Your email subject line is your first chance to make an impression with your prospect or lead. Considering that 33% of email recipients open an email based on the subject line alone, getting it right can significantly boost your chances of getting your message opened and starting a conversation that could eventually lead to a closed sale.
By creating a compelling subject line, you can increase your open rates, improve reader engagement and get one step closer to reaching your sales goals.
Table of contents
- What is an email open rate?
- How is email open rate calculated?
- Info to gather before drafting your sales email
- Nine types of sales email subject lines with best practices and examples
- Things to remember when sending a cold email
- Best practices for sending a follow-up
- General tips to increase email open rates
What is an email open rate?
An email open rate is a metric that measures the percentage of opened emails for a specific email marketing message. The open rate can indicate how well you were able to catch a recipient's interest with the subject line and can also reveal whether your emails reached the inbox or were sent to the spam folder (more on how to avoid this in the next section).
The average open rate across all industries is 17%, and research shows that subscribers tend to only open emails that appear relevant to them (that’s where the subject line comes into play).
How is email open rate calculated?
Email service providers calculate your open rate by taking the number of people who open your email and dividing it by the number of emails that were successfully delivered. Emails that are not delivered cannot be opened, which is why this number is not included in the open rate percentage.
For example, if you send 100 emails and 20 of them bounce or fail to deliver, the number of delivered emails becomes 80. If 40 of those emails are opened, your open rate is then 40/80 = 0.5. Multiplying that by 100 gives you an email open rate of 50%.
Although your email open rate is important, it’s also worth comparing it alongside other email marketing performance indicators such as click-through rate (CTR), deliverability rate or unsubscribe rate. By looking at your open rate in addition to other metrics, you can get a more holistic view of how effective your email message or overall campaign is.
You’ll also want to compare your key performance indicators (KPIs) to the industry average benchmarks to see how you’re performing in your target market. Currently, across all industries the average CTR is 2.5%, the average bounce rate is 0.6% and the average unsubscribe rate is 0.1%.
Running an email blacklist check can help determine how many of your emails are ending up in spam. Understanding your email deliverability rate can help overall email marketing efforts, which can in turn help increase your open rate. If you are in fact on a blacklist and can determine how many emails are ending up in spam, then you can calculate your delivery rate manually with this formula: (Delivered Emails / Total Sent) x 100.
Info to gather before drafting your sales email
Before you begin drafting your email message, it’s important to gather some key information about your target audience, the lead you’re reaching out to and the overall goal of your email. Here are eight questions that can help guide your effort to create the best sales email subject line along with a compelling message in the body of the email that your prospect or lead will be interested to read.
Questions about your audience or lead
- Who are you selling to? Who is your potential customer and why do they need your product or service? Put yourself in their shoes and think about what would be interesting, top-of-mind, or urgent for them to read.
- Are they familiar with your company already? Are you corresponding with someone who knows your company, or is this email going to be their first introduction to it? This may change what you choose to focus on in your email subject line and message.
- What would motivate them to respond? Think about what aspect of your message is worth highlighting to encourage them to open, read and respond to the email.
Questions for salespeople and marketers to consider
- What are you selling? Think about the value your product or service can bring to your potential customers. Take a moment to consider both the tangible and intangible results your offer could create for them.
- Are there mutual connections or shared experiences you can leverage? See if you share a mutual acquaintance, are alumni from the same school or are even part of the same Facebook or LinkedIn group. Finding common ground and mentioning it in your subject line can spark rapport and inspire your recipient to read your message.
- If your subject line appeared in your inbox would you read it? Reflect on your own experiences receiving sales emails. How did you decide which to delete and which to read? If you wouldn’t click on it yourself because it felt too salesy, your prospective customers may not either.
Questions for the overall campaign
- What metrics are you tracking for this email campaign? Knowing your campaign goal may help you craft better subject lines so you can encourage and optimize for the desired action from your email recipients.
- How are you going to track which subject lines work best? Once you start experimenting with different types of subject lines to see what your customers have engaged with most, it’s important to keep track of what’s working and what isn’t.
- What can you do now to save time later? From setting your sales team up with automation and segmentation to decreasing CRM admin, make sure your sales reps have the tools and systems they need for success.
Nine types of sales email subject lines with best practices and examples
Here are nine email subject line best practices along with examples of subject lines for each one. You can glean insights from each of the below examples to drive your efforts to create the best email subject lines for sales.
Use their name to make it personal
Adding your prospect’s name to the subject line can make them feel valued and believe the message is specific or unique to them. This adds a level of interest and sense of urgency that may not otherwise be there.
