clunkers as well. For instance: 

Secrets revealed – Learn how to implement …

I think the aim here is to tease. But this is so vague it’s meaningless – it needs some meat.

December Mood: Love, Love, Love – View this email …

An emotional tug can be a powerful motivator. But again, this is way too vague. I think we all see the pattern here.

Hurry! Upgrade your business today – You’re eligible …

Shouting about nothing in particular.  

I suspect that my spam and promotion folders aren’t much different from yours in this regard. A surprising amount of plain bad subject lines are floating around these days. What was your worst? Was it worse than any of the above I shared? Now that’s one I would like to read.

What's in your spam folder?