If it’s not broken don’t fix it and if it’s not your subject line don’t sweat it. Taking inspiration from others or even using their words verbatim is not off-limits when it comes to subject lines. In fact, it could be considered resourceful. We’ve compiled sales email subject lines that are yours for the taking. Use them as they are or repurpose them in your own way to improve open rates and more importantly, catch the attention of the buyers who need to hear from you most.
Many of us are well aware of the latest subject line trends floating around the internet. Questions, lists, how-tos, you get the idea. And they’re a worthy place to start. We suggest keeping these classic styles in mind the next time you’re drafting a cold email.
The Name Game
The suggestion to use your prospect’s name in your subject lines is everywhere and we’ll admit, we use it too. Names in subject lines likely became popular because of the increasing demand for personalization and the relative ease of including an “Alexa” or “Sam.” BUT this trend is somewhat oversaturated and needs to be executed with skill. If it isn’t, your message could come off as gimmicky simply because it’s so prevalent.
Tip: It’s important to remember that personalization doesn’t start and end with knowing your prospect’s name. For an email that’s truly personalized, you’ll have to do more than know what they go by. For example, you might wrap up your research after one visit to your prospect’s LinkedIn page because you have their name and a post they liked. But could you be doing more? (the answer is yes.)
If you’re set on using your prospect’s name, do your best to sound conversational. Typically we don’t finish a sentence, pause, then throw in the name of the person we’re talking to at the end. But that’s how a subject line like this one reads, “You won’t want to miss this, Theo.” Instead, try subject lines like:
- Hi Theo- available Monday?
- Theo what’s your take on vanity metrics?
- Trying to reach Theo re: [[painpoint]]
- Hey Theo quick question
You should also ask yourself how a relevant pain point could be used in your subject line in a way that’s as specific as possible. Say you plan to ask how a company allocates resources between their core product and their integrations in your email’s body copy, use the word “integrations” in your subject line. This works because you’re mentioning an aspect of your prospect’s company, but it’s done in a way that doesn’t sound as formulaic as inserting a general pain point can.
“How To” List
Although using lists and how-tos is popular, their wording usually requires a fair amount of creativity to be successful. Humans like lists and how-to style writing, but prospects who are inclined toward no-nonsense messaging would probably prefer a brief email about logistics. This means your lists and how-tos should be reserved for those whose curiosity will make them click. We like foregoing the “to” in “how to” and merely using the word “how.” Subject lines like:
- How [[Client Company]] [[value proposition]]
- How young sales teams tired of waiting for [[value proposition]] took action
- How [[Client Company]] became a marketing juggernaut
- How [[Client Company]] Did It
This works especially well if the client company you reference is in the same industry as your prospect. You can also flip this trope on its head with an antithetical approach.
- How Not To [[Painpoint]]
- How To Not Be The Last Person To Know
If you use a list, don't use the word “list.” Instead, reference the list with numbers, which can help your message stand out.
- 4 Ways Post-Pandemic B2B Selling Looks Different
- 5 Indications You’re Ready For [[value proposition]]
- 6 Unintended Consequences of [[painpoint]]
The Pain of Vague Pain Points
Subject lines with a pain point are only as strong as the research behind them. The more specific you are, the closer you’ll be to securing a click. When you can accurately diagnose a pain point, not only are you communicating a proficient understanding of the problem, you’re positioning yourself as an authority on the solution. People are more likely to listen to the advice of someone who understands their experience than someone just taking a guess. Especially if they’re actively looking to solve that problem and are approached with a solution.
- [[Painpoint]] & [[Recipient Company]]
- 3 Opportunities in [[painpoint]]
- [[Client Company]] identified 3 opportunities in [[painpoint]]
- Why you’re [[painpoint]]
- The case against [[painpoint]]
- [[Client Company]]’s rough history with [[painpoint]]
- Why the [[painpoint]] myth won’t die
- The [[painpoint]] fable
- You’re paying for [[painpoint]]
- [[painpoint]] is in retreat
- The [[painpoint]] problem
- How does [[painpoint]] end?