According to Experian, personalized mailings have 29% higher open rates and 41% higher click-through rates than non-personalized mailings.
Here are some catchy email subject lines for sales that use personalization:
- [Name], snag our free marketing template
- [Name], we thought you’d like this
- [Name], want a sneak peek at our new offer?
Keep it short
It’s important to keep your subject line short so that it’s quick to understand and easy to read.
In addition, many email service providers will cut off your subject line with an ellipsis if it’s beyond a certain length. With 46% of emails being opened on mobile devices, it’s important to consider how mobile devices may affect the ideal subject line character length. AWeber’s research recommends keeping your subject lines to 43 characters or less.
Here are some examples of short subject lines:
- [Name], I think you’ll like this
- Sneak Peek: New product preview inside
- Hi [Name], excited to connect
- Time for a virtual coffee chat? ☕
Use the snippet to your advantage
With a short subject line, you might feel like you can’t get your full message across. Using the snippet (also known as the email message preview or email preheader) can help further entice your reader to open your message.
If you fail to customize your snippet, it may display default text to include undesirable text such as the image ALT tags or the unsubscribe link.
As a general rule, your email snippet should be between 40-50 characters long. You can use it to continue where the subject line left off, or as a call-to-action to encourage your reader to open. It’s worth split-testing your snippets as well to see which message is the most powerful and how it will appear on different email clients and devices.
Here are some examples of the subject and snippet:
- [Name], We’re ready to help! Schedule your free call.
- Ready to give our new product a try? Sign up for a 30-day demo.
- [Name], will you join us? Don’t forget to grab your webinar spot!
Try using a relevant emoji
With around 300 billion emails sent and received per day, including a relevant emoji can help add some color and personality to your subject line. According to report findings by Return Path, subject lines containing emojis saw a higher read rate than comparable text-only subject lines in some cases.
When choosing to not use emojis, many companies mention this study by Nielsen that says emojis increase negative sentiment. However, Nielsen only tested emojis on unwanted, eCommerce marketing emails. In their conclusion, they said the study ultimately showed that “When users do choose to consider an email in a mixed and balanced inbox, they are more likely to direct attention to an emoji email.”
Overall, this means that there’s no clear right or wrong answer and it may depend on your industry. Run some tests to figure out what your audience enjoys and engages with. Make sure to consider cultural implications of what certain emojis might mean, industry and branding norms and other factors that may impact if and how you choose to use them.
Here are some examples of how to use an emoji in your effort to write catchy email subject lines for sales:
- Sale Alert: 20% off Pro Version 🎉
- The 🔑 to unlocking marketing success
- [Name], awesome to meet you at [Event] 😊
Avoid triggering the spam filter
When crafting your email subject line for sales, you may accidentally try to use enticing or urgent words that may trigger spam filters. Spam filters are on the lookout for messaging that may be manipulative, misleading, pushy, overpromising, or ethically questionable.
Here are a few examples of words and phrases to avoid:
- Act now
- Click here
- Important information regarding
- Money back
- This won’t last
You should also avoid excessive all caps or punctuation (such as “FREE!!!”), and other pushy formatting that can read as spammy.
Mention a mutual connection
Because 92% of people trust recommendations from their personal network, mentioning a mutual interest or acquaintance should be the first strategy you choose for your subject lines. If you can take advantage of the trust that comes with shared interests and recommendations, it’s much more likely that your recipient will open your message.
Here are some mutual connection email subject line examples:
- “[Mutual contact] mentioned you”
- “Hi – [Name], [Mutual contact] said we should connect”
- “I noticed you on [Shared interest/social group]. Can we connect?”
- “Hey [Name], we met at [Conference/Event]”
Trust is the main challenge when communicating through cold email. By showing a mutual connection, you help create confidence and credibility that can take your email from cold to warm.
Ask a question
Asking a quick question opens a “curiosity gap” where people are curious about the answer, so they’ll click to find out what you have to say.
To make your question especially relevant and pique interest, make sure to mention a pain point or challenge that your client is facing. Don’t use this as clickbait, make sure to actually address the pain point and offer some tips or solutions in your email.
Here are some question email subject line examples:
- What does [department] need at [reader’s company]?
- Does [challenge] continue to be a problem?
- What would it be like if [desired result]?
Keep it casual
People are more likely to engage with emails that feel personal, casual and easy to read. Formal language may feel bland, impersonal and make the overall message feel more generic.
If you’re having trouble striking the balance, think about how you might approach someone in real life. Keeping your tone friendly but professional will make your message engaging but still credible and trustworthy.
- Can we chat about [your products/services]?
