No single technique has brought in more business to my company than cold email outreach. I sent more than one million cold emails and made it the singular focus of my career so much that I founded an agency, Experiment 27, which specializes in enterprise outreach, cold emailing and cold calling.
I’ve been doing YouTube videos on the topic of B2B selling and cold emailing for two years now. And since I started I get "What do you think about my email script" emails every week. Eighty-five percent of the time, I'm not able to help. Why? They forget to include the most important thing -- the subject line.
Steli Efti, one of the most prominent cold emailing influencers put it simply when he was a guest on Experiment 27's podcast, The Digital Agency Marketing: Master the fundamentals. Think about your prospect's journey. How does it start? First, you read the subject line.
So, instead of focusing on how to personalize your cold emails and follow up, in this post I’ll break down four types of email subject lines that get opened. You can have the perfect follow ups, but if no one is opening the email, what's the point? Without a good subject line, the content of the email doesn't matter. The thing that gets people to open is the relevance of the subject line.
In this post I’ll go over four strategies I use to write email subject lines ranked by how much you know about your prospect. These subject lines get open rates up to 80 percent when we send them out.
1. The referral or “fake” referral
The best subject line to send has the name of somebody your prospect already knows.
Subject: Hey < Name >, found you through < Mutual connection >
You can get referrals by asking your current clients for them. Here's an intro that I recently got from a client of ours.
Asking for referrals, that could be a whole article on itself. Let's say you want to use a referral for outreach, but you have no clients in common. That's a more common problem. Here's how you "fake" a referral subject line: Google around for an interview somebody on your prospect’s team has done. For instance, if I were targeting Acme Corporation, I'd type “Acme Corporation” podcast interview into the Google search bar. One of the search results will be a podcast episode.
Most CEOs have done interviews in the past. You Google around, you find an interview they've done, and then write a subject line that goes something like this:
Subject: Hey < Name >, found you through < Podcast >
That is how you fake a referral if you don't know somebody. Let’s tackle the next problem and assume that you don't know them and you can't find any interviews. The next thing you can try is . . .
2. Congrats on the news item
Google around for news about the company and use that as the subject of your email. This is what a potential subject line can look like:
“Hey < Name > - congrats on the funding round!”
“Hey < Name > - congrats on the new hire!”
Remember, the goal here is to get them to open the email, but if you’re using this option to come up with a subject line make sure the first line of your email also references the item to give context. If the subject line says congrats on the funding round and then you immediately jump into the pitch for your service, it's not gonna work and they're going to delete the email. You want to make sure the first line also references the funding round.
What if there is no recent news about the person on the internet? Well, you can do number three . . .
3. Generic, but customized
Send this subject line if you're doing mass emailing. It’s a good fit for sending in bulk. Quick disclaimer: Every cold email should be personalized. So don’t mistake sending in bulk with sending one email to hundreds of leads. That’s a recipe for failure.
“Hey < Name > - About < Company > and < Your Company >”
The goal with this subject line is to customize it without spending too much time. Just please make sure you check the lead quality first. You don't want to be the person who sends emails like this:
“Hey MAx - About < Company >, LLC and Our Company”
I get wrongly formatted mass emails all the time and I’m sure you do as well. Don't do this!
If you're going to put in the work, generic but customized is the best for sending at scale. If you're going to use any of these four strategies this is the one to use if you're sending more than 500 emails.
But to cover it all, let’s go over the last option . . .
4. Fully generic
Assuming you're too lazy to customize at all and you want to blast an email out to a bunch of different people, do this instead. The general rule is: The more generic the subject line is, the lower the open rate. Keeping that in mind, these still work, but expect them not to work as well. Also, the body content of your email better be highly customized when using a line like this.
“Hi from Alex”
I use this one a lot to book coffee meetings. It's generic enough to get opened, and mysterious enough to get them interested. Another one that works surprisingly well is not having a subject line at all. It's misleading, though, so I would only use that one if you have no options left.
Crafting the ideal subject line is no easy feat, but these four strategies should make it significantly easier. If you adopt the practical strategies outlined above and make sure to test your results and make changes over time, you should be well on your way to booking more meetings and closing more business.