How to Write the Perfect Cold Email Subject Header

A lot of times the only way to instigate a business relationship is through the use of a “cold email.” This is an email that comes unprompted, with you making an attempt to start correspondence with the other person.

Cold emails are a tactic used in sales, freelance pitches, and other business moves that require one to reach out to others in an attempt to get something done. The issue is that people have hundreds of emails in their inboxes that attempt to do this sort of thing.

A large portion of all emails on the internet classifies as spam. Email-savvy people understand intuitively which emails are spam and which are worth reading. For this reason, a person sending cold emails has to understand how to craft an appealing email.

An email opens with a subject header, making it the most important aspect of cold emails.

How to Craft a Subject Header That Works

Creating appealing subject headers is tricky, and there are a few factors that go into understanding them. We’ll cover how to approach the idea of subject headers, followed by 8 effective tips that you can employ in your emails.

So, How do You Approach a Cold Subject Header?

Getting a good grasp on the rhetorical situation is the first step of the process. You need to know your audience, their niche, what will interest them, and how to appeal to those factors.

You don’t want to appear as spam, so you need to do anything you can to avoid that. Make yourself seem genuine, intriguing, and direct. How to do this will vary on the nature of your email. Let’s cover a few of the factors.


Who are you writing to? The odds are that you’re sending out emails to a larger group of people. Alternatively, you may be sending a pitch to a magazine or a business proposition to someone who you have never met.

If you’re blasting an email out to a big group, think about what it is that ties them all together. Everyone on the list probably signed up to be involved, so you can have confidence that they have some interest in what you are going to say.

But what is it that they signed up for and why? Take a health magazine, for example. You can be sure that anyone signing up for such a magazine has an interest in fitness, living better, and carrying out a healthier life.

You need to touch on one of those factors in your header. It could be just one word or a small phrase. The problem with these keywords and phrases is that they are usually too pandering and “spammy.”

Something like “health tips that will work EVERY TIME” looks like spam. It gives a statement that cannot possibly be true and readers will recognize that. Try something that gets directly to the heart of what you are saying in the email.

“3 health tips for a busy lifestyle” is more likely to grab someone’s attention. Another effective tool is to address the reader within the subject header. For example, “You expressed interest in our program, still thinking it over?”


What is the general category of your subject matter? You should never send out an email that doesn’t relate to your niche. Readers won’t bother to identify the sender if your email is erroneous or irrelevant.

A lot of times people subscribe to receive emails in order to get some kind of benefit. You sign up, you get five percent off or something similar. After the benefit is gained, they forget about the fact that they ever visited the site, let alone that they are going to get emails.

Because of this, you need to make clear what the body of your email gets across. You need to remind the reader of why they were interested in the first place. Address the reader, address the niche, and make sure the header is something that you wouldn’t scroll past yourself.

Appealing to Your Audience

There are a number of factors that will impact your audience and make them want to know more. The most important factors are urgency, timing, and location.

Your header should imply that the information in the email is time-sensitive, or at least worth reading right away. The idea is that the reader should open the email right away to receive the benefit of the deal.

This is especially important if your message is actually time sensitive. For example, if you have a one-time offer that expires in the near future, make that clear in the header. Make sure that you don’t exaggerate too much, though, because spam tends to overly emphasize the aspect of time in subject headers.

Things like “URGENT MUST HAVE DEALS ARE HERE” screams spam. Unless it’s absolutely necessary, stay away from absolutes and capital letters.

The next factor is timing, which refers to the idea that you should send the email at a time that will yield the best results. Fireworks are best advertised before the Fourth of July and mistletoe should be sold before Christmas.

Your message isn’t likely to be that time specific, but there are still a number of timing factors that will contribute to your message being read. People are more likely to open emails during the work week as opposed to those sent on the weekend.

The weekend brings a lot of unread emails, so the reader is typically selective when they’re choosing which ones to open. Consider weekly, seasonal, and time-of-day factors when sending your email.

Finally, if your message is going out to an audience in a specific area, make sure to have reference to that area. This makes the message seem more relevant.

8 Tips for Your Header

Now that you have a grasp of the general idea, let’s go over a few tips that may help you out. These tips may not be relevant to your specific message, but they could give you some ideas or insight into different strategies.

