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How to write cold emails that work

Cold email is hard. You’ve already spent time and effort finding the perfect person to reach out to about your new service or product, but how will you get them to read your email amongst the hundreds of others in their overflowing inbox? How can you get your message to stand out? Learning how to write cold emails that get attention and convert is a skill that takes time and practice, but by following a few simple steps you are already on your way.

1. Let the recipient know who you are before they open the message by customising the from line

Most of us only think about what to put in the “from” line of our email when we first set up our email account. However, as it is one of the few things people see, alongside the subject line, before they open and read your message, the from line can be a really useful tool in cold messaging.

The right from line depends on who you are and what your company is offering, but I have always found it useful to include both your full name and the company’s name. Your title may be important to you personally, but I am much more interested in an email from “John Smith from ACME Industries” than “John Smith, Business Outreach”.

You only have a few characters to play with in the from line, so use them wisely and don’t add any generic information – you should have an email footer with all that information (see below). Some people prefer to go with “John Smith (ACME Industries)” or “John Smith // ACME Industries”, which are also good in my book, and brackets and slashes are less characters than “from”

2. Write a subject line that is intriguing to the recipient

The subject line is the most important part of cold email. If you get it right, the recipient will be intrigued enough to open and read your message, get it wrong and your email will be instantly deleted or even worse marked as spam – so take your time and do your research.

You need to research your recipient and work out why your product or service would be of interest to them. What pain point are you fixing? What are you making easier or cheaper in their life? You can’t send cold emails en masse and expect to get a good open or response rate, but if you know your product or service back-to-front and understand your company’s USP (unique selling point), then coming up with something interesting and relevant shouldn’t be too hard.

One area where a lot of people get it wrong with subject lines is trying to explain your whole pitch in that opening line. This is generally impossible to do well in only a few characters, so it is best not to try and instead focus on getting the recipient to open the message first. The majority (60%) of emails are first seen and opened on mobile today, so that means you only have around 40-70 characters in the subject line to play with – be short, be concise, and entice the recipient in.

3. The opening line

Some email clients, like, will show users the first few words of the email itself alongside the from line and subject, so some personalisation here can go a long way. If you have named your company in your from line, briefly outlined your USP in the subject, then the opening line of the email is a perfect place to show the recipient how much their attention means to you.

It should be obvious that you need to address the recipient by name “Hi Steve”, but the opening line give you an opportunity to outline why you have got in touch – why have you picked them. Be confident, not fawning, but highlight how important they are to your business.

4. The body – demonstrate your value

With the pleasantries out of the way and your name and business already in the recipient’s mind, the body of the email is where you can explain in more detail how your company is the right choice for them. Can you provide efficiencies – time or money? Can you make their life easier or their product better? This is where you explain how.

Don’t over-explain as they may see your value slightly differently and you don’t want to make it sound as if you think you know their business better than they do. But be confident. Be assertive. Demonstrate you understand their business but want the opportunity to better understand their needs.

5. Close with a clarification and call to action

If you potential lead has read your entire pitch, they are already interested and you need to reel them in. Finishing your message with a clarification of the points above and then a call to action should do the job. Don’t expect your prospect to say yes to a 30-minute call right away, instead start small such asking just for a reply to the email or a quick 5-minute chat.

6. Your information in the footer

If you have done the work right and your prospect now wants to respond, you need to make sure they have every opportunity to do so. Put your full name, title, email, phone number, and address in the footer of each email – and double check they are correct and working before you send out your pitch. There are rarely second chances with cold pitches, so if your potential lead cannot contact you immediately, they may not bother to try again.

Photograph by Gabrielle_CC

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