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Cutting-Edge Web, How to Start a Business

15 Subject Lines that Stole My Heart: How to Use Curiosity, Open Loops and Dramatic Tension in Your Marketing

Photo by Andżelina Hanke

Photo by Bess Hamiti

(This post was originally published in 2015 but was updated in 2023 with even more awesome subject lines that you can swipe!)

“hey u” read the subject line…

I opened up.

It was from this guy Murray Gray who I had met that weekend at Brendon Burchard’s Experts Academy.

The email was bold and charming and it had me hooked…

He had done his research – knew who I was and what I liked and how to talk to me in a way that drew me in.

Here’s a snippet:

i thought i’d google your name and in this half-asleep state i’m looking at your photos of bangkok and brazil and laos and greece, seeing what you’ve seen, and thinking one single thought:  how cool it would be to go traveling together one day — you with your camera, me with mine –once we both get our content businesses up and running and no longer have any good reason to stay rooted to one spot.

sound good?

the only question that remains is ….  where shall we go?

The funny thing is that in those 3 short paragraphs, he foresaw our entire relationship…

We wrote each other for 7 months before we had our first date. It was the same week I launched Live Your Message. 8 months later we were traveling the world together with our cameras…

I thought I’d share the 15 subject lines he used to steal my heart over those 7 months he wrote to me from London to LA…

  1. hey u
  2. on cheesy songs and wanderlust…
  3. eat, pray, launch…
  4. we are what we create…
  5. zen and the art of seeing opportunity everywhere
  6. DVD mania!
  7. the turns and the twists
  8. eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!
  9. Is there a Doctor in the house?
  10. objects in the mirror may appear closer than they actually are…
  11. the way of the wind…
  12. my favorites are…
  13. admit 2 to crazyland
  14. always remember to breathe…
  15. voilà

So there you have it, the evolution of my love affair with Murray Gray.

(A word of warning: if you end up in an email exchange with a copywriter, you may end up married… 🙂

Now let me ask you:

  • How did these subject lines make you feel?
  • What is it about them that drew you in?

Read these 15 subject lines again.

Notice that almost every subject line creates curiosity and tension.

As the famous novelist Anton Checkhov wrote, “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”

Murray creates an open loop in the subject line that he closes in the body of the email. He starts a story in the subject line that he continues in the email.

This is the dramatic principle that creates books you can’t put down, emails you’re compelled to open and products you’re inspired to buy….

Now, imagine writing your marketing emails with story, romance and dramatic tension…

Do you think it would a difference in your open rate?

Your conversions?

You bet it would!

Don’t go just yet! Below you’ll find even more subject line inspiration for your next email campaigns put into 6 handy categories.

The Question Subject Line

Questions make great email subject lines because they get the reader to think about how the subject matter applies to their own life. The best questions will resonate with the reader and their past experiences, while arousing a sense of curiosity to learn more about the subject and whether their experiences are similar to other people’s.

  1. Are you joining us?
  2. What’s your take on this?
  3. Are you a robot?”
  4. Did you see this?
  5. Want to work with me directly?

The ‘How To’ Subject Line

There’s an old saying in copywriting circles that you can’t write a bad headline if it starts with the words ‘How to’.

The ‘How to’ subject line formula works so well because it forces you to describe the content of the email in very clear language.

  1. How to get better marketing results through beautiful design
  2. How to win friends and influence people
  3. How to get 1,000 new email subscribers in 1 day
  4. How to use storytelling in your email marketing
  5. How to grow your business with Facebook Ads

The Scarcity Subject Line

Scarcity is a powerful driver of human behavior. When something is in short supply, our fear of missing out kicks in and we’re compelled to act. Adding a time or availability limitation in your subject line encourages readers to open and act on your email before it’s too late.

  1. Final day to join (product name) until next year
  2. Find out if you should attend TODAY
  3. 2 FREE Books – This Week Only!
  4. Your last chance for 50% off + free shipping
  5. A hands-off lead gen system (last chance to try it!)

The Announcement or Newsy Subject Line

Using words like “Introducing” and “New” in your email subject line gives the reader a feeling that your email contains new, breaking information they haven’t heard yet.

  1. The hottest new book marketing strategy
  2. RELEASED TODAY: JV Success Roadmap
  3. Case Study – $3.2Mil in a New Niche
  4. NEWSFLASH Latest Property Growth Figures Released
  5. Meet your new instructor…

The Number Subject Line

Using numbers in your email subject lines is a great way to set people’s expectations and provide a structure for the content of your email.

