Tips for writing an engaging email subject line for sales [with examples]

Updated on January 26, 2022

You’re looking to pick up a new book and out of a large selection, you’ll probably pick up the one with a title that attracts your attention. Now imagine your prospects looking through their inbox and deciding which emails to open. The email subject line is a book title that helps your emails stand out and get recipients to open them. 


As they are directly responsible for the open rate of your email campaigns, knowing how to write appealing email subject lines is a skill you will master with the help of this guide. We also put together a list of example email subject lines to get your email writing creativity going.


Tips for the perfect email subject line

Standing out in a crowded inbox, especially when you’re sending sales-focused emails should be a key focus in your email outreach efforts. In fact, 47% of email recipients open a message based on the subject line alone. So, having a few tips for improving your email copywriting skills will help increase the chances of your emails getting opened.


1. Power words for emotional engagement

People are ruled by their emotions. Using power words is a neat psychological technique to capture someone’s attention and stimulate an emotional response from them. Different words trigger different actions depending so insert the proper ones in your subject line for the desired effect. Smart Blogger has a great list of power words that you can use.


2. Be in touch with your creative side

There is always an opportunity that you can use for your email subject line. Get creative and brainstorm how you can connect to your prospect or entangle your offering in combination with the latest ongoing trends. Promote a seasonal offering, a nice discount as a birthday email, or even special access to new features coming to your service for your most active users, since they’ll also be the ones who will give you the best feedback.


3. Humor is a great ice breaker

Insert a little humor when reaching out to new prospects or trying to reactivate accounts with low engagement. You can tickle their funny bone if they have one and it allows you to get creative with your subject lines. Add a little humor depending on your demographic and your recipients’ preference.


4. People like numbers in the right context

Everyone likes numbers. They represent specific data and give credibility to your claims. For example, if your subject line focuses on providing value, higher numbers work better to illustrate that value. While smaller numbers are best used if you want your recipients to do something in which case make the process appear quicker.


5. Use emojis for a visual appeal

Emojis are an interesting way to add a visual appeal to your subject line. Be careful how and when you use them as even though they are reported to have a 56% higher open rate, recipients may not be fond of them. They are highly contextual symbols that add to your subject line enhancing it, so don’t use multiple emojis per subject line as one should be enough. Also, check how the emoji looks on different systems as they are rendered differently depending on the platform.


6. Don’t forget about the preheader

The email preheader or email snippet is the part of text following the subject line, the one you probably thought was an auto-generated excerpt from the email body. This is another way to add to your first impression since the email preheader is the first thing your email recipients see in their inbox following the subject line.


It is also particularly important to spice up your email snippet for mobile devices since it is shown directly under the subject line. You should use 40 to 120 characters, due to the different number of maximum characters shown on desktop and mobile devices before your text is cut off.


7. Pay attention to the mobile format

More and more people use their mobile devices for checking their inboxes, with 42% of emails being opened on smartphones. That’s why optimizing your email subject lines for mobile is important. Your recipients will delete your unoptimized email like 42.3% of other people if it displays incorrectly on their mobile device.


That means your subject line should contain from 30 to 60 characters maximum, for best performance on desktop and mobile. Meaning, writing your sales email subject line in 5 to 10 words for the optimal word length.


8. Double-check for spelling mistakes

It goes without saying, but you should always double and triple-check for spelling errors, as one small mistake can mean a big problem. A mistyped word or a name looks unprofessional and can leave your recipient not even bothering to open your email. Also, spam and scam emails often have grammatical errors in them to circumvent spam filters.


9. A/B testing for the win

The only way to know if the changes you’re making to your email subject lines are having an effect is to test them. Create two slightly different subject lines and send them to different groups of recipients. Analyze the data and continue testing until you reach the results you’re looking for. Find out what your prospects respond to most, shorter or longer subject lines, certain power words, and even a bit of humor, test until you get it right.


What to avoid in an email subject line

There are a couple of things you need to stay back from when writing you’re writing your subject lines. They can also negatively impact your email deliverability and increase your bounce rate so it’s a good idea to cover your email marketing basics.


1. Don’t use spam trigger words

Spam filters usually hunt for certain trigger words in the subject line of incoming emails as a way to catch suspicious-looking emails. Words like “free”, “gift” immediately trigger the spam filter and your email is banished to the spam folder for all eternity. So if you’re thinking about sending a thank you email with a gift code for your service or valuable content to potential prospects, be careful how you word it.


2. Writing in ALL CAPS is a bad idea

Another bad idea which coincidentally is a sure sign of spam emails is using ALL CAPS for writing the subject line. AWeber reports that 60% of email marketers use sentence-case letter capitalization, while 34% write their subject line with title-case capitalization with 6% deciding on writing in lower-case. As you can see no experienced email marketer dares to write in all capital letters and for a good reason.


