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The Good and Bad of Email Subject Lines

It’s an age-old problem of the chicken or the egg?

Your email marketing efforts aren’t gaining traction or converting into sales — was it the subject line (the egg) or the email copy (the chicken) that fell flat?

From our experience, the toughest gatekeeper in email marketing is the subject line. You can forget about how good your copy is if the email never gets opened, to begin with.

Writing a compelling subject line is much like crafting a headline for a blog: not all are created equal. Throwing together a quick subject line, after dedicating hours to the email copy can backfire majorly and thwart the chances of your efforts paying off.

So, today we ask: what makes a good subject line and what does not?

The Good

I thought you may be interested in these blogs…”

For a bonus, include their name in the subject line. This is an all-around winning subject line if you include read-worthy content that you know fills their need. If you do, chances are you’ll get a click and land them right where you want: your website.

“X ideas for (paint point)”

In a matter of a few short words, your recipient gets a glance at exactly what your email has to offer. No beating around the bush, no clever wordplay, just free ideas to solve their most pressing problems.

Here are your next steps…”

People like to be guided towards solutions and success. It’s not always necessary to take the road less travelled by — make their pathway to success simple by laying out the steps to solving their problems, boosting their business or filling a gap.

“(Name), do you have 10 minutes?”

If you’re going to request only 10 minutes of their time, firstly make sure you can do good on that promise. The truth is, no matter how busy we get, everyone can spare 10 minutes, especially if that precious time is going to solve a big problem.

“I just had to share this with you!”

If you find the content irresistible and can convey that enthusiasm to your recipient, chances are they won’t be able not to open it. You can even open the email up with someone funny like, “I’m glad I got your attention…” or “I know you’re gonna love this…”

“Hi (Name), (Question)…?”

There’s nothing quite as enticing as a question because people love to give answers — it’s a natural instinct. Be thought-provoking and intentional about what you ask, ensuring the question will be of interest to the prospect.

“Let’s meet — my place or yours?”

Don’t be afraid to get a little witty! Your prospects get dozens of emails each week — do something truly noteworthy, otherwise, risk being sent straight to ‘Trash.’ Taking a risk with a cheeky or funny headline may be just the ticket to land you a phone call or meeting.

The Bad

Just checking in”

Phrases such as “checking in,” “touching base” or “following up” are subject line nightmares. Simply put, they don’t say anything — they offer no value, intrigue or incentive to open.

Instead try: “How are things going with (goal/problem)?

Let your prospect know you haven’t forgotten about them or their goals/pain points, and you’re holding them accountable. Assuming their problems haven’t been resolved or goals fully achieved, you’ll quickly put yourself back on their radar.

This will only take 5 seconds!”

Starting your email off with a blatant lie is not the way to convert a prospect. Nothing about your email will take them only five seconds to digest, and implying whatever you have to say is only worth five seconds devalues the message.

Instead try: “I know you’re short on time, so I’ll make this brief.”

We’re all living in the real world, so there’s no need to sugar coat, but if you’re able to parse your message done to a few lines, go for it. Remember, if you can’t follow up on your promise (to be brief), don’t say so.

“Re: (previous email)”

This is one of the worst subject lines for two reasons:

  • If the prospect falls for it, they feel duped, tricked and will not be keen to put their trust in you for further business.
  • If the prospect knows it’s a trick, they’ll be wary of how honest you’ll be in a potential working relationship.

It’s not a good way to spark a conversation, especially if there was none, to begin with.

Instead Try: “These ideas/blogs could help with (goal/promise)”

Follow up on your last email by offering them more value and more solutions. You’re not giving up that easily, and there’s a lot more where that came from!


This subject line is wrong on so many levels… Firstly, all caps and excessive punctuation is pretty aggressive for a subject line and winds up looking “scamm-y.” There’s a distinct difference between being persuasive and over-eager, and you definitely want to err on the side of the former.

Instead try: “I know this (solution) is going to blow you away.”

Who doesn’t want to be blown away, swept off their feet by a new idea or solution to a persistent problem? This subject line builds the hype, while your email copy delivers the punch line and seals the deal. Again, just be sure you’re making good on your promise and not getting carried away by something you can’t back up.

Your subject line is the gatekeeper to making a sale — don’t undervalue the process; try a variety of different subject lines to discover what works best for your prospects.

Whether you don’t have the time, energy, interest or skill in writing and marketing, we’re here to help.

Let’s talk about how nurture marketing campaigns can build your email lists, attract new prospects and convert more leads.

Schedule your FREE Business Booster Call with our team.

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