10 Creative tips for effective email subject lines for sales

You know the obvious sales emails in your inbox when you see them. They can feel forced – or worse, desperate.

Recipients deserve better.

Over 306 billion emails are sent every day worldwide, and that figure is expected to rise to more than 347 billion by 2023. 

To top it off, the average person gets over 110 emails in their inbox every day. 

To not only grab attention but also win hearts and minds, marketers need to write email subject lines for sales that truly connect with their recipients. 

In this post, we’ll go over some best practices for writing an awesome sales email subject line and provide a few examples so you can get your next campaign’s subject lines right.

Best practices for email subject lines for sales

Keep in mind that average open rates vary across all industries. If you work for a nonprofit, you don’t want to compare your results to your colleagues in fitness, for example.

Below you’ll find average statistics for each industry (thanks to research done by our friends at Campaign Monitor).

Industry Statistics campaign monitor

Source: Campaign Monitor

Drafting an amazing sales email subject line just takes a little practice and planning. Use these tips to guide your strategy.

1. Avoid the spam folder

Email clients have rigorous systems and filters in place to screen for what they consider spam – and that definition changes all the time. 

Sending too many emails (like multiple emails per day) can quickly get you flagged as spam. Authenticating your sending domain is also important because it shows you’re upfront about your identity. 

Contacting email addresses you’ve purchased – people who didn’t specifically opt in to your list – is a fast way to earn yourself a spot in spam folders. 

Finally, email clients like Gmail have trigger words that can get you flagged as spam, and they’re not as obvious as you might expect. Phrases like “Why pay more?” and “weight loss” are just two of the long list of trigger words HubSpot identified

2. Focus on your subscriber’s state of mind

While this is an important tip for email marketing in general, it’s especially critical when it comes to email subject lines for sales.

Everyone’s busy with their own lives and responsibilities. A little respect, consideration, and compassion from marketers goes a long way.

Research from Salesforce shows that 83% of B2Bs and 84% of consumers say that if you want to win their business, you should treat them like human beings. You can start by acknowledging their emotions and needs through your subject lines. 

Plus, it will help you avoid those robotic and spammy-sounding subject lines.

3. Create urgency in your email subject lines for sales

The key here: understand the difference between sounding alarmist and building urgency. Alarmist email subject lines for sales make people feel emotions like fear, anxiety, and guilt.

A little fear of missing out (FOMO) is good for boosting your open rates and driving sales – but keep it relatable.

“You only have three days left to secure your spot” works much better than “three days and your chance to improve your skills is gone forever.”

Zenni got creative with their urgency here. Their subject line makes readers think, “What’s the color of the year?” And just like that, they’re opening the email to find out.


Source: Gmail

4. Get personal with your subject lines

Personalization is the marketing word of 2020 – and for good reason.

Personalized content has gradually become mandatory in B2C, with companies like Amazon leading the way. Even in B2B, 85% of buyers say they’re willing to dismiss a company that doesn’t personalize the first interaction.

You can start by including the subscriber’s first name in your email subject lines. Beyond that, consider the unique needs of each individual subscriber. 

If your list is simply too large to send a personalized email to everyone, break it up into segments based on different demographics and send each group a unique subject line. 

Segmented campaigns can perform 760% better than generic ones because they’re more relevant by nature.

Bandsintown does an excellent job of sending personalized emails based on each subscriber’s location. When a band you follow or listen to on Spotify schedules a concert, you get a custom email with a link to purchase tickets.

Bandsintown email example

Source: Gmail

5. Skip the clickbait or false promises

Sometimes we get so excited about our own content that we can’t help but show it. As spam filters have evolved, so has the definition of clickbait. 

It’s always a splendid idea to avoid any false promises. A subject line is a promise about what’s inside your email, so the content absolutely must match.

Using doublespeak in your email subject lines for sales can slowly chip away at the credibility you’ve built with your audience. It’s just not worth the click. Instead, think of an interesting way to get your point across. 

6. Use an emoji in your email subject lines for sales

The number one aspect to remember when using emojis in subject lines: tread with caution. 

On one hand, 56% of brands using emojis in their email subject lines enjoyed higher open rates than those that didn’t.  

On the other hand, if your recipient falls into an older demographic or executive-level position, they may not appreciate the casual tone of emojis.

Now, that’s not to say that professional industries like finance and law can’t use emojis. That’s why ⚖ and 📈 exist.

It’s a smart idea to consider your audience and what they’d like.

Jockey hit a few notes here by using an emoji and building anticipation. 

Jockey email

Source: Gmail

7. Be relatable in email subject lines for sales

People spend about 44 hours every week online – almost two full days.

Your recipients want to feel like you’re building a personal connection with them instead of just trying to sell them something. 

In your email subject lines for sales, talk to your recipients like a friend or colleague. Pretend you’re having a one-on-one conversation with them – even if you’re sending the same email to 15 different addresses. 

This subject line from Copyhackers is the furthest thing from salesy. 

Copyhackers email example

Source: Gmail

8. Say something interesting

Email subject lines for sales can be challenging, because people – especially younger generations – can smell a sales pitch from a mile away.

It’s a smart strategy to avoid mentioning anything about the sale in your subject line. No, you don’t have to lie or resort to clickbait (and you shouldn’t). However, you can start telling a story, crack a joke, say something supportive, or plug an interesting fact. 

People don’t like sales pitches, but they do like fun conversations. 

Indiegogo does a wonderful job of getting creative with their subject lines. Instead of saying, “do you want to fund this cast iron,” they use the subject line to explain how awesome the product is and ask if the subscriber wants to upgrade their kitchen.

Indiegogo email example

Source: Gmail

9. Optimize your preview text

Some marketers spend hours crafting the perfect subject line but then completely neglect the preview text. 

It’s a sad situation because, on phones, recipients will drag down the notification to examine the preview text before they decide whether to open the email.

Preview text is a blessing because it gives you more space to explain yourself and connect with your recipients. 

Don’t rewrite your subject line or copy/paste the first line of your copy. Some email clients display both the preview text and the first line of copy, so repetition anywhere ends up being a waste of valuable push notification space. 

The below example, from Foreign Policy, shows how effective preview text can be. 

Foreign Policy example

Source: Gmail

10. Keep it short

Speaking of valuable email real estate, most email clients will truncate your subject line after 30 – 35 characters. 

That’s not much space. 

While research hasn’t found a precise link between short subject lines and open rates, it’s much easier to explain yourself when you’re not getting cut off mid-sentence, right?

Coursera chose a short and to-the-point subject line for this promotional email.

Coursera email example

Source: Gmail

Wrap up

Email subject lines for sales can be some of the most challenging copy to write. You want to grab attention and convert recipients into buyers, but you also don’t want to sound pushy or inconsiderate. 

To find a happy middle ground, use these tips:

  • Consider your recipient’s state of mind

  • Personalize as much as possible

  • Err on the side of caution with clickbait and spam

  • Create urgency and spark interest

Ready to win the inbox? Download our comprehensive guide on the science behind effective email marketing.

About the Author

Emma Email

Emma is an email marketing platform that gives you all the tools you need to send campaigns that really connect with your subscribers. With our​​ powerful automation and personalization features, you can create and send email campaigns that reach the right customer at just the right time. It's email marketing that works for you.

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