9 Subject Lines That Motivated Prospects to Open Your Cold Email

Here are nine subject lines that motivate prospects to open your cold email.

1. The Triplet

Wendy Liebman is a stand-up comedian.

Here’s one of her jokes:

“I just got my first bikini. It’s a three-piece: a top, a bottom, and a blindfold for you.”

It’s called a triplet: expected trait (a top), expected trait (a bottom), unexpected trait (a blindfold).

You can use a triplet in your subject line too.

For example, I sent Chris Voss an email asking him to be a guest on my podcast.

In my subject line, I referenced a terrorist from his book (expected), a podcast (expected), and my mother-in-law (unexpected).

Here’s the subject line:

Abu Sayyaf, a podcast and my crazy mother-in-law

2. [Problem]?

People are hard-wired to avoid problems.

Example for Gravy: “failed payments?”

Example for a triathlon coach: “bonking?”

Example for arthritis treatment: “arthritis?”

3. [Job to be Done]

What job does your prospect want to get done?

Example for CaptivateIQ: “running monthly payouts”

4. [Emotion] this?

Use an emotionally charged word to tap into what prospects want to avoid.

People are more motivated to avoid pain than to acquire pleasure. It’s called loss aversion.


“hate this?”
“despise this?”
“loath this?”
“bitter about this?”
“annoyed by this?”
“avoiding this?”
“dread this?”

5. via [connection]

Mentioning a common connection skyrockets open rates because it signals you’re not a stranger.


“via Tito”
“via Claire”

6. [uncommon commonality]

Being part of the same “tribe” forges a strong bond between two people. Again it gets back to signaling you’re not a stranger.



7. Open a loop.

Binge-worthy shows are addictive because they create cliffhangers.

Right when the tension hits peak intensity, the show cuts to black.

You want to keep watching to find out what happens next. It’s called an open loop.


“dealing with this?”
“open to this?”
“seen this?”
“know about this?”

8. Mention an attribute you gleaned from the about section on their LinkedIn profile.

“shoes in the mall” (Mark Kosglow)

“kindergarten teacher” (Josh Braun)

Make sure you tie the attribute to your message.

9. Strava.

Strava is a fitness app used by millions of cyclists and runners.

Search your prospect and reference a recent ride/run they did.

“peak to peak”
“Boulder Reservoir”
“Left Hand Canyon”

Again make sure you tie the subject line to your email.