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Best Practice B2C Email Marketing Subject Lines

We’ve been talking a lot recently about ways to improve the emails we do for our clients. In striving to create the best work we’re capable of, we’ve been doing a lot of research in all aspects of email marketing.

One of the most overlooked parts of the email is the subject line. It has to be compelling enough to get someone to read the email, succinct enough to display properly in the recipient’s email client, and worded in such a way as to communicate an offer or incentive without sounding overly cheesy.

Here are some of the best tips I found for writing Best Practice B2C Email Marketing Subject Lines.


Direct Marketing News recommends keeping subject lines at 35 characters or less–subject lines that are much longer may be cut off in certain email clients on screens with smaller resolutions. Keeping a subject line short and to-the-point helps keep emails easily scannable.

(A quick check of my own email client shows that emails are cut off after about 50 characters–but I have a pretty high-res widescreen monitor). It’s important to aim for the lowest common denominator so as not to exclude anybody from your message.


Gail Goodman at Entrepreneur.com advocates that marketers consider “WIIFM” (What’s In It For Me?) from the recipient’s point of view to ensure the subject lines of B2C emails are enticing enough to click. Is there a special offer or promotion that will peak a consumer’s interest? Think about how your audience will react to your subject line. You want to dangle the carrot without sounding spammy.

Don’t Repeat Yourself

This article suggests not repeating the sender name in the subject line–your reader has already seen it in the “From” field. With the limited amount of character space, it’s best to keep the subject line meaningful and direct without namedropping in the subject line.

Use Your Consumer Data for Good

DJ Waldo writes on the Email Experience Council’s blog about the power of personalization. He received a B2C email with his (previous) location in the subject line and felt inclined to open the email. Depending on the consumer data available, there’s a lot of personalization that can be done to increase open rates.

Make It Your Own

Through testing and tracking, you can test and optimize what works best for your clients’ recipient lists. Find out what calls to action work best. Are they coupons? Contests or promotions? New product announcements? It’ll vary from client to client. Use your best judgment and track the open rates and click-through rates so you can improve further in the future. Your clients will thank you.

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