My 7 Best Performing Email Subject Lines Of 2018 | Ep. #099

Pro Church Daily is the show where - in ten minutes or less - you’ll get your daily dose of tips and tactics to help your church share the message of Jesus, while navigating the biggest communication shift we’ve seen in the last 500 years.

May 2nd, 2018

Email is still, in our opinion, the second most important platform for your church to be using on digital. Brady shares 7 of his best performing subject lines from this year.

What’s In This Session?

  • Example #1: Embarrassing (39.47% open rate) [CURIOSITY] (2:49)
  • Example #2: [Blank subject line] (33.51% open rate) [CURIOSITY] (4:01)
  • Example #3: Pastors are too old (33.9% open rate) [CONTROVERSY] (4:41)
  • Example #4: 7 things Millennials don’t care about in your church (37.3% open rate – 10.83% click rate) [LIST] (5:46)
  • Example #5: A gift from me to you (34.85% open rate) [FREEBIE] (6:49)
  • Example #6: The easiest lighting setup I’ve ever used (32.82% open rate) [EASY] (7:05)
  • Example #7: How to 27X your organic reach on Facebook (30.11% open rate) [HOW-TO] (8:20)

Show Notes & Resources Mentioned

The Full Transcript

Alex Mills: Well, hey, there and welcome to Pro Church Daily. This is the show where in 10 minutes or less you’re going to get your daily dose of tips and tactics to help your church share the message of Jesus while we navigate the biggest communicationship that we’ve seen in the last 500 years. I’m your host Alex Mills. I’m joined as always by the boss man. It’s Brady Shearer. Today we’re going to talk about Brady’s seven best performing email subject lines of 2018. 

Brady Shearer: Email is still, in our opinion, the second most important platform for your church to be leveraging on digital, second only to your church’s actual website. Email is the most widely used digital platform, even more than all the social platforms. We use email as the primary strategy of communicating with Pro Church Daily, even with the advent of our daily YouTube content. We’re very active on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Of course, we have our own website and our own products. Well, so much of it is built around email. 

I took inventory of all the email campaigns that we’ve sent over the last year, and I took out seven of the best performing subject lines to share with Pro Church Nation on this episode of Pro Church Daily. Hopefully we’re going to do some takeaways of why we think these performed best, inspire you when it comes to the emails that you’re sending out for your own church, and also just to reiterate the importance of subject lines. Because before you can ever get someone to read the content of your email, before you can get them to take a next step and click on a link within the email, they have to open it. So much of the open is dictated by the subject line. 

Does it peak the interest, the curiosity enough for them to click open rather than just swipe away or click that checkbox and then the trash bin icon. 

Alex Mills: Yeah. Email is so unique to other social platforms because Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, the algorithms are always changing. You never know who’s going to see what. With email depending on the size of your email list, you know that when you click send, who it’s being delivered to. You have this one point of entry. It’s the subject line. This is your opportunity. You know your people are going to see it. This is the gateway. This is the call to action. This is the only thing that’s going to get people to click. Sometimes I know in my own experience I’ve overlooked the subject line. 

In the process of sending out more emails and learning about this stuff, I’ve realized like, “Man, this is it. If you can’t compel people with the subject line, you’re never going to get them to open it.” 

Brady Shearer: You worked so hard on the email and then you gave it like newsletter January 17th. I mean come on. You’re shooting yourself. That’s a swipe hard. Okay. Seven best performing email subject lines. For context, we have an email list that these were sent out over the course of the year. Let’s say on average 30,000. Our open rates might be lower than yours. You know, a lot of churches with only a couple hundred on the list might see open rates as high as 50%. A good benchmark for us would be 30. A very good email would be 30. All of these surpassed that. Example number one, the subject line was just one word. That word was embarrassing. 

It got a 39.47% open rate. I think it was the highest open rate we got that year. Of course, the foundational psychological principle that caused people to open that is someone else got embarrassed. What happened? It’s curiosity. People want to know what was embarrassing. I think we sent this email out during one of our launch weeks. We had like a technical error and I was just sending out an email. It said something like, “Well, that didn’t go according to plan,” and then people loved it. 

Alex Mills: Curiosity, I’m sorry to interrupt you, but curiosity is probably the top of my list for what’s going to get me to click through and open an email. To be curious for what’s on the other side, that one always gets me. 

Brady Shearer: We had this happen in our office the other day. Someone on their computer was watching a very disgusting video of violent proportions I believe. I was not going to be looking at that because I didn’t need to be mortified, but the whole office was saying to the rest of the office, “Do not come over here. Do not look at this.” That peaked the curiosity so much of the other side of the office. We’re like, “I gots to see it.” 

Alex Mills: I don’t want to, but I have to. 

Brady Shearer: They couldn’t stop their own curiosity. Example number two, this was an accident, I just sent out an email without a subject line. I’ve never done it before. I don’t know what got into me. I sent it out. Everyone opened it because they’re like, “Wait. What was this?” 

Alex Mills: Well, this one works for your email list because you have crafted great subject lines for so long that people are just conditioned to that. It happened to me. I saw it come to my personal email. I’m like, “Did he do this on purpose?” 

