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Random Rant: How Not To Write An Email Subject Line


To: All Email Marketers

C.C. All who read my blog

From: Patrick Griffin

Subject: Misleading Subject Lines.

Recently I received an email with the following subject line: You have a referred a new member!

“Great,” I thought as I clicked on the message to open it up, “I wonder where this sign up has come from?”

Then I read the first line. It said: “That’s the message you’ll see over and over again with…” and then it told me about the program the marketer wanted me to join and provided me with a link to do so.

Ah brilliant.

So I had been conned.

No new referral at all.

The joke was on me.

Except that it is not terribly funny, or clever and it kind of makes me a little angry that some marketers think it is cool to con people into opening their emails.

By all means keep sending me emails with misleading subject lines if you really must.

However be advised that should you do so then I will never join your program.

It is a bit hard to build up trust if the very first words I read from you turn out to be a lie.

ends memo


14 Responses to Random Rant: How Not To Write An Email Subject Line

  1. Rosyel Sawali (raincrystal)
    October 6, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    Tell me about it, Patrick! That’s not the only one though.. there are subject lines that read.. “You’ve received commission” or the like! Not good as you get irked when you get these emails. I tend to look them over.

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  2. Sergio Felix
    October 6, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    Hey Patrick,

    That’s annoying as hell.

    I normally unsubscribe immediately from people that send me headlines like that, I can’t stand it either.

    Sadly, I don’t unsubscribe when it’s coming from someone I paid some service to (because it’s my investment after all and I don’t want to lose any upgrades, announcements, etc)

    Sad but true right?


    PS. I’m starting to see a few changes around here, congrats on them! ;-)

    • Patrick Griffin
      October 6, 2011 at 2:14 pm #

      You make a really good point there Sergio but the situation you describe is even more difficult to understand.
      I can’t figure out why someone you have already paid money to would still want to try and trick you into opening emails.
      Surely it only serves to make people wish they had never invested with that person in the first place.
      As for the changes you mention…whatever could you mean? Oh, hang on, I think I know. Thanks. ;)
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  3. Jeff Gudgeon
    October 6, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    Yes, It still baffles me to this day that any marketer would trick me into opening an email.

    Yes, it works to get me to open them….just long enough to make a mental note of who i will block and never do any kind of business with.

    Some of my current favorites are anything starting with RE:
    Thank you, goodbye…blocked.

    I love the ones from Jeffrey Lant, (no I won’t ever address him as Dr.) except maybe a Dr. in slinging B.S.
    You have received $34,000 in commissions….. unfortunately we had to give it to your upline. Thank you, goodbye…blocked.

    Pat, why do you get me fired up so early in the morning?

  4. Patrick Griffin
    October 6, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    RE: Your reply to my blog post.
    No don’t block me.
    This really is in reference to your reply.
    And if you do block me you will surely miss getting all fired up early in the morning. ;)
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  5. Karen Kuty
    October 6, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

    Hi Patrick,

    The “sneaky” taglines that are used to get people to open e-mails often surprise me, and like you, give me more names of people with whom I will choose NOT to do business.

    To the marketers who send these taglines, I have this to say: By all means people, keep it up! It can be hard to recognize the weasels and scammers out there–any hints you can give me before I actually spend money with you are great. Thanks for letting me know that you are a waste of space.

    In summary, I don’t enjoy being fooled, but if it helps me prevent losing a chunk of money by avoiding another IM loser, then I don’t consider the time entirely wasted.

    Best Regards,

    Karen Kuty (klkuty)

    • Patrick Griffin
      October 6, 2011 at 4:03 pm #

      I agree.
      Even if I went on to read the email and got to the point where I liked the product I would still not be persuaded to buy.
      If it was an affiliate product I would much rather buy it from an affiliate I actually trusted rather than one that I don’t trust.

