In all my experience in online ad sales I can attribute my success to one thing. Cold email outreach. I land so much of my business through email that I’ve built a company to help salespeople automate their email outreach, InboxBrain.

I usually get a few emails a day of people asking me to review their email template. That’s not a problem, I love helping others to succeed but there’s a problem with about ninety percent of the emails I receive. They’re missing the single most important factor of an effective cold email, the subject line.

Cold email guru Steli Efti put it simply, think about your prospect’s journey. What do they see first? How does it start? The subject line in their inbox.

Most people are focused on crafting the perfect email body when they’re forgetting about the subject line. Without a compelling subject line, your prospect will never read the email you took so long to write.

In this post I’ll outline four strategies I use to write the perfect subject line for your prospects. Follow these steps and you’ll see open rates of 80 percent or higher.

1. The referral or “fake” referral

The most effective subject line to send has the name of someone they already know.

Hey < Name >, found you through < Mutual connection >

Getting a referral is fairly straightforward, all you have to do is ask your current clients for them. I’ve included a picture of a referral email I received this week.

4 email subject lines that gross $7 million in revenue inboxbrain

We could publish a whole other article on asking for referrals but I’ll keep it short and sweet. You’ll probably want to use a referral for outreach but you don’t have any clients in common. It’s more common than you might think.

Here’s how you can “fake” a referral subject line: search for an interview someone at your prospects company has done. For example, if you were targeting Tesla Inc., I’d Google “Tesla inc” podcast interview and see who populates in the search results. Most CEOs have done interviews at one time or another. When you find one here’s how you write the fake referral subject:

Hey < Name >, found you through < Podcast >

That’s how you fake a referral if you don’t know someone. Now, say you don’t know anyone and can’t find any interviews. What do you do?

2. Congratulate them recent news

Google your prospects company for any news. It could be a round of funding or even a new hire. Your subject lines can look like this:

Hey < Name > – congrats on the funding round!

Hey < Name > – congrats on the new hire!

Remember the goal here is to have them open your email. Meaning, in the first few sentences of your email you should reference the news you’ve used in your subject line. If you just right to your pitch you’ll make the prospect feel silly for opening the email and they will just delete and move on.

And if you can’t find any news then try number three.

3. Generic, but personalized

Use this subject line if you’re emailing in bulk. It’s a good fit for mass mail however, you’ll want to personalize every email. Don’t make the mistake of sending hundreds of bulk emails with the same generic email template. The results will be disappointing.

Hey < Name > – About < Company > and < Your Company >

Your goal with the subject line is to personalize it without spending much time one it. Make sure you double check your spelling. You don’t want to be the guy misspelling your prospects name our using poor formatting.

If you’re going to be sending more than 100 emails per day, Generic but personalized is the strategy you want to use.

Finally the last option is ..

4. Fully generic

If you don’t have enough time for the previous three and you want to blast out to a lot of people, use this technique instead. The rule of thumb: the more generic the subject line the lower the open rate. Keeping that in mind, These still work, but lower your expectations of an open. Also, I’d recommend that the body of your email be highly engaging when using this strategy.

Hi from [[your name]]

I use this one to book short chats or coffee meetings. People seem intrigued by it, like clickbait that’s somehow leaked into their inbox. Another one that works is:

Let’s work together

It’s straightforward and direct and generic enough to get opened.

The Just

Crafting the ideal subject line isn’t easy and can take some time to personalize, but these four strategies should make it remarkably easier. If you follow these strategies, test your results and optimize over time, you will be well on your way to booking more calls, landing more meetings and closing more deals.

And always use InboxBrain to automate your follow-up emails and track your email opens.