20 Cold Email Subject Lines That Generate Real Leads

While they are only one factor in your cold emails, cold email subject lines can make or break a cold email campaign. It becomes obvious when you think about those generic emails that you receive in your inbox.

Do you even open them? Probably not. You most likely send them straight to your trash folder. That means that all the hard work the sender of that email put into their email was for nothing. And that is why a subject line makes or breaks an outreach campaign.

The Statistics of Cold Email Subject Lines

There are many statistics to give you insight into the importance of email subject lines. Finances Online gathered up recent trends, and they highlight:

  • After reading the subject line, 69% of recipients report email as spam, according to a 2021 Invesp study.
  • A 2021 Barilliance study revealed that 64% of recipients decide to open emails solely based on email subject lines.
  • Convince & Convert found that 82% of marketers keep their email subject lines 60 characters or less.

In short: your subject line matters. A lot.

What makes a good cold email subject line?

There isn’t an exact formula that will ensure your email gets opened, but there are certain crucial factors that make an effective subject line. It will most likely come down to who your audience is. To better understand your target market, use A/B testing techniques to see what appeals more to your audience.
Here are some more statistics Finance Online put together to better understand what to include or leave out of your subject lines:

  • In a 2021 Invest study, there was an average 18% open rate when the recipient’s name was in the subject line - which is important context when you consider that...
  • There was only a 15.7% open rate when the recipient’s name is not included, according to the same study. (So personalization absolutely makes a difference as to whether your email gets opened!)
  • There’s a 22% increase in open rates when the subject line includes a sense of exclusivity and urgency.

Cold email Subject Line Guidelines

As mentioned before, there isn’t an exact formula for creating an enticing subject line. But there are some guidelines you can follow to convince your recipients to open your emails:

1. Get to know your target audience

Even if you know of a generic subject line that has worked in the past, you’d be much better off getting to know the traits of your recipients. Unique subject lines that touch on people’s interests and passions will get much better open rates. If you have multiple audiences, segment them so that each receives a personalized message.

2. Personalize your subject line

This isn’t to say you’ll be writing a different subject line for each and every recipient on your list. But when possible, including their name or company name in the subject line can increase open rates.

3. Keep it short and sweet

If you paid attention to one of the statistics mentioned above, email writers should try to keep subject lines to 60 characters or less. People receive so many emails a day and quickly scan and filter through them, so they don’t have time to read a long subject line. They’ll just read the first few words and move on. Plus, email clients will often shorten the subject line and add an ellipsis (“...”) to subjects longer than around 60 characters.

4. Make it urgent and exclusive

Have you heard of FOMO? It means “fear of missing out.” That’s exactly how you want your audience to feel when they read your subject line — like it’s now or never! If they think to themselves, “I’ll read that email later,” then your subject line wasn’t urgent enough.

5. Show your value

Show them how you can help them right upfront. Don’t wait until the body of the email to present your offer. It will probably be too late by then. Tell them about the free whitepaper you’re offering or how much money you saved your last client before they even open the email.

6. Leave them wanting more

Another strategy is to tease something — dangle that carrot in front of them to lead them into your email. If you show all your cards right from the get-go, then there’s nothing left to know, so why would they open the email? Even something clickbaity like “You’ll never believe what [brand] just announced” works better than the announcement itself in the subject line.

7. Avoid spammy lingo

Algorithms pick up on spammy words and phrases. While there is a long list of spam trigger words to avoid, you can probably guess which ones get flagged. If you don’t want your emails to skip the inbox and go straight to the spam folder, avoid subject lines such as “Lowest prices of the summer!” or “Free giveaway!”

8. Be distinctive

That doesn’t mean you have to be someone you aren’t. It’s actually the opposite. Be sincere and show them who your company really is. That will stand out more than being overly professional like everyone else. “Professional” is boring, and people want to be entertained with something different.

9. Make a realistic promise

You want to sound confident in your subject line, but you don’t want to promise something that you can’t guarantee. Trust is an important factor with all sales, and overpromising leads to lost trust. Even if you can save them up to 30%, it’s better to tell them a lower figure so they won’t be disappointed if they only save 25%.

10. Make it easy to understand

Avoid being ambiguous with the language in your subject lines. People are busy and don’t have time to decipher what your subject line is telling them or asking from them. For instance, leading with something like “Do you have time to chat?” doesn’t tell them how much time they’ll need to set aside. “Do you have 5 minutes?” is more definitive and more likely to get a response.

11. Use emotions to your advantage

Even if it’s a negative emotion, people pay more attention to a subject line when it makes them feel something. Try to include something that will surprise your audience or shock them. It can even be good news that they weren’t expecting. Just be careful to not evoke an emotion that could make them think worse of your brand.

12. Find a commonality

You don’t always have to be complete strangers to send a cold email. Sometimes you might have a mutual acquaintance or an event that you attended at the same time. Mention in your subject line something like “[so-and-so] said we should meet” or “I saw you at [event], do you have time to talk?”

13. Use statistical evidence

People are objective thinkers when it comes to business. They want to know exactly how you’ll help their company. By offering metrics and statistics that back up your claims, they’ll be more inclined to open your emails and read on further. You can’t go wrong by sticking to the facts.

14. Don’t forget the opening line

Recipients also get a snippet of the first words of your email before opening it. Don’t forget to make those first words count in the body of your email. If your subject line didn’t reel them in, maybe those first words of your email will.

