11 Email Subject Lines Your Association Can Use To Get Better Open Rates

Posted by Curt Moss on Nov 1, 2013 12:24:00 AM

11 Email Subject Lines for Your Association to StealDespite the social media boom, email remains a powerful tool for associations and chambers of commerce. Making sure your message cuts through the clutter in your members' inboxes is as much art as it is science.  But, there are some best practices to keep in mind when creating your emails.

A powerful email starts with the subject line.  Frequently, staff members at associations will write the content for the email first and then hurry to slap on a subject line before pressing send.   Instead, make sure you start with the end in mind.  Think about what action you want your members to take when reading your email.  Write the subject line first and have that dictate how you create your content.

Here are some tips to improve your email subject lines for a better open rate.

Use Intrigue

Make the reader wonder what's inside the email. "Our members think we're crazy" could launch a limited time price for a training program. Paint a picture of exclusivity and insider knowledge. And then deliver. Try lines such as "3 Secrets to Lower Your Costs."

Go Negative

Talk about avoiding mistakes or spending too much money. Use a scare tactic like "4 Mistakes No Small Business Should Make" or "Why You're Paying Too Much for Employee Benefits" to talk about programs available through the association or chamber.


It's hard to read and it seems like you're SHOUTING. Nobody likes shouting.

Be Brief

Use 50 character or less. It's eye catching and powerful. And it works better on mobile devices. In fact 64 percent of B2B decision makers access email on their mobile devices, according to Marketo.

Set Expectations

Instead of saying “Reasons to Attend the Big Event,” say “7 Ways You’ll Be Smarter After Attending the Big Event.” Your readers will know they can expect to find a list of ways they'll benefit from going. If you're stuck on features, ask yourself "So What?" to uncover the benefits that will resonate with members.

Don't Sound Like a Spammer

We're all trained to avoid spam emails from Nigerian princesses and herbal remedies, so stay away from words that trigger readers' mental filters.

Research from marketing firm Adestra shows these words are among the worst to use in a B2B subject line:

  • Free
  • Reminder
  • Percent off
  • Discount
  • Trial
  • Report

Use Words That Push Readers' Buttons

Adestra's research also highlights the words that are more likely to get readers to open B2B emails:

  • Breaking
  • Alert
  • News
  • Video
  • Daily or Weekly but not Monthly
  • Exclusive

Be Contrarian

When the common wisdom is strong, take the other side. Be true to your organization's brand, of course, but looking at legislative changes or market shifts from the other side of the coin can be refreshing.

State the Benefits Plainly

Forsake rhetorical tricks and be open. State why the reader should take the time to open the email. Try something like "Legislative Alert: The Latest Threat from Capitol Hill," or "New Membership Benefits Will Make Your Life Easier." Answer the reader's basic question: "What's in it for me?"


11 Sample Subject Lines Your Association Can Use To Get Better Open Rates

  • Breaking News Alert — [Your alert]
  • Editor's Daily Picks — [Your news]
  • X Secrets to Uncovering Hidden Profits
  • The Next X Things You Should Do To Build Your Business
  • X Steps on How to Get More Out of Your Membership
  • X Reasons You Should Not Attend the Annual Conference
  • Make Your Boss Think You're Crazy
  • Why The Government Shutdown Was Good for Our Industry
  • X% of Members Are Missing Out On The Biggest Benefits
  • X Reasons You Should Be Making More Money
  • X Trends Your Boss Is Overlooking

Think about what emails you choose to open from your overstuffed inbox. What catches your eye? Put yourself in your readers' place when you craft subject lines to understand which words will prompt them to click on that email.

We'd love to hear your best subject line success stories.  You can send email to curt.moss@weblinkinternational.com or let us know in the comments below.

Topics: Membership Marketing & Technology