How to Write a Subject Line that is likely to be opened

When working with the sales methodology email outreach, there is one mistake in particular that is made again and again; the choice of subject line for the email. The email may be brilliantly written, but the subject line is poorly thought out and, to put it bluntly, hopeless.

In this post, we’ll discuss why it’s important, examples of good and bad subject lines and how to test whether they’re good or bad.

What is a Subject Line in an Email?

A subject line is the short text that appears in the recipient’s inbox before they open the email. It’s the first piece of information the recipient sees and acts as a preview of the email’s content. The subject line should give an indication of what the email is about and spark enough interest for the recipient to want to open it.

Why is it Important to Have a Good Subject Line?

The subject line is crucial for whether your email gets opened or ignored. It doesn’t matter if the content of your email is well written or if you know your recipients will be interested. If the recipients never read your email, the content becomes irrelevant. 

What happens when you have a good subject line

Increase Open Rates: An interesting and relevant subject line can catch the recipient’s attention and motivate them to open the email. 

Prevent Your Email from Being Marked as Spam: Clear and relevant information in the subject line can reduce the chances of your email ending up in the junk folder. You can be absolutely sure that the opposite will result in the email never arriving, ending up in spam, being marked as spam or deleted. 

Set the Right Expectation: A precise subject line gives the recipient a clear expectation of the email’s content, which can improve response rates. No shit Sherlock, you might say, but the truth is that many people exaggerate their subject lines to get more openings. This often only leads to the expectation being set incorrectly. It’s incredibly stupid considering that we can probably all agree that we like things to be concrete and genuine.

Examples of Good and Bad Subject Lines

“How to Boost Your Productivity in 10 Minutes”

Some might say that the title above is good. It certainly isn’t, and here’s why.

First and foremost, the subject line seems like a punch line and screams marketing. It does explain to you that it’s about improving productivity, but it exaggerates by saying that you’ll get better productivity in 10 minutes. Forget it 😀 

Good open rate: Not likely.

Spam: Not necessarily, but entirely plausible that this one could be seen as spam.

Right Expectation: Hardly think this one set the right expectation for anything. Unless your target audience is gullible as f..

So, how could this subject line have been done better? 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to how a target group or different people respond. We are all different. That said, we’re not completely different either. We want things to be concrete and genuine. 

I would try to make this short and concise. 

How about just «Productivity» or «Productivity at {Companyname}». 

The reason I would go for such a simple title is simply because you have to think that you’re emailing a real person. Would you honestly send «How to Boost Your Productivity in 10 Minutes» to a person and expect them to take you seriously? 😀

Good open rate: Most likely.

Spam: This one has no big words, isn’t marketingy or over the top. 

Right Expectation: Is short and concise in what this is about and as such should set the expectation well.

Let’s try one more.

“How to Make the Most of Your Summer Vacation”

This isn’t the worst I’ve seen, so we shouldn’t ignore the fact that it would potentially have an OK opening. But why go for OK when you can get GREAT. 

The subject line seems like a punch line like the first example. It doesn’t scream marketing as loudly as the first one, but it gives a clear indication that it’s marketing all the same.  

Good open rate: Not likely

Spam: Not necessarily.

Right Expectation: Potentially sets the right expectation.

How do we make this subject line better?

Again, I would go for a shorter and more personalized subject line.

«Vacation» or «Summer Vacation»

The reason is the same as in the first example. We’re writing to real people and we’re not communicating as if we’re hopped up on Red Bull and Monster in a trendy marketing agency. 

Good open rate: Most likely.

Spam: This one has no big words, isn’t marketingy or over the top. 

Right Expectation: Is short and concise in what this is about and as such should set the expectation well.

How to Test if a Subject Line is Good or Not

Testing subject lines is important to find out which ones work best for your audience. Here are some methods you can use.

A/B Testing

Send two versions of the email with different subject lines to a small portion of your email list. See which one has the highest open rate and use the best version for the rest of the list.

Analyze Data

Look at previous cold email outreach campaigns and analyze which subject lines had the highest open rates. Use this information to create new subject lines.

Ask someone

Ask a colleague, family member or friend. Ask them to be honest. For example, give them two subject lines to choose from. Wait and see, you will potentially get great feedback.

Take your time on the subject line

Writing a good subject line requires time and testing, but the effort will pay off in the form of higher open rates and more engaged recipients. Try out different strategies and analyze the results to continuously improve your subject lines.

We are fully aware that this may seem less important and pointless to spend time on. But the truth is that this is the first door opener to start a dialog. If you fail here, all your efforts on good text, good landing pages, etc. will be in vain. 

The two suggestions in this post are short and concise. The aim of the two subject lines is that they should be perceived as personal and aim to get the real feeling in emails between two people. Definitely a good strategy, but that’s not to say you can’t be creative and try longer titles. It’s entirely possible to create a subject line that’s longer but feels just as human and genuine.

Either way, good luck with your hunt for new leads, customer meetings and sales! And don’t forget that the content of the email must also be spot on 😀

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