Copywriting for email marketing: Capturing attention

Steve White 3 mins

Old typewriter

Over the last few years, we’ve hosted more than a dozen Email Marketing Masterclasses.

One session that always gets great feedback from delegates is ‘Copywriting for Email’, delivered by our Head of Copy, Stuart Clark. So much so, that I’ve decided to turn it into a blog article – three, actually.

According to Stuart, a copywriter has 3 jobs when writing for email:

  • Capture attention
  • Sustain interest
  • Encourage action

In this article, I’ll explain how a well-crafted subject line can grab your reader’s attention and encourage them to open your email.

If you’re like me, you’re probably not one for deleting emails. This is good news for email marketers, as the longer an email sits in your inbox, the greater the chance it will be seen more than once. And the stronger your subject line, the more likely that it will get read and acted upon. (Not necessarily a click, though. Often an unopened email can trigger action via a different channel – see here.)

However, if you’ve come here for a magic formula for writing subject headers, I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed. If there was, I’d be writing this on a beach in Barbados rather than Slough train station.

As with any creative, you simply have to test what works for your brand. Over time you’ll discover that certain keywords and techniques tend to get better results for you.

Here are 6 kick start strategies that can help refine your subject header strategy.

Kickstart strategy 1 : Urgency

Some people respond to the threat of missing out on something, whether it’s an offer, a piece of content or even a special price point.


  • Last chance to get 60% off – only 24 hours left
  • Don’t miss out >>> Sale 70% off

Kickstart strategy 2 : Benefit

Whereas some people are fearful of missing out on something, some are more inclined to respond to what they may gain, save or accomplish.


  • Add 10% to your bottom line, just by making these simple tweaks

Kickstart strategy 3 : Avoid negative outcome

Another tried and tested strategy is suggesting that the content of the email could help prevent loss, risk or potential embarrassment. This is a strategy that we have utilised for several of our key B2B clients.


  • The basic mistakes that keep businesses broke

Kickstart strategy 4 : Offer

I often see retailers trying to be overly clever with how they present their offers, and instead it only complicates matters. The key to this is being simple and direct.


  • Take 15% off one item – your choice!

Kickstart strategy 5 : Command

Another fantastic strategy to test is starting the subject header with a verb and demanding action. Executed well, this can often create a great deal of standout in the inbox, as it’s generally not a strategy adopted by many email marketers.


  • Think about this, Steve

Kickstart strategy 6 : List

Presenting information in a list format is another tactic we often use for both B2B and B2B clients. For many people, time is precious. This tactic suggests that the content of the email will be easily digestible.


  • 10 things you need to stop worrying about
  • 7 things you must do in New York
  • Our 10 best party dresses
  • 6 ways to boost your email marketing

If you’d like to see more kick start strategies like these or discover more about capturing the interest of your email recipients, then please contact us on 0161 872 1361 or email


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