The Best Cold Email Subject Lines & How to Write Them

Melanie Balke
October 31, 2022

Believe it or not, there’s more to email marketing than conversions and sales. Sometimes, marketers need to find business partners, and they’ll turn to cold emailing to accomplish their goals.

Unlike direct mail and cold calling, cold emails are the modern answer to business-to-business (or B2B in marketing lingo) interactions. They’re the de facto mode of communication for working professionals.

However, there’s a catch…

Cold emails are hard to get right! You can have as many amazing hooks as possible, but there’s only so much your email can do.

For established businesses, nothing is worse than a cold email. Writing these subject lines can take forever, and you’re in good company if you’re a marketing professional who hates writing cold email subject lines.

Fortunately, there are ways to bolster your efforts.

You need a set of amazing cold email subject lines, and I’m here to help!

What Is a Cold Email?

Before I throw you the proverbially deep end of cold email subject lines, let's get our feet with a quick refresher on the basics of cold emailing.

In the context of email marketing, a cold email is a message that’s sent to an uncontacted prospect. These emails are tricky to master, but their results are worth the investment.

A header image featuring a photo of ice. The text reads, “The Basics: What Is a Cold Email?”

A good cold email is a versatile tool that’s particularly useful in the B2B world. A business can increase its reach and influence with just a few words. Sales teams frequently use cold emails to address clients with a mutual connection, although unique contacts are common.

How to Use Cold Emails

A cold email has multiple functions, most of which are behind the scenes.

Some of the most common uses for cold email campaigns are:

  • Hiring and recruitment: A company can use cold emails to catch prospects' attention and recruit them. Hiring emails are usually sent through popular professional platforms like LinkedIn.
  • Invitations: Cold emails can be used to create a meeting request. Others have also used this marketing tool to ask for collaborative work on podcasts and webinars.
  • Lead Generation: This is one of the most obvious uses for cold emailing.
  • Market Research: As a business grows, cold emails can be used to gauge how interested individuals are in a specific service or product. This information can then be used to create audiences, buyer personas, and unique business goals.
  • Sales: Finally, a business can increase its income by targeting ideal audiences with sales. A sales-focused cold email campaign will pin down the most prevalent pain point and emphasize the sender’s potential business value.

Why Use Cold Emails

“Well,” you may be saying, “I can do all of those things with cold calls and direct mail marketing. Why should I bother learning how to send emails instead?”

That’s a good point, but it doesn’t account for modern preferences. Most business professionals would rather receive a cold email than traditional mail or phone calls.

There are a few different reasons for this, but the most prominent are convenience and age. On the surface, emails are more adaptable. They can be ignored until necessary, and you don’t have to stop what you’re doing to respond. The secondary reason for email’s rising popularity is time. As older businesspeople retire, millennials are climbing the ranks, and millennials strongly prefer emails over all other forms of communication.

An infographic. The header reads “Statistics,” followed by a subheader: “What the Numbers Say About Cold Emailing.” There is a list of statistics. “The average open rate for cold emails is 23.9%, The average response rate is 8.5%, The best time to send is between 1–3 PM on weekdays,  45% of responses are sent in the first hour,” and “75% of cold emails are opened in the first hour.”

When done correctly, a good cold email campaign can draw remarkable open and response rates. There are also plenty of real-life examples of cold email success, including:

  • Alex Berman: $400,000 in revenue over 30 days
  • Jake Jorgovan: $12,030 revenue and multiple Fortune 500 clients
  • Lauren Lopuch: Increased average income by 14×

Business and expenses aside, cold emailing also has plenty of practical benefits. The most prominent perk of a cold email campaign is its trackability.

A cold email sent through a good email marketing service can be traced from beginning to end. You’ll know when the message reaches the prospect’s inbox and if it was opened. You’ll also be able to track the campaign’s key performance indicators with just a few clicks, dramatically improving your marketing.

What Goes Into a Good Cold Email?

A header. Text is overlaid on a photo of a sphere of ice: “Writing Advice: What Makes a Great Cold Email?”

So, with all of these benefits, who wouldn’t want to start sending some cold emails?

Well, before you jump into the fray, there are still some things that you’ll want to know. These are not simple messages, and creating the perfect cold email campaign is an art form.

You can have the most amazing cold email subject line in the world, but it won’t do you much good if you don’t follow up with some amazing content. You need the whole package to secure a deal, and that’s what trips up many marketers.

Be as Relevant as Possible

There’s nothing more important than relevance.

If your cold email doesn’t grab someone’s attention, then it has failed. Remember: The average professional receives 84 emails per day. You’ll really need to stand out for your message to be one of the lucky few.

An infographic. Text is overlaid on a photo of ice. The header reads “Tips & Tricks,” followed by a subheader: “How to Find Common Ground.” Smaller body text beneath this reads: “You don’t need to have a mutual connection to resonate with your audience. Think of what you share with your recipient, such as…” A list follows: (1) “Attending the same convention,” (2) “Enjoying the same media,” (3) “Favorite sports teams,” and (5) “Hobbies and activites.”