Examples of Effective Cold Email Subject Lines

The most effective subject lines are those that cater to the personalities of your audience. For example, Jane Snow, a journalist, once sent out 1,000 emails to executives using a general template and only received 12 responses. By changing her strategy and personalizing her emails, she was able to significantly increase her response rates.

That isn’t to say every one of these examples is highly personalized, but the subject lines that tend to be more successful have some sort of personalization. Let’s take a look at 20 cold email subject lines that have been proven to generate real leads:

1. “Hey, it’s [your name] from [company]”

This one is a bit generic but it gets the job done. You can even shorten it to “Introducing myself” to pique their interest so that they want to open the email to learn who you are.

2. “Quick question about [project/interest]”

This one always seems to get a response. It grabs their attention, piques their curiosity, and more importantly, tells them that they don’t need to spend too much time reading the email since it’s one quick question.

3. “Let’s talk about [subject]!”

If you already know a little bit about their interests, this is a great subject line. Think about your inbox. If you see a topic that interests you in a subject line, you’re more likely to open the email.

4. “A [smarter/faster/better] way to [goal]”

Everyone wants to be more productive at work. This shows the recipient of your email that you know what they’re working on, and you can help them do it more efficiently. With this subject line, you’re not asking for anything; you’re giving them a solution.

5. “Hey [name], what’s the biggest challenge of [what they do]?”

This one will grab their attention and hopefully bring them to open the email. However, you want to showcase in the body of this email that you have the solution to their particular issue.

6. “Where do I even begin?”

“Where do you even begin with what?” will be what they’re thinking with this cold email subject line. In this case, you’ll want to write something enticing in the first few words of the email because that’s what they’ll read next in the snippet.

7. “I need your advice on this, [name]”

People want to feel like they’re needed. This one will make them feel like they are the only ones that can help you, which can give them a little ego boost. But they’ll also want to open the email to see if they can help.

8. “How [customer] increased [sales/productivity/etc.] by [percentage]”

Here’s the statistical evidence we mentioned earlier — the social proof that your service objectively helped others in their industry. Be sure to include the details in the body of the email and how your service can do the same for them.

9. “Congratulations on [success]!”

This one gives them a pat on the back and lets them know that you are aware of their accomplishments and who they are. You can congratulate them on anything, such as an award, promotion, recently published body of work, etc.

10. “I was referred to by [referral]!”

Use those connections to your advantage! If they trust the person who referred you to them, that personal connection could entice them to open the email and at least see who you are.

11. “You up for coffee?”

With so many zoom calls and digital communication throughout the workday, they might be up for an in-person conversation. Plus, the social setting might seem appealing to them as well because it’s more casual.

12. “Great meeting you at [location]”

This personalized cold email subject line will grab their attention by creating an emotional response to having met before. Assuming your previous interaction went well, they might be more inclined to read what you have to say.

13. “Have you been to [restaurant/cafe]?”

This one is in the same realm as grabbing coffee. However, you might feel a little uncomfortable with this strategy because it requires some digging on your part to find restaurants near their work or figure out an establishment they frequent.

14. “You missed out”

This subject line is great because it’s based on the FOMO tactic mentioned above. Lots of people hate missing out on things. If the recipient is one of those people, they’ll want to know what they missed out on by opening the email.

15. “[Name], do you have a minute?”

In this case, it doesn’t seem like your email is coming from a stranger. It sounds like something a colleague or acquaintance would ask. This subject line might get them to open the email, but you’ll want to give a good reason for taking time out of their day to talk to you.

16. “Interested in [competitor’s product/service]? Read this first”

If they are interested in a similar product or service that you offer, this will certainly get their attention. After all, what if your product or service is the perfect fit? They would want to find out by opening the email.

17. “Let’s get down to the brass tacks”

Instill some urgency by “cutting through all the BS.” Tell them you want to cut straight to the chase. With this subject line, they’re not given much information, but it feels urgent, which could work in your favor.

18. “Still looking to solve [challenge]?”

You’ll want to use this one when you know your prospect has a particular pain point that needs to be addressed. Make sure to mention in the body of the email every way your product or service solves their problem.

19. “You’ll love this [offering], [name]!”

Use this cold email subject line if you have a whitepaper, time to book a meeting, or any other offerings. For B2B decision-makers, they want as much information as possible before they make a purchase.

20. “Want to know something embarrassing?”

Here’s a great way to draw their attention. Of course, you’ll have to mention something embarrassing in the body of the email, but that can be about lost productivity or something related to your industry.

There you have it! 20 cold email subject lines that can generate some real leads for your business. As you probably noticed, effective subject lines don’t have to be witty, funny, or clever. In fact, those types of subject lines often go over people’s heads. It’s better to be straight to the point, be personal, and offer a little bit of mystery.

But don’t solely rely on these examples for a successful cold email campaign. You have an organization full of people with great ideas. Schedule a time to brainstorm together and you might find that one person is a subject line genius.

Find Email Addresses For Your Cold Emails

Once you finish your cold email subject lines and body copy, the first thing you’ll need is an email list. With Skrapp.io’s browser extension, you get an email lookup tool that helps you find real email addresses for professionals at any company. We’re trusted by millions of professionals to find verified B2B email addresses of people that matter for your business.

Try our web extension today and improve your cold emails!

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