Inbox Ignition 21 Subject Lines That Will Make Your Emails Shine

“You’ve got mail.”

Remember the days when that one email notification on the top right of your screen was beyond exciting?

So exciting even, that Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks just had to star in a feature film about a budding romance through email.

Nowadays, it can seem like our inbox is just filled with bad news (and a lot of junk).

Between bills, work requests and online stores pestering us for more of our money, emails seem to always be trying to “get” something out of us.

We’re lucky if we receive one out-of-the-ordinary note in our jam-packed inbox.

But if you’re a business owner, your goal is to make your email shine.

You need to stand out.

And believe me… It’s easier said than done.

Particularly when there are 90 billion business emails sent out every day

And that on average--an individual user will receive a daily minimum of 122 business emails in their inbox.

That’s a lot of messages. (And this isn’t counting personal emails or promotional offers).

So how can you make sure that you don’t get lost in the shuffle?

One word (well two actually): Subject Lines.

Your email subject lines are the Keys to the Kingdom.

They are the ‘gateway’ to any conversation you want to have with either prospects or existing clients. (Conversations which are obviously the lifeblood of any business)

If your subject lines don’t entice, your emails will not be opened (or read). And any dialogue will be stopped dead in the water.

If your subject lines are impossible to resist, the email is opened and becomes the first essential step to transforming your prospect from a stranger to a sale.

Today, we’re going to take a look at the top 21 subject lines that sizzle.

They intrigue.

They entertain.

They pop.

They are--in a word--irresistible.

  1. “Hey” 

Used by Barack Obama in his email campaigns, the simple “hey” not only makes the email more approachable and friendly, but it’ll also stand out in an inbox filled with lengthy subject lines. Like getting an email from a best friend, a ‘hey’ is informal and is an irresistible invitation to open.   

  1. “Thank You!” 

Validation is one of the strongest motivators of human behavior; everyone likes to feel appreciated. Not only do your clients crave recognition, an email with this subject line intrigues. More often than not it will be opened so the reader can see what that heartfelt “Thank You” is all about.   

  1. “Write a Blockbuster in 30 Days” 

This subject line is a winner.  Not only does it offer a direct benefit (the ability to write a blockbuster), it gives a specific deadline.  Headlines like this rank among some of the most successful.   

  1. “7 secrets of wildly successful entrepreneurs”

Email marketers have found that a numbered ‘how to’ list is always a tried-and-true formula to attracting hordes of people to your content.  

  1. “How I Got 26,778 Subscribers in 13 Months” 

And speaking of numbers, the more precise the better as you can see in this example.

  1. “97.3% of people said YES”

This subject line not only leverages the strength of using specific numbers, it also draws on the power of FOMO (the Fear of Missing Out) and intrigue.  Who could resist opening this email if only to find out what 97.3% of the people actually said YES to?   

  1. “Get More Sales With THIS Technique”

Everyone likes to be an insider, learning a great ‘tip’ or ‘trick’. This particular subject line taps heavily tapping into the ‘curiosity’ factor (i.e. what is THIS technique anyway?)

  1. “Best of Groupon: The Deals That Make Us Proud (Unlike Our Nephew, Steve)”

Done correctly, using humor can be a great strategy for increasing email open rates. In this example we’re not only left wondering what poor Steve did wrong but we also warm to the email author who is sharing his joke with us. Nothing will show the human side of your business faster than making your prospect laugh.    

  1. “Can This Marriage Be Saved?”

Questions are your best friend when it comes to subject lines.  The human mind is attracted inexorably towards questions (or the answers that they will find on the other side in the email).   

  1. “Am I really the “bad guy?”

Your business emails don’t have to be only about your business or only about your products. Talk about you and what makes you tick. Also, use the tactic used in this subject line which is revealing a vulnerability.  (Hint: Don’t try to be perfect. People LIKE to know you’ve experienced challenges in your life).

  1. “Matt Damon, Why I Hate College, and The Secret To Success” 

This subject line is catchy because it associates 3 separate and unrelated themes to each other. Between Matt Damon’s celebrity, the shocking statement that college isn’t important to you as well as the number one secret to success, the reader will have to open to find out what the email is really about.    

  1. “You’ll think I’m crazy…” 

Much like the “Am I really the “bad guy?”” subject line above, calling attention to your flaws is always a winner.  It draws people in.  Plus in this example, the reader will be eager to understand why you think they think you’re crazy.    

  1. “Yesterday’s episode was (emoticon)” 

Emoticons are your friend (just ask Kim Kardashian and her new Kimojis) Sometimes words just can’t communicate what an upside down smiley face can.

  1. “The Facebook Slap is coming…”  

Who couldn’t open this email?   What slap? Why is Facebook mad? Is it not mad? What’s going on? Sometimes the best way to draw your client in is to get them thinking…

  1. “Uh-oh, your prescription is expiring” 

Warby Parker is one of the king of emails. Their strategy is to be personal and to always make their clients feel special. The use of ‘uh-oh’ is relaxed and colloquial. The gentle warning about their eyeglass prescription is a gentle way of saying ‘We care”.  

  1. “Seriously, Get This Book” 

This subject line is confident and direct but not obnoxious.  And there are few who could resist opening to see what book they really need to get!

  1. “Tiger Woods Can Afford Any Car; He Drives a Buick” 

This subject line tells a quick story, whetting the reader’s appetite to discover more ‘inside’ the email.   

  1. “Confidential to Corvette Owners” 

Anything confidential always attracts us. The specific call out will immediately draw attention!

  1. “Ever had this problem? Tell me about it” 

Canva has the right idea when it comes to their subject lines. They’re here to listen. One way to cater to your client is to make sure they feel heard and have an easy way to give feedback.

  1. “Have You Heard?” 

With all their promotions, Uber is quickly becoming a pro at email subject lines. This simple subject line simultaneously piques the client’s interest while inviting them to take action (i.e. to open the email in order to find out whether they’ve heard or not).  

  1. “The broke girl’s guide to a luxury vacation” 

This subject line is a ‘call out’ to a specific target audience–that ‘broke girl’ who still wants a luxury vacation.  Whomever your ideal client is, don’t hesitate to call him/her out right in the subject line.

In the end, some people argue that you should spend AS MUCH time on your subject line as you do writing the email.

They are essential for the success of your email.

But just as essential for the success of your business.


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About the Author

Nicknamed the 'female David Ogilvy’, Sue Rice is famous for her exquisite writing skills and strategic savvy. A native Californian and Stanford University graduate, she launched her career on Madison Avenue in the 90s and eventually helped run BBDO Europe in Paris as their Communications Director. Now a 7-figure entrepreneur, Sue helps businesses create high-quality content that attracts clients, builds brands and skyrockets sales.