If you are constantly asking the quickest way to generate revenue for your business, you’re asking the right question.
And when I was first introduced to cold email, I knew I found the answer.
Over the past few years, I have generated countless business opportunities through cold email, both for myself and for other businesses with my cold outreach agency.
These cold email tips are designed to get you the same results.
Whether you’re looking to gain traction with your startup, win clients for your agency, or you’re a sales rep who relies on cold email, these tips will help you get more out of one of the most reliable but underrated revenue channels for B2B in 2020.
With cold email, you can kick your outbound sales efforts into gear. Consider this your owner’s manual as you get started.
Cold Email Tips to Improve Responses & ROI
1. Plain text
Stop being so fancy.
I know you’ve put a lot of effort into that beautifully styled email signature.
Yes, it links to all your social channels, your website, and your favorite Queen live performance. It’s gorgeous. But it’s hurting your deliverability.
Switch to plain text instead.
Make your email look effortless and it will feel effortless. A plain text email without any links will not only help you maneuver around spam filters, but will also improve your reply rate.
In short, it will help you land in the inbox right now and in the future.
2. Indirect ask
Don’t go straight for the kill.
Does the final line in your cold emails look something like this?
Are you available this Friday to jump on a quick 15-minute call to discuss?
If so, you might want to reconsider.
We know how great you are, but it’s important to remember your prospects don’t know your winning personality and anecdotes. They are busy people. It’s difficult to transfer the value of jumping on a 15-minute call with a stranger for a product you don’t know in under 200 words.
A while ago, one cold emailing agency experimented with a much more open ended closer. They tested a simple phrase: “Is that something you’re interested in hearing more about?”
See the Predictable Revenue experiment on indirect asks.
Not only did they get more positive replies because people felt less pressured, they also saw a big improvement in deliverability for their emails. This was because people were less inclined to mark their emails as spam because of the less aggressive call to action.
3. Opening line
Put extra thought into the opening line
Have you ever seen an email pop up in your inbox that you just had to open?
You already know that an engaging opening line to your emails is important (AIDA framework, anyone?). But it’s time to put some extra thought into it for 2020.
For example, preview your emails on a mobile device (chances are your prospect will receive the email on his phone).
If the preview looks something like “My name is John and I’m the Sales Director for…” or “I found your profile on LinkedIn and am reaching out because…”, chances are you’re going straight to the trash folder. No one likes being sold to (even if we all like to buy).
That first line needs to capture your prospect’s attention enough to actually open the email and to keep reading.
Then the second line needs to get them to read the third line, and so forth..
What is the best opening line for a cold email you’ve ever seen?
4. Take a page from great sales emails
One of my favorite cold email tips is to learn from others. Learn how some of the best companies are doing sales.
Writing a killer cold email can be hard.
Did you ever find yourself wondering how the biggest companies out there are making it work for them?
Now you no longer have to wonder. You can just go ahead and have a look.
The guys at Good Sales Emails have put together some of the best cold emails sent by some of the biggest and most successful companies for you to have a look at.
Let it serve as an inspiration for your next campaign or find that killer closing sentence you’ve been struggling with to write.
5. Remember the numbers (preview characters)
Know your numbers.
Do you know the exact number of characters for the inbox preview space for each email client?
Earlier, I talked about the importance of putting extra thought into your opening line.
This is not just because you need to capture people’s attention when they open your email. It’s also to get your email opened in the first place.
Here are the numbers for the most common ones out there:
- Apple Mail: 140 characters
- Gmail: 110 characters
- AOL: 75 characters
- Outlook: 55 characters
6. Email warmup basics
You have to warm up your cold outreach first.
Are you dealing with low open rates for your cold emails?
Chances are, you’ve started off wrong on the wrong foot.
Before you start sending cold emails at scale you need to make sure your email is warmed up. Otherwise you’ll end up on a blacklist very quickly, which is a very deep hole to climb out of.
So before you start sending new campaigns from a fresh IP, make sure you’ve set up the technical details how they should be set up and get some activity going. Subscribe to a handful of newsletters and interact with colleagues, for starters.
Then you’re ready to slowly start sending out emails.
My recommendation: start at a pace of 20 emails per day and slowly ramp it up over the space of a few months.
7. The rule of three
What if your emails could be more satisfying or more effective? Or at least easier to process?
Meet the ‘rule of three.’