Some of the best ways to increase your message’s relevance are:

  • Actionable Content: Don’t just send any random offer! Instead, include offers and features that address your recipient’s pain points. Think of this portion of your cold email as the “hook.”
  • Double-Check Everything: You want to send nothing but the best, so always double-check your work. Otherwise, you may be embarrassed to find a broken link or a missing landing page!
  • Find Common Ground: You won’t always have a concrete connection to your cold email recipients. When you’re sending content to someone entirely new, focus on how you share the same interests.
  • Personalization: Including the company name can boost your open rates, and personalized subject lines are proven to amplify your email’s impact. If possible, use jokes carefully. Japery may not be appreciated by everyone, but it’s a huge hit with the right audience.
  • Research: Make sure you know your facts before you send an email. Find your prospect’s pain point and hone in on it. Discussing your service’s relevance within the prospect’s energy is a good way to demonstrate that you know your stuff.
  • Think of a Mutual Connection: Now, I’ll admit that this isn’t always possible. However, when you do have a mutual connection, make good use of it. You may even want to have your mutual contact vouch for you.
  • Consider utilizing specialized cold email tools to streamline your outreach efforts. These tools can assist in personalization, A/B testing, and tracking, ensuring that your emails are relevant and optimized for the best results.

Find the Right Sender Persona

The from line may not be the most glamorous part of an email, but it’s just as important as your subject line! This humble field tells recipients who you are, and it can make or break a cold email.

The majority of cold emails are sent from a “personal” account. This means that the from line will display the sender’s name and may also include a company name.

Ideally, your email will have your name and a professional domain. “” will garner less interest than “” Aside from being more professional, the latter address carries more authority. This will be a business expense, but a reputable domain is worth the cost.

A Solid Sender Score and Profile

The best subject line won’t save you from a poor sender score.

If you’re just starting with cold emailing, then you’ll have to spend some time improving your sender score. This will not be a quick process, but it will dramatically improve your deliverability.

An infographic. Text over a photo of ice reads, “Sender Score: What You Should Know About the Metric.” Below this is smaller body text: “Avoiding spam trigger words will help you improve your sender score by boosting your deliverability. Before you send any new subject lines, consider running them through spam-checker tools!”

The best way to boost your sender score is to find the most likely audience. Don’t email everyone on your list; this will result in low opens and responses. Instead, find the best target audience and focus on them. Start with people who will definitely engage with your content, such as:

  • Contacts who have previously interacted with your content
  • Friends and acquaintances
  • Individuals with a personal connection to your business
  • Mutual contacts
  • Prior business partners

You’ll also need to take steps to make yourself a trustworthy sender.

Always remember to attach a signature and a profile photo to your email. Both of these elements will separate your emails from spam. The best news is that neither of these additions takes much time to complete! Icons can be uploaded with a few clicks, and a signature can be as simple as a few lines of plain text.

Of course, you can also create an elaborate signature. Regardless of your approach, you should ensure that your signature includes your name, job title, company name, and relevant contact information.

Some other ways to boost your sender score include:

  • Avoiding purchased lists
  • Clearly stating the email subject at the beginning of the message
  • Ensuring the email subject line works on the average mobile screen
  • Including proper contact information
  • Optimizing messages for mobile devices
  • Regularly cleaning email lists
  • Removing broken links and defunct information
  • Using proper punctuation and capitalization in the subject line
  • Utilizing email marketing strategies (i.e., automation, segmentation, and social proof)

How to Nail Your Cold Email Subject Line

Header image. A photo of ice with overlaid text: “Subject Lines: Tips, Tricks, and Helpful Hints.”

So, what does all of this mean for your emails?

Well, let me start with the obvious: A good subject line is rarely a quick idea. Cold email subject lines require a lot of testing and refining, and you may not see results for some time.

That doesn’t mean you should give up!

There are plenty of ways to build a great subject line, and I’m here to help.

Make the Subject Line Stand Out

Remember what I said about how the average professional receives 84 emails every day? Well, there’s another catch. You have about three seconds to make an impression. That first subject line is the most important part of your professional relationship.

A header image. Text overlaid on a photo of an icebreaker ship. The text reads, “Make It Matter. You have 3 seconds to appeal to the audience. Use them wisely.”

There are plenty of ways to make your subject line unique, but not all of them will work for everyone. A good, catchy email subject line is tailored to the recipient, the target market, and your goals. However, through the entire process, the most important thing to remember is that the email is not about you.

You are messaging someone about their business. Never use your cold email subject line to advertise your business because that won’t draw a response. Instead, focus on what will catch your prospect’s interest.

Avoid Templates

There are plenty of articles that offer cold email templates, but the best way to improve your open rates is to ignore them. Dozens of people have probably used those “catchy” subject lines already, and your iteration won’t be unique.

It’s a harsh reality, but the truth is that you can’t get a great cold email from a generic template. In fact, those subject line templates might hurt your chances.

Other common fallacies to avoid are:

  • Clickbait subject lines
  • Failing to find a common pain point
  • Failing to send follow-up emails
  • Inappropriate tone
  • Long subject lines
  • Pushing too hard to create urgency
  • Using too many power words

Now, this does not mean that you should ignore all of the email subject line examples that you’ll find online. These samples can be amazing inspirations, but they should never be your main source.

