Sales Outreach: How to Write Subject Lines That Get Clicked

Oh boy, remember when you wrote your first cold outreach email? How much time did you spend only on typing the subject line? Yes, we feel you. We were there as well. 


You know it: No matter how appealing the content of your email may be, without a good subject line, it’s a lost bottle in the sea of your prospect’s inbox messages. Our mission at Walnut is not only to help you create the best possible demo but to enable you to manage the full sales experience efficiently. And the sales experience starts at the first subject line of your first email. 


We went to dig a bit around the web (and our inbox) to present you with the best tips to create a killer subject line - that brings the damn clicks: 

1. Keep it short


According to Statista, Mobile web accounts for more than half of the web traffic worldwide. And mobile devices display between 30-40 characters in most email apps. That should be enough to convince you to keep your subject lines short. 

But also: short subject lines are easier to read, attract attention, and - wait for it - increase the email probability to be delivered.


Example: Let’s talk about your conversion rate 


2. Focus on value 


Your prospects don’t know WhyTF you’re reaching out to them. Give them the reason straight away so they’ll understand why to click. More generally, focusing on value is one the most classic sales tips: from the subject line to the demo stage


Example: Increase your conversion rate in 14 days


3. Get personal 


Subject lines that address the prospect by their name get 3% more clicks. No need to explain really: We live in the era of personalization and the more accurate you get in the way you approach your prospects, the easier it is for them to connect with you. 


Example: Hey Alex! Meet your new CRM tool.


4. Highlight referrals

They don’t know you. You don’t know them. Actually, you do. You did your homework, studied your prospects, and found some mutual connections. How nice? Introduce yourself through your mutual contact to create trust. 

Oh, of course, ask for permission before using someone’s name, you’re not a savage. 


Example: Robin H recommended we chat 


5. Spread some numbers


People love numbers. According to a study by YesWare, subject lines that include numbers get on average a higher open rate than those who don’t. Straightforward and simple. Just the way we like it. 


Example: Grow Revenue by 15% in 30 Days 


6. Create FOMO


Yes, this is the old trick in any marketing and sales pro’s toolkit. But what can we do? FOMO is strong. According to a study conducted by MyLife.com, 56% of people are suffering from it. When adding a FOMO element to your subject lines, you grow your chances of grabbing the attention of the curious cats - and it’s killing it. 


Example: You’re missing out on some leads


7. Give a sense of urgency 


Similarly, giving a sense of urgency is a great way to attract some clicks. Add it to some FOMO incentive and the clicks will start raining. But be careful, don’t overuse these techniques. You need to make sure you don’t sound cheap or overpromising. 


Example: [URGENT] Your prospects are getting bored. 


8. Ask questions 


Did you know that questions can increase your open-rate? Probably, but now, you’re actually thinking about it. Testing questions is a pretty safe way of bringing some clicks on your subject lines. They allow you to put a seed in the reader’s head about the topic you’d like to bring to the focus. 


Example: Did you hear about the most trending sales software?



9. Get mysterious 


Getting mysterious works in a similar way to the previous techniques. It’s very hard not to click on a sentence that generates curiosity. Actually, you mostly don’t think about it. You do it automatically. 


Example: You in? 


10. Play on guilt


OK. This specific point is very tricky. Guilt is a very powerful emotion and can have a negative impact if misused. That said, if you succeed to formulate your subject line in a manner that’s subtle enough to generate a guilt sentiment, it might be extremely efficient. 


Example: Don’t you care about losing prospects? 


11. Point out the pain points 


A classical trick in video advertising is to focus on the pain point before providing the solution. Why? Because you have five seconds to catch prospects’ attention. The same goes with subject lines. People have problems they want to solve. They’re not interested in features. It’s worth considering approaching them through the issue they’re facing and not the solution. 


Example: Your emails don’t get enough clicks.


12. Spread some humor 


This one is a personal story, so allow me to speak in the first person for this tip. One of the best emails I (Manu) got in my inbox this year came from G2. Before I dig into the topic, I’ll just mention that it wasn’t a cold sales email but a marketing one. Yet, in my opinion, it was a piece of art and I want to share it here with you guys. The subject line was: “Happy Birthday!” It was not my birthday. Far from it. I had to click. And then that was the content of the email: 

“We wanted to send you a note to say happy birthday!


...It’s not your birthday?

...You don't even like balloons?


The intern is in so much trouble. 


Well...we are celebrating you anyway! Write a review of a software you use, and we’ll send a toast to your health at our next happy hour. A very merry unbirthday!”


I laughed. I thought they’re smart. It created a connection. You got the point. 


13. Make them feel good


Have you heard about the fable of the fox and the crow? Well, let us save you five minutes of reading. The moral is: “The flatterer lives at the expense of those who will listen to him.” It might sound a bit cynical, but sometimes, you have to do what you do to close deals. That’s the game, you beautiful fox. 


