Emails often live and die by their subject lines. A great subject line motivates prospects to open the message, while an uninspired one means they won’t read a single word.

The email subject lines on this list fall into the second camp. They’re presumptuous, annoying, misleading, and confusing -- sometimes, all of the above. If reps want their buyers to actually click “open,” they should avoid these lines like their quota depends on it.

14 Overused Email Subject Lines

1) “We’ve got a lot in common”

This line has been landing in my inbox fairly frequently. In the email body, the rep will list various similarities between HubSpot and their company, share their typical results, and ask if I’d be interested in learning more.

Building common ground with prospects can help create rapport -- but this is a poor way to do it. The so-called similarities are usually pretty weak, like “Our director used to be a board member of one of your current clients.” A subject line referencing a referral from a mutual connection would be far more effective at establishing credibility and trust.

2) “Re: [Same subject]”

If you make someone feel stupid, do you think they’ll want to talk to you -- let alone buy from you? Not a chance.

That’s why it’s mind-boggling salespeople are still using this trick. The “Re:” might fool your prospect into thinking that they’re opening an email chain -- but once they read the message, they’ll realize they’ve been duped.

(Of course, email platforms automatically add “Re:” to subject lines when the message is a reply to an existing thread. If a rep is replying to a previous message they’ve sent their prospect -- rather than starting a new thread -- keeping the “Re:” is fine.)

3) “Request”

People are happy to do small favors for their family members, friends, coworkers, and managers. They’re not so eager to step up to the plate for strangers (or near-strangers). Before reps ask anything of their prospects, they must make themselves relevant. Once a rep has established herself as credible, informed, and trustworthy, she’s got more leeway for requests (like a 30-minute discovery call or advice for dealing with the decision maker).

4) “Next step?”

This subject line needs to be retired. Buyers want to spend as little time as possible in their inboxes, so asking them to do extra work won’t get results. This line gives them the burden of driving the process -- many will decide to do nothing instead.

5) “Complimentary [product] demo”

Talk about putting the horse before the cart. Why would prospects be interested in a product’s features and benefits before the rep has established a need for it? It’s like offering a free test drive before you know if someone has their license.

6) “[Prospect], I am NOT a Robot”

Although this subject line is eye-catching, it veers into obnoxious territory -- reps should never use caps lock or take an aggressive tone. In addition, salespeople should make it obvious they’re not “robots” by personalizing every interaction with their prospects.

7) “Congrats”

Right after a trigger event is a great time to reach out: Your prospect’s situation has just changed, and their needs have probably changed as well. But a generic “Congrats” won’t do you any favors. Not only does it lack creativity and effort, but it’ll make you look like every other rep who’s also emailing their congratulations.

8) “Catch me at [event]”

Salespeople who use this line are putting the burden on their prospects to “catch” them at an event -- before establishing why the prospect would get any value from the conversation. This line also takes for granted that the recipient is attending the event. However, that’s not a sure conclusion. What if the prospect registered for their boss? What if the prospect has changed their mind about going? What if the prospect’s team member is attending on their behalf? Instead of using this line, reps should opt for a prospect-centric one -- then mention the event in the body of their message.

9) “Today’s the day!”

While this line attempts to create urgency, it flops. Today’s the day … for what? Many people will never click to find out. The exclamation mark also screams (literally) “over-the-top salesperson.” Reps should avoid exclamation marks if they can help it.

10) “In case you missed it”

Prospects have busy lives and full inboxes, so it’s plausible they could have missed a message from a rep or saw it and forgot to answer.

However, the rep doesn’t know if that’s why they haven’t gotten a reply. It’s equally possible the buyer read the email, wasn’t interested, and moved on. To catch their attention, the salesperson should try something new and provide an additional dose of value -- not regurgitate old messaging or push prospects toward an old email.

11) “Free [ebook, infographic, report]”

The idea behind this subject line is spot-on, but the execution falls flat. Although content lets you build relationships and provide value, you don’t want to sound like a marketing robot. Your prospects are used to getting mass promotional emails with words like “free,” “sale,” “discount,” “exciting,” “unique,” “offer,” and so on. Include any of these words in your subject line, and there’s a good chance buyers will ignore your message.

12) “Coming in ice-cold, but hoping to help!”

This subject line comes from Salesfolk’s “hall of shame” for horrible sales emails.
The reps who used it had his heart in the right place -- after all, he’s offering to help -- but he definitely shouldn’t have announced this was a cold email.

Most prospects hate getting mass email blasts, so referencing cold emails in the subject line will immediately turn them off.

13) “Email invite”

Sometimes, a vague subject line can evoke intrigue and curiosity. But this one is puzzling in the wrong way. Are prospects receiving an invitation to do business? Go to an event? Attend a webinar? Have a sales call? Depending on the prospect, all of those could be valuable -- but prospects can’t tell whether or not they’re interested without a more explicit subject line.

14) “[Prospect name] + [company]”

If you want buyers to actually contemplate a partnership with you, don’t use this tired phrase. It screams “I want to sell you something” -- and few people will click on the email to find out what that “something” actually is, so use creative subject lines instead.

You might be wondering if there are other email subject lines in your repertoire secretly annoying prospects. To figure out which ones to keep and which ones to stop using, A/B test your subject lines. If you have 50 prospects, for example, email 25 of them with one subject line and the rest with a second one. Then compare your open and response rates to see which line performed better. In time, you can hone in on the best subject lines for every message at every stage of the buyer’s journey.

New Call-to-action

Originally published Oct 4, 2016 8:30:00 AM, updated October 09 2017


Sales Email Subject Lines