Remember: You’re one of dozens of emails a prospect sees when they open their inbox. You have literal seconds to make an impression. Your email subject line needs to be stunning.

So, how do you do it?

The Best Subject Line Is a Short Subject Line

It may be tempting to cram as much information as you can into your subjects, but that’s never a good idea.

A header image. Text is overlaid on a photo of ice. The header reads, “Keep It Short.” Below are three examples: (1) “We can solve X,” (2) “Let us increase Y,” and (3) “Here’s our connection.”

You want to pay attention to your length. Most phones only display the first 32 characters. Desktops allow for more length, but that doesn’t mean you should use that space. In fact, most of the time, you’ll gain more reactions from a subject line that’s 10 words or less.

Many marketers will pare down subject lines by putting the most important information first. Front-loading your content guarantees that every recipient will know what you’re offering. You can also use “trigger words” (i.e., best, easy, new, and secret) to evoke an emotional response.

Don’t Be Afraid of Emotions

Cold emails are still a form of marketing, and that means emotions are still fair game. As you write your email subject lines, think about how they’ll make people feel.

The best cold email subject lines will evoke a somewhat restricted set of emotions. You are, after all, zeroing in on a pain point. You’re trying to appeal to someone’s status within a business, and that means you’ll want to tug on certain heartstrings.

If you’re hoping to tune your cold email campaign like an emotional fiddle, then the best songs to play will appeal to the following emotions:

  • Curiosity
  • Enthusiasm
  • Fear of missing out
  • Frustration
  • Flattery
  • Logic

When you’re writing subject lines for an emotional response, less is more. You don’t need to scream your message.

Mention What Matters

A cold email subject line should draw a response. In many cases, you’re hoping for an emotional response. However, you can also aim for intrigue.

Adding relevant subject line triggers to your content will help you connect with your audience. For example, if your recipient owns a local coffee shop, you may mention how your services can help them organize their stock.

A header image. A photo of leaves with overlaid text. The header reads, “Say What Matters.” Below are three examples: (1) “See you at the event,” (2) “How I can boost X,” and (3) “Tips for your business.”

Making your subject line relevant to your prospect’s industry will boost your credibility, and this can increase your open rates. Ideally, you’ll know a lot about your recipient. In this situation, you’ll want to cite a specific problem and how you can help.

In other situations, you may want to focus on a personal connection. While this may not showcase your business expertise, it demonstrates that you’ve spent time researching your target audience. Sometimes, this personal note can be more powerful than mentioning a product benefit. You may even learn that you’ll be at the same event as your recipient, which will make for a remarkable and catchy subject line.

Test Different Subject Lines

It’s hard to know which subject lines work, and one of the best ways to nail your email subject is to try something new. When one idea fails to land, try another! Write subject lines out and see how they sound, then pick the best ones.

These can be run through A/B tests to determine which evokes the best response. You may even be surprised by the results. What you deem to be the best subject line in the world may fail to land, and a simple mention of attending the same conference might be the big winner!

No matter what you do, always trust your testing. The numbers don’t lie! When you find a cold email subject that works, seize it! If you don’t have advanced email marketing software available, then do things the old-fashioned way. Write subject lines out and present them to your friends and family. By gauging their reactions, you get a taste of how your email subject will be received.

Don’t Forget the Email Body!

A header image. Text is overlaid on a photo of ice: “It’s a Package: Don’t Neglect the Main Event.”

Your job doesn’t stop after the subject line, though! If you learn anything from this blog post, it should be that a good cold email campaign is a balancing act. You can spend years studying subject line examples, but they won’t help if your email body is terrible.

Now, I obviously don’t have time to cover all of the tips for writing a good cold email. That’s a topic for a different blog post, but one of the main things to know is that your email should always tie back into the subject line.

Power words and open rates can only get you so far. You need results, and you get those with fantastic emails. You can use as many power words as you want, but the only thing that matters at the end of the day is that your recipients know what you want and how they can help.

Outsource the Work and Reclaim Your Time

A header image. A photo of ice with overlaid text: “Outsourcing Saves Time and Money.”

At this point, saying that making good cold email subject lines is a hard job would be an understatement. It’s an entire process, and trying to do it alone may be more than you can handle.

That’s okay! The Email Marketers can help!

If you’re finding that cold emailing is eating all of your time, then it’s time to enlist the pros. At The Email Marketers, we can handle your sales email subject lines. I even offer free consultations, so don’t hesitate to get in touch!

For small businesses, I’m ready to help with everything — from the campaign planning process to implementation. I’m also eager to join the efforts underway within larger and more established brands.

Whatever your needs may be, there are plenty of ways to improve your cold email subject lines. And, by extension, you’ll be improving your overall bottom line by drawing in more customers!

In the meantime, don’t forget to check out the rest of my blog. There’s far more to learn than cold email subject lines, and I’m always updating the blog with new content. If my content helps you, then I’ve done my job!