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The Five Elements of Click-Worthy Email Subject Lines

This article originally appeared on Advisor Perspectives on October 14, 2021, and can be found here.

According to 2019 Ycharts’ client communications, nearly 80% of clients prefer that their advisor communicates with them via email over all other forms of communication.

Given the overwhelming preference for email, the success of your communication relies on the strength of your subject line and content. According to Convince & Convert, 35% of email recipients open emails based on the subject line alone.

That’s why it’s incredibly important to have a strategy for creating click-worthy subject lines.

Most articles on this topic only look at general best practices for subject lines and are not specific to advisors. To get more granular, I wanted to look specifically at what’s working for financial advisors’ email marketing*.

Using my company’s data that shows the performance of various subject lines, I’ll discuss the types that are working best and how to write your own version to communicate with clients.

Before we dive in, let’s get some context.

Email marketing statistics in financial services

Email marketing is measured using three metrics:

  • Open rate: the percentage of recipients who open a specific email out of the total number of recipients the email was sent to.
  • Click-through rate: the percentage of people who clicked on at least one link in your email message.
  • Click-to-open rate: A comparison of the above two numbers, providing a percentage representing the overall effectiveness of your message.

In Campaign Monitor’s breakdown of email performance based on industry, financial services emails have an average open rate of 24.8%, an average click-through rate of 2.7% and an average click-to-open rate of 10.6%.

The examples below surpass these averages.

Five types of subject lines to get more opens

1. Imply value with hyper-specific topics

Focusing on benefits to the recipient is one of the best ways to attract readers to your subject line. But for some of my company’s informative emails, I found narrowing in on the topic and audience to be more effective.

Here is the data from three high-performing informative emails:

Examples of effective email subject lines

Each subject line was successful because it implied benefits to the reader by focusing on the topic and audience.

Let’s take “Tax Strategies for High Earners.” The benefit of the subject line is implied – these strategies help high earners save money.

But the subject line says nothing explicitly about the benefit. Instead, it focuses on the audience and the how.

How to write your own:

Writing a subject line like this is all about selecting your topic and narrowing down who the topic benefits the most.

Imagine we’re writing an informative email on inflation. Inflation affects everyone, but how can we narrow down our topic to imply value to a specific audience?

For example, inflation can be a unique challenge for retirees. A subject line like, “How retirees can protect themselves from inflation,” could work well, especially if it is timely – right now, inflation is in the news constantly, so this topic is already on your readers’ minds.

To see success from this type of email, find ways to narrow down your subject and audience as much as possible – the more granular and specific the better.

2. Ask questions with details

Questions are another fantastic way to draw your reader's attention by evoking a sense of curiosity. Question emails, though, can drift into click-bait territory if you’re not careful. The key is to include details in your question.

Here are some of the most successful question emails from our data:

Examples of effective email subject lines for financial advisors

These emails are effective because they make the reader curious while telling them what to expect. The opposite of this would be a subject line like, “Could this ruin your retirement?” which might get more opens but could also be seen as click-bait and depending on the content inside the email, could have a lower CTOR.

How to write your own:

To write question emails that are effective, include as much detail as possible and eliminate any vague wording.

This will allow you to evoke curiosity in your readers while also maintaining their trust.

3. Make things simple with a checklist

Email subject lines with numbers have been shown to result in a 45% higher open rate. And one of the best ways to apply numbers to your emails is with lists.

But don’t just take my word for it, here’s the data on a few advisor’ subject lines:

Examples of effective subject lines for financial advisors

Numbers are beneficial because they help the subject line stand out in a crowded inbox and quantify just how much information your reader is receiving.

How to write your own:

Writing an email subject like this is easy once your content is created. Give this a try with your next list article. And like our other examples, be sure to include as much detail as possible.

2. Keep your clients up-to-date

As an advisor, your clients look to you as an information source on everything from breaking news to upcoming potential tax legislation. If you regularly deliver great information via email, your clients will regularly open those emails expecting to find value in what you are sending.

For this reason, it wasn’t too surprising to find client updates performing well in our data set:

Examples of effective email subject lines for financial advisors

These email subject lines are effective because they’re straightforward. But the real power behind them, as shown by the CTOR above, is the content within them.

How to write your own:

Your subject line could include the timeframe if it's a regularly sent newsletter, something like “December Updates: Client Update” for example. Or, you could also try the tactic of giving a preview of what clients can expect if they open the email. For instance, an example of this would be “October Client News: What does the proposed tax plan mean for you.”

The important thing is to deliver on the body of this email, which could go two ways. It could be about content that has already been distributed. Or it could highlight what’s to come, such as promoting an upcoming webinar you are hosting. Whichever you choose, be sure to spotlight why your content is valuable.

5. Highlight alternative media

Emails can be frustrating. We keep up with our professional inboxes, only to leave our personal ones inundated with new messages.

Sometimes, we’re tired of engaging the same types of content, even if it is valuable to us.

For this reason, I found emails that highlighted alternative media often performed better. For example:

Examples of effective email subject lines for financial advisors

These emails follow similar patterns as our above examples, with an added tag at the beginning of the subject. By writing an email like this, you can play into the benefits of alternative mediums, without having to show them.

How to write your own:

To write these, write your subject line and drop a bracketed tag for the content type before it.

Remember, despite the overwhelming preference for email, your communication will often rely on the strength of your subject line. Keep these tips in mind the next time you’re brainstorming an effective subject.

*Data shared here comes from analyzing the email marketing data from advisors using Twenty Over Ten’s marketing tool.