- Hey [Name], I’ve got some great info about [topic]
- [Name], don’t forget to check out the perks
Things to remember when sending a cold email
Cold emails are email messages where you may not have had previous contact with the recipient before. This means your cold email subject line needs to pull a lot of weight to help your reader believe that your message is worth reading.
Here are a few tips when writing cold emails to increase open rates and engagement:
- Do research on your target prospect. Learn as much as you can about who they are, what they need and what kind of message is likely to resonate with them.
- Make your message about the prospect, not you. Position your message as a value-add so they can clearly see the benefit of opening and engaging. Include helpful tips, resources, or other materials that can benefit them in the future. For in-depth examples, read our full blog on effective cold email templates.
- Keep it personal. According to a study conducted by Econsultancy in association with Monetate, surveyed companies managed an average sales increase of 20% by personalizing their experiences. Get creative with how you personalize. For example, you could consider going the extra mile and try personalized images.
- Avoid being too sales oriented. Try to first connect with your prospect so you can spark some rapport before diving into your main call-to-action.
- Have a great subject line. Use a few of the tips above to craft a sales email subject line that will feel personal, interesting and relevant to your reader.
Here are some examples of cold email subject lines:
- Can I help you reach [specific goal/result]?
- Must-read resources to help with [common challenge/pain point]
- [Name], will I see you at [event]?
- [Name], it’d be great to connect!
- Let’s chat about [industry topic/idea]
Don’t forget to also leverage the email preheader to squeeze in some additional information into the message preview.
Best practices for sending a follow-up email
Following up is arguably the most important step of the sales process, but research shows that 80% of sales require five follow-up calls whereas 44% of salespeople give up after one follow-up call.
Sending a compelling follow-up email can gently remind your prospect that you care about their business and that you’re interested in hearing from them.
Here are some best practices to adhere to when sending a follow-up email.
Strike a balance between automation and customization
Although it’s tempting to automate follow-ups so you don’t forget, you may miss an opportunity to customize the message. For example, if someone says in their initial email that they weren’t available due to travel, you could make your follow-up message personal by asking how their trip was.
Get your timing right
Getting your timing right is key to making sure your prospective client doesn’t feel chased or overwhelmed. If your request isn’t time-sensitive, best practice is to wait a few business days between the first and second message and then increasingly spread them out over time. If it is time-sensitive, you can send more emails in a shorter time.
Prepare your follow up sequences in advance
Creating a series of email templates for specific sales email scenarios, or types of prospects you encounter in your sales process, is a great way to prepare for outreach and save time. When preparing these templates, keep your buyer personas in mind to make sure you capture the right messaging for each type of lead.
You can also leverage drip emails, which are usually sent to someone who has already engaged with your content or brand, to nurture them to either become a customer or encourage them to re-engage.
Keep your message short and sweet
Treat your potential customers as if they had every intention to act or respond, but simply haven’t yet. This keeps your follow up feeling positive and upbeat, rather than encompassing a disappointed tone.
Use the right call-to-action (CTA)
Your follow-up email is all about encouraging your reader to take their next step. Make sure to use a simple call-to-action that can be completed in just a few minutes. Here are some examples:
- Provide a calendar link so they can schedule a time to chat (with a tool like Scheduler)
- Provide a multiple-choice option and let them reply with their answer
- Restate your unique value proposition (i.e. “download our exclusive industry report”)
- Request a connection, introduction, or referral
General tips to increase email open rates
As you continue to tweak your sales email subject line to improve your open rates, there are a few other things you can check to help improve your deliverability and increase reader engagement.
Remember to keep your email list clean and remove email addresses that bounce or continuously don’t open your emails. These inactive contacts can damage your deliverability with your email client.
It’s also worth segmenting your list by certain topics, interests, or other factors. Segmentation makes it easier for your marketers to send highly relevant, timely and personal emails.
Continue to A/B test different subject lines to better learn what emails get more engagement and interest. Try testing out different words and phrases and sending emails at different times of the day.
Make sure your company is using an active reply-to address. Avoid “[email protected]”, since this type of email address signals that you aren’t interested in hearing from them.
The best strategy isn’t just about finding catchy email subject lines for sales and marketing emails, it’s about finding the right tools as well.
Our State of Sales 2019-2020 report showed that over a third (34%) of respondents said that they think prospecting and lead qualification is the biggest challenge for salespeople.
By providing salespeople with the right tools, they’ll be more effective at reaching and qualifying new leads, building relationships and increasing sales for your business.
Pipedrive, for example, can help you track the impact of your emails and engage the recipients that are most likely to become prospects or even customers. See how you can try Pipedrive free for 14 days here.