- Experience with [[painpoint]]
The Value of Specific Value Props
The same is true for value propositions. Odds are, those who are acutely aware of their problems are equally aware of their desired outcomes. If you can diagnose a prospect’s pain point correctly, there’s a good chance you already know what a solution looks like for them. So research, research, research. Start big then work your way down to the more granular level. Questions to guide your research:
- What’s going on in their industry?
- What’s recent news at their company?
- What have other clients with the same title as your prospect had trouble with?
- What’s your prospect’s background? How might that inform their current perspective or style of problem-solving?
- How many employees do they oversee? Is their team growing? Shrinking?
- What do their former and current employees say about them? (Don’t be afraid to reach out)
- What do their customers have to say about their experience? (Read case studies, reviews)
- Are they more active on Twitter or LinkedIn?
- Which generation do they belong to?
- What are they interested in?
- Have they used one of your competitors before? Are they currently?
Stand out. By using two words, that is. Play off of the fact that inboxes are crowded purely from a visual perspective. Use that to your advantage by limiting your subject line to two words. The lengthier ones surrounding it will frame your message, which will help draw the eye. It can be helpful to begin with a complete sentence before whittling it down to its two most important or phonetically appealing words.
Yes, your prospects aren’t reading subject lines out loud, but many people hear the words they’re reading in their heads. Writing is an area of study for a reason, the combination of some words just sounds better than others. For example the sentence “Let regie write your sales sequences,” could become “Regie Writes.” Or “The AI platform for modern businesses,” becomes “The Platform” or “Modern AI.” Other more general ideas include:
- Your Update
- Hi [[Recipient Name]]
- The Latest
- Rough Day?
- This Friday
- Next week
- Before December
- [[Sender Company]]’s story
- Hello [[value-proposition]]
- [[Sender Company]] + [[Recipient Company]]
Tip: Look at your inbox. Which subject lines stand out to you the most? Which sound conversational yet authoritative? Intriguing yet composed? Likely, they’re from the senders who have the least to gain from you. They’re the messages from traditional news sources, the confirmation emails, the virtual receipts, the sources that are trying to disseminate information more than they’re trying to get you to buy something. Take on this attitude when you send your emails. You’re not auditioning for a chance with your prospect, you’re just talking about something you have information on. Approaching your prospect with an “I hope they pay attention to me” attitude rather than an “I have something to say to you” is putting you at a disadvantage. Understand that to email is to engage in dialogue. This will help manage your perception of the stakes and create a mindset that’s more conducive to a human to human interaction. You’ve heard this before, but it’s true, the worst that can happen is they don’t reply.
The Name Game: Company Edition
Using the name of your prospect’s company is logical. It lets them know that your message is about work and likely not spam, it was written for them specifically and its sender, at the very least, understands the gist of what they do. We recommend writing matter-of-factly when using this suggestion. The type of personality that will be drawn to an email with their place of work in the subject line doesn’t need to be wooed by artful language. They just want to hear what you have to offer. Spend the rest of the email being direct, whether it’s with specific questions about your prospect’s needs or how you’ve helped another company.
- [[Value-proposition]] at [[Recipient Company]]
- Question about [[Recipient Company]]
- [[Recipient Company]] in 2021
The Name Game: Company Edition V.2
When should you use your company’s name? When you know people know about it and when you know they don’t. If your company enjoys a certain amount of name recognition, it might be time to get more technical and less playful if you’re using it in a subject line. But if your company is in its early years or you’re certain a prospect isn’t familiar, then lean back into tactics that peak curiosity like unusual word choices or somewhat vague phrasing. Note: some companies’ marketing is trademarked by a gimmicky feel. These companies, however, aren’t usually B2B sellers.
- Is [[Sender Company]] worth the cost?