3. Stay away from punctuation marks!!! 

Likewise, too many punctuation marks are a dead giveaway of an email up to no good. They often go hand in hand with spam trigger words in all caps. Avoid overusing using them, as well as too many special characters hoping to draw attention to your subject line since it can have an adverse effect on what you intended. Stick to 3 punctuation marks at best although only one gets your point across clearly.


4. You won’t believe this last thing!

Alright, you probably did, since clickbait subject lines are not out of Vogue and they can get you a decent open rate on your emails but your prospect’s interest will stop there and your reply and engagement metrics will suffer. Even if your email happens to contain value for your recipients, don’t over-sell it and get their expectations high.

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Write the best email subject line

Crafting a great email subject line can be challenging. Writing is not a skill that comes naturally to people. It takes a creative spark along with accurate data to draw attention in the inbox. But before you do that, you need to check several items on your list.


1. Know your prospects

The first step of every email outreach is gathering data. Create buyer personas for your target audience including problems they are facing and character traits they share so you can divide them into different segments for better results. This comes in handy because what works for one group of prospects may not work for another.


A certain segment may be driven to open an email with a subject line asking for immediate action or FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), while another segment may be more curious about a subject line offering value or directly addressing a specific problem they are facing. 


2. Personalize the subject line

Personalized subject lines have a 26% higher open rate and when it comes to email personalization, using the prospect’s name and company name is the most commonly used tactic. However, when personalizing your subject lines you shouldn’t stop there. Their job position, specific industry, and market insights as well as addressing specific pain points can also be used for an added layer of hyper-personalization


3. Focus on your email goal

Understand the purpose of your email and what do you want the email recipient to do. Knowing what action you want them to take helps you more accurately compose the subject line for one specific purpose. Whether you want them to simply open your email, click a CTA, or you’re looking for a reply, focus on one specific action.


4. Align the subject line with the body content

The email subject line sets the tone of your email. It is like a short prologue and you should write it to be in line with your email body content. Remember that the modern sales cycle is getting longer and you are in this for the long game. It’s not just a one-and-done play to only get them to click open.


5. Ask a question to spark interest

Question subject lines are great, especially for cold emails since they do two things effectively, spark the recipient’s curiosity and provoke a response. They are often used to touch upon a pain point the prospect is facing.


Email subject line examples

Here are some subject line examples for cold emails, follow-ups, and for reaching out to prospects playing hard to get.


Cold email subject lines

You have to be successful in your first email to new prospects. How you present yourself and your offering will define the relationship you are trying to build with them.


{{first_name}} hit your sales quotas in 2021 🚀

Simple, short, and effective with using the prospect’s name to personalize the subject line and trigger their curiosity while offering an up-to-date solution for a common problem.


{{first_name}} are you ready for {{company_name}} expansion? 🚀

Asking a question to pique their interests combined with using their name and the company they work for. This email subject line has scored a 54% open rate.


4 ways our tool can improve the sales process for {{company_name}}

Numbers add credibility to your claim along with a power word, “improve” to trigger an emotional reaction.


Follow up email subject lines

People are busy or your email might’ve slipped past their attention. That’s what follow-ups are for. In fact, follow-up emails can have a better response rate than the first email. 


Sales tools to skyrocket {{company_name}} in 2021 📈

A short subject line using a word that is easier to visualize is synonymous with growth and personalizing the company name with a 43% open rate.


Interested in a quick demo {{first_name}} for next week?

Present an open question along with an offer in a determined time frame with basic personalization. Conversational tone to move things along if they opened your previous email.


8 Tips & tricks on how to increase your {{pain point}}📌

People like tips and easy solutions to problems they are facing, especially for specific ones. Addressing it with valuable content and a set number will place you as a knowledgeable source on the subject.


“Silent treatment” subject lines

If your first email was open, but you get no response don’t worry. Sometimes prospects need more time to make up their mind and will get a bit more effort to get on board. 


A special offer to sweeten the deal {{first_name}}?

Combine the power word “special” with a unique offer and name personalization to push them over the fence.


Never Gonna Give You Up 

A bit of humor to shake things up and get them to reply, by using a trending joke to get their attention.

Last chance to give {{service}} a try, on us

Give it one last shot with a free offer and FOMO template. This will trigger their curiosity with a sense of urgency.


Finishing up

Having an email subject line that gets you a high open rate is just one step of your email campaign performance. Use the tips and follow the examples to get the most out of your subject line. Test the changes you make to find what works best for you.

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Author avatar
Content Writer and Growth Marketer at Sales.Rocks