Subject Lines That Don’t Do These 2 Things: Crash and Burn

It’s a no-brainer.

The most important job of your email subject line is to get your email opened.

But there are two other jobs. Critical jobs that many marketers don’t pay enough attention to.

1. Pay Off The Promise

The subject line needs to make a promise to the reader that will be fulfilled in the content of the email. This is what copywriters call “paying off.”

Let’s say your subject line is “A Better Way To Find Profitable New Clients.”

This is a strong subject line for three reasons.

  • It conveys news
  • It connects with the reader’s self-interest
  • It sparks curiosity

But if you’re going to advance your relationship with the person reading your emails, you’d better “pay off” this subject line with solid, specific content.

This doesn’t mean you need to write a term paper. You don’t need to reveal everything.

But you do need to give your reader something solid. And ideally, you start giving it in the first line of the email.

Perhaps something like this.

A rewarding way to find profitable new clients is to regularly use Business Wire and PR Newswire. These online resources are most often used by reporters looking for stories.

But they’re usually not used by entrepreneurs looking for just the right kind of prospect.

When you use Business Wire, set the filters to…

This email delivers on its promise. You have given your prospect something substantive. You have added to your credibility. And you have put yourself in a position to make an offer, or request action from your prospect.

You can now ask your reader…

Would you like to see how we helped one of our clients identify 34 highly qualified new leads in just two days?

Here’s something else your subject line should do.

2. Consistently Reflect Your Brand

You can’t write a subject line that sounds like something an investment banker would say one day, and the next day write one that sounds like it comes from a football coach.

Consistency matters. A consistent, predictable tone that accurately captures the personality of your brand.

We value consistency. Consistency reassures us, it actually relaxes us, and puts us in a frame of mind where we’ll take action.

This is how you want people in your funnel to feel, so you can steer them forward, advance your relationship, and convert them.

Shrill subject lines that grab attention don’t always set the right tone for this process to unfold. You’re not mindlessly cranking out emails. You’re being a strategic marketer. So make sure you are testing subject lines that go beyond simply getting the email opened.


  • You are building sequences so you can build relationships
  • These emails reflect your business… who you are as a person
  • If you’re one person one day and another person the next, your prospect will grow uncomfortable

The best way to avoid this “split personality trap” is to plan your sequence, write your subject lines in advance, and review the subject lines for consistency of tone.

Throw out the weak ones. Make the necessary revisions.

Make sure the subject lines you’ll test set the right tone and reflect your brand personality. Make sure the email content delivers on the promise the subject line makes.

This is how your sequences get outstanding results. And it’s how marketing becomes your most valuable asset.

About Paul Talbot

Paul wrote his first ad in 1979, and is one of a select group of copywriters who has

worked in sales and sales management. He has been a National Director of Sales

at AOL and a Senior Vice President at CBS.

Paul thinks strategically and listens to his clients carefully. He is motivated by

getting his clients results. Paul lives in Coronado, California with his wife Ellen.

Paul’s email is

Read his blog at

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