How to Write a Cold Email (that actually works) in 6 Steps

How to Write a Cold Email (that actually works) in 6 Steps


Cold email is a complex topic to master, but if used correctly, it can be the most cost-effective marketing channel for you business.

At LearnEmail.com, we have experts who have sent millions of emails and know what it takes to get a high response rate when it comes to cold email marketing. These are the 6 most important steps to get the best responses from your cold emails.

So let’s begin and take a closer look at what cold emailing is and how to really approach potential clients.

What is a cold email?

Cold email is a great way to start a conversation with your ideal clients. Conversations lead to relationships and relationships lead to revenue.

To get a better understanding of cold email, let’s think of relationships in the real world. People will most likely work with someone they are familiar with. By offering value rather than trying to sell right away, you’ll build a lasting relationship with your clients.

Let’s imagine a salesperson goes into a building to meet new customers. The goal of their visit should not be to talk solely about themselves but rather focus on their customers. They need to understand their customer’s problems and offer solutions through your products or services.

Cold outreach also follow the same ideals. Cold email is a reach prospects who know little to nothing about your company. Since this is the first time they are hearing from you, we call this a “cold” lead.

The goal of a cold email is to build trust. The people you are emailing don’t know or care who you are. They only care about how you can help them.

How has cold emailing changed?

Cold emailing has continued to grow in popularity since it was first used in sales. In the beginning, cold emails were just a simple pitch in an email to gain a client. Typically, it was just one generic, non-customized email sent to numerous businesses without any personalization.

Since the method was new and fresh, not many people used it for business. Thus, performance was at an all time high, leading to mass adoption of this approach to generating leads. These “copy and paste” type of messages flooded peoples inboxes, making the method less effective as more people began cold emailing with offers and even scams. People became tired and overwhelmed by cold emails and started ignoring them in their inboxes. 

The best approach to a cold email strategy has now evolved into a more complex process. Messaging with an aggressive sales strategy usually fails and one-off sales emails do not succeed either.

So what’s the new approach to a successful cold email strategy? It’s about building a relationship with an intent.

Cold emails should be focused on the recipient or the company. Do not waste your time sending details about your product or service. Put yourself in their shoes. What challenges are they facing in their business and how can you personalize your solution to fit their needs? Don’t jump too quickly into the sale! Build a relationship based on trust. Once you’ve proven how you can help their daily struggles, introduce your product or service as a solution.

Finding the right prospects is key to a successful cold email campaign. The more you learn about your ideal clients, the easier it will be to win them over with cold emails. Your emails should be tailored to their particular niche and what you can do for them in a friendly manner.

How do you write a cold email?

Let’s get down to business, below are the 6 main steps on how to write the perfect cold email campaign.

How long should a cold email be?

It should be short, and by that I mean 2-5 sentences of no more than 200 words in total. Data suggests that 50-125 words is the optimal number.

That’s all you need to spark someone’s interest and start a conversation.

Hardly anyone would read a long email from a stranger, and yet many people still send lengthy pitches, describing their company and product or service. That’s not the way to go.

Be respectful of your prospects’ time. Keep it short.

Step 1: Edit the “from” line

It may come to you as a surprise that editing the “from” line is featured as a separate step here. We usually set it up for a new email address, and after this, we don’t pay much attention to it.

Still, the “from” line is as much a part of a cold email as the body, and that’s because it plays an important role. It shows the message recipients who exactly sent the email, affecting their first impression. It can mean the difference between your client opening the message and reading it or putting it in the trash and forgetting it.

Remember that your recipients don’t know you yet

Since we are strangers to them, they probably will be slightly suspicious of our email. One of the first things they notice when they look at our email is the “from” line. We can either earn their trust or scare them off with the “from” line. They may even delete our email without opening it first if the first impression is not right.

For that reason, it’s a good idea to review what’s in your “from” line before sending a new cold email campaign.

The “from” line is not set in stone. We can edit it anytime we want. We can mix and match the form of our “from” line every time we send a new campaign, choosing a different persona each time.

What are some possible forms of “from” line?

There are at least 5 possible forms of from line.

A. First name (Cathy)

B. First name + Last name (Cathy Patalas)

C. First name + Last name, Title (Cathy Patalas, Head of Marketing)

D. First name + Company name (Cathy at learnemail.com)

E. First name + Last name + Company name (Cathy Patalas at learnemail.com)

The right “from” line for your cold outreach campaign depends on the context of your message and your target group and the goal you want to accomplish with your email, be it marketing cooperation, influencer outreach, or a possible sales deal.

There are a couple of rules when it comes to choosing the best “from” line that fulfills your goal and fits into the context of your email, as well as to the list of contacts who will receive your messages.

Rules to follow while editing a “from” line:

That’s just a couple of rules. They may give you more clarity on what to write.

Step 2: Write an intriguing subject line

Your subject line is your one chance to pique your reader’s interest. Think of it as the key that unlocks the door to your message. Your prospects form their first impression of you while reading the subject line.

