Though a well-done cold email should seem effortless, there’s actually a lot of strategy behind creating one that works. The key? Balance.
You want to be charismatic but not sleazy, smart but not pompous, and brief but not inadequate. Writing a cold email is a tightrope walk-which means that even though it’s a difficult skill to master, it’s not impossible to learn.
When it comes to cold emails, details can define your success. A single phrase can be the difference between a new client and being marked as spam (or worse, a screenshot on a business how-to blog).
While no one element is single handedly the most important part of a cold email, there is one that’s definitely a clear starting place: the subject line.
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Writing a Hot Subject Line For a Cold Email
The subject line is your point of entry in a cold email. Your email’s subject line will usually determine whether your recipient even opens the message, so think of writing a solid one as making a good first impression.
Warning: Sending cold emails is a time commitment. But don’t forget that in the end, the positives outweigh the negatives.
What Not to Do
Though there’s no set of concrete guidelines, there are some cold email best practices that you should always take into consideration before you start drafting. This includes the subject line. Here are some things to avoid:
The Unintentional Creep Factor
Sometimes you get so immersed in what you’re writing that you lose sight of outside perspective. If you spend hours trying to come up with the perfect one-liner to put in the subject of your cold email, you might not pick up on how it sounds to someone else. What are we talking about? The unintentional creep factor.
In most cases, the unintentional creep factor is a simple misunderstanding, which is usually apparent to your recipient-but that doesn’t mean they’re going to be any more willing to work with you.
For instance, if you’re trying to get in touch with a person in your field whose work you admire, you might brainstorm for ages end before settling on something like: “Jessica, I’ve been watching you.” Did you mean to sound like a stalker? No, probably-well, hopefully—not. But is Jessica going to answer your email? Also probably not.
Violating the Clickbait Code
While you certainly want to intrigue the recipient of your cold email, you need to be careful not to mislead them or wildly exaggerate what you can do for them. In other words, don’t violate the clickbait code.
You want to use a cold email to talk yourself up, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to break out false advertisements. Not only is putting clickbait as your subject line unprofessional, but it’s also bound to get you marked as spam.
Because you’re talking to a stranger, it’s important that you sound as genuine and legitimate as possible. Otherwise, you’re not going to get a response, which means you aren’t doing your business any favors.
Overload the Subject Line
Subject lines should be short. Put the heart of the email where it belongs: in the body. It might seem like a good idea to try and cram as much into the subject line as can fit, but long subject lines just don’t have as much punch.
Plus, they’re more likely to be cut off halfway through, especially if the recipient is looking at the email on their phone. So, don’t overload the subject line.
The best subject lines engage the reader enough to land their attention but don’t give away so much detail that they don’t feel compelled to open the email. You don’t need to win them over in the subject line, just catch their attention enough that they want to read more.
Don’t forget to show your subject line to at least one other person-this can help to save you from potential embarrassment.
What to Do
Now that you know what makes a bad cold email subject line, it’s time to talk about what a good one looks like. To paraphrase the late Associate Justice Potter Stewart, we can’t define an effective cold email subject line, but we know one when we see it. Here are a few things that good cold email subject line has the potential to do.
Connect to the Recipient on a Personal Level
Stranger danger definitely applies to your inbox. That’s is why if you can demonstrate some kind of connection to your recipient on a personal level, you absolutely should.
Mention someone you know at their company, a mutual connection on LinkedIn, a shared professional interest-basically, if there’s something that you can do to prove to the recipient that you’re not a total rando, you should include it, or at least a reference to it, in the subject line.
Name a Specific Benefit
Few things grab someone’s attention like proposition give them something. But you have to be careful with this one because it’s easy to slip into clickbait territory.
To avoid coming off like a scammer, you should name a specific benefit like offering to solve a business problem you know their company is encountering or help them in a quantifiable way.
Again, you’re looking for something quick that doesn’t take up too much space, so you want to get straight to the point and remember to be as specific as possible.
Convince the Recipient to Open the Email
Okay, this one is obvious—but hear us out. The number one thing that you want your cold email subject line to do is to convince the recipient to open the email. That means that sometimes, you’re just going to have to get creative.
If you don’t have another way in, you can pique your recipient’s interest by writing something witty, cryptic, or pressing. So, turn on the charm, conjure up some mystery, or dial up the drama.
If you have coworkers, utilize them! Collaborating can make the entire email-drafting process more bearable, not to mention more effective.
Just the Beginning
In the end, the subject line of your cold email is only as good as the email itself. That means that getting the recipient to click on the email is just the beginning—now you have to get them to respond, which is a whole different game.
What’s the best (or worst) cold email subject line that you’ve ever received? Let us know in the comments below!