8 Cold Email Do’s and Don’t’s (with examples!)

Writing a successful cold email is a modern art form.

Whatever people say, it still remains to be one of the most successful forms of digital marketing, with some reaching as many as 53 leads/month.

But why do they work?

Take a look at your own inbox — if you have a corporate email, chances are you get on average 2–3 cold emails a day, with many more not even passing your spam filter. Some of them might be successful and provide value, and others you send straight to the bin.

You might sense a good email, but what about when you have to write one?

The marketing team at UMG has analysed hundreds of sent emails and their success rates to come up with a list of tips and practical examples to get your emails delivered, opened and read.

1. Use personalisation

Every guide to cold emails will tell you to use personalisation tags in your emails and that’s because it really works!

However, don’t just stop at the [Name] personalisation. It is very hard these days to find a cold email that doesn’t use the prospect’s name in the greeting.

Make your emails stand out and show that you’ve done your research. Include tags like job position, company name, city and even industry.

Check out these two examples and compare — which email are you more likely to respond to?

Open-source lead databases now provide an abundance of data you can use for personalisation (oh the wonders of the internet!), so be creative.

Don’t limit yourself to personalisation tags in the body of the email either — try and use them in the subject line to increase open rates and establish trust.

However, be careful — improper and abundant use of personalisation tags can come across creepy and robotic.

2. Be concise

In a world pushed by the crashing wheel of productivity and endless hustle, nobody has the time to read essays in emails — especially from someone you don’t know!

Don’t beat around the bush describing your entire company’s history and what you had for lunch — be clear and straight to the point.

Take a look at the examples below — which email are you more likely to keep reading?

A good length for your email is about 100 words and no more than 3 lines per paragraph.

When a prospect opens your email, they have two questions: who are you and what do you want.

If you take too much time to get to either, your email will go straight to the bin.

3. Utilize paragraphs

This is related to the previous point but needs emphasis.

Dividing your email into paragraphs is the best thing you can do for readability.

Over 46% of all emails these days are being read on a smartphone.

Think about how a wall of text is going to look like on a small smartphone screen.

If you are having a hard time visualising, take a look at these examples.

The purpose of your email is to be read and provoke action, and an email which is easy to read is more likely to incite a response.

Despite what you might think, majority of people do not like putting effort into an unsolicited request, so don’t make it harder for your prospects.

Make your paragraphs no more than 3 lines long and avoid using complex words unless they are related to your industry. This will make your email easier to scan.

4. Include a catchy subject line

Arguably, a click-worthy subject line is one the most important things about a cold email.

HubSpot says this about a subject line:

“The best email subject lines are creative, compelling, and informative without giving too much away. A good subject line that piques interest is the difference between a prospect opening or ignoring an email.”

Think about how an incoming email looks in your inbox.

Here’s an example from Gmail.

Your prospect will spend on average 3 seconds scanning your name, subject line and snippet, and those 3 seconds decide the fate of the email.

Your subject line has to be concise — best about 30 characters so it can be displayed fully without taking away valuable space of the snippet.

It has to pique interest — try to make it relevant for your prospect without giving away too much.

Please avoid using clickbaity subject lines — first of all, they lose credibility points with your email and often send it to the spam box. Second, they will most definitely ruin your beginning relationship with your prospect. Higher open rates for the sake of open rates are not worth the risk.

Also, don’t forget — at this rate your prospects are probably getting 2–3 cold emails daily, so they sense when they are being sold to.

Aim to provide value, be genuine and informative. HubSpot has a great list of subject lines that get opened and responded to.

5. Stand out and provide value

One of the main differences between a spam email and a cold email is that cold emails propose genuine value to the prospect.

Let that be your guiding light when you are writing your pitch.

As much as you might want to close that deal, do not focus on the sale.

In general people hate being sold to and will send your email in the bin as soon as they sense a sales pitch (most people have a great radar).

Instead, focus on how you can help your prospect.

A good formula for that is answering the questions Why, Who and What.

Your first sentence should establish a connection to your prospect — the Why. Focus on why you are writing to them and bring up a pain point you can solve to pique their interest.

Second paragraph should include the Who, or in other words, your 1 sentence pitch, quickly explaining what you do and how you help.

You can also use this paragraph to establish credibility, such as name-drop some of your well-known clients or include success stats.

Be careful and avoid selly and pushy language. A mistake that many cold emails do is talk themselves up too much.

Nobody likes those “we” or “I” emails.

Focus on how your product/service solves the pain points and what benefit your prospect will get.

If you are looking for more cold email formulas, here’s a good list of tried and tested formulas that work.

6. Include a clear CTA

You would be surprised to hear how many people mess up this step.

You established your connection to the prospect, pitched them your idea and now it is time to provoke them to make an action.

If you get this wrong, the whole email will be ineffective, as people will simply forget about your email if there is no call-to-action.

Focus on what you want your prospect to do. Is it to get on a call? Check out your website? Like a page?

A great tip would be to include 2 CTA’s of different severity. For example, check out a website and schedule a call. Clicking on a website if you are curious seems like far less work than chatting to an unknown, but it is the first step in the right direction.

Chip away at the prospect’s wall of distrust one CTA at a time.

However, avoid using call to actions of the same severity — for example, scheduling a call and responding to a question.

Arguably, both of them take a lot more mental energy which means the prospect is a lot less likely to respond.

7. Follow up

There are many reasons as to why your cold email might not have been responded to.

You have to remember that most decision-makers you should be targeting are busy and emails get lost or forgotten about all the time.

That is why you should always include follow-ups.

Yesware reports that 70% of email chains stop without a follow-up.

Send a follow-up at varying intervals, but no closer than 2 days apart as to not come across pushy.

Generally, 3 or 4 follow-ups are a good practice.

In a follow-up you could expand on your original pitch or highlight a different part of your service, like in these examples:

Or use it as a simple inbox bump-up to remind your prospect to respond, like so:

8. Avoid spam words

And last but not least — don’t forget to check your email for the presence of spam words.

Spam words could decrease your chances of ending up in the inbox and instead send you straight to spam.

It is common sense to avoid some spam words, like “free” and “click here” and “amazing opportunity”.

However, as spam filters are getting smarter, there are a lot more words that can help your emails never see the light of day.

Some of these include “call”, “earn” and “affordable”. The more spam words you have, the higher the chances you won’t pass a spam filter.

So get creative with your style to make sure your emails reach your audience.

Bottom line

With all the tips and tricks there are on the internet, there is not a single cold email formula that would work for every prospect and every industry.

No sales pitch, company and audience are the same, so take that into account when you are writing your cold email.

Be creative, try different things, do A/B testing for the best results and do not get stuck in a rut.

Remember, this is a new and fast-evolving industry, so chances to stand out, reach more people and secure more sales with cold emails are high.