best sales email subject lines

April 19, 2022

The Best Sales Email Subject Lines that Convert (with Examples!)

Written by Karli Stone

You’ve spent dozens of hours writing, tweaking, and perfecting the body of your outbound prospecting emails, trying to find the perfect message that will generate meetings and drive revenue.

But, all of that stellar sales copy will go unread without a click-worthy email subject…

A whopping 64% of email recipients decide to open emails based on subject lines alone.

These 40-character tidbits are the MVPs of email marketing – the salespeople and marketers with the highest open rates craft email subject lines that their subscribers simply can’t resist.

Looking to join them?

Read on! We’ll let you in on what makes the best email subject lines and provide you with dozens of first-rate examples that you can use to instantly boost open and response rates.


Why are email subject lines so important?

Your prospects’ inboxes are flooded with hundreds, potentially thousands, of emails every single day. The average click-to-open rate is a mere 14.1%.

This is why catchy, clear email subjects are more important now than ever.

Based on your subject line, they decide right then and there if your email is worth their precious time.

Spending a little extra time on your email subject lines will help you get more customers to open your emails, avoid emails going to the spam folder, get your message in front of the right people, and support you in establishing a high-quality brand.

Email subject line best practices

Understand your target audience

To craft a great subject line, you need to understand two things: who your audience is and what motivates them.

Know exactly what buyer personas you are reaching out to and consider your company’s unique value proposition. To improve your email open rate, find opportunities to communicate that directly in the subject line.

Add personalization

According to Invesp, open rates with the recipient’s name in the email subject line have an 18.3% open rate compared to a 15.7% open rate for subject lines without a name.

But personalization doesn’t stop there.

​​Collecting data with the knowledge, permission, and explicit consent of your prospects and customers will put you ahead of the competition by opening endless personalization opportunities.

You can personalize according to new roles taken, company funding rounds, recent searches, post-purchase follow-ups, and more.

Be descriptive

Sometimes, it’s better to be direct and descriptive rather than trendy.

Popular snippets like “don’t open this email” or “per my last email” don’t offer a specific hook. Instead, try to communicate the benefits of your product, or call attention to specific offers.

Keep it short

Shorter is often better, especially considering how many people read emails on mobile devices.

Try to keep your title limited to no more than 9 words and 60 characters.

Highlight videos or attachments

Did you know that simply including the word “video” in your email subject can increase open rates by as much as double?

Those are numbers you can’t afford to ignore…

Adding a video, linking to a presentation or podcast, or including a helpful guide are all great ways to make your email content varied and more engaging.

If any of these are in the body of your email, make sure you are letting the reader know in the subject line so they don’t miss out!

Get inspired with the S.P.E.C.I.A.L formula

A helpful framework for nailing your email subject lines and getting the creative writing juices flowing is the S.P.E.C.I.A.L formula:

  • Similarities: Find “uncommon” similarities between you and the receiver. What is something you two can uniquely relate to? (ex. hockey fans, cities traveled to, pets, unique hobbies)
  • Personalization: Like we covered above, just a tiny bit of personalization can help you stand out from the crowd!
  • Expiring: Add a sense of urgency or time limit. Subject lines that include dates or a sense of urgency tend to perform better than those that do not.
  • Curiosity: Engage the receiver just enough so they want to open your email. The best curiosity email subject lines leave out just enough info to create a sense of intrigue.
  • Invigorating: Utilize capitalization, exclamation points, or emojis to add excitement and other positive emotions.
  • Avoidance: Avoid the common pitfalls most emails suffer from (ex. typos, spam words, too many emojis)
  • Length: Choose the right length; when in doubt, keep it short!

Email subjects that get clicks (and why)

“The Deals That Make Us Proud (Unlike our Nephew, Steve)” – Groupon

Marketers will seldom opt for humor when crafting their email subject lines. But, Groupon took a risk here and it paid off!

If you can get a chuckle out of readers, you can be sure you’re generating interest.

Take away: Appropriate humor and taking risks can help you stand out.

“New Year, New Travel deals – {Name}, where do you want to go?” –

Who doesn’t like to travel?

Personalization goes a long way. This email may or may not contain all those places that prospects have on their travel list, but it is intriguing enough to open and see what deals they have.

Emails like this insist on urgency, and you just cannot ignore them!

Take away: Use open-ended questions, personalization, and urgency to prompt recipients to act.

“18 Tools for Better Content Creation: Improve Your Writing with Less Effort” – Quicksprout

A study conducted by Alchemy Worx analyzed data from 21 billion marketing emails and found that including the word “content” in subject lines can increase open rates by 59%! (With other high-performing words including: “upgrade”, “just”, “go”, and “wonderful”).

This effective subject line also promises to give the reader tangible tips and tools for improving their output if they open it.

Take away: Word choice can make a huge difference!

“Feed your guests without breaking the bank” – Pizza Hut

This subject line promises to help readers host their friends for dinner on a reasonable budget.

It addresses a specific pain point that explains to recipients how Pizza Hut’s product or service provides a value that meets their needs.

Take away: Get to know your audience and their needs and find opportunities to address them in your subject lines.

“[X] recommended you!”

“X” can be a mutual connection, a close friend, or even just a workplace acquaintance.

Either way, this subject line works because it instills a sense of curiosity and intimacy in recipients. People love to feel known, and this is an email subject that is sure to generate clicks.

