How to write a cold email

Jon CunninghamUncategorized

How To Write A Cold Email

How do I write a cold email...? - What's the best cold email subject line..? - How do I start a cold email...? - these are just some of the very common questions I get asked when speaking to business owners, salespeople, SDRs, telemarketers and other people who try to find new opportunities by sending cold emails to potential clients.

In this article on how to write a cold email, I'll cover the initial things you'll want to consider, some thoughts on cold email subject lines, content - and some ways to differentiate; but let's start by defining the phrase 'cold email'...

What Is A Cold Email?

A cold email is any email you send to somebody you do not already know - in this article we are looking at how to write cold emails to potential BUSINESS clients - but the principles can be applied to achieve other non-sales related goals.

Why Send Cold Emails?

As you know, email is a simple and convenient way to get your message in front of a decision maker.

You know this, I know this - but so do many millions of salespeople around the world - which means it’s really important to do a great job of making your cold emails better than the ones everyone else you’re competing with is writing - both your direct competition and others who are competing for the attention of your decision maker.

Decision makers are inundated with marketing and sales messages - and, as such, knowing how to write a cold email to cut through the noise is an incredibly valuable skill.

Writing An Effective Cold Email

How to write a cold email

Write cold emails that stand out and resonate with your prospecs

If you want to write an effective cold email it's essential to focus on relevance - so whenever someone asks me how to write a cold email to a prospect. I always start with the same questions:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What do they care about?  
  • Why do they need your service?

But I don’t stop there; I ask: why would they choose you - what advantage can you give them over ANOTHER vendor - what's your track record in their space - what pains do they experience that you can address?

These are the first few things I like to clarify before writing a cold email, making a call or drafting a letter...

Once that's clear the next consideration is how you can get, and keep, their attention; the first step in getting their attention is thinking about are the things the receiver will see first: your display name, subject line and, in some email clients, the first few words of the email's content.

Cold email: Sender Display Name

Email Display Names

Your email display name could be the reason your email gets deleted before it's read.

I'll dig out some stats on this soon - but I strongly believe the best cold emails come from people - not companies - make sure you send cold emails from a recognisable and real person in your business.

What's The Best Subject For A Cold Email?

The best subject line for a cold email is very dependant on who you're emailing - but it'll be the one that resonates best with them.

So think about what subject line will make a prospect read your email BUT - even more importantly - not make them angry that they chose to read your email?

Making the subject line highly relevant to them is always a good tactic - so you could try to highlight a pain they have, or use some knowledge of their business to gain their attention - perhaps you're aware that they / their colleague recently posted something thought-provoking, or perhaps they were recognised in some way - or maybe their client project won an award?

How to write a cold email subject line

How to write a cold email subject line - focus on your prospect.

Subject lines don't always need to be massively leftfield or complex either: I recently had a 93.5% open rate across a 3 email sequence by simply referencing the business name and a topic that I thought they would care about.

BUT - and please note this is a huge capital-lettered, bold, red, underlined 'but' - the subject needs to make sense and align with the core email message - don't simply use it because it's going to get your email opened.

Nobody likes a contrived hook that doesn't relate to the reason you're making contact - so this means avoiding daft click-bait-oriented email subject lines that will make them hate you when they realise it's a sales email e.g. 'Re: Large order'

'Re:' should be reserved for your email platform to use based on an email being a true reply - rather than being used by salespeople who are focused on open rates above all else.

Remember - our intent isn’t to hit the highest open-rate we can, it’s to meaningfully engage our ideal customer in a dialogue about a pain we can solve with our product or service.

Anyway, let's get onto the content!

How To Start A Cold Email

My advice, if you’re contacting busy or important people - or people that think they are - is to be concise and clear in your intent early on...

Then go on to explain how you can help them - or have typically helped people like them - but be succinct.

The Body: Demonstrate Value and Relevance

If I am keen to drive calls or meetings, I like to sow some intrigue to make them want to have a discussion to find out more - because I believe a discussion is where you really find out the best information to truly help someone - but it's a fine balance: you want to include enough information to elicit a discussion, but not so much that they infer the wrong message about what you're offering and decide further engagement isn't worthwhile...

So all the obvious stuff applies:

  • have a clear intent
  • give them strong reasons to believe
  • deliver a relevant message - and of course
  • provide a clear call to action...

Now, once you've finished your email, imagine just for a few moments, that you're the most negative, cynical, long-in-the-tooth, harassed, busy, important person there has ever been - and meticulously scrutinise your email/offering/approach from that perspective.

  • Does it stack up?
  • Are you clear? 
  • Are you convinced?

Please - take the time to be better than 99% of people who will not bother to do things properly, those who will take the easy route.

So spend a bit of time making it relevant, in doing your market research to ensure that the message resonates, truly personalise - and be human; no, not overly familiar, but human.

Is Cold Email Legal?

I often get asked whether cold email is legal - and the answer is always the same: it depends.

I am not a legal advisor, I am not legally trained and I would always advise that you check with someone who is - and ensure you are operating 100% within rules/regs before undertaking any email/phone outreach. You must comply with the laws/regulations in the jurisdictions within which you operate AND any relevant industry specific legislation AND your company's policies BEFORE you embark on any outreach.

Cold Email and GDPR

You can still send emails from your business to people in other business using their business contact details IF you have a legal basis for doing so - and can demonstrate this.

Again, I am not a legal advisor, I am not legally trained and I would always advise that you check with someone who is before emailing anyone - you can find out more information on the lawful basis for contacting prospects here on the ICO's website.

Many marketing businesses are relying on 'legitimate interests' as their lawful basis for contacting prospects, but there is still a three-part test to undertake - the ICO website says "You need to identify a legitimate interest; show that the processing is necessary to achieve it; and balance it against the individual’s interests, rights and freedoms."

Best Practice For Email Marketing

There are lots of blogs and articles on the best practice for email marketing when you have an opt-in subscriber list like this article from Mailchimp - but some of those practices are not applicable to cold email - after all at this stage you are not working with an opt-in mailing list where people have requested you contact them.

Validate Email Addresses

Cold Email Verification tool and statuses

Cold Email Verification tool and statuses

Wait - before you click send: How confident are you that the email address you’re about to send to is correct?

There are tools, like Briteverify, that can help you validate email addresses BEFORE you click send - this is definitely worthwhile to stop you getting in trouble with the internet and email police...

Cold Email vs. Spam

Cold Email vs Spam

Is your email a cold email or Spam?

Ensure you contact people who are likely to be interested in your product or service to avoid getting flagged as a spammer, make it easy for them to unsubscribe and be sensitive to what you send.

Include your phone number so they know that you're a real person.

Be sensible about volumes - I would definitely advocate quality and relevance over quantity.

Cold Email Deliverability

Make sure you research ‘email deliverability’ and follow good email practice e.g. have SPF/DKIM records set up, etc.

Cold email: A Final Tip

Lastly, please don't think the right email is the end of the journey, understand your full sales cycle and ensure the delivery of your service is exceptional.

Please check back for blogs on other topics and feel free to shoot any questions over - we’re here to help.