How to Create Subject Lines That SHINE

You can’t get people to buy if they don’t read your offer.

You can’t get people to read your offer if they don’t open your emails.

So… if you’re a marketer, you’ve got to have great subject lines or your audience won’t open up.

I have 10 tips for making your emails much more clickable and it’s all about your email subject line.

1. Remember you’re entering a day in progress. As I go through my inbox, I see emails from my dad sending me a photo, my kid’s school, client work updates, and marketing emails. Everyone’s email is like that. You can’t assume that your audience is waiting for an email from you. You are disrupting them in what you want to be a good way.

2. Focus on your recipient. How do you disrupt your audience’s schedule in a good way? Make your emails about them. You have to focus on the recipient. What’s in it for them? It’s not about what you want to say. Think about the value you’re providing for them. Are you educating, entertaining, or informing them?

3. Incite curiosity, not confusion. There is a difference between inciting curiosity and being confusing. Inciting curiosity means hinting at some sort of value whether it’s letting them in on the latest gossip or sharing information. Email subjects like, “The #1 Tip to …” are better than subject lines that consist of random words that don’t make sense coming out of nowhere. If you aren’t careful, your email can end up looking like spam, so focus on creating curiosity.

4. Don’t rely on tricks. You can trick people only once. If you’re in the marketing or business space, you might have seen emails that say “I’ve Got Money For You” or “I Tried to Send Money to Your Account”. Then you open it and see that it’s spam. You can trick people into opening your email once, but once you’ve done that you’ve blown your credibility. Let’s not rely on tricks, let’s rely on old-fashioned value. Be upfront and have a lot of integrity when you’re communicating.

5. Always provide value. If you have a compelling offer and you convey that in a clear manner focused on your reader, people are going to want to open your email. Don’t focus on tricks, hacks, and persuasion techniques. Just provide value and focus so much on that.

6. Respect your reader. Don’t play tricks on them, don’t talk down to them, just straight up talk value and people will like it. It’s a conversation. You don’t want to be the one who’s always selling. You don’t want to be the person who is constantly talking in a conversation and stops anyone from getting a word in and you don’t want to do that with email either. Make sure to respect your reader.

7. Don’t write to a mass. Don’t treat every recipient of your email equally. Because they all joined at different times, they might have no idea what you’re talking about when you mention an event from one month ago. You aren’t talking to a mass of people, you’re talking to individuals. Your audience joined at different times for different reasons and they’re all coming from different places, so treat them as individuals.

8. Opt for clarity over cleverness. I love cleverness and wordplay, but if it just confuses people, it’s not worth it. I’d much rather see a direct email offering 50% off or a new schedule than some tricky thing that doesn’t make sense. Be careful when you’re trying to get your audience’s attention so that you don’t lose them with cleverness.

9. Don’t assume anything. Don’t assume your email list opened your last email, knows who you are, or purchased your product. I get emails all the time that I don’t remember signing up for. It can look like spam, especially if you’re treating your email list like they should know who you are. Assume nothing and educate them.

10. Catch Attention Authentically. Don’t go out of your way with 47 emojis or crazy language in your subject line. Just be authentic. Your audience wants to engage with people who are real, so be yourself in a clear and compelling way.

P.S. Get this list in a handy PDF format here!


The #1 Question to Ask Yourself BEFORE Creating ANY Piece of Content

Before you record a video…

…Send an email…

…Write a blog post…

You need to ask yourself ONE question:

What do I want my audience to think, do or know as a result of consuming this information?

As a result of reading this email, what do I want my audience to do?

As a result of watching this Facebook live, what do I want my viewers to do?

There should be one primary action or piece of knowledge that you want to pass on.

So many people sit down to write and they’re so consumed with, “Okay, how I’m going to get them to open this email… and how I’m going to catch their attention… and how am I going to make sure they click here and do this or that…?”

They’re looking for tricks and little ninja hacks to get people into the email, to suck them in and be entertaining.

Then, as a result, they completely lose the clarity of the email.

They get so wrapped up in the hoopla that they don’t get their message across! The reader ends up lost, confused, or asking, “So what?”

Before I produce anything, whether it’s for a client or for myself, I ask, “What is it that I want to convey to them? What is the message I want them to take away? What is the action I want them to take?”

If you let that be your guiding principle for everything you do, it’s going to do a couple of things:

First and foremost, it’s going to ensure that you have a clear call to action. You should not be communicating with your audience just to say hi, like “Hey, what’s going on?”

That’s wasting people’s time.

You need to have a reason to be connecting with them, and that reason is the primary message you want to convey to them and the primary action you want them to take.

Start with that action in mind and then move on from there.

Maybe again it’s to click on a link so they can subscribe to your email list (which is what I want you to do after you get through reading this post! Go right here and put in your email so I can communicate with you more directly).

Maybe it’s to go to a sales page.

Maybe it’s to know that the time of a class has changed.

Maybe it’s to know that there are options for them to work with you beyond the ones they’re already using.

There are a million things you might want to convey, and that you COULD convey, but you need to have one primary one and stick to it like glue. Make that your front and center and have it in mind before you sit down to produce any content.

When you do that, the reader or viewer or audience member knows the next step to take. 

Don’t get so tied up in the wrapping that you lose sight of what’s inside the box that they’re going to unwrap. Keep the main thing, the main thing — and then work outward from there.

Once you have the main idea down, you can look at the rest of your communication. You can look at your subject line and see how you’re going to incite curiosity. You can look at your opening and say, “Okay, what’s the question I want to ask them to draw them in? What’s an image I can use for this ad or blog post? What’s a compelling opening?”

All that other stuff has its place, but it comes from that core of the message you want to pass on, the core of that action you want them to take, the core of the knowledge you want to impart to them.

