“You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
Such a sweet, enlightened saying.
And if you’re like me, you’ve had this idea hammered into your head ever since you were a child (which I still am, at heart… and literally, according to my wife 🤘).
But when it comes to email marketing “can’t judge a book by its cover”—it’s bulls#@%.
Because you need to think in terms of ONLY “the book cover” (email subject lines) if you want your emails to get opened.
Billions of emails are sent each day. And when you’re practically drowning in hundreds Monday through Friday, you’re only going to open up the ones that jump out the most.
That’s why in order to get your message read, you’ve got to use the right subject lines.
Today, I’m teaching you which are going to get you the highest open rates possible. In this article, we’ll look at…
- 47 of the best email subject lines that’ll make it practically impossible for your readers to click past your email.
- Real-world email subject line examples of the companies who’ve used them before—and seen stellar results.
- A glimpse into the science and theory behind why the best email subject lines are just so dang click-worthy.
Ready? Let’s go.
Why Do You Need Better Subject Lines?
Luckily, there’s a super simple answer: because email is massively important for any business.
Let’s start with ROI (return on investment).
Despite the surge in new forms of digital marketing (think social media), the fact is, email marketing is still the marketing medium with the highest return on investment.
According to Omnisend, email marketing actually has an ROI of 40:1—nearly twice as much as the next highest, SEO.
But more than that, email marketing also comes with a slew of other benefits too. Benefits like…
- The ability to reach a global audience (there were 3.9 billion email users in 2019 and an estimated 4.9 billion in 2023 according to Radicati).
- Being able to deliver ultra-targeted—and thus, highly effective—messages (segmented and targeted email campaigns can lead marketers to as much as 760% higher email marketing returns reports Campaign Monitor).
- Speaking to an audience that’s already primed to listen since your subscribers actually want to receive your emails. Most email lists are built up of subscribers that actually opt in (required by law in some locations). That means that they’ve already displayed some interest in your content, thereby increasing the likelihood that they’ll actually engage with your emails.
- Notoriously low costs for marketers (it’s no wonder why nearly 7 out of 10 businesses use email marketing to develop new leads and convert prospects into customers according to The Manifest).
As a result of all these benefits, once someone has entered your email sales funnel (which you can build in under 3 hours), it’s significantly easier to convert them into a customer compared to using other marketing channels.
Now, in the same way that a well-written headline is critical to getting people to read your articles, lead magnets, or sales pages, a subject line needs to capture the attention of your subscribers.
And if it doesn’t, you can be sure they’re simply going to throw it in the trash like the thousands of other emails they get every week.
Don’t believe me?
Well, Invesp found that nearly half of your email recipients (47%) decide to open or toss an email based solely on the subject line alone.
Added to that, about 7 out of 10 subscribers decide whether or not to report your emails as spam based on the subject line.
It’s clear, then, that subject lines matter—like, a lot.
Before Getting Into the 47 Email Subject Line Examples: A Word on A/B Testing
Now, before we jump into the 47 email subject lines you can start using to get your emails clicked, a quick word (or 269 words rather) on A/B testing.
A/B testing your subject lines is basically running a science experiment on which resonates with your audience more.
You start out by coming up with a hypothesis (e.g., “If I use emojis in my email subject lines, then more people will open my emails”).
And then, you create two catchy email subject lines: one that acts as the “control” and does not include the variable that you’re testing (emojis) and another that does include it.
After that, you test out which subject lines bring in a higher open rate.
With some tools like ActiveCampaign (which is what we use), you can determine how much of your email list is used in the test before sending out the winner to the rest of your list.
For instance, we run A/B tests of 4 different subject lines for each of our emails.
Each test is run on 40% of our email list. And after the winner is determined, the other 60% of our list receives the email with the winning email subject line.
Makes sense, right?
A whopping 3 out of 5 businesses now perform regular A/B testing on their emails, according to Invesp.
