What cold email subject lines get opened? (Real world results)

Bryan Harris —  Bryan Harris - May 21st, 2014

subjectline

Bonus:Download a copy of the email template and subject line that I use for cold emails.

Targeted cold email is one of the fastest ways to build your business.

It can also be the best way to come across as a jerk face spammer.

Building business = Good

Jerk face spammer = Bad

I’ve had a lot of success over the last 2 years using this approach. But after talking with a few friends I discovered that many have had very negative experiences. Once they forwarded me their emails, I found out why. The email copy was terrible.

The #1 most common problem was the subject line.

Then, last week Josh emailed me asking for the specific cold email subject lines that I use.

Instead of just writing a short email back, I shot an entire video walking him through the 3-part framework that I use to write subject lines.

Video: 3 part framework to write a cold email subject line that gets opened

Video Transcription

Josh recently wrote me and asked me this question:

“What subject line did you use in the emails. In this blog post”and he linked the 3K per month blog post that I wrote a few months ago. He said “I looked and looked and can’t find it in there. Sorry if I missed that it, but it’s obviously one of the key pieces; if they don’t open the email, they never see the customized video you sent.”

So yeah, that’s a good question. Actually I didn’t realize at the time but this is the email that was included.

And I blanked out the company information because it wasn’t relevant and is somebody that I am still working with through the sales process so I don’t really want to give the name out right now.

But I didn’t include the actual subject line. So this is the email here.

1. If you’re interested in taking this approach. Go copy that email, it works really well for me.

2. Your subject line.

The subject line is very, very, very simple. And I have three key things that I do when I’m writing a subject line. First the subject line was just the name of the company. So let’s say I was writing this to Kissmetrics. It was the “kissmetrics blog video”.

That’s it. Three words. The name of the company, blog, video. Really short, really sweet, really to the point.

Cold Email Subject Line Tips

1. Keep it short.

I try to keep my subject lines under four words when I’m writing to an individual. One, because this is way quicker to write and it seems more conversational when I’m talking to them.

2. Keep it casual.

Don’t write it like a blog post. Write it like you’re writing a letter to your mom. You would never write a letter to your mom that started “the ten ways to clean your house faster”. It would just be hey Mom, what’s up? And then in the body of your email would be whatever going to write.

Write your e-mails the same way.

These people you’re writing to get inundated with e-mails all the time.

And one thing add do to keep it casual is use all lower case letters as the first letter of the word. So if it was kissmetrics blog video. The K of kissmetrics should be lowercase. The B in blogger should be lowercase and that V in video should be lower case.

That makes a stand out.

When I get, in the way I found that out is paid attention to the emails that I open.

I archive a ton of e-mails and delete e-mails that come and look like blog post. Some of those I might be interested in but if it looks like another blog post that doesn’t really stand out to me.

But I realized I was opening every message to have all our case letters in the title. And you might not like that personally.

But here’s the deal it’s not really about you.

The key is does it work or not. Start noticing your emails that you get, the ones that are from people are written differently than the ones that are from blogs that are being broadcast out a ton of people.

So try to write an email like a person and not like a blog.

3. Keep it relevant.

Make sure whatever you have in that title is relevant to your message.

If I wrote something about “your product is awesome” and then I wrote a email that was trying to sell them this blog service.

It’s not really all that relevant. So try to keep your subject line at least tangentially related to the body of your email.

Summary of Framework

1. Short: Your subject line ideally will be 3 words. Keep it short.

2. Casual: Write a subject line to a specific person. Be human.

3. Relevant: Keep your subject line related to the email. No bait and switch.

PS: Do you have a subject line formula that has worked really well for you? Share it in the comment section below.

  • Solid as always, Bryan. Same principles apply well to cold calling using a phone, too.

    • Good point!

    • Rose Sevilla

      Spot on! I personally use Quickmail.io + yesware. Seriously, it works wonders.

  • Awesome! All points that I wouldn’t have thought of doing but will put into practice immediately!

  • Evan Tardy

    i’ll have to try the lower case in the subject. great idea.

    i like the 3 word subject line, too. just enough to make ’em curious.

  • Perfect! I was wondering that too when I read that email template.

  • Makes sense, and I’ve definitely been doing this wrong. Thanks for the tip.

  • Hi Bryan,

    Great video. I have just added 3 more points to the same :

    1. Single Thought In A Subject Line.
    2. A/B Testing.
    3. Address An Issue Or Suggest A Solution.

    Here is the link of the blog post https://digifire.in/2014/08/26/quick-tips-on-how-to-write-subject-line-for-cold-email/

    Having your feedback would be helpful.

    Thanks,
    Divya

  • Ryan Peck

    I only have a few months in the email marketing game so I don’t consider myself an ‘expert’, but I’ve seen a ton of success already. I’vw landed appointments with top directors from some very large companies (some billion dollar corporations). Just last week I secured a partnership with Amazon ( I actually sent about 25 emails before getting it).

    Anyways, I’ve only done a couple variations of first-email subject lines and the one that proves to be the best is “Amazing Added Value for (Company Name)”. I’ve been kind of afraid to venture out from changing my subject lines and performing A/B tests as I’ve been having success with it.

    However, I’ll take Bryan’s advice and I’ll do it with my next batch of emails. Thanks Bryan!