How to Write Email Subject Lines – 2019 UPDATE


With so many ways to reach your customers, is email even worth it anymore? Absolutely! Here are a couple of stats that will leave you awestruck.

  • Email marketing has an average ROI of 3,800 percent, and for every dollar invested, the average return is $38. (Salesforce)
  • According to 80 percent of professionals, email marketing drives customer acquisition and retention. (Constant Contact).

With numbers like these, it is obvious that email marketing should be a part of your auto repair shop’s marketing plan. However, the caveat is that it’s not always that easy to break through your customer’s inbox clutter. This is why it is imperative to create a powerful subject line.  

Back in 2013 I wrote about how to create an effective subject line. Although these suggestions still ring true today, communication methods and the way we react to them have evolved. So there are a few more things to consider in 2019.

One thing to note is that email marketing is not an exact science. It takes a lot of testing and can vary by industry. And marketing experts have varying opinions on what works. So I would like to give notice that these suggestions cover the common themes we see today..  


  1. Gripping subject line
  2. Keep it short and sweet
  3. Place the most important words at the beginning
  4. Eliminate filler words
  5. Don’t look spammy
  6. Use personalization
  7. Keep your tone consistent

Gripping Subject Line

The best email subject lines are the ones that intrigue the recipient. They can include a bold call-to-action, a mysterious statement or a question that highlights their pain point. Make a list, test them out and get creative.

Keep it Short and Sweet

Eight-eight percent of smartphone users actively check email on their phones. This means that the real estate available to you to introduce your email is limited, so your subject line needs to be short and sweet.

So how long should email subject lines be? There are varying opinions on length, according to CoSchedule. Some say 61-70 characters, while others say 17-24 characters. Each industry, including the automotive industry, can vary, so always test! One thing you need to keep in mind is that most users are mobile, and mobile screens generally only display the first 25-30 characters. So your best bet is to stay within 17-70 characters, and when considering longer lengths, definitely practice the next tip.

Place the Most Important Words at the Beginning

It is difficult to know how your email’s subject line will appear on all devices and in all email service provider inboxes. So to account for this, it is best practice to put your most important words at the beginning of the subject line. For example, you may want a subject line to read:

Good: Get your Premium Oil Change offer! Only $25 today, $63 tomorrow

Better:  $25 today, $63 tomorrow – Get your Premium Oil Change offer!

The second line gets the most important value proposition in front of the customer’s eye first to increase curiosity in what is being sold, leading them to read further.

Eliminate Filler Words

Characters can be a precious commodity; you don’t want to waste them with words that do not contribute to conveying the key idea. For example, greetings, like “Hi,” are unnecessary. Just look at each word and try eliminating it. Does it lose its meaning or the gusto of the message? If not, you didn’t need it.

Don’t Look Spammy

You’re an email user, and you know that your spam radar goes wild when you open your mailbox see something like, “ACT NOW FOR CHANCE TO WIN FREE…,”. This is true for your customers too. In fact, 69 percent of email recipients report an email as spam based solely on the subject line (Convince and Convert).  What is considered spammy can change over time, and it is important to look at the relationship you have with the person you’re sending the email to. Things to consider:

  • Language: Email service providers have become stricter on what emails make it to the inbox, and this is partly based on the language that is used. Words such as, “For just” or “Lowest Price,” tend to not make the cut. (LIST OF 2019 WORDS: Automational)
  • Emojis/Icons/Symbols: Fifty-six percent of brands using emojis in their email subject lines had a higher open rate according to WordStream (2018). Wait! Before you get too excited and start searching for car emojis, assess your relationship with the recipient of your email. Sixty-four percent of consumers open an email based on who it is from (Email Monks, 2018). If the recipient of the email knows who you are, they are more likely to respond well to emojis and other characters. However, if you are new to them, this can be a bit off-putting and informal. For example, if it is a returning customer who has been to the shop for more than one service, then by all means, use something, like “[car & wrench emojis] You’re car’s due for some TLC]
  • Font: DON’T USE ALL CAPS. This may grab attention, but it is likely not the attention you want. We have learned as communicators that all caps can mean yelling.

Use Personalization

People value being spoken to directly, so much so that personalized subject lines generate high open rates at 50 percent!  Doing things like customizing the subject line to include their name or the car’s make and model is a great way to make them feel like you are individually addressing their needs and automatically catch their eye.

Keep Your Tone Consistent

Make sure you match! Don’t use humor in your subject line but then make the body copy of your email serious and formal. If you have a theme of your subject line, make sure you tie that theme into your email.  

Don’t Bait and Switch

Whatever you do, do not be misleading in your subject line. Although this is probably obvious to you, some businesses still struggle with this. This includes making the subject line sound like it’s about one topic, but really the email body is about something completely different – a bait and switch. Other times, business owners will have good intentions by mentioning something, like “A Great Deal,” but in the email they are really trying to say their products or services are full of value for the original standard price. Although this is well-intentioned by the owner, it misleads the receiver by making them think there is a discount or sale. So just be mindful.


Are you working on an auto shop email marketing campaign right now and having writer’s block when trying to figure out a good subject line? I know that it helps to look at examples to get the creative juices flowing. See if you can take any of these examples from CreativeLive and spin them into something that works for your auto repair shop.

Resources for Writing a Good Email Subject Line 

Original Blog – August 28, 2013  

When it comes to being able to choose the subject line for email promotions, there’s good news and bad news for Mitchell 1 SocialCRM customers. The good news is that you can pick any subject line you want. The bad news is if you pick the wrong subject line, it can land your email promotion in the spam filter mailbox.

Take for instance an actual example where a customer innocently selected, “ACT NOW FOR CHANCE TO WIN FREE OIL CHANGE.” He recently called to ask why Outlook put it in his spam mailbox. Unfortunately, there are a several words (ACT, NOW, FREE)  being used that are considered “spammy” in the email world, and will likely get this email filtered by some email client spam filters.

Besides asking yourself if it sounds “spammy,” don’t hesitate to ask your Mitchell 1 SocialCRM support agent for their opinion, too — they are here to help.

Here are a few general rules your support agent may discuss:

  • Avoid words like “Free,” “Now” or “Limited Time”
  • Use 50 characters or fewer
  • Steer clear of excessive punctuation marks!!!

Want to learn more about SocialCRM?
Request a FREE DEMO!

Posted in:
About the Author

Brian Warfield

Brian Warfield is a Senior Product Manager for the Mitchell 1 SocialCRM product line. He has been in the automotive software business for over 20 years and has earned a degree in Marketing from the University of Cincinnati Business College.