Proven Subject Lines To Use in Your Cold Emails

Proven Subject Lines To Use in Your Cold Emails
Vlastimil Vodička
December 14, 2021

Writing cold emails is an art that many companies fail to get right, resulting in poor responses, less than 2% in many cases. But why is it so challenging to create a relationship with a prospect via a cold email?

The truth is that most salespeople fail to understand the best practices for writing cold emails that convert.Over 300 billion emails are sent globally every day. Your prospect may be battling to manage hundreds of inbound emails, and with an attention span of 8 seconds, you must capture their interest before the recipient relegates your email to the spam box.

The first thing the prospect sees is the subject line, so it's vital to get that right.47% of recipients open an email because the subject line catches their attention. And almost 70% of email recipients report an email as spam because the subject line is uninteresting or may contain spam words.

You could have the most fantastic email content, but your first step is to navigate your prospect to open the email and read it.Hopefully, you realize that you cannot leave your subject line to chance, especially now because of GDPR rules. You have one chance to get it right. Thankfully, it's not difficult to master writing a great subject line and significantly increase your open rates.

Before you start learning how to write captivating subject lines, let's take a look at the basics.

  • Subject line length - Experts suggest an ideal subject line length is 40-51 characters and, part of the reason is that many recipients open emails on mobile devices, so you don't want the subject line truncated.
  • Keep it brief and relevant – let them know what's inside the email.
  • Write in sentence case – avoid writing the subject line in capital letters and using exclamation marks, $ signs etc.
  • Avoid spam words – there are at least 200 words considered spam in an email.  Avoid commonly used words such as free, no fees, credit, discount, opportunity, subscribe, loans, free quote, or free offer.
  • Avoid sending emails from a free email platform - such as Gmail. Send from a business account because it looks more professional and less likely to be classed as spam.
email open rate

Personalized Subject Lines

Personalizing the subject line may increase email open rates by 50%. Today, more than ever, businesses expect some level of personalization in emails. There is no excuse for sending generic emails.

Using the prospect's name can grab their attention because scientific research suggests that hearing our name impacts our brain activity. If the email recipient has 80 emails in their inbox, and only yours has their name in the subject line, you are already ahead of the game.

But it's not just about using a person's name. The subject line must also portray value and relevance. For example, a courier could highlight the closest drop off point for parcels in the subject line.

Ultimately, you want to encourage engagement. Personalization is an effective way to increase the odds of the recipient taking action.

Here are a few examples:

  • View the latest house price trends in WA16
  • New drop off point for business parcels in BA24
  • Julie, a reminder for your appointment
  • New holiday destinations from Heathrow Airport
  • Inside IT sales 2021 at [their company]
  • 250 spam trigger words to avoid in email
  • SEO checklist
  • Sales training checklist
  • Daily sales prospecting checklist
  • Cold emails checklist
  • Sales presentation template
  • Sales pitch planning template
  • Closing the sale checklist
  • Email subject line checklist
  • Lead generation checklist
  • Google AdWords template
  • Sales & Marketing template
  • [their contact] referred me to you
  • [first name] I read your [blog/article etc]

Whatever message you choose for the subject line must be in context, and the email content must be relevant to that context. For example, take the last subject line on the list.

Subject line: [first name] I read your [blog/article etc.].

In the preview text, you might begin with the following.

"Hi [first name],

I read your fascinating article on [platform] about [subject] and felt compelled to write to you because [your reason]

So, the recipient sees their name in the subject line and refers to their content. Naturally, their eyes will look at the preview text ( they see their name again) and open the email to read the content.

The subject line and the preview text working together have created curiosity.

Always have a Goal

Before you write your email, plan what you would like the outcome to be and set up your email sequence and call to action correspondingly.

Remember to adhere to the buyer's journey and how the recipient advances to become a customer.

  1. Awareness – the prospect does not know you. Your job is to create awareness of your business in stages. A hard sell at this point fractures any possibility of trust. Nurture the prospect through awareness, building rapport and trust.
  2. Consideration – the prospect now has awareness. You have avoided the spam box, and the recipient is reading your emails and taking the calls to action. They could be reading more content, watching a video or whatever adds value to their experience and increases further awareness of your business.
  3. Decision – you have established awareness and trust. The prospect now feels secure in a decision to purchase.

You cannot rush these stages because each email must progress from the previous one. It's much like any relationship in life. It takes time to establish understanding, familiarity, and trust. Where most salespeople go wrong is to plunge into the sales spiel too early in the email sequence.

The First Email

Introduction – you want to create awareness of your business and encourage engagement by building trust and rapport. Create a value subject line in this first email and keep the email short, roughly 100 words.

Your call to action could be to read an article, book an appointment or find out more about how your company might be able to help.

Avoid the hard sell in the subject line and the content. A bit of patience and nurturing, in the beginning, will increase your chances of turning the prospect into a client.

Keep your style of writing warm and conversational, and avoid starchy corporate speak. Get to know a little about the client (demographics, psychographics, and personal details if possible) and introduce content into the subject lines and emails relevant to this data.

The Second Email

The follow-up – this email could contain helpful content, explicitly for the prospect.

Perhaps find something the prospect wrote on social media and refer to this information in the subject line and email content. Offer them a link to an article or video on the same or similar topic and tell them why you think it may be of interest.

Subject line: Hi [Jane], I saw your LinkedIn post yesterday

Content: Hi [Jane], I read your fascinating article yesterday on what makes a great leader. I specifically enjoyed reading the part about [whatever it was] and thought you might like to have a quick read of this article I found this morning [insert link]. It also talks about [whatever it is], so I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Many thanks

[your name]

Suppose you get a response to this email. Great. If not, don't worry. Check your metrics to see if the recipient opened the email and clicked on the link.

The Third Email

If the recipient reads your emails and clicks on your CTA links, they move along the buyer's journey.

In the third email, it could be time to ask for an appointment.

Subject line: [Jane] are you free on Friday morning?

Content: Hi [Jane], I hope you enjoyed reading the article I referred to you a few days ago.

I'll get straight to the point.

From my first email, you know my company [your company] provides leadership training to middle management. I noticed from a few of your LinkedIn posts that [their company] focuses on a culture of benevolent leadership. How is it going so far?

I'd love to have a quick chat to see if I can help you with your vision of improving [their company] culture. No pressure at all. I'd just like to connect and take it from there.

I'm free for twenty minutes on Friday at 11 am. Would that suit you? If not, when would be a better time for us to have a quick chat?

Many thanks

[your name]

email sequence


You may wish to have more email sequences. But always remember to provide value in your subject lines and email content. Think about what is important to the prospect and be of service where you can.

Always have a call to action, leading sequentially to an appointment or asking for the sale. If you have nurtured your prospect along the buyer's journey, they are ready to buy when it comes time to close the deal.

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