With all the benefits involved (optimize your subject lines, boost open rates, and gain valuable insights you can use to better reach your audience), you should be A/B testing your email subject lines too.
And the 47 email subject line examples below are a great place to start.
9 Subject Line Types Every Business Needs at One Point or Another
Alrighty—now that we’ve covered why you need better subject lines and the benefit of always A/B testing your emails, let’s jump into the best email subject lines you can start modeling today.
In my experience, best email subject lines can usually be categorized in 1 of 9 ways:
- Benefit Focused
- Brand Building
- Current Events
- Telling a Story
And surprise surprise, that’s how I’ve broken up the 47 catchy email subject lines I’m showing you today!
Now, let’s start with personalization.
1. Personalization (Hey, They’re Talking About Me!)
Personalizing your emails is one of the best ways to increase your conversion rates.
In fact, Venture Beat reported that nearly 95% of marketers found increasing their email marketing personalization led to increases in open rates. Added to that, over 2 out of 5 actually saw an increase of more than 15%.
Plus, 80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase with a brand that offers more personalized experiences, according to Epsilon.
In fact, increasing personalization in marketing is even one of the trends we predict to see throughout 2020.
But more than that, personalization is actually becoming the NORM—so much so that consumers actually expect it. Take a look at the numbers.
- The National Retail Federation actually found that a whopping 36% of consumers believe that brands should offer more personalization in their marketing.
- 70% of millennials are frustrated with brands sending them irrelevant marketing emails and prefer personalized emails over batch and blast communications, according to SmarterHQ.
- On average, 71% of consumers feel frustrated when their shopping experience is impersonal (Segment).
The bottom line here is, of course, the more you can personalize your emails to your prospects, the better.
So, here are a few ways to do that, specifically with your subject lines.
Include Your Recipient’s Name (Duh)
1. Example: Facebook Messenger – “bad news, NAME 😔”
2. Example: Yelp – “Eat well, be well, order in NAME”
Call Out Behavioral Details You’ve Collected (e.g., Artists They’ve Liked, Houses They’ve Looked At)
3. Example: Spotify – “New music from artists you love, with Hayden Calnin on your Release Radar now”
4. Example: Zillow – “Revisiting your favorites”
Assume Familiarity With Your Subscriber (This One’s Sneaky)
5. Example: Bonnie Fahy – “NAME, do you remember me?”
6. Example: Jon Morrow – “Quick favor?”
7. Example: Influitive – “So I’ll pick you up at 7?”
2. Benefit Focused (So… What’s In It for Me?)
Piggybacking off of the last email subject line examples category, next comes the “Benefit Focused” subject line.
This one is meant to skip right past the pleasantries and show your readers how your product, service, or resources can help solve their particular problem.
In general, people are self-interested. No matter how much you spout the virtues of your product, they’re only going to engage when they see how it’s going to benefit them.
That’s why as a marketer, you need to take extra special care to explicitly state the benefits of your product or service from your customer’s point of view.
In fact, it’s why we always use the benefit/feature model in our 11-Point Master Sales Page Formula. This model points out the benefit of a feature before explaining what that feature is.
As a result, you can hook your reader with the benefit immediately and then get into the specifics of your product or service.
Getting back to email subject lines, in order to use this type correctly, you’ve really got to understand your audience—their problems, their unique pain points, other solutions they’ve tried, everything.
And there are 2 main ways to do that.
Call Out the Problem Directly
8. Example: Bubs Warehouse – “Toilet Training? Check out these must-have items!”
9. Example: MindMeister – “Adjusting to Remote Life?”
10. Example: Intuit – “Stop losing your receipts”
Focus on the Pain Points Behind the Problem
11. Example: WAVE Meditation – “Meditation as easy as listening to music 🔊”
12. Example: Wistia – “No lights? No camera? Action.”
13. Example: Coinbase – “Own another crypto without adding more funds”
3. Promotional (Boy Oh Boy, Do We Have a Deal You’re Gonna Love)
The Pareto Principle was all the rage in marketing circles a few years back, particularly in 2013 and 2016. It basically states that 80% of an event’s consequences come from just 20% of the causes.