The rule is based on the principle that things that come in three are easier to process and easier to remember.
Just think about it: the three Musketeers, three wise men, “blood, sweat, and tears.”
The rule of three is all around us!
When used as bullet points it makes your email a lot more scannable — especially when viewed on mobile devices.
So next time you’re writing a cold email, make sure to keep the “rule of three” in mind.
8. Cousin domain
Ever had your important business emails end up in SPAM? I have.
And it sucks. Here’s how you can fix that: use a cousin or look-alike domain when doing cold outreach.
Imagine your regular domain is apple.com. By registering getapple.com and warming that domain up you can protect your main domain’s integrity, while still sending cold emails at scale.
This way your most important emails will never end up in spam.
You can then use the look-alike domain to scale up your cold emailing campaigns over time.
By having a separate domain dedicated to cold emailing, you are ensuring that your brand’s official emails are delivered at a higher rate.
9. Custom variables
Sending cold email at scale is great. But there’s one problem: everyone keeps telling you to personalize your messages.
So how can you do both? Reach out to enough leads to make an impact while still keeping things personal.
Because let’s face it, we aren’t going to spend 3 days per week just typing and sending emails.
Enter ‘custom variables’. Your new best friend.
Check out my video on how to use custom variables to scale personalized cold emails below.
10. Remember a daily sending cap
Don’t get too excited as you scale your cold email campaign.
Have you ever seen your open rates crash?
The worst thing you can do when it comes to cold email is making it a numbers game.
I’ve tried that. You’ll lose, guaranteed.
When trying to book meetings through cold email, it can be tempting to send to as many email addresses you can get your hands on, as fast as you can.
I get it; you need to book meetings and close sales. But trying to make it by increasing the amount of emails you’re sending is the best way to NOT reach your goal.
By sending a high amount of emails on a daily basis you’ll
A) end up in spam,
B) have your account closed down.
So whenever you’re setting up a new campaign make sure to also set a daily sending limit.
Not all email automation software providers have that auto-enabled and trust me, you don’t want to find that out the hard way.
11. Make it scannable
Ever wondered why people started writing like this?
Line for line?
People’s online experience is moving to mobile devices. That also means chances are your cold email will be read on a mobile phone.
You’ll have to adapt.
Does your email contain paragraphs of text that looked okay on your computer?
Try previewing the message on mobile to make sure it’s easy to read. It’s one of the most important cold email tips today.
And remember: your prospects are busy.
They will want to scan every message quickly as possible to see what’s in it for them.
Especially if it’s coming from a complete stranger (that’s you).
So make sure to make things as easy as possible for them by making your email scannable.
12. The 1-minute follow-up
F**k up on purpose.
This is a sneaky little hack that I learned about while working for a big client.
You want your cold emails to come off as human as possible. This hack helps you accomplish just that, while also increasing your chances for a response (and you can set it up to be automated).
I call it the 1-minute follow-up. It goes like this:
Is that something you’re interested in? If so, I’ve attached my calendar link below
for you to book a quick call.
Bad example? Sure, but that’s besides the point. Because here’s the thing: you’re going to leave out that link you mentioned on purpose.
Then what you’ll do next is to schedule a “follow-up” email to go out 2 minutes after your first email that says something along the lines of:
Yikes, forgot that link. Already thinking about the weekend.. :)
Here it is: calendly.com/xyz
You’ll look as human as it gets, and you’re getting your prospects attention twice within a few minutes.
13. Clean your data
Be a clean sales rep.
Hey JOHN MBA, looks like you’re the right person to speak to at Apple, Inc [A Steve Jobs Company].
Let’s be honest, that doesn’t look quite right, does it?
If you’re taking your data directly from its source, then chances are it’ll look like that.
So, while it will take a few minutes out of your day, it’s definitely worth it to clean your data and make your emails look more personal in the process.
Here’s what you should look for:
- Company, Inc. or LLC
- CAPITAL LETTERS EVERYWHERE
- Emoticons [INSERT HERE]
- MBA, WTF, etc.
- Company names that you can make sound more natural (Naval Investment Fund of Silicon Valley should probably be changed to ‘Naval Investment’).
Next time before you’re sending out your emails make sure to go through your .csv file quickly before getting started. You’ll thank me later.
14. Multiple touch points
Be present, in a nice way.
Did you know that it usually takes 7 touchpoints with a company before someone reaches a buying decision?
