How Long Should Your LOI Subject Line Be?

clients content marketing finding clients letter of introduction loi subject line

Recently I heard from a student in the Complete Guide to Content Marketing Writing for Nurses course who had sent more than 70 LOIs without a single response. Talk about disheartening!

She naturally wondered what was wrong with her LOI, but I, on the other hand, was wondering what might be wrong with her email subject line – because before a prospect can read your LOI, they have to open your email. And that requires crafting a very short, attention-getting subject line.

This is no time to be clever

Look, if you have the chops to be clever AND compact with an email subject line, then I salute you. Personally, I find it extremely difficult and time-consuming to create short, pithy subjects that aren’t also vague. Vague doesn’t work in email subject lines. In fact, vague gets your message relegated to the trash bin unopened.

Instead, I prefer a very direct approach. In my LOI subject lines, I state the exact purpose of the message, usually using phrasing like:

  • Nurse Writer Introduction
  • Nurse Writer Intro
  • RN Writer Introduction
  • RN Writer Intro
  • RN Content Writer
  • Nurse Content Writer

You get the idea.

Not very sexy subject lines, are they? But they respect the recipient’s time by stating up-front what’s inside, and, in my experience, this type of subject line gets results.

You have 25 characters…GO!

Naturally, researchers constantly investigate metrics like the ideal length of an email subject line. I’ve seen the ideal number of characters shrink as cell phone screens got smaller and then balloon again when larger phones came back into vogue.

Today, Mailchimp recommends email subject lines of no longer than 60 characters. That’s characters, people, including spaces. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say 60 characters is too many. Three years ago, Marketo’s data showed that 41 characters was optimal, and I think this is closer to reality.

You can conduct an informal experiment of your own. Open your email app on your cell phone and count the number of characters displayed in the subject lines before the app truncates them. Here are my own, unscientific results:

The Gmail app on my LG V10 truncates the subject line at roughly 40 characters. The Outlook (hello, Boomer) app on the same phone truncates the subject line at about 42 characters.

On my laptop, the Outlook (hello again, Boomer) app truncates the subject line at just 24 characters (though, of course, this is due in part to how I have the preview pane set up).

On the other hand, the Gmail browser client on my laptop doesn’t appear to truncate subject lines at all.

My point is this: You cannot possibly know what type of device or email client your prospect will be using when your LOI lands in their inbox. Therefore, you have to assume they may not be able to read more than the first 25 or so characters of your subject line.

Now my simple “Nurse Writer Introduction” subject line isn’t looking too shabby, at 27 characters. At least I can be reasonably certain the recipient will be able to read that.

Front-load your subject lines

You might correctly surmise that the brevity required for effective email subject lines means you need to front-load them with the crucial information. If you want to be clever (and why not, for those prospects who will, in fact, be using a client like Gmail that doesn’t truncate the subject line?), you need to relegate your cleverness to the back end.

In other words:

YES: Nurse Writer for Clicky Content Your Clients Will Love

NO: For Clicky Content Your Clients Will Love, Hire This Nurse Writer!

Bottom line: If you’re not getting a decent response rate from your LOIs, maybe consider how your subject line is performing, as well as the LOI itself. Maybe your prospects aren’t opening the email, so they never get to see what’s inside.

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