And while it’s directly related to marketing, many have used it as a guiding principle for their marketing strategy.
When it comes to email content, for instance, a good rule of thumb to follow is that 80% of your content should be educational and informative. But just 20% should be promotional of your product or services.
That being said, when it is time to send out a promotional email, you’ll want to make sure that those who see it hit their inbox just can’t resist clicking.
Now, there are a few types of promotional emails.
Highlight a Specific Product, Feature, or Service You Offer
For new products, you’ll want to point out that this product is just hitting the market. So opening your email is effectively going to get your readers in on the ground floor.
Check out some great new product email subject line examples below.
14. Example: Hers – “NEW: collagen powder”
15. Example: Airbnb – “Introducing Airbnb Adventures”
You can also introduce products or features with the “did you know” approach like the email subject line examples below.
16. Example: Basecamp – “Did you know Basecamp has a podcast?”
Offer a Deal or Coupon
A sizable chunk of your promotional emails should actually be offering your subscribers some sort of deal—a coupon, a free trial, an order upgrade, whatever.
Because in all reality, most of your readers probably opted in because they were looking for some sort of discount on what it is you’re selling.
So be semi-generous with your deals to keep the attention of your readers. And make sure your offers pop off the page with catchy email subject line examples like the following.
You can say it loud and proud…
17. Example: Uplers – “$100 off! Say whaaaaa?”
You can be coy about it…
18. Example: Airbnb – “We have a summer gift for you inside”
Or you can be appreciative…
19. Example: MacPaw – “Just a thank you note (and a 30% off coupon) 🎄”
4. Brand-Building (Here’s Why We Rock & Why People Love Us)
With the globalization of so many different products and services these days, competition within industries is getting fierce.
And one of the best ways to stand out from the crowd of other providers like you is to have an appealing, likable brand that resonates with your target market.
In fact, a study from Havas Media Group points out that a whopping 77% of consumers buy from brands who share the same values as they do.
Added to that, 55% of consumers believe companies have a more important role than governments today in creating a better future according to the same study. Buying today, then, is a political act.
And if you want your readers to “vote” for you with their hard-earned cash, then you’ve got to let them know 1) how great you are and 2) that other people trust you (social proof).
So, why not do it with your email subject lines?
Here are some examples of how it’s done.
Point Out a Charitable Cause You’re Supporting
A great way to demonstrate why your brand rocks is by showing your charitable side.
You can start by calling out the cause and implying that you’re already supporting it (use language like “let’s” and “join us”).
20. Example: Everlane – “Let’s Keep Feeding America”
21. Example: Red Clay Hot Sauce – “Join us in supporting relief efforts for Hurricane Dorian.”
22. Example: VYBES – “We’re donating our online profits to black candidates”
Use Social Proof
You can (and should) also use social proof liberally in your subject lines.
Here are some examples of how to use social proof in your email subject lines.
23. Example: Tens – “Our new lens just passed $100k in pre-orders! 🔥10 days left ⏱”
24. Example: Winsor & Newton – “Discover what these illustrators have created with our Fineliners”
25. Example: Thumbtack – “Meet Oleg. You’ll like him.”
5. Scarcity/Urgency (Harnessing the Marketing Power of FOMO)
Are you a marketer? A business owner? An entrepreneur? Just some schlub who’s even one iota aware of what’s happening in the world?
Then you’ve probably heard about FOMO.
FOMO (or the Fear Of Missing Out) is one of the most powerful drivers of human behavior.
If there’s some product or service so great that people are snatching it up faster than it’s being manufactured, the dread of missing out on that product or service forever is enough to get people to buy it—even if they never planned on purchasing it in the first place.
72-hour sales, limited quantities, countdown timers—these are all marketing tactics driven by FOMO. And when you learn how to inject FOMO into your email subject lines, you can dramatically boost your open rate.