Cold email is great, but it’s not an easy ‘set it and forget it’ tactic.
In order to get the most out of your cold outreach, consider adding some extra steps.
For example: when extracting emails from your leads from LinkedIn, have a quick look at their profile. They’ll likely be notified of your visit; it will make you human. They’ll have a face and some background with the person who’s emailing them.
Looking to take it one step further?
Some people have experimented with warming up their cold email audiences with ads.
Use your prospects emails to create custom audiences on social platforms or Google Ads. The match rate isn’t 100%, but it can be pretty powerful.
15. Use redirection
If this ever happens to you, you’re in luck.
Sometimes our targeting can be a bit off. We either reach out to the wrong person, or this person’s job description is just different than what you’re used to for that title.
But sometimes the wrong person will tell you who you should be reaching out to at their company. Use that!
Don’t just send the same email you sent earlier to that other person. Actually leverage the fact you’re being redirected by a colleague.
There are few things more difficult to ignore than:
Hey John, Annie Turner told me you’re the guy I should be speaking with about this.
When’s a good time to chat?
When it seems you’ve already had a conversation with a direct colleague it will make saying no to you much harder.
16. Not getting any traction? Network instead
In my first job as a door-to-door salesman, I learned what is probably still the best sales trick I’ve learned in my life.
I remember one day in my door-to-door career that was particularly hard. When talking about it with my manager he told me: “Stop trying to sell to these people, just try and have a fun conversation instead.” So that’s what I did.
We all know people hate being sold to. Especially by strangers.
When you’ve been sending out tons of cold emails but all you’ve been getting are no’s, then try taking a softer approach.
Instead of pitching, try to strike up a conversation.
If your cold emails and your pitches aren’t working, just see if people are interested in networking with someone in their industry. Chances are, if you’re patient, you’ll manage to strike up conversations around their needs later on, which you can then solve with your product.
Yes, you already know. You should reach out in a personalized way. But how much personalization is enough?
The ‘spray and pray’ approach will land you some sales, but by now you probably know personalization is key to success in cold outreach.
Showing your prospects you’ve researched them can go a long way in taking some of that salesiness away.
So what can we do?
The best way to approach this would be to add a completely customized line in your email. But that’s not your only option. For example, using our prospect’s first name in our subject line has shown to (drastically) improve open rates (i.e. John x Wiza).
When it comes to the actual email make sure not to go overboard. Trying to make up for not having a custom line by using your prospect’s name or company name can often look unnatural.
Sending cold emails? Here’s how to avoid a $41,484 fine.
Did you know that if you violate the CAN-SPAM act you can be subjected to a huge fine? And not just a one-time fine: for every single email found to be in violation of the act you can be subjected to a fine up to $41,484. So how do we avoid that?
Basically, follow the law.
The main requirements of the CAN-SPAM act you need to keep in mind are:
- Your email must include a valid physical postal address
- Offer recipients an easy way to unsubscribe
- Don’t be misleading or deceptive
Having an unsubscribe link in your cold email makes things look a lot less personal. So how do we move around that?
The CAN-SPAM act says: “Your email must contain an easy and straightforward way for your customers to opt out from getting marketing messages from you, preferably an unsubscribe link.”
An easy way of making your unsubscribe option look more natural is by adding a section in the bottom of your email with a more personal touch.
19. <200 words
Do you know the ideal length of a sales email? It’s probably lower than you think.
The ideal length of an email is between 50 and 125 words.
Emails this length had a response rate above 50%. A similar study found emails with approximately 20 lines of text, or about 200 words, had the highest clickthrough rates. When in doubt, keep emails short and under 200 words.
Still writing entire blog posts for your cold pitches? It’s time to stop!
Need an easy way to know exactly how long your email is? Run it through WordCounter.
Back to the third grade.
I’ll be honest: copywriting for cold email has never been my strong suit. It’s not surprising, since English isn’t my native language. But guess what? Turns out that’s actually an advantage.
Imagine receiving this pitch in a sales email:
Wiza accurately predicts and verifies prospect contact information utilizing artificial
intelligence, returning only accurate details allowing you to positively impact cold
outreach metrics as well as SDR and BDR efficiency.
What about this one instead?
Wiza lets you create email lists from LinkedIn Sales Navigator. We only charge for
Prospect 4-5x faster.
