10 Of The WORST Email Subject Lines In My Inbox (Plus How To Fix Them).

by Tara Fitness
Email Subject Lines

I have a separate email address for subscriptions. Partly because I don’t want sales emails flooding my inbox, and partly because I shake my head every time I scan my ‘subscriptions’ inbox. As an email marketer, it’s hard not to get frustrated with how disrespectful of their lists some of these senders are. But more importantly, from a business perspective, it’s unbelievable how much cash these companies are leaving on the table.

In this post, I’m going to talk you through 10 of the worst subject lines in my inbox, including why they’re on the list, and how they could be improved.

But first, here’s the email subject lines:

10 of the worst email subject lines in my inbox.

The following 10 email subject lines are taken from actual emails sitting in my inbox. Almost all of these subject lines have been sent by internationally recognised online businesses. Clearly, to some extent, they work. These companies wouldn’t be using them if they didn’t.

But could they do better? Hell yeah.

Before I tell you how, here’s the 10 worst email subject lines in my inbox.

1. FREE SHIPPING AVAILABLE WORLDWIDE.

2. Deals of the Week!

3. Up to X% off RRP on [product name].

4. Big [holiday name] Sale (e.g. Black Friday, Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving).

5. Mid Season Clearance NOW ON.

6. A Special Offer from [company name].

7. Buy more save more.

8.  FLASH SALE.

9. Last chance! Up to 30% off selected [product name/s].

10. Don’t miss out – half price [product name] ends today.


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Why are these the worst email subject lines in my inbox?

Did you catch the trend? They’re all focused on price.

Now, before you question my motives, I promise you, I didn’t scroll through my inbox and pick out just the ‘sale’ focused emails. In fact, in an upcoming post titled ‘The 10 best email subject lines in my inbox’, I had to look hard to find 10 great email subject lines. As for the ‘worst’ offerings though, I picked most of them from the last two weeks.

The 10 worst emails were easy to find because many of the email lists I’m subscribed to send daily emails using only one style of subject line:

The ‘money saving’ headline.

Now, we all like to save money. Aaannnddd sometimes, it’s why we buy. How often have you gone to the shop and bought two items instead of one because they were on sale?  How often have you bought a cheap t-shirt because is was exactly that… cheap. It doesn’t matter if you throw it in the back of the cupboard and never wear it. Yep, we’ve all done it.

But email inbox is different, and it must be treated that way.

The #1 mistake most companies make with their email subject lines.

The problem isn’t that sales don’t make people buy. Afterall, we’ve just established they do.

The problem is there are plenty of other factors that influence a buying decision, and these companies are flat out ignoring them.

Many of the companies in my inbox simply rotate through these 10 subject lines, sending a ‘sale focused email’ every single day.

This does three things:

1. Too many sales emails teach consumers your products are always on sale, making them think “why should I buy now?’

Sales are a fantastic marketing tactic when used effectively. But when you’re emailing your list with sales every day, it’s not long before they realise your products are always on sale. As a result, they never buy at full price. Instead, they wait until the product they want or need comes on sale again.

When you’re constantly promoting a sale, there is no scarcity or urgency in your marketing so there is no reason for people to buy during a sale.

2. Too many sales emails make consumers believe you’re just like every other money-hungry company on the Internet.

It seems like 95% of companies are reading from the same marketing textbook:

  • Send a daily or weekly newsletter promoting all of the current sale products; and
  • Use HTML and product images to make the email look ‘professional’.

See how they all blend in?


In 2017, 269 Billion emails were sent and received every single day. In 2019, this is expected to increase to 294 Billion (Statista). And as you can see in the screenshot of my email inbox above, a lot of companies are relying on sales to make… well, sales.

If your potential customers email inbox looks like mine above, would you prefer to be standing out or blending in?

I thought so.

3. Too many sales emails send consumers racing towards the unsubscribe link?’

If your email marketing is effectively a copy of the front page of your website, you’re sending subscribers scrambling for the ‘unsubscribe’ link like they’re trying to grab the last cheap TV on Black Friday. What’s worse, you’re pulling a wad of cash out of your business wallet, and setting it alight.

When people are rushing for your unsubscribe link – or worse, deleting your emails without even opening them – you’re paying to speak to people who aren’t listening. If they’re not opening your emails, they aren’t clicking… and if they aren’t clicking, they ain’t buying.

Even scarier than that; after months of clicking ‘delete’ when they see your business name in their inbox, they go elsewhere when they need a product like yours because they don’t want to start another flood of ‘buy-this-now’ emails.

The #1 email subject lines mistake in my inbox.

You may not believe this, but there’s more than one major company making this exact mistake. In fact, my inbox currently contains emails from three major retailers to prove they’re making this mistake… and they pay entire marketing teams!!!

The fatal mistake:

Sending the exact same email every day for a week.

That’s just plain lazy!

How do you improve your email subject lines?

1. Use scarcity sparingly.

Rather than choosing a group of products and sending the same email for a week, why not focus on one single product (or style of product) each day. Tell a story followed by a call to action and set a deadline. The scarcity alone will increase your conversions, providing you do what you say you will, and increase the price again at the end of the sale.

When you add scarcity to your sales and urgency to your sales, people buy during your sale because they fear missing out.

2. Personalise your emails.

How do you stand out in a sea of almost 300 billion emails? (Because let’s be honest, your subscribers are probably on your competitors’ lists as well).

Well, you start by NOT copying the same email style as 95% of businesses currently using an email marketing strategy. Instead, use your emails to talk about your potential clients fears, concerns, hopes and dreams. Give your subscribers a reason to believe your products can change their life.

When you personalise your emails with content that shows your subscribers you understand their desires or their pain, you stop being a company and start being someone who can relate.

3. Tell stories, be entertaining.

Do you know why the world’s largest brands use celebrities to promote their products? Because it puts a face to the company. Air Jordan’s didn’t sell like ice blocks on a 40-degree day because they were great shoes. They sold because Michael Jordan was a hero to many people, and Nike won the shoe game for years because by using Jordan, they humanised their brand.

That doesn’t mean you need to pay celebrity influencers to represent your brand. You can create the same result by showing your subscribers that you understand their needs. But it’s not enough to say:

‘Are you worried about crashing your bicycle?’

Instead, start with a story, like:

“I had a head-on collision with a 4-year-old’.

The goal of your email is the same, but I guarantee you’ll get a whole lot more opens, clicks and sales from the latter headline.

When you send a new story every day, your subscribers look forward to the next step of the adventure, and they walk with you every step of the way.

If you can’t do this, pay someone else to do it.

If emails aren’t your strength or your marketing team is underperforming, bring in a consultant or email copywriter to level-up your emails.

When you’re selling online, your email list is the lifeblood of your business. You simply cannot afford to alienate your customers.

So stop with the ‘sales’ mentality, and start treating every person on your list as a human being. You’ll be surprised just how much difference it will make to your bottom line.

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