Start with that.

Forget about the tricks. Forget about the ninja hacks. Forget about influence and persuasion. Just share your message clearly and you’re going to be 80% of the way there and head and shoulders over 80% of the audience.

Remember: Simplicity Sells!

P.S. My number one thing I would like you to do today is to subscribe. You’ll get tons of glitter, margarita recipes, and ways to make your communication convert like a boss.

Best Email Subject Lines of the Week

#fastlain feature: “Flop or Fly.”

I get a lot of email. (100+ a day!)

I delete most of it, but a few grab me. Every week I will be announcing 5 winning and losing email subject lines, and why they worked or flopped. Stay tuned to soon start to seeing a pattern — and to review your own subject lines with a more critical eye.

#1:“IPPOLITA for you. Yes, Y-O-U.”

From: Rue La La

Why it works:

Ippolita is a brand I’ve purchased before, so seeing the name come up in the subject line pulls me back in. The unusual Y-O-U makes me look twice.

How you can use this:

Sometimes being eye-catching is as simple as a few h-y-p-h-e-n-s. 🙂 And I totally prefer this brand of personalization versus using my name in the subject line.

#2: “Increase revenue by 7 figures, add publicity as a service”

From: Andrew O’Brien/ The Publicity Guy

Why it works:

Straight shooting here Andrew! This makes it super clear but is also super compelling with the “7 figures.”

How you can use this:

Be straight forward when it comes to topics that don’t need the unnecessary beating around the bush. When we talk about revenue being straight forward with people is your best bet. They will appreciate the honesty and dive right in!

#3: “I can’t believe I got talked into this”

From: Alionka Polanco

Why it works:

So conversational, it looks like a personal email. I don’t want to miss out on any good gossip.

How you can use this:

Everyone wants to be “in the know.” Keep it personal and incite curiosity and you’re good to go. (But you better pay off in the email itself or people will feel duped!)

#4: “How To Procrastinate (Effectively) On Really Hard Projects”

From: Fast Company 

Why it works:

We’ve been bagging on Fast Company for a few weeks. This time, they got it right! I love the obvious value from the how to, the built-in curiosity, and the counterintuitive “procrastinate effectively.”

How can you use this:

Use multiple value points to create the ultimate subject line. Go against the grain and show a unique twist on a common topic.

#5:“What 1,200 Calories Looks Like [Infographic]”

From: My Fitness Pal

Why it works:

A unique value-add from a fitness app. The only thing I’d say is lose the [infographic] suffix. It’s not necessary. 

How you can use this:

Think about how you can add unique value to your audience. Can you help them picture something in a new way? Can you turn words into a photo or image, or vice-versa? Think outside the box.

Now, the flops:

#1:“Ending! Spring Price Strike Sale”

From: Groupon

Why it flops:

They almost had it, but blew it with the “Price Strike” and “Sale.” One or the other is plenty. Put both in and I’m confused.

How you can avoid this: 

Don’t overwhelm people. Keep it simple.

My rewrite: “Ending – Spring Sale!”

#2:“Mastering Project Roadmaps v2.0 is now available”

Why it flops:

This subject line is a mess.

It’s a prime example of assuming your audience is mentally in the same place you are. This came into my inbox between an email from my sister and one from a client with info for a project I’m working on. Right in the middle of that, they pop up with reference to a program (software? app?) I’m not familiar with and don’t (yet) care about. It completely misses.

*IF* this email were sent to me because I’d purchased Mastering Project Roadmaps 1.0, it would be so-so… but even then it says nothing about value to the user. What is new and different in V2.0? Why do I need it?

How you can avoid this:

NEVER assume anything. Remember that you are popping up in their inbox like a jack-in-the-box. Make sure you’re the fun and friendly and welcome clown, not the scary kind that you want to immediately erase.

My rewrite for non-customers: “Ready to streamline your project management?”

My rewrite for customers: “You’re going to LOVE this upgrade – TONS of enhancements!”

#3: “Let’s get started”

Why it flops:

First off, who cares? There is nothing compelling in this email from someone who wants me to invest my time and money in their coaching/course. I don’t want to “get started.” I want to save money/lose weight/change my life…

THEN… the first sentence of this email says, “If you’ve been following my emails from last week…”  

Well, this is just dumb. If the reader HASN’T been following… and over half of your subscribers haven’t even opened your email… you’ve immediately alienated them.

And if the reader HAS been following, it’s repetitive.

How you can avoid this:

Avoid being too general. Avoid making assumptions. Avoid being boring.

My rewrite: “Ready to change your life? The first step is inside…”

#4: “We would love to hear your feedback on Google+!”

From: Elements Message

Why it flops: 

They want something but there’s nothing in it for me (I don’t really care what a nameless, faceless business “would love.”) Also, Google+ is a hassle and most people don’t use it. 

How you can avoid this: 

Have an incentive for people to go out of their way to give you a review! And when you do so, make it on a platform most people are familiar with.

My rewrite: “Share your opinion and save $10 off your next massage.”

#5: “there must be a mistake (did you mean to do that?)”

From: an online fitness membership

Why it flops:

I had checked out an online fitness membership, but logged out before completing registration. This was the THIRD email I received in just a few hours about coming back to complete checkout.


There’s “reminding” and then there’s “harassing.” This felt like harassment!

How you can avoid this: No one likes their inbox to be flooded with harassing emails. One follow up is enough. If you want to send out another, give it time and introduce a new topic.

My rewrite: There isn’t on, because I shouldn’t be getting another email!

The upshot: The subject line is the headline for the email. If you don’t get it right, people aren’t going to read any further.

Got your own submissions? List them in the comments below!