Write Better Subject Lines

There’s a company that’s been sending me cold emails for years.

I’ve never opened any of them.

No, this isn’t a newsletter I opted into (there’s not even an unsubscribe button).

See, I used to be a tech writer. And this company wanted my business.

The thing is, I had moved on from that job years ago. But that didn’t stop the business  from finding my personal gmail and blasting me with messages for the last 3 years…

Let’s ignore the CAN-SPAM Act for a minute and ask ourselves: would you open any of these emails?

Heck no! Why?

Because the subject lines are awful. They’re impersonal and salesy and way too long.

It feels like a robot blasted the same template to me and 500 other people.

This happens all the time.

Sales people write cold emails to prospective customers, but the subject lines are so terrible, the email doesn’t even get opened.

What a waste of work.

Companies regularly send thousands of bad emails and wonder why they’re not getting any traction. But let’s do some quick math to find out why.

If you send a robotic email to 1,000 people and only 10 people respond, that’s a 1% conversion rate.

If you send personalized emails to 200 of your top prospects and 50 people respond, that’s a 25% conversion rate!

Don’t get me wrong… having a big list of leads is important for growing your business.

But if you want people to open your emails, don’t blast the same message to everyone on your list. Instead, improve the copy so that more of those people actually open it.

And the first step is having a great subject line. To do that, you need to write like a human.

Let’s see it in action.

Elements of a great subject line

We’ll get into examples of great subject lines below. But first, let’s break down the elements of the darn thing.

Make it short

Most email providers show up to 60 characters of a subject line. Anything longer than that will get cut off. Also… long subject lines often feel salesy. A shorter subject line will stand out in a crowded inbox and look more inviting.

Make it personal

People don’t open generic emails. But they will open an email that’s been written just for them. Make your email personal by including the person’s name or company in the subject line.

Make it a little weird

Your prospects are probably getting 100+ cold emails a week. If your email stands out from the pack, it’s more likely to be opened.  

Examples of a great subject line

Let’s say you want to pitch a story idea for our newsletter. Here are subject lines that I’d open in a heartbeat:

  • The story of how I sent 10,672 cold emails
  • longtime fan of your writing on LinkedIn 🤓
  • Loved your blog post on marginal users…
  • Congrats on launching Camp Hustle! 🙌
  • Case study idea for HF: Validating our business through pre-sales
  • Idea for Hustle Fund newsletter
  • Kera + [your name] intro
  • Quick question about HF newsletter
  • [Mutual connection] recommended I reach out

When someone personalizes the subject line with my name, I want to know how this person knows me.

When someone acknowledges projects I’m working on (like hosting Camp Hustle), I want to know if they are interested in contributing.

When someone has read my writing and offers an idea that’s relevant to my audience, I want to see if it’d be helpful for my work (and read the compliments, of course).

I bet you’re noticing a theme here.

All of these subject lines are focused on the recipient. Not on you. Not on your business. But on the person you are writing to.

They appeal to your recipient’s ego, her work, and the audience she serves.

They are also casual in tone, friendly, and easy to read. So they don’t feel like a spammy, salesy cold email. They sound like they’re coming from a friend.

Your next steps

Look at your current cold email subject lines and ask yourself:

  1. Is this relevant to my prospect?
  2. Is this personalized for them?
  3. Does this sound like a friend wrote it?

Now rewrite them. If you’d like more examples, we recommend this article from entrepreneur and marketer, Sujan Patel.

But here’s the big takeaway: write like you’re talking to a friend.

If you remove the words that sound salesy, and replace with copy that sounds like your best friend wrote it, we bet you’ll double your open rates on your next set of cold emails.

Let us know how it goes. ✌️