POF or Plenty of Fish, is one of the most popular free dating and matchmaking services ever. With over 88 million registered users, chances are someone you know has heard of it or has been a member.
This year AskMen.com rated POF #2 in their ‘Top 10 Hookup Websites’. In fact, I was an on-and-off account user for a couple of years before finally deciding to dedicate my time to starting and growing my business. Over the years, POF has become so popular that you can research several sites that offer best practices, tips, and even common “openers” that supposedly guarantee a response. In fact, that’s how exactly how I found about POF in the first place.
A few years ago there was a thread on a popular hip-hop forum that I frequent circulating an email opener with a 100% success rate. Members chimed in – offering screenshots of the copy-and-paste message, along with the responses they received (albeit, with names and photos blurred). It was literally one of the most entertaining things I’ve stumbled upon online. What struck me was that the message, as funny as it was, actually worked.
I’ve since attempted to find the thread in that forum to no avail. But, it went something like:
Subject: Important question
Message: Hey, you seem really cool. But, are you a serial killer? Just want to make sure before I take this relationship any further.
It was short. Fairly humorous. And definitely left-field. It also communicated some very effective features. For one, the subject line stood out as a not-so-typical title you would expect on a dating site. It also carries a sense of urgency, piquing the end-receiver’s curiosity. Second, the message itself is short, straight to the point, and includes a question. This invites an opportunity for dialogue to take place. Third, the message itself has personality – the attempt at humor here, whether charming or not, gives an impression of geniality to a certain extent. Lastly, the closing sentence exudes confidence, “I’m going to pursue you because I’m interested, unless you show me otherwise…”
So, what does this have to do with prospecting clients for your business? Many things. This approach is clearly a numbers game; quantity, not quality. And with over 88 million members, there was a lot of quantity to run through. The issue is that many entrepreneurs adopt the same formula when drafting cold emails for prospective sales leads. While the “serial killer” opener (and others) enjoyed popularity, its success was short-lived. It wasn’t long before members came back reporting that out of their twenty messages, some returned with a “I’ve heard that line before…” Yikes.
In a world where building relationships is easier than ever, it’s important to come across genuine and sincere. No one likes to be sold to, per say. And even if you have a well-crafted, clever message it doesn’t matter if your subject line doesn’t grab attention and win hearts.
They say a person will spend on average three seconds reading an email subject line – using that time to determine if it gets skipped over, sent to trash, or opened. This means that most of your time should be spent creating a subject line that encourages a “click”.
Think about the emails you receive, specifically the solicitations that flood your inbox, and what compelled you to open or not open.
This exercise will provide a foundation and context for developing an effective subject line. Here are some NSFW (Not Safe From Widespread use) one-liner openers to consider when writing yours:
- subject lines written in lower-case can stand out – “just checking in with you”
- the reverse psychology “Please, don’t open this email.”
- a simple “Thank You” has prompted me to open several emails. Naturally, I wanted to know what I did to deserve the show of appreciation. An informal and lower-case “thanks” might even work on me as well, but I have yet to receive one of those. What I do like about it is that it’s simple and not necessarily typical. Again, it piques curiosity (or suspicion).
- “Hi, _____. I have a question.” This one requires some digging, but I even question the efficacy considering how ‘smart’ email programs are at creating messages to sound personal.
- Misspelling the name to whom the email is targeted to, on purpose, is another unorthodox technique that has yielded positive results. The appearance of human error gives the impression the email was written for that person. Risky? Definitely.
- “Are you the right person to speak to?” and “Could you point me in the right direction?” employ the question tactic highlighted in the POF opener line and thus could very well warrant a response. This might be a subject line you would use if all you have is a generic address on your prospect, like an “email@example.com”.
- the good ole “____ recommended me to you” is effective since you can leverage the familiar name of another person to “vouch” for you. The less impressive and more rugged “I’m a friend of ______. Question about _____?” also edges on having the same effect.
There are a plethora of examples and templates you can find online. The caveat, as with dating site one-liners, is that they may be over-used by the time you find them (or some variation of). Your subject lines, if possible, should also reflect the personality of your business. This is important in establishing your brand and trust with your customer. The examples above are really to give you a starting point. I tried my own exercise of browsing through old email accounts (so I can be as unbiased as possible) and taking note of subject lines that stood out to me. I recommend you do the same.
I must also suggest avoiding deceiving your readers with click bait. Tricking your prospects with “you left your front door open” is not a great way to establish trust or credibility. Maybe, unless you’re a home security company? But, even still…
Lastly, a final and important takeaway from the “copy-and-paste” method is that there is a temptation to use the message in high volumes. Often we make this mistake when we acquire a database of emails. Though research demonstrates sending mass emailers typically result in very low click and open rates; which measure the reader’s engagement to your subject line. Your marketing plan must be refined and your target audiences, segmented. Applying your technique to smaller, controlled groups instead of crossing your fingers and leaving your efforts to chance (“Well, statistically at least 10% are going to respond, right?) helps you see what did and didn’t work. An oft-overlooked step in devising a marketing plan is failing to test and evaluate your results. If you send a generic message to 10,000 emails and receive nothing – you’ve wasted that method on 10,000 people.
Spoiler Alert: Even with a great, intriguing subject line you still might not earn a response. You should anticipate reaching out at least five times over the spread of time, to warrant an initial response.
Online PUA (pickup artists) and marketers alike would agree that almost nothing beats face-to-face interaction. Your future partner will appreciate your chivalry and your client will take you more seriously.