Emails written at a 3rd grade reading level have the highest response rate.
These emails performed 36% better in terms of open rate than those written at a college reading level, and boasted a 17% higher response rate than emails composed at a high school reading level. The same study suggested that free-flowing, informal emails are best for getting a response from recipients.
So there you have it. Stop trying to sound smart or impress your prospect. They are busy people and they don’t want to waste time having to decipher your message.
Write in plain, simple English for better results from your cold outreach campaigns. Not sure if your email is free-flowing or natural enough?
Read your message out loud to see where you can make it more simple or break up some sentences. It’ll feel awkward at first, but it’s more than worth it.
21. Use humor
Let’s face it: business pitches can be dry. Nearly anything in your inbox makes you want to take a nap right at your desk.
So having something funny come in can actually be the pattern interrupt you needed, and can propel the sender into pole-position for a meeting in your busy schedule (as long as you proceed with caution).
Knowing your audience is probably the most vital part of any successful campaign, and this case isn’t any different.
Divide your outreach up into geographic regions. Say one campaign is going out in December to prospects in New York. You can start your email along the lines of “Hey John, hope you’re not getting too cold over there! :)”
Is it funny? Eh, you might get a chuckle here and there. But it’s definitely a low-risk way to implement some light-heartedness in your cold outreach.
22. Social proof
Leverage your awesomeness.
Chances are you have worked with some amazing clients. Use that!
I don’t know how many emails I’ve seen that have this phrase in them:
Since we’ve been working with so many other companies in your industry, I thought I’d
reach out here because I think there’s a great fit.
What’s the social proof that’s missing? Who are these amazing companies in my industry you’ve worked with?
First, if you’re not name-dropping here some might assume you’re not being truthful. And second, seeing names is a big deal.
For your next email make sure to mention some of those awesome clients you’ve worked with in the past and leverage their names to book a meeting.
23. Always A/B test
Don’t guess, test.
It’s incredible how long it took me to learn this.
Why do you think that ending your email with a hard ask (“Let’s meet Tuesday at 15:00 sharp John!”) will work best for your audience? Unless you’ve actually tested this against a different version, you’re simply guessing.
We’re in the business of being the best salespeople we can be, not being the best guessers. Great salespeople test their copy and their scripts.
Next time you’re sending out a new campaign, make sure to set up both A and B versions. Send A to half of your list, and B to the other half.
But remember to only run one test at once. Don’t test two different subject lines on two different customer types with two different CTA’s.
Simply split your email list in half, and send the same email with two different subject lines. Found a winner? Keep it, and move on to your next test while using the winner as the A (control) version. By the end of the year you’ll be left with a killer cold email.
24. Pick your sender wisely
Some email automation software will kill your campaigns. Go with one that will let you opt-out of tracking clicks.
Yes, it’s nice to know how many people clicked to download your 98-pager on how disruptive your startup is (it’s 0). But have you ever stopped to think this is hurting your campaigns?
Not all email automation platforms (or mail mergers) allow you to opt-out of tracking clicks and other metrics. While some do, they still might insert needless pixels into your emails.
Those pixels actually end up hurting your email deliverability.
Email tracking pixels can be seen as invasive since users are often unaware of the information being tracked.
Not only that, but pixel tracking is also a tactic easily used by spammers to increase the frequency and impact of their spam emails.
Because of this, most spam filters aren’t too keen on letting emails through with pixels or any type of tracking in them.
If your email metrics aren’t looking great, make sure to check in with your email automation provider to see what they’re adding to your messages.
25. Pick the best time
Are you happy to look at your inbox on a Monday morning?
I know I’m not. And I can’t really think of anyone who has ever told me how much they love plowing through all those unread messages first thing.
Guess what? Neither do your prospects.
Put some thought into the day and time you’re sending your next sequence.
Most research suggests Tuesday through Thursday between 11am-4pm as the best days and times for sending emails.
However I’ve seen great results on Monday afternoons too depending on the industry. Some people are just in that ‘productivity flow’ on Mondays and are eager to make the best of their week and book some interesting meetings.
You can get specific. Use Growbots’ Time Optimizer to determine the best time to send an email based on your recipient’s characteristics.
The best thing for you to do is to test what works best for your industry. After you’ve ran some tests to determine which subject line and email work best, make sure to put some effort into testing different days and times.
26. Give up the dayjob
Hi John, I’m responsible for sales at my company.
