(This article was originally posted on November 26, 2014, and has been updated to provide even more great information!)Subject linesYour email subject line is pretty important – after all, the best information in the world is no good to anyone who doesn’t open the email.
Email newsletter service Mail Chimp did some research into what makes an effective email subject line by looking at open rates for 200 million emails.
While they acknowledge that the subject line is not the only factor influencing whether someone will open a message, here are some highlights:

  • Including a person’s name in the subject line did not change open rates significantly – but putting some sort of “localization” – such as a town name – did.
    Best practice: Every now and then, drop the name of your town, street, or some other local tidbit if it makes sense.
  • Filling in the “From” line is very important – open rates were higher when the sender name was clear.
    Best practice: Be clear in the “Sender” field.
  • Promotional emails just don’t do as well as valuable, timely information.
    Best practice: Keep that awesome, informative and interesting content flowing, and don’t be shy about sending out reminder emails for upcoming appointments or prescription refills. These kinds of emails provide timely, relevant information that pet owners will appreciate receiving and be more likely to open and taken action on.
  • New email newsletters do well but open rates drop over time, and having the same subject like accelerates the drop.
    Best practice: If you are emailing about the same thing more than once, try to switch up the subject line.
  • Emails with subject lines shorter than 50 characters had higher open rates, except in cases where the email was targeted to very specific subscribers.
    Best practice: Keep it short and simple. Even subjects like “[Your Practice] Newsletter – November Issue” can work well.

Additional Tips:

  • Let people know what to expect from your emails when they sign up, and you’ll know they are opting in because they want to hear from you. Are you sending health information? Pet care tips? Promotions?  Say so. People are more likely to open something they’ve asked for.
  • To change things up a bit, try asking questions in some of your subject lines to pique curiosity.
  • For emails about promotions or events, add a deadline or timeline to your subject line to create a sense of urgency.
  • If you’re feeling confident or clever, try injecting some humor into your subject line to help it stand out in a cluttered inbox and entice readers to click through for more humor in the body of your email.
  • If your practice uses a more informal tone in your communications with clients, you could also consider adding ❤ emoticons  to your subject lines to attract attention. Just bear in mind that different email programs may display these emoticons in different ways.

Things to Avoid:

  • Don’t get caught in spam filters. Some triggers are USING ALL CAPS, words like “free,” and anything like “extra inches” even if you’re referring to the ones Fido will lose off his waistline with proper exercise.
  • Keep it relevant. Don’t use the old “bait and switch,” saying your email is about one thing when it’s about something else. Not only is this off-putting, it damages trust.
  • Don’t worry so much! There is no perfect subject line.

Building trust with your email recipients by providing useful and informative content means that, over time, your subject lines won’t matter as much. Since people welcome your messages and are happy to see them in their inboxes, they will even happily permit you to get away with the odd faux pas every now and then.


Need help with your veterinary marketing? Check out LifeLearn’s Veterinary Marketing System for the solutions you’re looking for.

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