How to Write a Cold Email that Actually Works: Six-Step Tutorial (Updated)

How-to-Write-Cold-Email-6-step-tutorial

In order to get replies, a cold email has to be short yet powerful and intriguing. For this reason, each part of the short message has to bear meaning and play a crucial communicative role. How to write a cold email that works? Check if you properly took care of the 6 tremendously important elements when composing your message for outbound outreach.

How to use this tutorial?

I’d recommend going step by step through the whole guide and downloading the Cold Email Checklist.

But you can also quickly jump to each of its parts from here:

Step 1: Edit the “from” line

Step 2: Write an intriguing subject line

Step 3: Come up with a clever introduction

Step 4: Propose some value to your prospect

Step 5: End your message with a call-to-action

Step 6: Polish your signature

Download Cold Email Checklist >>

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. It’s a part that affects their first impression. What follows is that they decide whether to open the message and read it or put it to trash and forget it.

Remember that your adressees don’t know you yet

A cold email is “cold” because we send it to the people who haven’t got a chance to get to know us or our company. It’s very likely that they’ve never heard about us before. They don’t expect an email from us.

Since we are strangers to them, they may, and 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 may either earn their trust, or we may 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 you start 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 one of possible forms.

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 Woodpecker.co)
E. First name + Last name + Company name (Cathy Patalas at Woodpecker.co)

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:

  • be consistent – let it not diverge in tone and style from the rest of your email. If you use an informal tone throughout your email, maybe you can include the first name + company name, and you’ll be all set.
  • consider your prospect’s perspective – what would you expect to see in your inbox if you were one of your prospects? What’s their average style of communication? Try to mimic it when writing your “from” line.
  • find your own line that fits your prospect’s expectations – don’t follow blindly any advice you found on the web. Think for yourself. You’re the one who knows your prospects best and knows what they expect to see.
  • think who your prospects would be the most keen on talking to – be specific about that. Use that info to edit your “from” line.

That’s just a couple of rules. If you still have some problems, don’t hesitate to check the stand-alone blog post about crafting “from” lines:

What Should Be the ‘’From” Line of My Cold Email? >>

It may give you more clarity on what to write.

 

Step 2: Write an intriguing subject line

A subject line could be seen as the key that unlocks the door to our message. Our prospects form their first impression of us while reading the subject line. That’s why we need to make it a good one.

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

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

  • consider your prospect’s point of view – think what kind of benefit your subject line promises to the prospect. What’s in it for them after opening your email? Does it answers their needs or appeals to their curiosity? Make it about them, not about you.
  • personalize it – again, subject line isn’t the place for self-promotion. Quite the opposite, it’s the place where you should prove to the addressee that you carefully planned to contacted them. You should assure them you’re not a spammer who sends myriads of identical emails to people and waits to see what sticks.
  • intrigue them – don’t spill the beans just yet. Pique their interest. Engage their attention by making them reflect on a problem they may have. Or try using a little bit of flattery to catch their attention.
  • sound human – you’re writing to a living and breathing human being, and thus, you shouldn’t turn into a bot. Avoid sounding ‘salesy’ or too formal. Your subject line should have a casual, friendly and natural flair to it. Unless you know how to achieve this, try imagining you’re addressing a specific person you know, for example, your colleague.
  • tie it to the rest of the email – this ties back to all the previous points. Whatever you put in your subject line, you should connect it with the rest of your message. By all means, don’t fall for a click bait strategy in your subject line. You’ll only get on your prospects’ nerves.

Here’s more about composing subject lines:

What Subject Line Will Make My Addresses Open My Cold Email? >>

 

Step 3: Come up with a clever introduction

Right after you persuade your addressee with the ‘from’ line and the subject to actually open your message, you’re halfway through. Now you’ve got 3 seconds to catch their attention and make them read further than the first two lines. And that’s why we need an intriguing start.

It’s difficult to start a cold email. What we tend to do is talking about ourselves and the company we work for. It may either be because we don’t know how to start or we desperately want to close the sale with our first email. That, however, paves the way for the email to end up in trash.

How to write a powerful intro, then?

An introduction is usually no longer than 2-3 sentences. It’s not supposed to introduce us or our company to the prospect. Instead, it refers to the message receiver, their expertise, achievements, work and their company. That’s how we catch their attention.

cold-email-intro

 

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.

Show them you actually care

You may also use that few sentences of introduction to make it a part where you ask about their problems. Or better, you can talk about the ones you’ve noticed they have that you can take care of.

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

That’s why we should take some time to research the company before we write a cold email.

If it’s still complicated and you don’t know how to start your email, you’ll find that helpful:

Cold Email Intro, or How Should I Start My Message? >>

 

Step 4: Propose some value to your prospect

Here comes the part where you tell the message receiver what you want from them, or in other words, the so-called pitch.

You might have heard about pitches.

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

Avoid 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.

Here’s more on how to do that:

Value Proposition – How to Tell My Addressee What I Want from Them? >>

 

Step 5: End your message 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 addressees will take action, your CTA should:

  • Express the purpose of your email – the CTA should clarify the aim of your email in a single sentence. To put it differently, it should show clearly to the addressee what you want them to do.
  • Be short and to the point – the CTA shouldn’t be take more than a single sentence. You should be a succinct as you can. It shouldn’t be blurry either.

Ask for something the 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.

 

Lincoln-Murphy-tweet-on-20-minute-call

 

Get some CTA ideas from this post:

Perfect CTA, or How to End Up My Cold Email? >>

 

Step 6: Polish your signature

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

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

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

  • make sure it makes you look trustworthy – too little information and no hints on where to find you will definitely lower your chances for a response.
  • include only necessary information: cut out information that just takes space, but doesn’t bring much value. Sometimes your phone number may be crucial, but other times it’s completely unnecessary. Think about the usefulness of each piece of info in the signature. Delete the one that’s useless in your email campaign.
  • if you decide to use HTML, make sure it’s clean – a messy HTML signature may actually cause some deliverability issues. That’s because your message is short. If the signature includes a lot of HTML, you can mess up the text-to-HTML ratio. If you don’t have anyone who can check your signature HTML and clean it up, it’s safer to go for a simple text signature.

I spent some time on my signature some time ago, so you can click the link below to see what I figured out then.

A Little Big Thing – What Do I Put in My Email Signature? >>

 ***

Short, highly personalized cold emails dedicated to a specific audience are a great way to start some new business relations, and find some new hot leads for your company. The 6 steps to the effective outbound outreach are described in detail in the 6 posts linked above. Make sure you don’t miss any of them when writing your opening cold email.

Anything else that you think I missed here? Let me know in the comments.

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.
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  • Nada Rifki

    I love the structure of the blog post

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  • Billy Tarter

    Can’t get the Cold Email Checklist (first link)… it just spawns a popup and when I enter my email address and hit Submit, it just spins, and spins, and spins…

    • Billy Tarter

      Fixed now, thx

  • Thanks for this resource packed post. Just want to ask, is there a place to share cold email copies for feedback?

  • Albert ikama

    Thanks a ton.I’m starting a copywriting agency and your blog helped a lot.