Our 10 Best Email Subject Lines of 2017
What’s the secret to a great email open rate?
This is the question on the mind of every automotive digital marketer. It doesn’t matter what content you’re sending, when you’re sending it, or to whom . . . you just want to know how to get people to open your emails, dammit!
We can relate. Even digital marketing agencies like ours struggle to find that subject-line sweet spot.
We won’t claim to hold the secret to writing the best email subject lines — after all, there is no one winning formula to follow — but after many years in the business, we know a thing or two about inbound email marketing.
Check out our 10 most successful email subject lines of 2017 below, and see if you can spot any common threads. (If you can’t, no worries — we’ll tie them together for you, using some email best practices for 2018.)
9 Clouds’ Best Email Subject Lines of 2017
First things first: let’s set some ground rules for this list.
We offer a lot of free, downloadable content on our site, so we end up sending a lot of follow-up emails, thanking people and providing them with the material they requested. Naturally, these emails have pretty high open rates . . . like, 100% open rates.
But as much as we’d love to claim a top-10 list of straight 100% open rates, that wouldn’t be very fair to the purpose of this post — namely, to illustrate how to get people to open your emails naturally.
So here are our best email subject lines of 2017 — excluding follow-up emails for downloaded content, newsletter subscriptions, welcome emails, and the like. (The rest of the list is totally unfiltered . . . typos and all!)
1. “FB Marketplace Webinar in 30 min – Calendar invite may be wrong”
People love to watch other people mess up.
We sent an email inviting auto dealers to attend our webinar on Facebook Marketplace — but we forgot to clarify the correct time zone. 🤦🏼♀️
To make sure registrants could still attend, we sent everybody a follow-up email, not only reminding them of the upcoming webinar (thus creating a sense of urgency) but also fessing up to the fact that we were, admittedly, “wrong.”
Subject line lesson: Own up to your mistakes. You’ll earn sympathy along with clicks.
2. “Anything I can help with [First Name]?”
Automated email workflows are the bomb. Here’s why.
If you’ve segmented your leads — and we hope you have — you should connect with them periodically. When one of our marketing qualified leads visits our website, for instance, we send them a follow-up email, seeing if we can help with anything.
Since it’s such a general ask, this subject line appeals to a wide range of readers. On the flip side, the personalization reminds them that we’re on a first-name basis, so this isn’t just a generic “blast.”
Subject line lesson: When offering your help, keep it both vague and personal.
3. “Facebook Ad Resources from 9 Clouds Live”
9 Clouds Live is our on-demand video series teaching auto dealers how to master Facebook ads.
But it’s not our only resource on the subject. So to provide viewers with further info, we send them an email with links to our blog posts and other resources (like our Facebook audience finder) on automotive Facebook marketing.
This subject line isn’t hiding behind anything, either. Recipients know exactly what to expect once they open the email.
Subject line lesson: Offer added value (preferably content toward the middle or bottom of the automotive sales funnel) to people who have already expressed interest in one of your products or services.
4. “A quick hello”
Another way we like to check in with leads is by dropping them a “quick hello.”
When someone downloads a resource (and fits a few other criteria), we send them a short email asking if they have any further questions and letting them know about our free website assessment. It’s a pretty low-risk way of gauging interest.
And apparently, it works. In a world bombarded by loud advertising and sales-y emails, a simple hello can go a long way.
Subject line lesson: Be friendly. Be brief.
5. “One more for you…”
Ah, the tactic of intrigue.
Auto dealers who have downloaded certain resources from our website are sent a follow-up email, encouraging them to access related resources. We suggest two specific blog posts they might enjoy and offer a link to our general resources page as well.
Paired with a mysterious ellipses, this short, catchy phrase captures people’s attention.
Subject line lesson: If someone has requested something from you, bait them back in with the promise of something even better.
6. “[9C] Trust fall”
This subject line came from one of our weekly emails sent to our newsletter subscribers, so it wasn’t targeted as narrowly as the previous examples.
Yet despite the large size of the send list, this extremely short, cryptic subject line clearly enticed people to click.
That said, it’s always important to temper your readers’ expectations. Since this subject line also included our traditional “[9C]” preface for newsletters (and since the email was sent at our normal time from a familiar name), recipients knew they could “trust” the content inside.
Subject line lesson: Embrace ambiguity, but don’t confuse just to confuse.
7. “[9C] Lessons from mom and dad”
Here’s another instance of a newsletter send that got a surprisingly good open rate.
Like the previous example, this subject line is also intriguing — but with the reference to “mom and dad,” it’s more relatable than obscure.
Everyone has a mom and dad. So what, readers may wonder, does 9 Clouds have to say about our parents . . . and how might readers compare theirs to ours?
Subject line lesson: Get personal, not just personalized. Mentioning family is a sure way to hit home with your readers.
8. “Does Your Dealership Have These Two Types of Marketing?”
One of the best ways to inspire action is to issue a challenge. (Ask any wife.)
This subject line is the fifth in a seven-step email workflow we’ve enacted for auto dealer leads who fit certain criteria. By this point in the sales funnel, they’ve not only interacted with our emails, they’ve also indicated they’re interested in our services.
So when they read this provocative question, they’re more than ready to see if their dealership fits the bill.
Subject line lesson: Ask a pointed question, and you’ll get a pointed click.
9. “Can you help us [First Name]?”
Every business wants glowing online reviews. Unfortunately, most customers won’t take the time, no matter how stellar their experience at your store.
There’s an easy fix for that: a review request email! It might sound self-serving — and hey, it is — but as long as you approach it in a modest manner, you’d be surprised at how willing people are to help you out.
Take this email for example. We literally just asked for help, and people responded — not only in email opens, but in actual reviews.
Subject line lesson: Don’t be afraid to call for help. A little humility goes a long way in email-land.
10. “[9C] Don’t let the pig out. 🐷”
With a subject line like that, how could you not open this email?
Not only does this example contain a fun emoji (which is a great way to add visual variety to your subject lines), but it also contains that element of intrigue we talked about earlier.
And it’s not totally random, either. The email — which we later turned into this blog post — took a memory from our creative director John’s childhood on the farm and likened it, somehow, to digital marketing.
Subject line lesson: Have fun with emojis, be weird when you want, and always stay true to your brand.
The Best Email Subject Lines for 2018
So what have we learned from our top email subject lines of 2017 that can help us craft even better subject lines for 2018?
Here are a few of our best practices for writing a truly open-worthy subject line:
- Keep it short.
- Include personalization where appropriate.
- Explain the value up-front.
- Wield the power of intrigue.
- Continue the conversation.
The last one may be the most important.
For almost every email in our top-10 list above, we sent to a highly segmented list, based on who we believed to be most interested in that content. We made sure the emails came across friendly, personal, and relevant to each recipient’s point in the sales funnel.
Inbound email marketing in 2018 is all about being human. It’s about letting go of manipulative tactics, using email automation without sounding like a robot, and, in the words of Jay Baer, “romancing the customer.”
So what are you waiting for? Get schmoozing! (And let us know if we can help!)