How to write successful win-back email subject lines

When you don’t want to lose someone you care about, you take extra steps to win them back and show them that you value them. 

Well, the same goes for email marketing. 

It takes a lot of hard work to build your email list, and once you see your engagement rates falling, it can feel disheartening. Take action and start formulating your win-back campaign, starting with your win-back email subject lines.

DuoLingo campaign

Source: Really Good Emails

Your win-back email subject lines are vital to your campaign

Win-back email subject lines, just like any subject lines, are absolutely vital to the success of your campaign. Why? Because it’s your first impression. It’s the first thing readers see when your name appears in their inbox. If it’s not inviting or compelling, your email will be skipped over or trashed. 

Here are a few numbers you’ll want to know:

  • 47% of email recipients will decide whether or not to open an email based on the subject line

  • 69% of email recipients use subject lines to determine whether or not they’ll mark a message as spam

Sure, your email subject lines play an important role in the success of your campaign. But when it comes to your win-back email subject lines, consider your options carefully. 

Your subscribers can go inactive for countless reasons, including:

  • Cluttered inboxes: If you don’t stand out, they won’t notice you.

  • Irrelevant content: You’ve sent them too much information that they don’t find relevant.

  • Life happens: Everyday life gets in the way and subscribers tune out.

While the old-school advice on inactive subscribers was to let them go, that’s no longer the case. It costs nearly five times as much to find and onboard a new subscriber than it is to try and re-engage a new one. 

This is why crafting compelling win-back email campaigns is so crucial to maintaining a healthy email subscriber list (and your email marketing strategy as a whole).

Qualities of an excellent win-back email campaign

To create an excellent win-back email campaign, you need to study why your subscribers went inactive. Not only will you want to find out the “why,” but you’ll also need to define what “inactive” means. 

There are dozens of different ways to define an inactive subscriber. To make sure you aren’t overloading them with attempts to get them to engage with you, try to target those that need it most.  

Once you’ve defined your target audience for your win-back campaign, it’s time to start building a campaign that includes each of these aspects:

  • A compelling win-back email subject line that gets readers to click on the message

  • Body copy that triggers them to act and click a link

  • A compelling, noticeable call-to-action (CTA) that makes it easy for them to act

Subject Line: Come on back – we made dinner easier! 😋

BlueApron newsletter

Source: Really Good Emails

Blue Apron does a wonderful job with their win-back email campaign, and it includes each of the qualities discussed above. Their subject line is not only eye-catching, but it’s witty and it leads right into the header and body copy. It then ends with a short, sweet, and enticing CTA.

When building your own, start from the beginning and work your way through step by step. The first step is – you guessed it – your win-back email subject line.  

How to craft the perfect win-back email subject lines

Like writing an essay, start by crafting the topic of your campaign – and begin by crafting the perfect win-back email subject line. 

What’s the message you want to convey to your inactive subscribers? What feelings do you want to give? There are countless ways to approach this step, so take your time and make sure you consider:

  • Why your subscribers have gone inactive

  • How you’re going to address the “why”

  • How you’re going to reel them back in and address their needs moving forward

Once you’ve got the vibe of your email subject line in mind, it’s time to start crafting it. You’ll still want to consider traditional email subject line must-haves:

  • Keep it short and sweet: Remember, you only have so many characters to work with before your subject line gets truncated.

  • Use a familiar sender name: Your subscribers don’t want an email from a “random worker” when they can get one from the brand name. The brand name is familiar to them – Joe from accounting isn’t. 

  • Personalization: This gets your reader to react. Simply adding their name in the subject line can increase your email’s chances of being opened.

  • Make them feel important: If you want your subscribers to come back to your brand, you must treat them as individuals, not as a collective. 

  • Avoid using all caps: This is the best way to appear needy and give off the feeling that you’re yelling. The same goes for excessive use of exclamation points. Convey excitement, but don’t come off as spammy. 

  • Never make false promises: This is deceiving. If you promise a free surprise inside, it better be worth it or your readers will feel like you played a trick on them. 

  • Always A/B test your subject line: This is so important because it’ll tell you what your subscribers are most likely to respond to. 

Following each of these steps will help you craft a perfectly clickable win-back email subject line. Just remember, this is only the start of the process. The rest of your campaign will need special attention as well, so make sure you work each area of your campaign and A/B test them before you hit the send button. 

15 Win-back email subject lines we absolutely love

Creating the perfect win-back email subject line is a lot easier to talk about than to create. Writer's block is a heck of an issue, and one of the best ways to overcome it is by looking over examples from other writers.

That’s why we’ve scoured our own inboxes and the internet and picked out a few of our favorites. Even better, we’ve categorized them. 

Emotional win-back email subject lines

Emotional win-back email subject lines are just that. 

Traditionally, marketers want their readers to feel a sense of sadness with a “we miss you” message. Others try to make their subscribers feel special by offering something just for them. 

Ultimately, the goal is to make your readers feel something to compel them to open your message. Some examples include:

  • We haven’t seen you in a while 😢

  • Don’t forget about us…

  • We hate to see you go

Subject Line: Moving on?

Zillow newsletter

Source: Emma

Clever and witty win-back email subject lines

Get creative and give something witty a try. Use an anniversary or birthday as a way to create a fear of missing out (FOMO) so they’ll have to click and see your offer. 

Here are a few ideas to get you started with a fun, witty win-back email subject line:

  • We’d hate to miss your birthday 🎂

  • Keep ‘em coming

  • You’ll hate to miss this one

  • $15 to get over the hump 🐪

Subject Line: You’ve Earned a New Badge!

grammarly newsletter

Source: Really Good Emails

Personalized win-back email subject lines

People want to be singled out because it shows them you aren’t viewing them as just another customer. Simply adding their name to an email subject line can make them click.

  • Checking in with you, <Name>

  • <Name>, what’s next?

  • We miss you, <Name>

  • Here’s what you’ve missed, <Name> 

  • Long time no see, <Name>

Subject Line: Retention Email Design from Mention for Matthew Smith

Mention newsletter

Source: Really Good Emails

Special offer win-back email subject lines

Everyone loves a special offer! This is an excellent method to capture a subscriber’s attention and entice them to open your message. 

  • Unlimited (products) are just a few steps away

  • Just for you

  • Want the (product/pass) for free?

Subject Line: One more chance to grab a ride pass before they’re gone 💸

Uber newsletter

Source: Really Good Emails

Wrap up

Crafting the perfect win-back email subject line doesn’t have to be challenging. Remember, ask yourself why your readers have started to go inactive, and then use that information to craft a campaign (with a great subject line) that intrigues them enough to want to learn more.

Not quite sure where to start? Consider these categories to get you started:

  • Special offers

  • Personalized messages

  • Witty/clever messages

  • Emotional messages

Ready to send emails your subscribers can’t ignore? Schedule a live demo with Emma today.

About the Author

Emma is an email marketing platform that gives you all the tools you need to send campaigns that really connect with your subscribers. With our

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