The Levison Letter

April, 2011

Everyone hates spam . . . except me.


I sort it. Save it. And sometimes even savor it.


You see, because I write a lot of emails for companies of all kinds, I like to know what's being written -- what's hot and what's not.


One of the email sample folders I keep is called "Over-the-top Teaser Subject Lines." It's my collection of devious lines used by desperate emailers who will try anything to get people to read their mail.


They are actually quite clever in a shoddy kind of way. I certainly wouldn't use them but thought I'd share a few with you for fun.


The first two subject lines I want to show you use the "Re:" trick. By that I mean they begin with "Re:" in an attempt to make you believe that you wrote them first and they are actually replying to correspondence that you initiated. Here are two typical examples used by mortgage refinancers:


   Re: I thought you'd like to know


and . . .


   Re: I tried to contact you earlier


Deceptive, no?


Here's another subject line for a "make big money" pitch:


   Ann said not to ask you


Who is Ann? Ask me what? You have to open the email to find out what it's all about.


Or how about this email subject line:


   I owe you lunch


It turns out this is for an online pharmacy and it's hard to figure out how this line works for the company. Sure. People may open up the email, but when they find out it's all bogus are they really going to want to start buying their medicines from a company that introduces itself with a lie?


I've saved my favorite Subject line for last. It comes from a firm that claims I can earn over $500,000 every four or five months by making a one-time investment of $25. Here it is:


   Your Mom said you should read this


Man, are they desperate! When you have to invoke the authority of someone's mother rather than the value of your offer, you're in BIG trouble!


So what's the right way to write subject lines?

Here's a mini case study that shows you how to think about putting a subject line together.

Check out this subject line from an email sent by a major marketer that targets small and growing businesses.

    SUBJECT: Who's minding the store?

If you click through to find out more, you get to the message:

"Small businesses are more vulnerable to crime than is generally realized, yet the risks to them are not publicized and too few take steps to protect themselves, says a new study. Don't wait until you are a victim of a crime - take steps now to thwart the bad guys. Here are a few tips" . . . etc.

So what's going on here?

Well, the message itself certainly goes on to provide valuable information that small business managers should know. But instead of saying so directly in the subject line, the writer went for a "teaser" approach:

    "Who's minding the store?"

This teaser line might be O.K. in an ad or flyer but is, I would argue, a big loser as a subject line. Why? Because no benefit is mentioned.

Let's rewrite the subject line and see if we can do a better job of motivating the reader. How about . . .

    SUBJECT: Five ways to prevent store theft

Or, we could slice it and dice it a bunch of ways:

    SUBJECT: How to improve store security

    SUBJECT: Stop store thieves in their tracks

    SUBJECT: Don't let thieves steal you blind

    SUBJECT: Crime prevention basics


    SUBJECT: How to prevent store theft


    SUBJECT: Guaranteed ways to prevent store theft

You get the idea.

The take-away message this month?


The subject line is a vitally important part of email campaign success and should be the subject of your close attention!


If you need some copywriting help with emails, sales letters, Web copy, you name it, CLICK HERE and take a look at some samples of mine and testimonials too. Then give me a call at (415) 461-0672.


Let's go to work!


P.S. Please click the "Forward this issue of The Levison Letter below and send it on to colleagues or friends. When they subscribe they can download my free report titled "101 Ways to Double Your Response Rates!" (If you don't have a copy, CLICK HERE to send me an email, and I'll make sure you get one!

How to get in touch . . .
Phone: (415) 461-0672
Fax: (415) 461-7738
Visit my Web site


Ivan Levison. Direct Mail, Email & Advertising Copywriting
14 Los Cerros Drive, Greenbrae, CA 94904
Phone (415) 461-0672      Fax: (415) 461-7738

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