Networking how-to: use the EMAIL subject line

What gets you to open up an email? How do you decide that it’s worth your time and trouble? Is it based upon:

  • Who it is from
  • Whether or not it has an attachment (could pose a risk to your computer)
  • Compelling subject line
  • Whether or not you have the time
  • Whether or not you have the interest
  • Something suspicious about it
  • Ends up in your SPAM folder
  • Other reasons…

With so much business communication happening on social media and email channels these days, savvy networkers would be wise to re-consider how they are using the EMAIL subject line.

There are differing opinions on the best way to use the EMAIL subject line. There are camps that favor the:

1. The art of clever. You can be creative with your email subject lines to try to get people to open up your emails. This is often the challenge for email marketing campaigns. The first goal is to get someone to open up your email. Familiarity with and trust in the sender is very, very important. But the email subject line is the magic hook. Get it right and your open rates go up. Get it wrong and your time and effort go unnoticed with plenty of unopened emails.

2. The lure of vague. Some people leave the subject lines blank. It makes the message feels like a big hush-hush secret. Very compelling. Spammers have figured that one out and will often send out emails with blank subject lines. SpamBots that are programmed to systemically highjack your email address and then send all of your contacts messages with unwelcome offers will often use the blank subject line as the hook. This has happened to me more than once this year and now I refuse to open any email that doesn’t have a specific subject line. You’d be wise to do the same. (read my past networking tip – How to Protect Your Email Address)

3. The friendly, personalized approach. Some people like to include the person’s name in the EMAIL subject line so the receiver knows it is especially for them. Hearing and seeing your name pulls you into the communication, whether it’s in person, over the phone or in writing.

4. The power of specificity. Just the facts, Mam. Get to the point (and quickly). Let me know exactly what you need from me. No guessing; no fooling around. Let’s not waste time here. After all, EMAIL is really best used for FYI-type of information. Anything more important should be done over the telephone or in face-to-face.


Specific over vague; Clear over clever.

Here’s my advice on the subject of email subject lines. You can save people time while capturing their attention better by being more specific in your email subject lines.

Don’t be lazy, take the time to craft your email subject line, giving as much specific information as appropriate. This is especially important when you are in middle of an continuing email communication. Don’t allow yourself to keep the same OLD subject line that is no longer relevant. While you might think it is a “thread” that people will recognize, they might also overlook your communication as old and disregard it, based simply upon a repeated subject line.

Your Networking Goal for this Week

With each email you send out this week, give thought to the subject line. Update it and make it relevant to the information you are now sharing/sending. If you are confirming an appointment, then put the date/time/place in the subject line. If you are declining a meeting invitation, put that in the subject line. Do not send out any emails with blank subject lines (and don’t open any either). Lastly, this week do not send any email responses¬† using the “reply all” button this week. Think of it as being “e-green.” Let’s reduce email clutter and give people more time back in their day. Being more specific will also help achieve that goal. Your networking contacts will thank you for that.

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