Example: I heard you’re a marketing rockstar! 


14. Try reverse psychology


Oh, human beings. The only things we’re most attracted to are the things we can’t easily access. Following this logic, another controversial (but efficient) technique is to play the “Don’t” card. It works as well with  “You don’t want to”, “You don’t have to”, “You shouldn’t” etc. Because, why not? 


Example: Don’t open this email (Unless you want more leads) 



15. Be polite and welcoming 


Roosevelt said: “Politeness [is] a sign of dignity, not subservience.” Being polite and benevolent can in many cases distinguish you from the crowd. Aggressive sales are common practice so trying a softer approach can be beneficial. 


Example: So nice to meet you, Alex! 


16. Refer to pop culture 


That’s also a marketing trick that’s easily applicable to cold sales emails. Using popular sentences from pop culture, literature, movies and more, can create a strong connection with your prospect - if you know their taste. 


Example: Here’s my number, so call me maybe…

(Damn, sorry if the song is stuck in your head now).


17. Be helpful


You’re asking for something (time and attention) so why not offer something in return? Sounds pretty fair. You can provide content, research, free consultation, or anything else that your prospect can find useful. 


Example: You’ll appreciate this research on customer satisfaction 


18. Be direct


Many prospects are tired of indirect approaches and just want to know what the email is about. The best way to get some attention from them is to be simple and straightforward. What they see is what they get. 


Example: Hi Alex! Manu from Walnut. Got a sec? 


19. Call to action 

In the same vibe, sometimes, you need to tell people what they should do. With the overwhelming amount of emails we get every day, being super-straightforward can help you stand out from the crowd. Not rocket science. 


Example: Book a meeting with our consultant. You won’t regret it 


20. Ask for help 


Most people like to be helpful and to share knowledge. It shows their professionalism, it allows them to create meaningful interactions, it makes them feel good, and there are tons of other explanations. Give it a try, you’ll be surprised. 


Example: Friendly help with marketing strategy 


21. Tease 


Your product is a game-changer? Tease about it. You can mention your product to your prospect, and see how they react. 


Example: You won't believe what's coming 


22. Try this 


Most B2B sales emails are about asking prospects to schedule an intro call, to understand, if at all, they need a certain product, that may or may not actually bring them value. Only in the demo stage, they get to see the interface and to understand what was all the story about. Instead of all this process, simply send a link to a customized demo answering what’s your prospect’s pain point and ask for their feedback.


Example: Here’s a product you should try 


23. Be Bold


To stand out, in some cases, you just have to do (or say) something so bold, people can’t ignore it. In the gazillion amount of emails flooding your prospect’s invoice, it might come handy to shake things up a bit, in order to bring the clicks. 


Example: Your current CRM sucks. For real.


24. Use capitalization wisely


There are three capitalization schools: 


  1. Sentence-case: This is a sentence case line.
  2. Title-case: This Is a Title-Case Line
  3. All lowercase: this is an all lowercase line
  4. All caps: THIS AN ALL CAPS LINE


The last one, is according to MailChimp slightly more efficient, but with two major limits: it can send your email to spam and let’s admit it, it’s freaking annoying - don’t yell at me, young man. The most common practice is to use the first option (Sentence-case), but the second one (title-case) is proven to be the most efficient. Test and learn. 


25. Use the right words 


Many publications analyzed which words are converting and which ones aren’t. Yes, they basically did the job for us. Alchemy Worx analyzed data from 21 billion marketing emails sent by 2,500 brands. They found out that: 

“The words in subject lines that increase open rates most, on average, are upgrade (+65.7% compared with average open rate), just (+64.8%), content (+59%), go (+55.8%), and wonderful (+55.1%), the analysis found.

The words that have the largest negative impact on open rates are miss (-4.6% compared with average open rate), deals (-4.4%), groovy (-4.3%), conditions (-4%), and Friday (-4%).” 

But you can find other insightful research like this analysis provided by Smart Insights, or this fantastic report by Aderstra. Knock yourself out. 


26. What about emojis 🤔


Well, there are pros and cons. Let’s start with the cons: First, it depends on your brand’s identity - it might sound too familiar. Second, not all operating systems can read emojis, and then it might hurt your subject line clarity - getting ◻︎◻︎ doesn’t say much. Third, if you use too many of them, you may look like a spammer which is not ideal.

 

Regarding the good side of emojis: They can add an emotional and fun aspect to your subject lines, complement your content in a colorful and visual way, and, most importantly, are proven to increase the open rate. So if you use them wisely, chances are they’ll benefit you. 


Conclusion 


As almost said a short-size green Jedi: Try or try not, there is no do. You can enrich your toolkit and optimize your subject line writing every day. You’ll discover as you go your specific audience’s opening rate. Run A/B tests, see what profiles are clicking on which subject lines and optimize accordingly. Every tip is valuable and should be tested, but your prospects are human with their own preferences and interests - learning is the name of the game. 


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