  6. Catherine White
    October 6, 2011 at 6:25 pm #

    BE CREATIVE – these are the words you will hear time and time again as advice for creating Subject Lines people will open. Obviously, this is much harder than it seems. You want to generate enough curiosity to get your subscribers to open your email. I agree an out-and-out lie is not the way to go but how far can you push the boundaries?
    During our recent TELadies4Charity campaign, since we our supporting Breast Cancer Awareness it has been very easy to create Eye-Catching Headlines but I have found myself typing a few and then pressing DELETE, as I thought I had pushed the limits too far. So, its a balancing act as with every aspect of online marketing.
    Catherine White thinks you may like this post too..We Support Breast Cancer AwarenessMy Profile

    • Patrick Griffin
      October 6, 2011 at 11:46 pm #

      You seem to have got the idea pretty well figured there Catherine.
      In my book marketers can be as creative as they wish without being rude, offensive or misleading.
      I guess a good question to ask when creating subject lines would be “How would I feel if this landed in my inbox?” and then take it from there.

  7. Sergio Felix
    October 7, 2011 at 12:07 am #

    I had to come back…

    Because this is actually a very delicate business already.

    I took a FB course some weeks ago and the person teaching us sent this as a subject:

    ” I’m receiving Death Threats…Help? ”

    My heart literally almost stopped.

    I live in one of the 50 most dangerous cities IN THE WORLD, our killings and kidnapping rates are literally through the roof (way, way, way more than 50 by week and we’re talking a small city here…) so receiving that email was a shocker for me.

    I attended a few of the webinars and after three or four I really couldn’t attend anymore.

    They were all conducted by females, sometimes one guy’s voice was around, but it was mainly a very VERY annoying high pitched female laughter that would burst every 10 seconds and then all the rest of female voices would follow along.

    I’ve been in the IT world for several years, I know what it is to laugh to stupid jokes in close meetings but this was way over the top. (I’ve seen it on Internet Marketing as well so thank you God that I haven’t attended any live events yet, I really can’t fake faces)

    So there I am, wanting to kill myself with a Bic pen because honestly, I was just there because I wanted the advice, if I wanted to laugh then I would just log into one of the HUNDREDS of places that are designed for that on the internet!

    But no, women kept focusing on their jokes and their laughter.

    Really, I couldn’t stand it.

    Being a serious guy I literally couldn’t stand it.

    So when I saw that subject on my email I thought some nut is going after her! (It made perfect sense actually LOL) But it did trigger an oh my GOD alert on me.

    Turns out that no… it was a stupid scarcity by this woman to make people open the email and it was supposed to be a joke.

    I wasn’t laughing, nor anyone else.

    She got PLENTY of angry messages from people telling her to put her shit together (sorry for my foul language) and to act like a professional and to stop using those stupid headlines to get us to open their email campaigns.

    She didn’t respond.

    The training was amazing but is over and I’m definitely NOT going to buy again.

    Sorry but my integrity comes first before a stupid commission or tricking people into something as delicate as a kidnapping.


  8. Patrick Griffin
    October 7, 2011 at 12:35 am #

    Hi Sergio,

    I think that is probably the most foolish email subject lines I have ever heard of – what an utterly stupid way to grab someone’s attention.

    And as for the training you describe – I really don’t think I would have had the patience to stick around as long as you did.

    I do like to laugh and joke about but there is also a time to be serious and to learn things.

    I am not saying you can not have a bit of a joke while also learning but the experience you describe would really be too much for me to take.

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  9. Andrew Stark
    October 7, 2011 at 7:04 pm #

    Sadly this is part of the curse that comes from buying rehashed cheap $27 ebooks from clickbank. The guy’s teaching this crap don’t care about customers, and are probably laughing to themselves that someone is actually taking action on the content the outsource guy wrote from a year old PLR report.

    Eventually these will stop, but you should reply and tell the sender that if they continue to send these messages you will take your business elsewhere.

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    • Patrick Griffin
      October 7, 2011 at 7:09 pm #

      Good point Andrew.
      Sadly I have a feeling that a lot of this rehashed PLR to which you refer is actually a lot older than just one year. :(