Take away: Instill a sense of curiosity in your subject lines to compel readers.

30+ email subject line examples

To help you get a jumpstart on your email campaigns, here are even more examples of great email subject lines for several occasions:

(Note: When reading through all these examples, keep in mind that what works for one brand may not work for yours. It all depends on your brand personality and voice, how you communicate with your audience, and how they view you as sellers!)

Welcome email subject lines

To welcome new subscribers to your email list, give them a friendly introduction to your business. Try thinking of welcome email subject lines as a quick follow-up to thank the new subscriber for joining your list. Your subject line can help with this by picking up where you left off at the signup form or confirmation email.

To start, here are some ideas for welcome email subject lines:

  • Welcome to the crew!
  • Today, you made a great decision
  • Happy to have you in the fam!
  • Everything you need to know about [your business]
  • Are you new here? We are here to help
  • You’re in! Let’s begin
  • A Welcome Offer: 15% off!
  • 4 Ways to Get Started with [business]

(Keep in mind: email automation makes sending out welcome emails a piece of cake!)

Fear of missing out (FOMO) subject lines

Playing to your audience’s fear of missing out (or FOMO) is a powerful subject line tactic. Here are some examples:

  • By Invitation Only: Exclusive Rewards Inside!
  • Don’t let this $10 bonus slip away!
  • Grab a {product name} before they’re gone!
  • Click it or miss it, people: [X] is ending
  • You’re missing out on points
  • 73% OFF gone in 3…2…1…
  • Hey, did you forget to open this?
  • Uh, oh, your trial is expiring
  • $55 today, $997 tomorrow
  • [URGENT] You’ve got ONE DAY to watch this…

The goal here isn’t to make anyone feel bad, but instead to prod them to open up your email with the promise of exclusivity and limited-time offers.

Pain point subject lines

Focusing on your prospect’s pain points can make your subject lines hyper-relevant. Nobody wants to turn down the opportunity to discover a solution to a business problem.

Here are some catchy email subject lines that address pain points:

  • Stop wasting time on mindless work…
  • Struggling with a business decision? I made you a 1-page framework to help!
  • Engaging your prospects can be hard. Video makes it easy.
  • Get up to 20% better email deliverability (and a handy checklist!)
  • Hi, {Name}. Here’s what we think about {pain point}
  • 10 workarounds for your {pain point}
  • Sales are slipping through your fingers
  • Everything you wanted to know about email copy but was too afraid to ask

Question subject lines

Using a question in your subject line tempts readers with curiosity. They work well because subscribers want to know the answer to a question, be it in the email or on your website.

  • Are you a part of the {X}%?
  • {Name}, is it your lucky day?
  • Are you still thinking it over?
  • Do you check your emails when you first wake up in the morning?
  • Can you believe it’s been a month?!
  • Is this the hottest career in marketing?
  • [POLL] Can you answer this?
  • Are you making this landing page mistake?

Personalized subject lines

All of your email subject lines should be personalized to some degree.

But in the instances that you want to give your prospect a small shove with some hyper-personalization, here are some ideas for your next subject line:

  • You’re eligible, {Name}: We’re giving you an opportunity to earn a $100 referral bonus
  • Congratulations on Series B funding!
  • {Name}, thanks for being a loyal member
  • Happy {brand/company} Anniversary, {Name}!
  • {Name}, check out these handpicked offers!
  • {Name}, for you to enjoy at your leisure
  • I heard you spoke at a conference last week!

Test and optimize email subjects with

Before you click send, don’t forget to A/B test your sales copy.

Make small changes in your subject verbiage to see which options resonate best with your audience. (You can also split test different versions of your email body. But make sure you are not testing your subjects at the same time. It won’t be clear which factor caused the different impact on your audience.)

And if you’re using Apollo as an email tool, your life just got a lot easier…

With Apollo, you can create multiple email templates in Sequences to effortlessly conduct A/B tests and determine which variation of your email subject garners the best results.

Adding in an A/B test is simple!

You can also clone a sequence to make an exact duplicate of your outgoing email and navigate to the copy you want to change. Then Apollo will automatically send an even traffic distribution to each message variant in the test.

And just like that, you have two emails with two different subject lines, ready for testing!

To improve the effectiveness of future outreach sequences, access, and leverage testing data via Apollo Analytics and Reports.

In the Apollo app, navigate to Engage > Analytics. Here you’ll find your Analytics dashboard.

This is where you can track, build-out, and customize dozens of email reports like:

  • Percentages of Emails Marked Interested by Rep
  • How Many Contacts Added to an Email Sequence
  • High/Low Performing Sequences
  • SDR Email Efficiency Stats
  • Open, reply, and bounced rates
  • And oh, so much more!

Every answer you might need, to any question you might have, right in one place.

Our parting thoughts: don’t let a poorly written subject line ruin your email marketing campaign before it even starts…

Follow the tips and tricks in this guide and sign up for a FREE Apollo account to write and test quality subject lines that help you convert casual readers to excited buyers.

Karli Stone headshot Karli Stone

Karli Stone is a copy writer and content creator living in Los Angeles, CA and a proud University of Washington grad. When she’s not wordsmith-ing, you can find her biking along Santa Monica Beach, following the Seattle Seahawks, or catching a flick at her local cinema.