The subject line is the ticket to happiness

Almost everyone knows it – the overflowing email inbox. In no time, it fills up with hundreds of often irrelevant e-mails. Monday, after the weekend, is particularly bad, spam from the weekend abounds. Standing out from the mass of these emails is the goal of every email marketer.

The success of every email campaign stands or falls with the email subject and ultimately has an enormous influence on the overall marketing success, because the subject lines are the ticket, the backstage pass, for the actual event. Without a pass, you remain at best a spectator in the back row.

So, the importance is obvious and therefore the first impressions count. Stand out, arouse curiosity and remain factual and serious – this is generally the basic concept to follow. Keep reading, if you would like to get the ticket for the big show.

Personalization of subject lines

At the beginning of every cold email there is an extensive analysis of the recipient. It is important to find out as much as possible about the recipient using a wide variety of data sources. Address databases often also offer additional information to simplify and shorten this work step. Examples are social media accounts, with which important information can be collected quickly and easily.

Using the name of the recipient in the subject line is a start, but only a start, since the use of names in the subject line is now relatively common and can therefore no longer be described as particularly original. The goal is to see the world through the eyes of the addressee and to understand personal needs, wishes or past experiences.

How can you help the recipient, because in the end it’s about him and him alone!? This is the question to ask. The email should offer a solution that will help the reader to solve a problem and this must be evident already in the subject line. The aim is to make it immediately clear that the content of the email has value or is useful to them. Only then one can assume that the recipient will also open the email. The offer of help and tips can be a door opener, whereby one can definitely emphasize one’s own value. If the offer is not relevant at first glance, the e-mail will certainly be deleted without being read.

In addition to using the recipient’s name in the subject, the position in the company can also be used in the subject line, an example would be “CEO”. This also creates a stronger impression of familiarity and sympathy, and improves the chance of the email being read.

Arouse curiosity with a question

With a short question you arouse curiosity and make the reader to want more. This is a fairly simple, yet effective, concept. Of course, it is crucial not to give the answer immediately in order to maintain the tension. Ultimately, the recipient should be persuaded to open and read the email.

Less is more! – Short subject lines

“Short, crisp and relevant.” Those could be the catchphrases. Of course, this also depends on the target group, but the maximum length of the subject line of many email providers is only 60 characters and you should definitely avoid a truncated subject line. Nowadays emails a read with a high proportion of mobile devices, which offer even less space on small displays. Of course, the reduced screen size also has an impact on text design and the text length of the email subject.

Extension of the subject with preheader

The preheader text can be used as a welcome extension of the subject line to accommodate more information.


Subject: Mr. Smith, we are ready to help you.

Preheader: Book a consultation appointment together.

“Power Words” – Always a strong argument

Power Words have a strong signal effect and trigger a certain thought or feeling in the reader and thus particularly tempt them to interact. This effect can also be used in email marketing in a simple way by using them as part of subject lines.

Power words can be divided into different groups, depending on the feeling they trigger. For example, they arouse curiosity (private, amazing, crazy), inspire trust (tried, explored, results), or make someone seem important (surprise, mystery, special).

Emoji 😊 …. A controversial topic

This is where opinions differ. There are supporters and opponents. However, it is definitely clear that this also depends very much on the relevant target group and the topic of an email. A piece of advice in this regard can certainly be…”Less is more and in case of doubt it doesn’t hurt to avoid them completely!”

Ultimately, the idea is to stand out visually in the inbox. In a sea of black text on a white background, even small colour accents are very effective in attracting attention. This is also an argument for using emojis…in moderation.

The language used

Distinguish yourself from language used in spam, but what does that mean in detail? Everyone knows it, nobody loves it… spam and also the associated phrases. Earning quick money, getting products or services for free, extreme discount offers, etc., this is also associated with lurid language.

Instead, rely on realistic offers and promises, as this will certainly make you appear more credible. This trust inevitably has a positive effect on the open rate.

Use clear and understandable language that is easy and therefore quick to grasp. With a flood of emails, which often has to be dealt with, those that are not understandable easily are deleted immediately.

The subject line of Follow-Up emails

The subject line of follow-up emails can be identical or have an addition. On the one hand, this has recognition value and, on the other hand, it simplifies the assignment in the email browser.

However, there is one exception. If the recipient hasn’t read the first email, it’s important to try a new approach with the follow-up email. You can only win, the result can hardly be worse!

Numbers in the subject – curse and blessing

Numbers in subject lines are a sensitive issue as there is a chance that they will be filtered out as spam. For example, “100%”, “50%” or even a “million” should be avoided, as these are often associated with lurid marketing promises and therefore end up in the spam folder at best.

On the other hand, specific numbers and values convey professionalism and create trust. Furthermore, they can help to save valuable space with the limited length of subject lines, which should always be included as an important option in A/B tests.


“FOMO,” or “Fear of missing out,” is another psychological tool to generate interest. It is based on many people’s fear of missing out. For example, this feeling can be triggered by the quantitative restriction of an offer or by a time limit.

Social proof

Another psychological technique is the use of “social proof”, the confirmation of one’s status by other people or companies. Trust is built by naming references, existing business contacts and successes. A company that already has hundreds or thousands of satisfied customers, for example, can only be a positive choice for cooperation with these references. So, it is worth taking advantage of this fact. References to the opinions of other well-known companies or people can also be very helpful and their positive reputation can be used for your own benefit. This fact is also increasingly being used in “influencer marketing”.

What should definitely be avoided in subject lines

Unfortunately, two bad representatives of subject lines are still very common and should be avoided at all costs.

On the one hand, these are subject lines, which are written exclusively in CAPITAL LETTERS, which is a kind of guarantee that the email will be deleted immediately, as this is too reminiscent of spam.

The second unpopular representative are subject lines with a large number of exclamation or question marks. This is also reminiscent of spam and is therefore rarely taken seriously!!!!!! Even just an exclamation mark may be considered impolite by the recipient.

To add a final point…Hashtags (#) also fall into the category of characters to avoid in an email subject. They look like spam and there is even a risk that the email will end up in the spam folder.

If you are interested in learning more about how to write persuasive cold email, there’s also a related article on our blog.