- A quick call with [[Sender Company]]
- The many lives of [[Sender Company]]
Tip: Use interesting words. It’s not a “soda and a pack of cigarettes,” it’s a “12 oz. can of Pepsi and a pack of Marlboro Lights.” It’s not an “escalator,” it’s a “motorized staircase without a discernible end or beginning.” Use descriptors that are either specific or a new take on commonly accepted terminology. Certain words just pack a punch. It’s their unexpectedness that can help them sound more convincing. You likely won’t be referencing cigarettes or elevators in your emails, but the logic holds. If you’re talking about a top-performing sales team, describe them as wolfish. “How this wolfish sales team satiates their appetite” is almost unexplainably more intriguing than “How a top sales team surpasses their quota.” But if you disagree, that’s useful too. Preferences will always range, so let this be an advantage by using subject lines that vary in tone.
It’s just built-in to us. People like a question. Why? There are a few typical reasons. When we don’t know the answer to a question our curiosity might be sparked. Or if we do know the answer we might feel compelled to provide it. And if we’re asked a question that only we can answer, the need to talk about ourselves is strong. While the reason often depends on the question asked, the result is usually the same- our attention is captured.
To spark curiosity, ask a question like, “Why do companies keep posting the same job on LinkedIn?” Not to be confused with “Why do companies keep making this mistake?” which can sound gimmicky.
To create the need to answer a question ask something like, “Is [[Company]] still looking to fill BLANK position?” and to inspire the need for your prospect to talk about themself, ask a question like “Are you behind [[Recipient Company]]’s LinkedIn job posts?” Other questions we like:
- What’s the matter with [[painpoint]]?
- What happened to [[Client Company]]?
- Availability for our call?
The Path Less Traveled
It’s worth remembering that the current state of sales does require writing. Albeit it’s mostly emails, but writing nonetheless. And the standards for reps’ electronic messages continue to raise. So If you’re a risk-taker or have an affinity for creative flair, you might prefer subject lines that are less ordinary than the current trends. If you want something new, look to the writers. Best selling books, news stories, magazines- the cadence and semantic balance of their titles and headlines can be replicated.
Even if it’s just a starting point for writer’s block, find out where great works of literature can take you. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo could lead to “The AI with the Writer’s Code,” or A Thousand Splendid Suns to “A Thousand Splendid Subject Lines.” To Kill a Mockingbird reimagined as “To Impersonate a Writer.” Even if a title like Twilight leads you to start thinking about a time of day, then a time of year and suddenly you’re asking yourself about specific goals your prospect could achieve by Q1 with your product, means you have a place to start.
You can also use imagery or set the scene in a way that feels like storytelling. If “Two programmers, a sales rep and the robot they created” feels like a strange subject line to you, odds are it will to your prospect too, which is a good thing. Their eyes will linger over your message a millisecond longer and that just might get them to click. You can think of referring to writers for your subject lines as an exercise. Maybe you come up with ten ideas you don’t use, but if you can find a winner, you know what you stand to gain.
Use a Quote
We’d argue it’s a rule of life that anything out of context is infinitely more interesting. “We barely slept that night” is an example of a Tripadvisor subject line that creates intrigue for the reader. You can do the same with quotes pulled from case studies or customer testimonials. Just don’t forget to use quotation marks in the subject line, as these little symbols give the words between them more authority. We pulled “I have a team that’s always working on copy,” and “Personalization at scale we couldn’t do on our own,” directly from our case studies. They can be shortened to:
- “Personalization at scale”
- “We couldn’t on our own”
- “A team always working on copy”
- “Always working on copy”
Not as ominous as Tripadvisor’s subject line, but these quotes in the inbox of someone looking for copywriting and personalization solutions is likely to take notice.
Sales, especially B2B or SaaS selling, could be its own genre of writing. The jargon, the tone, the love for the word “leverage,” a certain style has definitely emerged over the years. Which is useful, but so is being resourceful. The more you expose yourself to current trends in sales writing alongside writing that’s separate from the sales world, the more opportunity inspiration has to strike. Pay attention to your metrics, A/B test subject lines and hear from other sales teams about their strategies, but also pick up a fiction book, pay attention to movie scripts or read some op-eds that have nothing to do with sales. Balancing the styles of writing you’re exposed to helps build different perspectives that can translate into your writing. We guarantee doing so will help your subject lines stand out. Or, you can skip all the reading and let the limitless mind of AI be your inspiration. For more information, visit regie.ai.