Brady Shearer: I gots to know. Again curiosity is the psychological principle that’s triggering that open …

Alex Mills: You did it by accident, but maybe somebody else should do it on purpose? 

Brady Shearer: Did I do it by accident? 

Alex Mills: We’ll never know. 

Brady Shearer: 33.51% open rate. Example number three, pastors are too old. 33.9% open rate. This is the controversial headline. People are clicking and opening that. Maybe already a little bit charged up going, “What does he mean by that?” You want to use these headlines very scarcely because you don’t want to overdue it and become one of those new sites that’s just being provocative for the sake of being provocative, as so much of our mainstream media does. This is a great way to earn clicks, opens and eyeballs on your content. It’s probably not worth it very often. Do it scarcely and do it with a purpose. 

Alex Mills: You don’t want to adopt this kind of hyperbolic language. Like you said, it kind of loses it luster. People get desensitized to it if you used it to often, but this one will get me clicking probably. 

Brady Shearer: That’s why the majority of the content that we send out our subject lines are lists and are curiosity because those you can do at scale and you don’t wear that out, but you can wear out the psychological trigger of controversy. People just start to go, “Okay. This is just outrage culture and I’m not here for that.” Example number four, seven things millennials don’t care about in your church. This had a 37.3% open rate, and we haven’t talked too much about click. This one was our best click. 10.83% click. A good click rate for us is probably three to five. That’s thousands of people. This was thousands and thousands of people. 

10%. That just goes to show the email I wrote was great, but also that the subject line pertains so well to what people wanted to know. They couldn’t stop the click. That’s a 33% conversion rate almost from the click and the open. That’s a list post. We do this so much because it’s matter of fact, it’s just to the point, and you have an expectation when you’re opening it. Okay, there’s going to be a list either in this email or linked in this email to seven things. I know exactly what I’m going to expect. What these are good at, kind of the opposite of curiosity, is like you’re making a promise. 

There’s no curiosity except people want to know what the list is, but there’s no bait and switch at all. People feel a little bit more like, “Oh, I can trust this. I know what he’s promising. I know what she’s promising. I can click on it.” 

Alex Mills: Right. Hit me with the next one. 

Brady Shearer: Example number five, a gift from me to you. 34.85% open rate. This had a freebie inside. Why did people open it? We like free stuff and a little bit of curiosity, what is the free thing?  

Alex Mills: Yeah, exactly. I’ve used this a couple times at church and it always performs really well. 

Brady Shearer: Example number six, the easiest lighting setup I have ever used. 32.8% open rate. This one actually surprised me because I don’t even feel like it’s that good of a subject line. It could be that the actual content is very conducive to Pro Church Nation and they wanted to know about lighting. I don’t talk about this being a video lighting setup. It could mean the lighting in any context. It has a pretty far wide reach within the church context, but also it talks about something being easy and lighting is particularly traditionally difficult. 

If you take something that’s normally difficult and you talk about it in an easy way, like one that I would open so easily is like the only three things you need to do to get the perfect lawn this summer. Please tell me because I feel like I’m doing a million things and none of them work. 

Alex Mills: I need that perfect lawn. Yeah. This one would get me too because like you said, lighting is inherently believed to be difficult. Everyone has that kind of preconceived notion. If I see that subject line, it’s like, “Oh, if I click this, what I think is difficult is going to be made easy for me.” Especially in the church world, a lot of us are trying to do DIY things and trying to do things that we’re not generally qualified to do and trying to figure out things at a low budget, at a low cost. These kind of subject lines for churches are really helpful. 

Brady Shearer: Final subject line, best performing of 2018 for us, how to 27X your organic reach on Facebook. It had a 30.11% open rate. Of course, the idea behind this is the how to. Kind of what you just said, DIY. We’re going to take something that you might think is difficult and we’re going to break down exactly how to do it. The beginner’s guide. The starter’s guide. The fundamental principles behind all of these subject lines, we’ve got curiosity, we’ve got controversy, we’ve got lists, freebies, easy, how to. 

All of these are not just applicable to our own Pro Church Tools business, but also to your church world and your church context because they all are built on foundational principles and psychological triggers that apply to every human. 

Alex Mills: Right. This stuff isn’t too hard. It may sound like a lot. You don’t know where to start. Do I start with curiosity? Do I start with controversy? Where do I even begin? 

Brady Shearer: I know where to start. Just send an email without a subject line. 

Alex Mills: Yeah, exactly. No, but once you get in the habit of speaking this way and thinking this way, especially after you’ve written the body copy of your email, you’ll condition yourself to be able to think in a way, how can I summarize this in a curious way to get people clicking through. It does become much easier. 

Brady Shearer: One way to expedite your training process in this is to write two email subject lines every single time. A/B test them both all mail platforms like MailChimp, ActiveCampaign can do this. You’ll be quickly learning, “Oh, this one performed better than this,” and you’ll learn on the fly. 

Alex Mills: There you go. 

Brady Shearer: That will do it for this episode of Pro Church Daily. We’ll see you next time.