The success formula for email subject lines

email subject linesI was happily reading my email and enjoying my second cup of coffee when I nearly spit. Another article about subject lines that get opened but not one word about response rate. Who cares if they open if they delete and don’t act?

Here is the secret subject line formula. Incorporate as many of these points as you can to motivate prospects to pay attention to, engage with and respond.

1. Be human

Making a great impression doesn’t mean being formal or fake. Keep it friendly, assume familiarity within professional bounds.

2. Keep it short and sweet

They’ll likely only see about 4 words, and then can see your first sentence too before deciding to delete. Make all those words important to them.

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3. Make it about them

Avoid using their name (the 2016 study that is often cited as a reason to start with their first name is absolutely outdated now). You’ll get more engagement by using the word “Your” or their company name.

4. Ask a relevant and intriguing question

Answer (at least part of) the question in your first sentence or else this will gain an open but not engagement.

5. Get to the point

The subject line should highlight the point of your message.

6. Refer to a mutual connection

When/If you have a connection, always use the contact’s full name in your subject line: Sophie Spaniel suggested we connect.

And here are a few don’ts.

1. Don’t trick ’em

Using “RE:” or “FWD”: subject lines to imply/ lie about a previous connection is just wrong.

2. Don’t pitch in the subject line

What’s the point of the subject line? To lead them into the content of your email!

3. Don’t fake flatter

Unless you’re someone really important to them (think CEO, Bruno Mars, Regé-Jean Page, Paul McCartney), using a subject line like “Your blog is the best” may get opened, but won’t get response.


Would you open the email with the subject line you’re using or would you delete it? (And is the message that follows relevant, compelling, personalized, frictionless?)

If you’d open your message – and respond to it – you’ve likely written a great subject line to get results!

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