When was the last time you walked down the breakfast aisle? The children’s cereal is always brightly packaged, with fun imagery and fonts. Brands know how to attract young consumers with their designs.
If you think about it, email subject lines work the same way. You won’t entice your prospect to open your email if your subject line is boring, irrelevant, or overly promotional. To convince them to click, you need to speak their language -- both in terms of phrasing and content.
Easier said than done. Luckily, I’ve rounded up some of the most creative and effective subject lines I’ve seen lately to give you some inspiration.
1) “[Prospect’s favorite drink or food]?”
HubSpot growth marketer David Ly Khim says he immediately opened an email titled “Bourbon?” Khim says he occasionally drinks bourbon on the About page of his personal site:
“This subject line told me this salesperson had done their homework and found something I like,” Khim explains.
The first line read, “Let me know if you’re up for a chat (with bourbon?) sometime.”
You can use any dish or drink your prospect publicly mentions they like -- but make sure they’ve done so on a professional platform, such as LinkedIn, an online portfolio, their company bio, etc. It’s easy to take this approach too far. For example, if the buyer posted an Instagram picture of their lunch four months ago, asking, “Are you up for a quick meeting (over grilled salmon?) this week?” will definitely seem creepy.
2) “Competitive data about [prospect’s competitor] and your strategy for [related topic]”
Want to pique the buyer’s interest? Offer exclusive, relevant information that’ll help them stay ahead or even pull past the other companies in their space.
Not only does this subject line give them a clear incentive to click, it also indicates you’ve personalized your outreach. Your prospect will see you as a trusted advisor before they’ve even read your message.
3) “Hey, quick heads up”
It’s hard to ignore this subject line. You’ll immediately provoke curiosity -- the buyer will think, “Wait, what do I need to know?”
The email itself should live up to the subject line, otherwise you’ll lose your prospect’s trust. Share an update related to their industry, market, or product, pass along a tip, let them know you’re offering a major promotion, or help in some other way.
4) “[Prospect name], when X gets tough, we’ve got your back”
Reference a challenge the buyer is facing (or likely facing) to catch their attention and foreshadow the value you can provide.
To give you an idea, you might use this subject line for an HR manager at a 100-person company:
“Tom, when compliance becomes a challenge, we’ve got your back”
You’ll demonstrate that you understand your prospect’s priorities and pain points from the start. In the body of the email, link to a blog post, ebook, webinar, or other piece of relevant content so you deliver on the support you promised.
Wondering how to know which challenge to reference? If you’re reaching out to an inbound lead, look at their previous interaction(s) with your company. Maybe Tom downloaded an ebook on understanding the new compliance laws or visited three different articles on that topic.
If the buyer hasn’t engaged with you before, use an issue similar buyers struggle with based on their buyer persona.
5) “[Name], not many people know this, but … ”
As a salesperson, you should consistently deliver unexpected insights to your prospects. This subject line hints at the surprising information you’ll reveal, creating intrigue and suspense.
Like always, you won’t get a response unless you follow through. Share an insight with the buyer, then ask a related question or offer to set up a call so they can learn more.
6) “Love how [prospect’s company] does X”
A little flattery goes a long way. If you’ve noticed the buyer’s organization excels at something specific -- whether that’s great customer service, creative marketing, superior product quality, strong internal culture, etc. -- call it out.
Make sure your compliment is genuine. You don’t want your prospect to think, “What are they talking about? Our [customer service, marketing, product, culture] isn’t that special.”
But if you’ve honed in on a specific aspect they’re truly proud of, they’ll feel gratified and impressed by your research.
Tie your observation to the focus of your email. Let’s say you wanted to highlight how quickly their support reps respond.
7) “Are you still interested in [solving X challenge]?”
Remind your prospects the clock is ticking: If they want to tackle a pain point, they should do so ASAP.
This subject line works well for breakup emails. Tell the buyer you’re closing open accounts -- unless you hear back, this will be the last time they’ll hear from you.
If they’re not a good fit, they’ll let you know or choose not to respond. However, if they’re genuinely interested in your product but have been too busy or unmotivated to follow up, you’ll typically get a response.
Use these seven subject lines to craft your own curiosity-sparking ones. Buyers will be compelled to learn more.
Originally published Feb 13, 2017 8:30:00 AM, updated June 10 2021