Now, there are 2 main ways to inject FOMO into your subject lines: with urgency and with scarcity.
Using Urgency in Your Email Subject Lines
Urgency is all about time.
Your deal will only last from this date/time to this date/time. And after that, POOF. Gone forever.
So in order to drive those clicks, you’ve got to make that urgency clear in your subject lines, like in the examples below.
26. Example: Bose – “Black Friday is almost over 🔊🎧 You can still save with Bose”
27. Example: Clear – “Final call: $60 off a year of CLEAR”
Using Scarcity in Your Email Subject Lines
And then there’s scarcity.
While urgency is about limited time, scarcity is about limited supply.
And that means that once your supply of a product is all bought up, they’re gone for good.
Check out how these popular brands have used scarcity in their subject lines below.
28. Example: Taylor Stitch – “Limited To 100 Of Each”
29. Example: Bellroy – “Shop the limited Last Chance to Buy event while you can”
6. News (Big Changes Are in the Works & We Wanted You to Know About It)
Keeping your audience informed on changes in your organization should be a standard part of the emails you send out to subscribers.
Doing so will help keep your audience engaged and, thus, keep your business at top of mind when they’re searching for the solution you’re offering.
83% of B2B companies use e-newsletters as part of their content marketing program, according to Imagination.
Beyond that, Content Marketing Institute reports that 40% of B2B marketers say email newsletters are most critical to their content marketing success.
There are a few different types of newsletter email subject lines that work to boost open rates.
Naming Your Newsletter (Instead of Just Calling It “Newsletter”)
30. Example: Postmates – “The Post Up | Feel Good News”
31. Example: Today – “Tomorrow #11 – Youth leading change in the LGBTIQ community”
A Quick Overview of What’s Inside
32. Example: Github – “GitHub for mobile, IT transformation tips, and our 2019 software trends report”
33. Example: Field Mag – “How to Build a Micro Cabin Studio + Tips for Backpacking the Eastern Sierra”
The Good Old Fashioned Boring Newsletter Subject Lines
This one is tricky because some organizations like Business2Community have found using the word “newsletter” in the subject line can cause an 18.7% decrease in open rates.
That being said, the 4 email subject line examples below actually had open rates between 60-87%, according to Mailchimp.
34. Example: “[Company Name] Sales & Marketing Newsletter”
35. Example: “Eye on the [Company Name] Update (Oct 31 – Nov 4)”
36. Example: “[Company Name] May 2005 News Bulletin!”
37. Example: “[Company Name] Newsletter – February 2006”
7. Retargeting (Get Your Butt Back Into My Sales Funnel!)
Retargeting emails are meant to bring your audience back into your sales process.
Whether they abandoned their cart, didn’t respond to a survey, or you just haven’t heard from them in a while, these types of emails (when done right) can be vital to your marketing success.
That’s because retargeted customers are actually more likely to convert. Website visitors who are retargeted are actually more likely to convert by a whopping 43%, according to Criteo.
And in the end, higher conversion rates often mean a higher ROI—sometimes much higher. In fact, ConversionXL points out that Busted Tees got a jaw-dropping 390% ROI on an email retargeting campaign.
Now, there are 4 ways in particular to make your retargeting email subject lines pop.
Reminding Readers They Still Have Stuff in Their Cart
38. Example: Blu Dot – “Wait up. Your order is not complete.”
Telling Them Something Bad Will Happen (e.g., Their abandoned cart will be deleted, they’ll lose access to a deal, etc.)
39. Example: Envira: “I’m deleting your Envira account”
40. Example: Food52 – “Going fast: grab the treasures in your cart before they go poof.”
Here’s a Special Deal If You Come Back
41. Example: Target – “The price dropped for something in your cart”
Call Out Their Buying Obstacle
This one requires a bit more explanation. No matter what your product is, there is always going to be a buying obstacle involved that causes some prospects to ignore your offer.