1. Ask a Question

Start out your email with a question. This is intriguing to readers because it’s unusual, and it may spark their interest. The question could be rhetorical or a serious.

“Do you need a new diet plan?” A lot of people do, and they’re going to think, “Yes!” when they see your email. Try to make your question broad, yet specific to your niche. It’s best to make your question one that anyone could answer, or one that would intrigue anyone.

Even a “How are you doing?” would be enough to make the reader feel like the sender cares and deserves the respect of having their email read.

2. Listicle Style

Propose a list to your readers. Listicles are an extremely common form of an article, and people are extremely likely to read them. People often don’t read random articles because they will take up time that they don’t want to spend.

When you come right out with the fact that your email is a list, they will know what they’re getting into and be more willing to spend a little time seeing what you have to say. Try a header like, “Top 10 Ways to Fix Your Storage Unit.”

3. Use Humor

Try a pun or two, or make your header a joke! If you’re already unsure if people will read your email, try to grab their attention with a laugh.

Of course, make sure that your joke is relatable and relevant to the email, but you shouldn’t be afraid to use all of the tricks in your bag.

4. Offer a Hand

Try offering something to your customer in the header. Not necessarily a product, but more of a service. Something like, “Is there anything we can do for you?” is a great way to show that you’re not spam, and you would like to get in touch.

This is especially helpful if you have sold something to the customer before or they are subscribers to a site. The method works exceptionally well for follow up emails.

A lot of times a customer receives a product and has a few minor qualms with it. Usually, their issues don’t warrant a call or complaint, but they’re issues nonetheless.

Reaching out to a customer who has one of these issues will make them feel like the seller actually cares and will do something about their concerns. At that point, you go from a cold internet interface to a company that cares about its clients.

That’s how you get long-term customers who stick around and give good reviews.

5. Suggest Something to the Reader

A lot of emails are more about the sender than the receiver. People want to receive information that’s relevant to them, no matter what it may be.

Say that you have a few suggestions for the reader, or that you’ve got a product that they would probably like. This one is about making it seem like the email is going out to only one person.

There are ways to make blast emails seem personal. Make sure to use a phrase like “just for you” or “we thought you might enjoy this.” Having a personalized message makes the reader feel as though there may actually be something worthwhile in the email, not just a block of text that they don’t care about.

Of course, when you do this you will have to tailor your email to fit the subject header. It’s certainly possible to embed your intended information in the format of a list of suggestions, questions, or concerns that you have for the reader.

6. Be Concise, Don’t Exaggerate

We’ve already covered this a little bit, but can’t stress its importance. Think of opening your junk email folder. All you see are capital letters, offers that no one could ever possibly be made, and cries for customers.

People hate spam and anything that looks like spam. Don’t fall into the trap of big advertisements and appeals to universal claims. Be direct, get to the point, and create something that will actually resonate with your audience.

If you’re excited about an offer or proposition, that should reflect in your header. Just make sure that you use your inside voice and the right words. No one likes a screaming email.

7. Send Test Emails

You can get a gage for your skills by sending out test emails to audiences. Compose an email with a catchy subject header. Make the body text explain that you are doing a test email and would appreciate the feedback.

Your feedback could be a response or a quiz, anything that will let you know that the email was opened. A lot of word processing interfaces have a way to see the number of emails that were opened.

You may want to send test emails from a different address so you don’t tarnish the name of your primary account. Try out different tactics, jokes, and tones in order to see what works best for you and your company.

8. Come Through on Your Promises

You may create great subject headers, but readers will only open the first email you send if the body text doesn’t remotely match the idea in the header. Make sure that the actual body of your email is well written and relevant to your audience.

It’s good to get to the important information right away. People don’t typically spend a lot of time on emails, especially when they don’t see the point of the information. Make it clear early on what you’re writing them about.

If it’s not possible to get your message across quickly, use the first paragraph to explain how important it is that the reader takes the time to get through the whole message.

Get Some Help

There are automated programs that send well-timed emails for you. These are useful if you send a high volume of subject headers that require individually timed responses.

Reach out to resources that will help you optimize your cold emailing tactics.