If you depend on email to grab a prospect’s attention and nail down that elusive first appointment, you should spend as much time honing the subject line of that email as you spend fine-tuning the entire body of the message.
Your competition is doing exactly that. Make no mistake: The big-time emailers out there may not be trying to make an appointment to sit down with your prospect but in the email inbox.
How to Craft a Superior Email Subject Line
On email, your prospect is in constant triage mode, hitting the delete button, allowing only 2.7 seconds to determine if there’s a good reason they shouldn’t.
So you need not only a good Valid Business Reason (VBR) to earn that appointment you seek, you need a powerful Don’t-Delete-Me Reason, or else your prospect will never even read your VBR. And while your VBR might be 50 words long, your Don’t-Delete-Me email subject line has only
Here are some principles to follow to craft a superior email subject line:
- Keep it short.
You already know about the 50-character limit. And put the juiciest words up front.
- Be specific and tailored.
Because you’re sending a message to this one prospect, hoping it will lead to an appointment, you can and should create a subject line that is obviously intended for just this one prospect at this moment in time.
- Don’t make it look like spam.
Avoid the hype, the drama, the feigned excitement that so often accompanies promotional offers and spam messages. Be serious and businesslike.
- Key in on your Valid Business Reason.
Your message must state your VBR because it’s the most powerful thing you can say to the prospect to get them to say Yes to an appointment. Your subject line should be related to your VBR. What’s the most intriguing thing you can say there?
- Use the best subject line on earth.
The most powerful way to stand out from all the others—is the personal recommendation, from a colleague your prospect knows and respects. “Jane Hopes suggested I contact you” is the line to use whenever possible. What can you do to get those personal recommendations?
- If the first effort doesn’t succeed, revise the subject line.
Emailing your prospect can be hit-or-miss. They might delete it one day when moving fast, but something might catch their eye on another day. Don’t be discouraged by a lack of response. Wait three business days and try again—with a new subject line.
If that second effort doesn’t spark a conversation, consider the phone (and voicemail) or an old-fashioned business letter powered by a postage stamp.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published on December 19, 2011 and has been updated.