This last strategy, then, is to call out their buying obstacle and tell them why they shouldn’t worry about it right in your email subject line.
If, for example, it’s the risk of the product not working out, tell them about your 30-day guarantee. If they don’t know how to use the product, clue them in to your dedicated customer support team.
Here’s one example of how Teva addresses the problem feeling uneasy about shopping for clothes online (will it fit? Will it actually look like the pictures?).
42. Example: Teva – “Free Shipping, Free Returns: Easy, Risk-Free Shopping With Teva”
8. Current Events (Things Are Happening in the World—Here’s Where We Stand)
One of the best ways of engaging your audience is by staying relevant and responding to current events happening in the world around us.
Staying topical not only helps your brand better relate to your audience. It also shows that you have the gumption to actually take a stand on a major issue these days.
And when it comes to demonstrating authenticity, that can end up going a long way.
In fact, 90% of consumers say that authenticity is a key factor when deciding what brands they like and support, according to Stackla.
Beyond that, Invesp reports that 22% of consumers say that authenticity is the most important quality when choosing a brand they like.
Now, here are a few different examples of how you can use your email subject lines to respond to current events and show your relevance.
Call Out the Issue & How You’re Responding
43. Example: REI – “Actions We Are Taking Around The Coronavirus”
Acknowledge That You Probably Aren’t the First Person Talking About This
44. Example: The Nue Co. – “Not just another coronavirus email…”
Tie a Current Event Back to Your Industry
45. Example: Barrel – “How COVID-19 is affecting ecommerce”
9. Tell a Story (Get Your Readers Clicking by First Getting Them Hooked)
People love hearing a good story.
Getting lost in another world, experiencing a range of powerful emotions, being transported outside of yourself, even for only a few minutes—nothing beats it.
And part of what makes a story so engrossing for your readers is the fact that, once they’re hooked, they really want to see how the story ends.
In fact, using storytelling in your marketing can actually increase your engagement rate by up to 5X.
Injecting some storytelling (or at least using an “open loop”) in your subject line, then, is a great way to increase your open rate.
There are two ways in particular you can use storytelling in your catchy email subject lines.
Call It Out – This Email is Going to Be a Story
Sometimes simply telling your audience that they’re going to find a story inside is enough to get people interested.
And in fact, that’s exactly what Jack McDade did in the email below.
It’s an interesting tale and one that a lot of readers could relate to. It’s no surprise, then, that his subscribers loved it.
46. Example: Jack McDade – “The story of the time I tried to become a video game developer”
Hit People Hard with an Abrupt Yet Tantalizing Hook
47. Example: DigitalMarketer – “Ryan Deiss is FAKE”
This example takes a little bit of explaining. See, Digital Marketer is one of the most trusted names in, well, digital marketing.
It’s trusted by 126K+ marketers and companies like Shopify, IntrusionSoft, and Uber.
Added to that, Ryan Deiss is the well-known founder.
Each of their marketing emails and newsletters are even signed by him personally. The point is, people recognize the name.
So when Digital Marketer sent out an email blast with the subject line “Ryan Deiss is FAKE,” it’s not surprising that this email brought in a whopping 23.64% open rate.
Even still, you’d think the fact that it was sent out on April Fools Day should have been a clue for readers…
So there you have it: 47 email subject line examples you can use as inspiration today to start boosting your open rates, bringing in more clicks, and turning your readers into loyal customers.
It’s worth remembering, though, that these subject lines are just jumping-off points.
While you can copy them word for word in some cases, the real benefit of this list is that each email subject line is representative of an idea—an idea that will clue you into the psychology of your readers and help you refine your own marketing skills.
So take the ideas above and start crafting your own variations.
And as I mentioned before, be sure to diligently A/B test them as part of your process.
Now, which email subject lines have you used and gotten great results from? Which of the email subject lines examples above did you like the best? And do you have any other ideas on how our readers can improve their open rates?
Let me know in the comments below.
And as always,
Keep AutoGrowin’, stay focused.