How Do You Build Urgency?

Like many of you, I’m on a lot of email lists… partly because I’m interested in a product or service, partly because I like to see what businesses are doing with their email campaigns.

Lately I’ve noticed a lot of attempts to build urgency in the subject line of emails, and I’m wondering what your experience has been – both as a sender and a receiver of email – with this tactic.

A Couple Examples

A few message subjects pulled out of my inbox over the past week:

  • 20% Coupon — Limited Time
  • Last Chance: 25% Off Disappears Midnight!
  • Final Days to Save Nationwide!
  • Be quick! Your 20% off coupon expires tonight!

My Impressions

As a subscriber, I liked the right-to-business nature of the first example — it tells me almost everything I need to know in just four words. The only thing it doesn’t say is how long that limited time is — but that got me to click through to find out!

Subject line urgency got me to open some emails, but not others… but why? And what works for you?

Subjects 2 and 3 imply that the offer will never come around again. I don’t buy it. I’ve been on both of those lists for months and regularly get similar offers, so this just doesn’t come across as credible. In fact, the vagueness of subject #3 made it even less believable for me — are they really never going to give me a chance to save again? Never ever? Please.

Three of these (and many others I didn’t share here) tell the discount percentage they’re offering. This makes my decision easier (Is 20% off enough to entice me? What about 25%?), and lets the sender split-test different discounts to maximize revenue.

(For the record, I opened the 1st and 4th emails when I got them, and didn’t open the 2nd or 3rd until I wrote this post.)

What Do You Think?

I don’t think all urgency-building has to be about giving discounts (though I think that’s where most of us are used to seeing urgency used as a marketing tactic). And I’m also just one subscriber — your own readers probably won’t all respond to urgency the exact same way that I did.

What are your thoughts and experiences when it comes to building urgency:

  • As a recipient, do you tend to respond when email marketers try to build urgency in subject lines?
  • How (if at all) do you build urgency in your own subject lines? What have you found to work — or not work? (If you’ve tested this we’d love to hear about your results.)
  • Do you think attempts to build urgency (in subject lines or elsewhere) detract from a marketer’s credibility (as I felt it did in the third example above)? If so, what do you think determines whether credibility is damaged? How can a business use urgency in its email marketing campaigns without hurting its reputation?

Any other thoughts on urgency are welcome, too :)