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Email Marketing

The Ultimate Guide to Cold Email: How It Works & Actionable Steps You Can Take to Get it Done

November 1, 2022

Do you remember the first cold email you ever received? We’d guess not and it was probably for a company you didn’t care about at all.



Worse, maybe you were annoyed that your data was leaked somewhere.



Most of us don’t like cold emails, after all—they’re often perceived as a nuisance. But what if a recruiter emailed you about a job opportunity you were a perfect fit for? Or maybe an acquaintance is starting a business and wants to collaborate with you? 



Both of those are cold emails, but we don’t see them that way. Many of us think about spam emails and scam emails, but cold emails are so much more than that. In fact, most of us in the marketing industry would say those aren’t cold emails at all. 



They’re spam.



“Begin your relationship simply by getting to know the person. After you have developed a connection, only bring up your offering at a relevant time. Otherwise, you’re simply spamming people.”

Holly Chessman, Marketing Strategist



Instead, a cold email is really just an email that should have an opportunity for the person receiving it. And who doesn’t love finding new opportunities? That’s why in this guide, we’re hoping to crack down on the traditional misconceptions to help you write cold emails that are eye-catching and impactful—not a nuisance. 



Now, let’s dive in so you can master the craft of cold emailing. That way, you can learn how to write a cold email that knocks their socks off. 



Is Cold Email Marketing Dying? 


Pop quiz time: Do you think cold email marketing has become more or less popular in recent years?



If you guessed cold emails are being phased out, well, sorry to say it’s the opposite. Even Forbes has said, “Email marketing is seeing a renaissance.” And we couldn’t agree more with that.



When you look at data like search trends, more and more people are learning about cold email marketing. According to Google Trends, it’s been on the upswing for the last 5 years. They even corrected their data strategy and found search results are higher than they previously recorded.


Image from Google Trends



Now, since cold emails are here to stay, let’s explore the different ways in which businesses and individuals use them.



5 Types of Cold Email


Before we talk about how to write a cold email, you need to understand the why behind them. Cold emails are used for all kinds of aspects of the business, and when you know why you’re sending them, you can write far more strategically. 


Here are the 5 types of cold emails:

  1. Sales emails: Lead generation is a key part of cold emails and this is the one we all think of the most. It involves trying to get a sale from a prospect who doesn’t know anything about the company or service.
  2. Media pitch emails: These types of emails are often sent from companies to traditional and digital media. An example of this would be an outdoor brand emailing a magazine or asking a YouTuber for a review of their product.
  3. Networking pitch emails: Everyone wants to grow their network and the nice thing about these emails is there more of a soft pitch. Plus, you can reuse your emails for your LinkedIn marketing strategy as well.
  4. Market research emails: These are emails sent to a list, often customers in a database, in an organized effort to obtain information about a business’s target markets and audience.
  5. Link-building emails: For businesses focused on SEO, backlinks are essential. These emails can include things like asking for paid backlinks, writing a guest blog post, or offering a link swap.


As you can see above, cold emails serve a ton of different purposes. And in a lot of them, you’re typically asking for a favor from your prospect. Because of that, people tend to write them in a way that puts people off.


But you can fix it which we’ll get to later.



The #1 Reason Why Cold Emails Fail


The reason most cold emails fail is obvious, but we see it all the time. Far too many businesses get massive databases of emails and send their pitch to anyone and everyone. But they have no idea if there’s a proper fit. 



Cold emails only work when you stop thinking all about yourself and your offer. Instead, you need to put your prospect first. You need to speak to them at a personal level and show why it’s not just a win for you—but also a win for them.



And the data supports this. For example, by personalizing email subject lines, you can increase open rates by 50% as well as get 58% higher click-to-open rates, according to a study in Marketing Dive.



Now, let’s get into the good part. 



The Basic Format of a Cold Email


When writing a cold email, they’ll differ depending on your personal goals. Still, there are 4 key parts of any cold email—no matter who it’s for. Get this down and you’ll have a cold email that works.


