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Anatomy of winning marketing emails

February 18, 2021

Looking to generate new leads?

87% of B2B marketers use email marketing for precisely that, but how effective is it?

When done right:

Email marketing can help drive your revenue up by 31% which can equate to a return of £40 per £1 spent!

If you like these numbers, then scroll 👇 or use the menu. Because we’re about to perform some surgery and diagnose what makes a winning marketing email.

Attention-grabbing subject lines | An upbeat tone always wins | Short enough to read on the go | Show your value | 2 examples of winning marketing emails | The best marketing tips

Attention-grabbing subject lines 🛎️

What’s the first thing your customer sees when their inbox pings with your mail?

The subject line.

If it’s too long, comes across as spammy or is just plain old boring, your open rates are going to decrease.

So what’s best practise?

When it comes to B2B marketing, your subject lines need to stay under 60 characters. This ensures that your message isn’t cut off. It also creates more intrigue for your prospect.

In fact - prospects are 47% more likely to open an email with a short subject line.

What’s the best thing to do?

Our advice is to A/B test some short creative subject lines against some ambiguous one-word subject lines.

Here are a few examples:

A: [Company Name]'s outbound is a piece of cake?
B: Introducing

Subject line A ☝️ breaks the 60 character rule. In this case, it’s ok to break the rules because cake will be cut off in your prospects’ inboxes. So all they’ll see is:

“Your company's outbound is a piece of..."


Leading them to open the email to discover who would have the audacity to say such a thing...only to find out it’s cake!

A: Webinar seats limited - sign up now
B: Connecting

While there’s nothing too interesting about subject line A, it does tell the recipient that they’ll miss out if they don’t open the email and sign up. Putting a deadline on things creates urgency and prods your prospect into taking action.

Another top tip: try including words that imply time is of the essence, e.g.: urgent, breaking, important, alert etc.

A: Don’t open this email
B: Following up

Creating intrigue is a sure-fire way to increase your open rates and get your prospect reading.

Subject line A creates an aura of mystery; your reader will be curious as to why they shouldn’t open the email. Then, they’ll do just that!

Another subject line to take inspiration from is:

A: Cognism sent you a friend request

Not only does it create intrigue but it resulted in a 32% open rate for us. Sometimes creating familiarity is all you need to get someone to open your email.

Subject line A catches you off guard because it’s not an email from Facebook, but the subject line convinces you that it could be.

An upbeat tone always wins 🌞

No one wants to read something that makes them feel bad, so it’s best to keep your marketing emails positive, upbeat and friendly - it can increase your response rate by up to 15%!

Our tips are:

  • Keep the copy short, punchy and to the point.
  • Use conversational language - write like people talk!
  • Avoid too many colours, GIFs and images - they can be overwhelming for the reader.
  • Adopt a theme for your email and build your copy around it.
  • Emphasise the value of your product or promotion throughout.

At Cognism, our best demand generation emails don’t go into great detail about what we’re offering. Instead, we provide a clear CTA and the option to find out more.

Still struggling to craft a compelling email?

Think about the best email you ever received. What made it stick in your mind and why did you enjoy it?

Now take inspiration from that and roll with it! Save your favourite external marketing emails in a separate folder in your inbox. Return to them whenever you’re at a loss for words.

Short enough to read on the go 📱

Want 50% more response rates when prospecting?

Keep your emails between 50 and 125 words.


We know it’s tough, but condensing what you have to say ensures that every line of copy serves a purpose.

What’s more, your readers are probably super-busy. If they can see what you have to say without scrolling down, the more likely it is they’ll remember your words and engage with you when they’re free.

So keep things brief! Include all the juicy/important info at the very start of your email. Just like your subject line, make sure you have a strong hook to reel the reader in.

Show your value 👍

Thousands of marketing emails are sent to prospects on a daily basis. It pays to stand out; you don’t want to be seen as just popping into their inbox and asking them to buy something. You have to demonstrate the value of your product or service first.


There are two rules to follow here:

1 - Add value immediately - the sooner the better!

Value can be anything from explaining how your product can solve their pain points to including a link to a blog, ungated whitepapers, webinars and maybe even a freebie of some kind.

2 - Make the email ALL about THEM

Stick to words and phrases like you, your team, your business etc., rather than I, we, our, us.

Use merge fields to add a dash of personalisation to your email. It can make a big impact on your results. For instance, HubSpot identified that personalised calls-to-action converted at a 202% higher rate than default calls-to-action.

Don’t overdo it though! A prospect who sees an email stuffed with their name and company name is likely to be turned off. 2-3 personalised elements per email is usually enough.

2 examples of winning marketing emails 🏆

Looking for more email marketing inspiration? Here are 2 of our top performing marketing emails.

Email example 1


  • Open rate: 33.97%
  • Click-through rate: 16.07%
  • Increase in registrations: +596 (+119%)

Why was this email so popular?

  1. Firstly, the subject line was a bit cheeky, which we’ve found has resonated well with our audience in the past.
  2. Secondly, the message was positive and full of value. We didn’t go into great detail on our tips, leaving the reader with a desire to find out more, as well as showing them that our webinar will be of further value to them.
  3. It offers something extra - in this case, our B2B sales cold calling script. Promising to provide your prospect with a free piece of content or downloadable can go a long way in enticing them to sign up.
  4. Lastly, the simple structure, short reading time and easy readability lends itself to an email that quickly catches the reader's attention and keeps it until the end.

Email example 2

Anatomy of winning marketing emails - Blog


  • Open rate: 32%
  • Click-through rate: 12%

Why was this email so popular?

  1. Firstly, the subject line adds intrigue - it catches the reader off guard and the familiar words peak their interest.
  2. Secondly, the email follows a theme sparked by our subject line. There’s no hard push here and no call to action. Instead it’s short, to the point and looks professional.
  3. Thirdly, the email contains 2 personalised elements - the prospect’s name and their company name. It isn’t overdone - with personalisation, less is definitely more.
  4. Lastly, the email is short and sweet - only 74 words. An email of this brevity can be easily read in one go, without having the prospect scroll down further.

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