A poorly written subject line can make your recipients biased against your email. They might decide not to open the email, or worse, manually mark it as SPAM, which may cause problems with your email deliverability.

We can avoid such situations as long as we stick to these rules:

What are some good examples of cold email subject lines?

An interesting thing we’ve noticed is that these subject lines follow three “need” patterns. They either refer to a prospect’s need to improve, need to change, or need to innovate. Touching on what prospects care about the most, plus personalization, is what makes these subject lines so successful.

We recommend you A/B test your subject lines to find out which one brings the highest open rate.

Step 3: Come up with a clever cold email introduction

Right after you persuade your prospects to open your email with your killer subject line, you’re halfway through. Now you’ve got 3 seconds to catch their attention and make them read further than the first two lines. That’s why we need an intriguing introduction.

How do you write a cold email introduction?

A cold email introduction shouldn’t be longer than 2-3 sentences. It’s not supposed to introduce you or your company to the prospect. Instead, it should focus on the message receiver, their expertise, achievements, work, and their company. Personalization catches their attention.

A hint of flattery may be the way to go. But don’t overdo it. Enlisting all of their recent activity is a step too far.

Don’t be a stalker either. Don’t look for info about their family. Stay in the professional field.

You should use those few short sentences in your cold email introduction to ask about their problems. Or better, offer a solution to the largest or most-frequent problems you notice within their niche industry.

Above all else, treat the introduction as an opportunity to show your prospects that they received the message because you meticulously chose to contact them. You’ve done your homework. You didn’t just decide to reach out to them on a whim. You were deliberate about it.

Step 4: Propose some value in your pitch

To get replies, a cold email strategy has to be powerful, short, and intriguing. Each message should have a clear objective to get a reply and qualify whether the prospect is a good fit for your product or service.

Here comes the part where you tell the message recipient what you want from them, or in other words, your pitch.

So how do you write a good cold email pitch?

We know we should have a ready-made formula at hand that we use whenever we talk about the product or service we offer. It should be spiced up with benefits so that a potential buyer has a clear idea of what it is that you sell. However, that’s not the best approach when we write a cold email.

Avoid a “salesy” pitch

In a B2B sales email, we have to be subtle with our pitch. We don’t write it to close one more sale. We write it to start a unique business relationship with a potential buyer. And that calls for a personal approach.

When we write a standard pitch, the only type of response we’ll evoke in our prospects’ minds is “Good for you.”

In other words, it will leave them cold. Just as we’ve found them. They won’t care. Why would they care about a stranger and their business?

Instead, try putting your prospects in the center of your pitch. Provide as much value to them as you can. Find out what problems they may face that you can help them with. Use storytelling to show them how you might relieve them of those problems. Prove to them that you’re here to help and learn.

Talk benefits, not features

Don’t enumerate product features. Stop yourself from writing about the value you offer. Highlight the benefit your prospect may gain from it. Remember to be specific. Too vague benefits will dilute your message.

Another thing is that a pitch should be seamlessly linked to the previous part of your email. It should seem just like a natural continuation of an ordinary conversation. By all means, avoid making it forced and salesy.

Step 5: End your cold email with a call-to-action

You’re almost done. You just need to write a call to action (CTA) that will persuade your prospects to do what you ultimately want them to do with your cold email. It may be scheduling a Skype conversation, giving you feedback, replying to you, etc. Anything you’re ready to take care of. Any action you ultimately want them to perform. Keep it simple and straightforward.

To make sure your recipients will take action, your CTA should:

Ask for something your prospect can do now

Don’t ask for too much – a request for a simple action or a quick response may probably work better than an invitation for a 30-minute call. Start small. Even if eventually you will invite your prospects for a meeting, perhaps the first email they will ever get from you is not the place to do that.

Step 6: Polish your cold email signature

And last but not least, the often and widely ignored signature. The signature is a fully-fledged part of your message and you cannot ignore it. It should tell your recipients who you are and where they can find more information about you and your company.

A well-constructed signature can help you shorten the email body and make the message more digestible and recipient-centered.

A few tips to keep in mind when working on your signature:

How do you follow up on a cold email?

Even a perfectly written cold email may not be enough to hook your prospects on the first try. Sometimes they may miss your email or forget to reply to you. Or simply they won’t feel interested enough to set up a call with you. Don’t worry, though, this is a totally normal thing. That’s why you should always follow-up after not getting a response.

One follow-up email is a must in your cold email strategy, but the most optional number is two or three. Do not treat follow-ups like reminders that you’re awaiting prospect’s response. Smuggle some extra value in them: link to an interesting case study or invite prospects to an upcoming webinar.

Ready to send your first cold email campaign?

Short, highly-personalized cold emails that are dedicated to a specific audience are a great way to start some new business relations and get more new hot leads for your company. And if you add a sequence of automated follow-ups, you’ll get a pretty powerful lead generation machine.

Hope our tips help you write cold emails that hit the right note. Good luck!




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