All cold emails should have the following: 


  • Subject Line: This is the main text you see in the inbox. In other words, it acts as the title and is the most important to get your prospects to open the email. If it tanks, you’ll want to return to the drawing board.
    • Keep it to 30-41 characters max
    • Make sure to have your subject high up in the body copy as well if you want to write it again to catch their attention



  • Preview text: Also called a snippet, meta description, or message preview, this is the secondary text that sometimes appears after the subject lines. However, it depends on the email client. In your email software, you can choose to customize this and if you don’t, it will simply populate with the first few words of your body copy.

    • Keep it to 50 characters



  • Body Copy: This is the message inside the message itself. For cold outreach emails, you want to keep this short and write with short paragraphs. Always send a test email and look at the formatting on your phone to see if it’s too dense or easy to read since over 70% of people read on mobile.

    • Keep it between 100-200 words


  • CTA: Next, you always want to make sure you give your prospect the next steps. This often involves clicking a link, but asking for a reply works too. For a first email, we suggest avoiding links since links will lower your delivery rate (i.e. increasing the chance it goes to spam). Not to mention your prospect might think it’s a phishing scam.
    • Keep it short & simple
    • Avoid links unless necessary
    • Use clean links to boost your CTR


  • Email Signature: Lastly, it’s important to sign off. This will make your email looks more personal and not like it’s coming from a robot (or worse a con artist).
    • Always use a real name
    • Add an image of yourself



Now that we have an outline, here are some tips for writing a solid cold email.



7 Tips for Writing a Cold Email that Rocks


Once you’ve seen the big picture, you can get into the nitty-gritty details. How to write cold emails that don’t just land in the inbox, but also net you higher conversion rates on all your cold outreach campaigns.



Here are 7 steps to get you started:



1. Nail the Subject Line


The most important part of any cold outreach email is the subject line. You want to make sure it pops and gets their attention. Otherwise, they’ll bounce and never even read your pitch.

  • Keep it to 50 characters
  • Use power words to spice it up
  • Use numbers or emojis to boot CTRs
  • Throw in some psychological tactics like FOMO, urgency, and scarcity



  • Everyone’s talking about…
  • Only 24 hours left ⚡
  • This book saves me 100 hours a year


2. Don’t use spam words


Spam words are that are known to be used by con artists and spammers. As such, they tend to trigger spam filters, meaning your email will never reach the inbox. If you do use them, make sure there are few and add non-spam words to balance the ratio if it is a cold sales email.



3. Avoid hyperlinks


As we touched on already, hyperlinks affect your deliverability. So, to give your email the best shot, try to avoid them unless absolutely necessary. Also, when you do use a link, don’t use long or ugly ones. People are more likely to click if it looks trustworthy. 



4. Be. Concise. 


The truth is we’ve all got far too many emails in our inboxes to read them all. That’s why it’s important to know that people skim emails, so you have to format your cold email structure to make it easier for them to read.


Here are 3 tips for doing that:

  • Break up paragraphs into smaller chunks
  • Use bolding, italics, bullet points, and other formatting
  • Don’t write long, complicated sentences 


5. Make it personable. 


We sort our emails like how we sort mail. And Gary Halbert explains this well with the Pile A and Pile B analogy. Pile A is our personal mail, it’s a postcard from your friend or a birthday card from your family. Pile B is the bills, sales flyers, and other junk.



So, you need to write your emails and format them to look personal. Not like another piece of junk or spam to delete.



Here are a few tips on that:

  • Avoid a lot of images in your email
  • Don’t mix a ton of different fonts and colours
  • Keep the design simple if you must use one


6. Use a Clear CTA


Finally, make sure you have one clear call to action. Don’t ask your prospect to follow you on every social media website, buy your course, and be a plus one at your friend’s wedding. When you give people too many options, they’re less likely to convert.



Level Up with Cold Emails


The trick to writing the best cold email that gets clicks is to be genuine. It’s that simple. When you show up with real value to your prospect, you’ll get a lot more interest. It’s more work to do the research to get to know them and be personal, but trust us—it’s definitely worth it.



Of course, creating cold emails yourself can be a lot of effort. Luckily, there are experts out there to help take that weight off your shoulder. At ScaleUpSales, we’ve helped over XX clients craft a cold email strategy that works, and we’re happy to help with your next campaign.



Need a cold email expert? Contact us to find out what we can do for you.