It's pointless to send emails to prospective customers if your emails never get opened. Here are seven techniques to ensure that your emails are read rather than deleted or ignored:

1. Send it through a referral.

If possible, get a person known to the prospect to forward your email to the prospect, copying you on the email. Prospects are much more likely to open emails from people they know rather than from people they don't know. This is the single best way to ensure that your email gets opened.

2. Cite a referral in the subject line.

If the above option is not possible, the next best thing is to cite, in the subject line, somebody whom the prospect knows.

Example: "Jane Smith suggested we connect."

Make certain you have the permission to use the person's name; otherwise this can backfire. The prospect might send an "Is this real?" email to Jane, and if she sends back a "WTF?," your credibility with the prospect (and with Jane) is gone forever.

3. Cite a current customer's experience.

If neither Option One nor Two is practical, the next best thing is to have a subject line that describes the experience of another customer, with any luck in a way that is meaningful to the prospect.

Example: "How we saved [customer] 20% of inventory costs."

Once again, you must get permission to use the current customer's name, or you risk irritating (or losing) the existing customer.

4. Cite the prospect's competitor.

If none of the above is practical, the next best thing is to have your subject line include the name of one of the prospect's competitors, along with some potentially game-changing factoid.

Example: "How [competitor] saved 20% in inventory costs."

If you do this, make sure to have your facts straight and that the factoid is interesting enough to pique the prospect's interest.

5. Cite a potential benefit.

If none of the above is practical, simply have your subject line include something that matters to the prospect.

Example: "3 ways to save 20% in inventory costs."

This is, in essense, a version of the subject line used in Options Two through Four but without the personalization. The more specific and quantitative the benefit, the more likely it is that the email will be opened.

In addition to the above, here are additional tricks that you should use with discretion and (in the case of Option Seven) only if you're absolutely desperate.

6. Leave the subject line blank.

Sometimes people will open an email with no subject line just out of curiosity. This doesn't work, though, if you've got a slummy email address.

Example: an email from is more likely to be opened than one from

Please note that this technique is a long shot, because a lot of people just delete subjectless emails because they figure they're spam.

7. Simulate a response email.

Busy people will sometimes open an email if it appears to be part of a dialogue in which they've already involved themselves.

Example: "RE: Inventory Costs."

The subject line should be generic enough so that it seems to the prospect like something he or she would be discussing. Use this technique only when you're desperate, because there's a good chance the prospect will figure out that you're being "tricky." And that's never a good thing.

BTW, some of the advice above (Options Two, Three and Six) comes from sales guru Keith Rosen. The rest is based on my own experience, either as a sender or recipient.

One last thing.

By default, the Apple mail client displays the first few words of the first line of the email. Because Apple devices are now very common in the business world, when it comes to getting emails opened, those first few words have become more important than in the past. So get to the point quickly:

RIGHT: "Jim, I hear you've got inventory control problems..."

WRONG: "Dear Mr. Smith, my company, Acme, is a leading vendor of..."

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Published on: Sep 27, 2012
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