Every time we do any kind of A/B testing of our blog post headlines, we find that the version of the headline containing the number outperforms the one that doesn’t. So where possible and where it makes sense, use numbers to make your subject line more specific.

  1. 30 ways to build your email list
  2. 3 Quick Ways To Appear MUCH More Handsome
  3. 20X your potential — physically, mentally, spiritually
  4. 5 “newbie proof” list building secrets
  5. 10 amazing insights into dog training

The Surprise Subject Line

Everybody loves a good play on words or a pleasant surprise. In fact, studies on brain activity show that these unexpected occurrences light up the pleasure centers of the brain.

Whether it’s a small chuckle or an unexpected offer that benefits the user, using surprise in your subject line causes the reader to pause while scanning through their inbox and piques their curiosity enough to open the email and learn more. Remember surprise and delight is one of our peak emotional experiences.

  1. Don’t ask the deer how to hunt it, ask the hunter
  2. Size does NOT matter: The REAL secret of a great relationship …
  3. She said I sucked at love. I LOL’d.
  4. You had me at “Hello”…
  5. Bet you can’t stop at one…

Now, over to you! What’s one subject line you’re inspired to write? Let me know in the comments.

And don’t go just yet!

Are you ready to build a business that stands the test of time?

A business that gives you the life you’ve only dreamed of?

Then, you need to discover your True North Business (the one you’re meant to build).

And that’s what you’ll uncover in my free, 60-minute Masterclass — Discover the Business You’re Truly Meant to Build & How to Share It With the World

So if you’re ready to build a business on a rock-solid foundation — instead of one built on sand — save your seat!

Love it? Hate it? Let me know...

  1. Harry Love

    Good morning I like sometime you can write thing you wish you could just take back so this is great thank you!

    Reply ·
  2. Trish

    Thanks for sharing. Got a kick out of the story. Kathryn Lehan, I plan to add your blog post title to my swipe file. I don’t promise to give you credit for it, but will at least acknowledge that it is a swipe when I do finally use it. 🙂 Thank you.

    Reply ·
  3. Adel Baruki

    Todo lo que has escrito es maravilloso y sería una razón hasta para escribir un libro

    Reply ·
    1. Shannon Goodell


      Reply ·
  4. Paul

    They av some deep meaning.

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      Yes! It’s important to consider the meaning of our subject lines as they increase open rates 🙂

      Reply ·
  5. My feed

    There is definately a great deal to know about this issue.
    I really like all of the points you have made.

    Reply ·
  6. Manu Tuuholoaki

    …And they lived happily ever after. Or did they?…

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      yes they did.. and still are.. 🙂

      Reply ·
  7. Gillian

    How about: “Do YOU avoid the F word?” And the word is not what they think it’s going to be it’s finances. And the text that follows is to offer them my Financial Zen programme at a heavily disocunted rate.

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      Nice subject line!

      Reply ·
  8. Emmy

    It’s me, your angel… Open the window!

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd


      Reply ·
  9. Shannon

    Thank you for sharing! Often marketing and customer relationship building is compared to a romance, and well it should be. If we all thought about our customers in the way that we think of that new romance, how different our businesses would be!

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd


      Reply ·
  10. Ruby Kamaka

    Feeling stuck? Scared? Overwhelmed?

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      Great start. How can you add more curiosity and story into this to make it unique or different?

      Reply ·
  11. Kathryn Lehan

    It’s cool how you weave your personal story into your teachable moments.

    Who’s popcorn is burning? That’s the title of my next blog post (Feb 9th).

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      I like it… and yes that is my secret to writing memorable content my audience will remember and most of all implement!

      Reply ·
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About the Author Marisa Murgatroyd

Marisa is the founder of Live Your Message, where she turns entrepreneurs into Online Superheroes, and the creator of Start With You where she helps people just like you to discover the business they're meant to build, not just the business they can build. At 4’11 and a quarter, she’s called the shortest woman in marketing — and that doesn’t stop her from having huge ideas. She’s the “go to” brand builder for industry luminaries and heavyweights such as Justin Livingston, Callan Rush, Danny Iny, Alexis Neely and Susan Peirce Thompson. Marisa helps entrepreneurs create a business that is authentic and aligned with who they are, to empower them to turn up the dial on their “inner superhero”, so they can be the superhero to their tribe, as well as in their own lives.

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