How to write the perfect cold email that won't be deleted
We get a ton of cold emails in our inbox, most of them we insta-delete because even the subject line is terrible and spammy.
Often for the terrible ones we sometimes do open them just to see what the copy looks like - it’s disgusting. You can tell they’re not even trying, maybe they’re going for the law of averages if I spam enough people I’ll get a response.
It’s useful though to look at crappy cold emails because the things that you viscerally dislike about them will guide you on what not to do, and make you think about why you would ever read a cold email, let alone why you would ever respond to one in the first place.
It takes some thought and a bit of trial and error but by doing so you’ll be ahead of most people if our inbox is anything to go by.
Get to the point
This is the most important point. I don’t care about you and I have limited time and many more emails to get to. That’s the hostile environment your email is headed into.
Therefore don’t babble endlessly, your email should be short and sharp. A good rule of thumb is for it take one minute or less to read, maybe three short paragraphs at most in the body of the email.
If you’re writing a novel I’m deleting it. You have to make the email as easy to read as possible, you should be able to skim read it and get the point.
Longer emails are for when people are invested in you and therefore willing to make the effort, this is an introductory email - always remember that.
Some examples of what not to do
Looking at the above example in the inbox of our MD Jamie that’s not too bad, right? It’s short and sharp but there’s a very obvious way they’ve shot themselves in the foot.
You should always personalise your emails to the person you’re sending them to, there’s nothing worse than a generic email with ‘Dear Sir or Madam’.
You’re probably thinking that they have personalised it congratulating Jamie on his new role at RealtimeCRM, the problem is this email was sent about two weeks ago. Jamie’s been in his “new role” for over six months. All it takes a little bit of research on the person to find useful information that’ll help you.
The worst thing you can do is not do your homework and send an email that has no relevance to the person you’re sending it to, maybe there is a person in their organisation who would be interested but you wouldn’t know that because you didn’t look them up.
Also at the bottom of the above example there was an unsubscribe link - so this definitely was a generic mass hit email and there was no attempt made to disguise that fact. So Jamie’s on an email list somewhere that he didn’t sign up to. That’s the sentiment reached at the end of reading that email - not great.
Firstly, the scare quotes around our name. Why?
The next bit to note is the list of customers that we’ve blocked out but looking them up - totally different to what we do and then the big block of text in the middle there, has no relevance to us at all.
There’s no value there for us at all, many sales teams may rely heavily on outbound sales tactics but we don’t care, most of our marketing is inbound and we go into great deal on our blog on what we do on this front. it’s so obvious this is a generic block of text and no attempt has been made to find value they can provide specifically to us.
Don’t do what that email did, don’t be vague. Instead, be relevant and specific.
When it comes to subject lines once again getting to the point and demonstrating relevance we’ve found works best. If you’re trying to guest post on a site then put in guest post and the title of your submission into the subject line. Just make sure you’re not sending it to the guy in admin but the lady in charge of their blog.
Another way is to do your research and congratulate the person you’re sending the email to on something they achieved recently or their company did.
People love to be congratulated, it’s a very quick and easy way to get them to just open the email. That’s the goal of the subject line - get them to open the email.
So to summarise your subject line should be short, sharp and be relevant to the prospect personally or to what they do, their job role. It’s not complicated why would you open an email that obviously has no relevance to you?
Whatever you do don’t be bland and generic.
Give them value
We’ve already mentioned this before but it needs to be reiterated and backed up so you get it. Without this your email has no meat.
The example above is an actual email we sent to an editor of the Google Cloud blog which resulted in us guest posting:
The traffic we get from that referral converts at 5%. It’s hugely valuable to us but getting your foot in the door at Google is not easy. They’re a giant and they’re not going to waste their time on anyone or anything if there’s nothing in it for them.
So the first thing we did was our research. We know why we want to post on their blog because its Google, for SEO purposes and for the exposure giving a behind the scenes look at us to a much bigger audience.
But what could we offer Google in return? Well they have these awesome API’s that allow you to integrate machine learning functionality into your products, we built our business card reader using them.
So that’s where the eureka moment came in as to how we provide value. We would not only be a case study for a real world example of using their APIs to do something useful but we’d give away the script so that others could use the Google Cloud APIs do build their own business card readers or whatever twist on it they want.
There’s the compelling value that we provided to them, and it worked we got a response and the rest is history. You have to apply the same process to your prospect and craft your email to get that value across to them.
The other component is knowing who you’re sending the email to. In this case we referenced a post by the editor we were emailing written on the Google Cloud blog, the post itself revolved around machine learning with a business application - exactly what we were proposing in our guest post. So we’re demonstrating that we know this is something they’re interested in and we know how they write about it. We’re making it as easy as possible for them.
Next, we provide some relevant proof to back up our call to action, in this case links to other articles we’ve written so they can check our writing style is suitable for them and then we’ve got a call to action which is very easy to complete, for the editor to let us know if they’re interested.
Your call to action should be obvious and not require a ton of effort. Remember, don’t be too pushy but be explicit about the value you’re going to provide them.
Lastly, it’s usually a good idea to acknowledge them and thank them for taking the time to look at your email - people are busy just acknowledge that. It’s a really nice touch to end things with.
Check it over
Read your email back and if it’s annoying, feels overlong or waffly, doesn’t get to the point and provide value then redo it.
If you can get someone else to look it over as well - do that, over time you’ll get better at this and you’ll be able to make judgement calls on what works or not yourself.
A great rule of thumb when you’re starting out is to not remake the wheel but learn from others who know what they’re talking about with real life examples. Take advantage of their experience.
To that end check out Dmitry Dragilev from Criminally Prolific and his amazing post 26 cold email examples broken down to help you write your own - it goes over how to personalise and spark interest for a bunch of different value propositions and also how not to violate CAN SPAM laws when sending your cold email which we have not covered here.
It’s really simple make the email about the prospect not about you. Before you even write anything down think about what they would gain from reading and responding to your email, if you can crystalise that into an awesome email you’re almost there.
Too many people always look at things from their point of view only and then are surprised when they get no response. Don’t be one of those people.
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