Breaking Down the Best & Worst of Subject Lines

It’s a sad truth, but even after spending meticulous hours crafting the perfect cold email, the most likely outcome is that it is going to end up getting deleted. That’s why you have to take into account every aspect of your message, which includes the subject line.

The first wave of attack, a solid subject line determines whether or not your email campaigns pierce the fog of war or stumble out of the gate. Maybe even more so than the actual email itself, the subject line can determine your cold email sales success. Here we will be breaking down some of the best and worst subject lines I’ve come across during my tenure at and take a look at why they are considered either the cream of the crop or the bottom of the barrel.

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Good! – Whatever you do, don’t read this!

While it appears a little unconventional, when put into practice you can’t deny the results. This is reverse psychology at it’s finest and it doesn’t immediately come off as “markety”. I have found that the “cold” part of email campaigns is best left out of the equation; so starting things off on a more relaxed note can go a long way in making that sale. Also, most people generally don’t like being told what to do. Play into their ego and get them to open it anyway!

Bad – No Subject Line

They say curiosity killed the cat, but I’ve never known a cat to be enticed by stale air. Leaving the subject line blank is like giving up before you even start. You’re wasting an opportunity to get out your message before they even read it, so take advantage!

Plus it looks generally unprofessional. What you consider a strategic decision could easily be construed as an amateur mistake to the recipients of your campaign. Don’t look the fool and write something down. It’s literally better than nothing.

Good! – (NAME), we can help you (GOAL)

This subject line is a bit more generic but it is tried and true. You can’t go wrong with adding the contacts name in the subject and you are getting straight to the point. The contact will immediately know what the email is about and the personal touch only increases the likelihood of them opening up your email if you’ve targeted correctly.

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Bad – Hi (NAME), having trouble with (SERVICE ISSUE)? (COMPANY) can definitely help! Want to talk? Thanks!

There are a lot of things wrong with subject lines that follow this template, the main issue being that it’s far too long. If this ended up in my inbox I wouldn’t give it a second glance. An email client can only display so many characters before the subject gets cut off. Don’t waste that space!

Another major issue here is the presence of filler words. “Hi” and “Thanks” should be saved for the actual email. You only have so much time before the prospect loses interest and the precious seconds you sacrifice by including fillers could be absolutely fatal to your open rate.

Good! – (NAME) referred me to you

Professional, succinct and personal. You can’t get much better than this. While this may not be possible in all scenarios, if you can directly link your outreach to someone the lead has met in the real world you are exponentially more likely to land the deal. You instantly come across as trustworthy; you’ve established a personal connection and the prospect will already be inclined to agree with you on the merits of the recommendation.

Bad – Want to chat?

Questions typically beget answers, meaning that this isn’t the worst option you could choose, but there are a lot better. The biggest flaw with this approach is how vague it is. The recipient of the message has no clue who you are, what you want or where you came from, so why would they open the message? If you aren’t going for the personal or funny approach, leaving out vital information about the reason for the message could cost you a sale right off the bat.

Good! – Help me (FULL NAME), You’re my only hope!

Bringing back that personal touch while establishing a fun tone, this kind of subject line is a personal favorite! You’re establishing the connection vital to closing a sale and you are creating an inviting atmosphere for the prospective client. Nobody likes being “sold” to, so don’t start off the business relationship with sales lingo.

Plus, if there name actually turns out to be Obi-Wan Kenobi/ they’re a huge Star Wars fan you can just consider them sold.

Bad – Hey, I was wondering if…

These types of subject lines always leave a bad taste in my mouth. Unlike the humorous approaches to creating a subject line, this is just a cheap way of playing on a persons curiosity. By starting a sentence that ends in the email body you are essentially forcing the reader to open the rest of the message. If the body of the message isn’t all that appealing this could just end up annoying the prospect and make closing any potential deal all the harder.

If you’re going to play the curiosity card, do it with style. Or stick to a more traditional approach. It is better to have a low open rate with some goodwill as opposed to a high open rate with broken trust.

Read Also: Why Nobody is Reading Your Cold Email and How to Get Them To Respond

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