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Amy Post
by Amy Post
on July 26, 2018

Talk to any decision-maker at a B2B business right now, and they’d tell you they probably notice an influx of plain text sales emails delivered to their inboxes lately. Some of those emails are intriguing  enough to open, others, not so much. So, how do you ensure you are on the opening end of that plain text email?

First things first, you might be wondering why plain text emails have become such a staple for sales efforts?

Well, because studies show that in many cases, they work more effectively than HTML template emails. When it comes to connecting with a busy decision-maker, they want information quickly and easily, and in a format that isn’t busy or cluttered with graphics and other distractions. Additionally, plain text emails continue to be how many companies exchange important internal and external information with co-workers and clients. Decision-makers eyes are typically always coming in and out of that primary inbox. HTML emails with code behind them are being flagged as a sales emails and sent to the “Promotions” tab, or even worse, caught up in spam filters altogether. (This is especially true if a plain text version isn’t available - email clients don’t usually like that.)

Writing Headlines That Get Opened

As I mentioned, plain text emails are becoming the standard follow-up for sales reps these days who either think email is the best strategy for contacting their prospects, or as a follow-up to an unreturned phone call attempt. So, since a lot of random emails are coming into these inboxes, it simply takes more to stand out. Speaking from personal experience, I receive about 5-10 of these emails per day from a sales representative asking me for a meeting or to try a demo of something. Some I open and respond to, most of them I do not. Of course a lot of that has to do with our business needs at the time, but a lot has to do with how creatively the representative worked to get me intrigued in what they have to offer. The subject line and meta description have to be pretty good, because I know most people contacting me typically have marketing automation of some kind and are going to assume my open rate means I'm interested in some capacity.

What Headlines Work 

Short and Sweet

Example: “Read Me First”

Keep ‘em under 40 characters and only about 2-7 words. Why? People want to quickly scan through their inboxes, so even a subject line of only two or three words can often resonate best.

Ask a Question

Example: “Jim, can I buy you a cup of coffee tomorrow?”

Want something that might raise some curiosity? A question is a great way to attract attention or pique interest. But make sure you answer the question when they click inside if you are going to pose it in the subject.

Include a Date

Example: “Early Bird Pricing for the Michigan Marketing and Technology Conference Ends August 15th!”

Upcoming dates immediately send a messages to the reader that there’s a sense of urgency to act now so you don’t miss out. FOMO is a real thing, even in email.


P.S. That is true about the Michigan Marketing and Technology conference pricing though, so go buy your ticket now before the prices go up.


A Tease

Example: “We’ve got a secret…”

Dangling a little fruit is a great way to intrigue someone enough to open an email to find out what it is you’re hiding. But make sure the content on the other side of the email doesn't cause the reader to be disappointed.

What Headlines Don’t Work

Anything Even Remotely Spammy

Example: “YoU DoN’t WaNt To MiSs ThIs OnCe In A LiFeTiMe OpPoRtUnItY!!!!”

The reader knows that realistically, nothing in a sales rep’s email is going to be a once in a lifetime, especially in mixed case and with a ton of exclamation points. In a nutshell, if you want your unsubscribe numbers to go up, send these types of subject lines.

No Subject

Unless it’s coming from your 85-year-old Grandma who’s still learning how to send an email, this’ll get marked as spam and deleted in a jiffy.

Too Vague

Example: “A dash of cream and a cup of spice”

This example tells nothing about the content of the email and creates no sense of urgency or reason for opening it at all.


While these are some of the more common examples, take a look inside your own inbox to evaluate what types of emails spark your attention enough to open them. If it's working for you, there's a high likelihood the approach might just work for someone else, too.


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