Do you want to talk to me?
No one wants to talk to a sales person. Especially not when they’re still early in your decision making process.
The cold email I just received seems relevant, some interesting points in there, but the logical next step usually isn’t to enter a sales conversation. It’s to get more information and talk to someone with my best interest in mind.
Not an eager salesperson with a quota.
So how can you move around this obstacle when you have a sales title?
It’s simple: change the way you’re marketing yourself.
You’re not a sales rep, you’re a New Client Champion.
You’re not in business development, you’re in customer success.
You’ll be surprised how much people change their attitude towards you once they no longer see you as a salesperson. Give it a try!
27. One word subject lines
Your cold email subject line is too long.
A while back I listened to a podcast on email marketing. One of the guests was an affiliate marketer with millions of dollars in supplement and superfood sales per year.
His biggest source of revenue? Good old email marketing. He had tested many, many subject lines for his campaigns. But after a while he found one (very) clear winner:
All lower case, one word.
Because, guess what, if you’re seeing an email notification pop up with just ‘cashew’ as the subject line, you’re going to want to learn more about what the heck is going on there. It’s a pattern interrupt.
I’ve tested this too. Instead of going for the “John, question about Apple” or “John, question about email marketing” subject lines, I went with “question” or just “magic”.
The results were great for me (and other marketers too). I suggest to you give it a shot for your next campaign. Because there’s nothing more free-flowing and informal than a plain-text email with a one- or two-word subject line.
It’s a great pattern breaker as well as a way to make your outreach seem a lot more natural.
28. Breakup email
Ever broken up with someone by email? I have, I do it every single day.
Sometimes (ok, most of the time) prospects don’t respond to my emails. They’re busy or I wasn’t doing a good enough job of giving them a reason to respond.
But I always have one last trick up my sleeve that hasn’t let me down yet. I call it the breakup email.
Imagine receiving this in an email:
Looks like now wasn’t the best time to connect. If anything changes feel free to check
in again. All the best!
It would very likely make you stop in your tracks. Did you miss something important? This seems like there’s no turning back. Like you need to make sure you’re not passing up on something valuable.
These emails usually are the ones with the highest response rate in my campaigns. And you’ll be surprised just how many people will still book that call with you on this last email.
No one likes goodbyes.
29. Technical settings
There are a lot more technical bells and whistles that go into sending and receiving emails than we normally think about.
While I’d love to dive deep into what each one of those factors is and how it impacts your email campaigns, that would require me to write a complete book on email technical settings.
For now, I can give you some background into what you need to check with your email marketing platform before sending cold email campaigns, to ensure the best results.
Here are the three main pillars of email authentication:
- SPF Records: An SPF record is a Sender Policy Framework. It’s used to indicate to email exchanges which hosts are authorized to send mail for a domain.
- DKIM: DomainKeys Identified Mail allows senders to associate a domain name with an email message, thus vouching for its authenticity.
- DMARC: DMARC is designed to give receivers of email better judgment control based on sending domains reputations.
One more term you’ll likely run into is SMTP. The Simple Mail Transfer Protocol is a communication protocol for email sending between servers.
Before starting new campaigns, make sure you’ve looked into these and are sure these are set up correctly. While your campaigns will likely start as normal, if any of these aren’t set up correctly your open rates are guaranteed to take a plunge at one point.
Check out mxtoolbox.com and glockapps.com for more info.
30. Would you like to play a little game?
Need a break from technical cold email tips? Here’s a little game for you that’s bound to improve your cold emailing success.
Have a look at the last 5 cold emails you’ve sent.
Be honest: how many sentences in your email started with either ‘I’, ‘we’, or your company name?
- ‘I would like to’
- ‘I thought that’
- I believe that’
- ‘We help …’
- We can do xyz’
- ‘We have been awarded for…’
And so on. By now you hopefully know the harsh truth: no one cares.
People are crazy busy. Most executives have about 150 unread emails in their inbox. If you’re lucky enough to have yours opened, then starting every other sentence about what it is you want or how great your company is a good way to blow your chance of booking a call or demo.
Next time you’re writing a new cold email template, make it a challenge for yourself to not start any sentence with the words ‘I’, ‘We’, or your company name.
I like to call those forbidden words. Teaching myself not to use those as often has really helped me in my sales career — and it’s one of my favorite cold email tips.