Email marketing subject lines and clear creative calls to action by DJ Waldow @djwaldow


Email Marketing Subject Lines and Clear Creative Calls to Action

I’ve been a big fan of CustomInk for several years. I designed and purchased a few t-shirts from them in 2005 and had such a wonderful experience that I remember it to this day. When they shipped the order, the receipt included a handwritten thank-you. I immediately signed up for their emails and was pleasantly surprised with their execution. Of course I had a few suggestions for improvement – but hey, that’s part of what I do.

Two Quick Questions

When the email below landed in my inbox on November 17th, I immediately opened it. Let’s break it down: Subject Line, Surveys, and Sara Stiefvater.


1. Subject Line: Two Quick Questions. It jumped out a me for a few reasons – brevity and catchiness. 3 words. A bit of alliteration. The use of a number. Coupled with the solid From Name (CustomInk), it stood out in my inbox as an email I could not only trust, but one in which I was curious to see the contents. A much more creative subject line then, “A Survey From XXXX.”

2. Surveys: In my opinion, surveys are tough. We’re all busy people. Conversion rates on surveys – sent through any medium – tend to be low (Note: I don’t have actual, hard figures on this. “Low” is based on personal experience). What I like about this email was that it was simple, short, and had a clear call to action…the link to “two quick questions.” They also thank me, include a promise, and used feel-good words such as valuable, improving, appreciate, and sharing. More below, but most importantly, it worked (I completed the survey)!

3. Sara Stiefvater: The email is signed by Sara Stiefvater. I have no idea who she is. The CEO? The VP of Marketing? A Support Rep? My personalized account manager? Besides having a cool last name, I’m not sure who Sara is. One could argue that this does not really matter, but as the email seemed so personal, a bit more about Sara would have been nice. I’ve seen some marketers include a signature image below there name. I’m 50/50 on this, but it may have been a nice touch in this case.

Did It Work?

I typically am a fan of a bit more then a rich-text email. I like to see some branding and/or a nice, relevant, eye-catching picture; however, in this case simple may have been better. I clicked on the link, took the survey, and even shared my thoughts on Twitter. So, the answer to “did it work” is a resounding yes. A simple, straightforward survey with a solid subject line signed by Sara Stiefvater (say that 10 times fast).

What Do Others Think?

When I tweeted about this CustomInk email survey, I was surprised by some of the responses (read conversation – hint: click “show conversation” in each tweet to get full story).

I’m not sure I agree with them, but they have some great points. The bottom line is this: Your emails resonate with different people at different times for often very different reasons. Continue to test – what works today may not work tomorrow. Test and tweak is the key.

What about you? Did you receive the same email survey from CustomInk? Did you click and complete the 2 question survey? Have you received other email surveys that impressed or disappointed you? Please share.

(I’d love to hear the results from CustomInk too!)

DJ Waldow
Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory


Takeaway: Simple, clear and creative calls to action work.

Meet the author:

DJ Waldow

DJ Waldow

DJ Waldow is the Director of Community at Blue Sky Factory, an ESP based in Baltimore. With over 4 years of experience in eMail marketing, DJ is active in the twittersphere (@djwaldow), on blogs (, and in the social media space. He's an administrator and regular contributor to the Email Marketers Club and other eMail-related social networks. DJ resides in Salt Lake City, Utah where he can be found thinking, eating, and breathing eMail.

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