10 Golden Rules of Cold Email

Writing a cold email is easy. That’s what people think – I mean the people who never tried writing one. It’s not easy for many reasons, but especially because we have to remember about so many things at once while writing it. Actually, we have to remember about at least 10 things. I call them the Golden Rules of Cold Email.

Whether you’re sending cold email for some time now, or you’re just starting and have never sent your first cold email campaign yet, you should know them by heart. Here they are.

Rule #1: Keep it short

That’s almost boring, right? If you have ever read any post on how to write cold emails – it’s always there: keep it short. No more than 2-5 sentences. That’s all you need. Nonetheless, most people who tend to send me cold emails never heard of the #1 rule. Either that, or they simply decided to ignore it (which is a huge mistake).

Here’s how it works: People don’t like long emails. People usually don’t read long emails. People never read long emails from strangers. People cannot possibly reply with anything but “leave me alone” to an email they didn’t even read.

Rule #2: Keep it logical

From the very beginning, which is your From line, till the very end, which is your signature, our message has to be logical. It has to make sense. If our email is reasonable, it shows we are a reasonable person. Let’s always make sure our addressee knows why we reach out to them, what we are actually offering, and what the next step is.

Each part of our message has to logically match the other parts. If the addressee feels for a second that something’s not entirely right here, this may be a sufficient reason for them to delete our message.

Rule #3: Make it valuable

Whatever we write about in our email, it has to be valuable to our addressee – that is of course, if we want them to reply. Our introduction, as well as the very pitch, have to be relevant to the prospect. So if we offer them some kind of a solution, let’s make sure it’s solving a problem they may actually have.

Only if they feel like they can actually gain from starting a relation with us, they will consider hitting us back with a reply.

Rule #4: It’s never about you

Our prospects are not interested in the story of our life. They are interested in the story of their life. Everyone likes to read about themselves. Our cold email cannot be about us or our solution, because honestly – no one cares. They will only care if it’s about them and a solution to their own problems.

We should always keep the focus of our message on our recipient – never on ourselves. Even in the pitch, where we’re explaining what it is that we are actually offering. We can only write about ourselves in the context of our recipient. So if you’re still sending emails including a list of features – quit it right away.

Rule #5: Know your addressee

That’s the main difference between quality email outreach and spam. We need to know who we are sending the message to. I don’t mean know them personally – that’s why we call it cold email: because we haven’t contacted our addressee before. But we have to know who they are, how they work, how they speak, what they love, what they hate, what their problems are. Only this way, we can make our cold email valuable for them (see Rule #3).

Rule #6: Do not sell

The cold email is not supposed to sell. We don’t want to close a deal with a cold email. We want to start a relation with our prospect. So if our email in any of its parts sounds even a bit salesy, we should revise it.

Rule #7: Be human

We need to forget about trait formulae. Stop being a sales rep for once. Stop being a robot once and for all. Just be human and write like a human being.

We need to keep the tone light and remember that we’re addressing another person. If we know who they are, we also know how they speak, and we need to speak the same (see Rule #5).

Rule #8: Always follow-up

One message may not be enough (usually, it’s not enough). Some people will be too busy to reply to us, and they they will simply forget about the email we sent them. Some will actually not reply to our first email on purpose, just to check if we care enough to follow up with them. That’s why, follow-up is necessary.

Following up, we show our addressees that we are persistent and we really care about starting a relation with them.

If you’re not doing that, or still sending your follow-ups by hand, give Woodpecker a try>>

Rule #9: What works for others will not necessarily work for you

Before we copy and paste a ready-made template and hit send, we should stop and ask ourselves if it really fits our audience and the real purpose of our email. Each of us targets at a different group of prospects. Each of us wants to achieve a little bit different goal with our cold email. Each of us speaks the way that is characteristic to him/her.

So why would we ever copy and paste a ready-made template without asking questions? If we know our group of prospects (Rule #5) and if we want to speak like a human being, not like a machine (Rule #7), we should write our emails on our own.

Of course, we can see what worked best for others and check out the most effective templates. That always helps and brings some new ideas. We can even use a similar structure, tone, and psychological mechanisms to reach to our prospects. But the very message should be unique because it’s supposed to be tailored for our recipient.

Rule #10: Check if you would reply to it yourself

It’s crucial to put ourselves in our addressee’s shoes for a moment and check if we would be willing to reply to the email we wrote. That’s a very simple, yet a very effective test each of us should carry out before sending our messages. The easiest way is to read our email out loud to ourselves and see if it sounds human, if it doesn’t sound salesy, if it has the tone we meant it to have.

Final words

If you don’t abide by the rules, perhaps that’s why your cold email outreach is not as effective as it could be. Check your emails against those ten rules and try to figure out what still can be improved in your cold email campaigns.

P.S. If there are other important rules you think are crucial and I didn’t mention them here, feel free to share those in the comments below.

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Used to spend lots of time contacting prospects, especially via email. One of few people on Earth who read crappy cold emails from start to end and analyze them – for purely educational purposes. Taking care of this blog, reporting Woodpecker’s journey on the pursuit of happy openings, successful closures and all the new skills we acquire in between.