How-To Guide: The Intro to Attention-Grabbing Subject Lines

What if you could inspire your consumers to consistently open marketing emails?

It sounds like madness, but there is a method to achieving that with your email subject lines. It all starts with an intro statement. An intro statement is a tone-setting, attention-grabbing word or phrase that prefaces or complements what you are selling. Take a look at my inbox: Dell, Moore & Giles, Walmart, and Fry’s use this core principle in setting the tone in their email — that’s not many.


Of course, a marketing email intro statement isn’t a novel concept. Joe Sugarman, one of the pioneers of modern-day copywriting and author of The Adweek Copywriting Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Powerful Advertising and Marketing Copy from One of America's Top Copywriters, explains that “the sole purpose of the first sentence in an advertisement is to get you to read the second sentence.” How does one get to do that? Simple: Keep it short and sweet. 

Now, if you follow this blog, you may be scratching your head and saying, “Doesn’t email subject line length not matter? If so, why does the intro statement need to be short?” Email subject line length doesn’t matter, but a short-and-sweet intro statement builds crucial momentum for the reader. A short statement is a lot easier to hook someone in than a long sentence. It’s the same line of thinking as to why magazine and other media articles begin with a large typeface: draw the reader in, then leave it up to the writer to get the person to continue reading. That is why when you work with Persado, you’ll notice us using intro statements to your subject lines, and it almost doesn’t read like a full sentence!

You’ll see examples like: 

Nailed it!
Sitting down? 
Just for you: 
You’ll dig this.

That, mixed with emotion, catches a reader’s attention and they will be more eager to read what’s next. However, you have to be careful, because it’s not as simple as slapping on a statement at the beginning of a subject line and expecting it to perform better. Before you go out adding intros to your headlines/subject lines, equip yourself with some hard-learned, data-tested tips and you’ll be a pro in no time! 

1. Incorporate Strong Emotion In your Subject Lines

Because each word of a marketing email intro statement needs to get the consumer excited about the next word, it’s important to emotionally engage with them. At Persado, we have found that emotions account for about 60% of an audience’s engagement with an email subject line.  Anxiety (“PSA: Killer Kicks on Sale Now!”) and Gratitude (“Because you’re an awesome customer: 10% cashback on all retail purchases”) are consistently high performing emotions for intro statements. Encouragement (“Summer Goals: The trendiest swimwear has arrived”), on the other hand, is towards the bottom in performance.  

2. Avoid Urgency in Your Subject Lines

If you’ve read any of my articles before, it may seem like I constantly pick on language that centers around urgency. But I have my reasons: Too many brands rely on urgency when it comes to framing their subject lines, especially at the beginning of the message. You’ll see this come up with phrases like “ENDS TODAY”, “Last chance!”, or “2 Hours Only!” at the beginning of the message. Not only are they overdone, but it typically doesn’t perform well for brands. Over the course of hundreds of thousands of campaigns at Persado, Urgency has placed 13th out of 15 emotions in getting email opens.  And we’re not just talking English, this includes French, German, Italian, Japanese and eight other languages! We’re not saying to avoid it at all costs, because there are words and phrases that will work for your brand, but try to incorporate different emotions when crafting your intro statement. 

3. Don’t Always Use The Same Words In Your Subject Lines

If you find a value that performs like gangbusters for your emails, don’t just rinse and repeat — fatigue is a real thing. A good rule of thumb: If you send promotional emails three times per day, wait at least two weeks before using it again. If you send out emails once a day, wait a month.This goes for all CAPS as well, which generally performs pretty well for brands the first time, but not after. Be sure to use your words sparingly. 

4. Make sure it complements the rest of your subject line

As I mentioned before, your intro statement is supposed to complement the rest of your subject line, and it is crucial that they relate to one another. This may be a drastic example, but you don’t want to preface your subject line with “Great news!” if the rest of your line reads that a sale is going to shut down. 

These are just a few tips to help you create an intro statement to your subject lines. Try creating some of your own and see how they work, and if you want to see how they perform, check out our Persado Predict tool at the bottom of this page, and see how much of an open lift you’ll receive.

Words hold power. Don’t put a great marketing campaign at risk just because the copy doesn’t resonate with your audience. If you’re looking to optimize your language, use core data science principles to inspire action from your audience. Or, fill out the form below, and we’d be happy to help you.