8 Subject Line Tactics for Higher Email Open Rates

Aside from your name, a subject line is the first text a recipient reads in an email inbox.

Among hundreds and sometimes thousands of emails every week, your outbound emails have to rise above the crowd (with less than 100 characters of text) before buyers ever notice you.

Unfortunately, email marketers often overuse the same angles, templates, and messaging they find online, making these tactics less effective and more destructive as more people use it.

To differentiate your brand and better capture attention in the inbox, you need strategies that can build unique messaging that is customized to your organization and selling situation.

Here are 8 different subject line tactics you can use to stick out in the inbox and generate better sales outcomes with outbound email.

1) Position a First Impression

In today’s selling environment, it’s not always a good idea to pitch on your 1st sales touch.

Buyers are overwhelmed with the potential for new relationships and the average inbox is a constant flow of new information, seller influence, and evolving opportunities.

Modern sellers need to remember that buyers are people. One of the best ways to stick out from the crowd is to focus on making a great 1st impression with your buyers.

Rather than subject lines for a sales pitch or ask, you can create a relationship-focused subject line to come off as genuine and lower the guard of your buyers.

Example subject lines:

  • Introductions
  • Sharing Your Last Post
  • Your LinkedIn Feed Rocks
  • Congratulations on {{Event}}

2) Show Your Research

What better way to capture attention than sharing your knowledge about their situation?

Research on industry trends, common use cases, or typical work environments can immediately stick out as relevant in the inbox and highlight how your brand can help target buyers.

Subject lines using research need to be clear and concise, which can often be difficult to do with complicated or long-winded topics. To maintain clarity, use the most compelling and influential information in your research and stay as focused as possible.

Example subject lines:

  • New {{Topic}} Stats
  • Without {{Topic}}, Efficiency Decreases X%
  • Emerging Challenges for {{Target.Department}}
  • X% of Your Competitors {{Topic}}

3) Personalize to the Recipient

Buyers receive way too many emails and have limited time to spend in the inbox.

Only the most relevant, intriguing, and attention-capture emails get consistently prioritized.

With the right research and preparation, you can often find cold messaging that differentiates your brand, resonates with buyers, and motivates them to consistently take action.

However, the most compelling & engaging email copy will always be messaging that is customized to the specific company and deal stakeholders you’re targeting.

Personalization in the subject line is powerful because it establishes your relevance and authenticity in the inbox before they ever open the email.

Example subject lines:

  • Fueling Your {{Total.Reps}} SDRs
  • Empowering {{Colleague.First_Name}}
  • Your Experience with {{Competing.Solution}}
  • Managing {{Total.Clients}} Accounts

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4) Illustrate a Future State

Modern buyers rely less on salespeople than ever before.

Empowered by instant access to information and more reliable buying processes, today’s buyers have more control over when, how, and why they engage with sellers.

When buyers finally engage, it’s often because they were already researching, networking, or evaluating before you connected.

To win the interest of buyers, highlight a clear vision of how you can help improve the future of their career, team, or organization.

With a relevant future vision in the subject line, you increase the chances you resonate with the right buyers at the right time in their buying process.

Example subject lines:

  • Expanding to the East Coast
  • Grow Client Trust with Visibility
  • Eliminating DevOps Chaos
  • Finding Buyers Before Competitors

5) Highlight Market Insights

Thought leadership and influence can make a huge impact on how buyers perceive both you and your brand.

Buyers often don’t have enough time to stay up-to-date on everything in their industry, so sharing the right insights can influence their thinking as they move through the buying process.

Market insights in a subject line are attention-grabbing because it often involves emerging statistics, industry changes, or best practices that your buyers would find valuable.

Example subject lines:

  • Recent {{Industry}} Recruiting Stats
  • New {{Industry}} Innovation
  • Emerging {{Industry}} Best Practices
  • X% of {{Industry}} Players {{Topic}}

6) Boil Down a Best Practice or Formula

Subject lines are designed to be brief summaries of the email message, which helps recipients quickly review, digest, and prioritize next steps for the emails in their inbox.

If you can present ideas that are easy to understand, you increase the chance that recipients will notice and remember your message.

The most effective subject lines convey a relevant idea in a powerful way using clear, concise language.

A formula, equation, or set of best practices specific to a buyer’s industry can quickly capture attention while influencing their thinking by presenting ideas in new ways.

Example subject lines:

  • 1 Video = Podcast + Transcript + Blog + Social
  • Less Distractions, Better Salespeople
  • SEO > Backlinks
  • Clients Expect Visibility + Communication + Access

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7) Focus on a Pain Point

The fear of loss, imperfection, and inefficiency are looming stressors that impact what companies prioritize, how they operate, and where they’re heading.

With a clear understanding of buyer pain points, you’ll keep your messaging relevant, influence their thinking more often, and increase the chance of motivating buyers to take action.

For subject lines, pain points can be used as a catalyst to consistently keep your brand top-of-mind and highlight the problems of your buyers.

However, be careful how you position and talk about a buyer’s problems. It’s easy to rub people the wrong way by coming off too condescending, critical, or arrogant.

Example subject lines:

  • Reducing Customer Cancellations
  • Abandoned Carts, Abandoned Revenue
  • Selling Without Testimonials
  • Chaotic Project Operations

8) Pose a Question

How could using questions impact a subject line?

Curiosity is a hidden driver of exploration, discovery, and change. If you can identify how to build curiosity with buyers, you’ll increase the chances you stand out and stay memorable.

By posing an interesting question in the subject line, you can clearly bring the topic of the conversation into the buyer’s mind and plant the seeds to influence their thinking.

Example subject lines:

  • Is {{Company.Name}} Creating Content?
  • What Obstacles Block Your SDRs?
  • How Has COVID-19 Changed {{Company.Name}}?
  • Can {{Topic}} Increase Conversion Rates?


In an email inbox, subject lines are the battleground where brands are noticed, reviewed, and prioritized by buyers every day.

With recipients receiving hundreds of emails per week, email marketers that want to stay relevant must evolve their messaging strategies to constantly differentiate their emails.

These 8 different subject line tactics give you a repeatable way to build and test messaging while differentiating your brand and tailoring emails to your specific selling situation.

[Generating outbound leads? Check out our new free video series The Cold Email Playbook to get insights and content from 7 outbound & cold email experts!]