By Nancy Slane, VP of Product Experience at Levitate, shortlisted at this year‘s SaaS Awards for Best SaaS Product for Small Business, Best SaaS Product for Email Marketing, and Best SaaS Product with 1,000+ Licensed Users categories

There’s nothing worse than spending hours crafting an email only to get a few opens. With the average email open rate being about 20%, it’s more important than ever to have the right subject line to entice your clients to open that email you worked so hard on.

At Levitate, we’re dedicated to solving this problem, leveraging personalized email as the foundation of a holistic keep-in-touch marketing & client happiness strategy. And with an average email open rate of over 50%, and average reply rate of more than 10% it’s safe to say this approach works.

The secret to this success lies in our focus on building relationships and making emails feel authentic and personal, starting with the subject line.

What to do to make customers open your emails

1. Keep your subject lines short

Our data shows that shorter subject lines generate higher open rates, so it’s important to be concise. Does every subject line need to be two words? Of course not, but “Touching base” or “Checking in” are both solid options for a quick check-in email. For informational emails, it’s a good idea to keep your subject lines around six words.

2. Lowercase, lowercase, lowercase. Did we mention lowercase?

Personal emails are more likely to be sentence-case, whereas marketing emails tend to capitalize each letter.

The next time you’re sending out an email to your clients, ignore the urge to title case the subject line and use something like, “Checking in re: policy renewal,” instead of “Checking In Re: Policy Renewal.” It’s a simple tweak that can garner big results.

3. Show them you care – and explain why they should care

People are more likely to click on an email that feels personal, so use language that you would use in a normal one-on-one email. For example, “Can we chat?” will get a better response than “Schedule a meeting with Bob Smith, Attorney at Law!”.

In addition, in cases where you’re providing information in the email, it’s good practice to provide a bit of context in the subject line. That way, the recipient knows it’s relevant to them. For example, if you’re reaching out about increasing auto insurance premiums, a good subject line might be “FYI on rising auto premiums.”

What not to do make customers open your emails

1. Emojis 

 Have you ever used emojis in personal emails to friends, family, colleagues, or clients? Yeah, we haven’t either. But we have gotten emoji-laden subject lines from many, many companies, and you probably have, too.

As with all of the below “don’ts,” the primary issue is that emojis feel impersonal and mass-blast. To add further insult to injury, research has shown that a good percentage of people find emojis annoying as well.

Avoid this multifaceted risk and say to subject lines with emojis

2. What’s in a (company) name? Lower open rates

Nothing feels more impersonal than “Check-in from Bob Smith Insurance Agency” as a subject line. Your email communication should feel like you’re reaching out personally – that’s going to drive opens and replies. When you include your company name, you’re taking what could feel like a personal email and making it a “company-to-person” touchpoint.

It’s no surprise then that many recipients don’t give emails with these subject lines a second look!

3. Don’t! Overuse! Punctuation!

In today’s world a misplaced click can cause cyber chaos, so it’s natural that people are wary of anything that looks remotely spammy. Because of this, an email with a subject line promising “Free money with renewal!!!” is likely to find itself unread and sitting in a Junk folder.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use punctuation – just use it sparingly. We recommend sticking to one exclamation point or question mark, and using punctuation in situations where it makes sense contextually and doesn’t feel salesy.

For example, “Congrats!” performs better than “Congrats”. An exclamation point is commonly used in congratulations messaging and doesn’t feel like spam.

But “Info on policy renewal!!!” likely wouldn’t perform as well as “Info on policy renewal” given the number of exclamation points in the first example and the subject line’s context, which feels more sales-oriented.


Using caps lock is not going to get your email opened (and really shouldn’t be used in your email at all). Subject lines that are all caps can feel aggressive, spammy, and salesy. In fact, caps lock subject lines can trigger algorithms to send the email to Spam or Trash folders. The last thing you want to do is spend time creating a great email, only to have your all-caps subject line get it sent to email jail.

5. You will NOT believe the reason clickbait is bad

Your goal with marketing emails should be creating trust and building relationships with your recipients long-term, not getting great open rates one time.

The quickest way to hurt a relationship is to have a subject line of, “Free money!” end up being an email about discounts or another heavy sales push. It practically guarantees that the next time you reach out with an interesting subject line, recipients will think it’s another clickbait email. Or, if you’re going to use “important’ in the subject line, make sure it’s actually important.

Focus on subject lines that accurately reflect the content in the email and think about their long-term impact on your relationship with your recipients before sending.

We hope this overview of subject line best practices proved helpful. If you’re interested in the next step–content that builds relationships, drives replies and new business–give us a call or check out or website. We’d love to chat.