Subject Line: Why Do So Many Marketing e-Mails Suck?

Because they aren’t interesting to read.

Seriously, that’s the problem. The sending company thinks the reader is interested in – and is going to read –  their marketing message.

Fat chance.

Your reader has anywhere between 16 and 400 other emails in their inbox that need their attention. Most of them are about unpleasant work subjects, with the one from Mr. Gloom about the 4th quarter spreadsheets particularly giving off a strong “This will not be a good read” vibe.

So your email about the features and benefits of whatever crap you are selling doesn’t hit home (no offense meant, mind you, but “crap” is exactly what it is to the reader at this point).

In short, your email failed because…

You didn’t interest them.

You didn’t make them smile.

You didn’t make their day any better.

They know this just by reading your boring subject line and stale intro.

They’d stop your emails altogether, but they’re  too lazy to hit “unsubscribe”. They’d have to open the email to do that anyway – it’s easier to just hit “delete”.


Truth be told, email marketing is hard.


So how do we fix this? How do we get more of your emails read and acted upon?

For every company / product / service, the answer will be a little different.

But without question, you must have an interesting subject line. And again, what’s “interesting” depends on the intent. Maybe for your offering, your readers are interested in a discount, and a boring old “25% off this week” subject line is the winner over something creative. 

Whether it’s straighforward or creative (or creatively straightforward) a good subject line will help in getting the email opened.

Then, once opened, you need to engage them right away. Because another e-mail is awaiting their attention (Mr. Gloom still looms. Freaken’ spreadsheets…)

I usually try to make them smile or feel good. I like addressing the reader. Lots of second person (“you”). I like being a little funny. 

Sometimes though, depending on the product or service, I’ll hit them with an important pain point first. It all depends.

Hopefully, if you’re still reading, you’re starting to realize “yea, this guy can write. Maybe I should have him write some emails for me.”

Which is prettymuch my goal here.  Time to ask you to contact me. Then I’ll get to a few more email points. 




E-Mail Marketing FAQ (aka Dan’s Rules for E-mail Marketing)

What is a Good E-mail Open Rate?

There really is no universal number that fits all situations. It’s going to depend on your list, the product, etc. For some companies, it might be as low as 2%. For others, 25% is solid. But in general terms, most businesses would consider 15-25% pretty good. This is assuming your recipient list is high quality.


How Often Should I Send Marketing Emails?

Again, the answer will depend on your business. For example, if you’re a store with weekly specials, then at least weekly. But for some businesses, less is more. And some might want to do daily. It all depends on you, your readers, your products, etc. 


How Long Should Marketing Emails Be?

Depends on what you need it to do. Shorter is usually better, but not always (don’t you love ambiguity?)

Maybe you want the email to tell a story. That’s cool – let’s do that (this works great, especially if they start looking forward to reading your emails.)

Maybe you need it to lead somewhere (like a landing page). Great, let’s say enough to get them to click the link.

Have a goal for the e-mail. Then write for that goal. No more, no less.



Should Each Marketing E-mail Have a Hook?

To me, a “hook” would be a reason to read it, so yea.

But, as I’ve already mentioned, it doesn’t mean you always have to have a witty / tricky / funny subject. 

Remember earlier I mentioned a store with weekly specials. So your “hook” really is the weekly special. And that’s ok – we need not try to be super creative every time. 

For other types of email, especially if it’s over the long term, I want the emails to almost build a relationship with the readers. Get them used to a “nice / good / funny / engaging” email from you. That’s your automatic hook. Make them *always* open your email because (gasp) they like reading it. That’s really, really powerful.