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The Must-Read Guide to Cold Emailing
The Must-Read Guide to Cold Emailing

Cold email can be a powerful, cost-effective tool when making initial contact with your customers and the first step to closing the deal.

Reply Team avatar
Written by Reply Team
Updated over a week ago

Contacting people via email may be intimidating — it’s about launching a written missive out there into the universe, not knowing who will read it or whether it will even be read at all.

For example, if you have hundreds of thousands of leads you want to reach out to but have limited resources, you can create drip sequences and start “pre-qualifying” clients before calling them.

Even if you have a quality list and personalized emails, it takes some work to finesse cold outreach. Whether you are seeing less than 10 percent open rates on your emails or would like to improve your overall cold emailing technique, this guide can help you.

Find the best time to cold email 

Before you figure out what to say on the phone, you first need to determine when to call. According to research conducted by GetResponse, 23.6 percent of all email opens occur in the first hour of delivery, with the rate decreasing continuously as time passes. The study shows that 8am and 3pm are the best times to send cold emails. If you are sending emails from US overseas, 9am EST is said to be the most effective time.

Set the tone 

According to Impact Communication, 70 percent of people make purchasing decisions to solve problems, while the remaining 30 percent of people purchase to gain something. Therefore, your email should highlight that you are there to solve their problems.

“People will remember the emotional tone of an email more vividly and longer than the content.” – Psychology Today 

You can convey a “tone” for your email, through word choice, syntax, punctuation, letter case, sentence length, opening, closing, and other graphic indicators like emoticons and emoji.

According to Psychology Today, when you are in a conversation with another person, you share the same physical space and psychological climate, while an email exchange shares neither. With that in mind, consider writing with the understanding the recipient may not be in the same psychological or emotional state.

It’s all in the subject 


The email open rate is primarily driven by sender name and subject lines — after all, those fields are the first things recipients see.

The best advice is to keep it simple, and include a subject line whose content the receiver will immediately understand without having to open the email. Generally, shorter subject lines work better than longer, more detailed subject lines.

In a study by FastCompany, two identical emails with different subject lines were sent to the same number of busy execs. The email with the longer subject line (eight words) received a 4.9 percent lower open rate and half as many responses.

What’s your point?

Your subject line should have a call to action and a clear message telling the recipient what the email is about. If you are sending the same email to hundreds of prospects, your subject lines can be slightly vague. If you are narrowing down your audience, then you need to be more concise and straight to the point.

Rules of thumb

According to MailChimp‘s study on subject lines, here are several rules of thumb for effective subject lines:

  • Length: 50 characters or less. Except for highly targeted sequences, recipients appreciate the additional information.

  • Avoiding pro-spam words such as “Free” and “Help.”

  • Get personal but don’t cross the line: adding recipients’ names did not improve open rates much. Adding city names, however, worked well.

“Great cold emails present a problem while offering prospects a solution. If you can pique your prospect’s’ interest enough to open your cold email, then you can use the body of your email to show your prospects how your product/service can help them prevent this loss.” —SalesFolk 


SalesFolk listed a few effective subject lines:

  • How competitive is {!Company}’s sales team? Fear of losing out is one of the most powerful motivators for buyers.

  • 10x {!Company}’s traction in 10 minutes. Be clear on what you do and what your business is about and the solution you are offering.

  • Question about employee loyalty at {!Company}. Asking questions in subject lines is a way to engage the audience.

All in all, whether you are writing an email for a marketing sequence or a cold email, you should always invest in optimizing subject lines.

The body

“When you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip.” –Elmore Leonard 

Short emails are far more effective than longer ones. A study conducted by Nielsen reveals people spend 80 percent of their time looking at the top of the page and the rate of attention decreases as they go down the page.

The study found that people were highly inclined to skip the “introductory blah-blah” text, while the post-email signature area got more focus, indicating people care about whom and where the emails are from. When you are writing an email to your prospect, avoid long introductions and make sure to always include a relevant sign-off, which is enough of an introduction itself.

One point to consider: According to Experian, more than 50 percent of emails are opened on mobile or tablet devices. Therefore, making an email too long won’t improve the engagement.

Include a call to action

David Silverman in HBR writes that the difference between business writing and all other forms of expressions is the call to action — a part of your email you should consider crucial. Whether it’s “a memo, report, business plan, email, and so on, all have in common that they ask the reader to do something,” he writes.

Engage the recipient as early on as possible

It has been discovered that the average attention span of an adult is eight seconds. Even so, this does not mean shorter is better — when emails are too short they seem too abrupt, but when they’re too long no one will read it. Guy Kawasaki writes in FastCompany that five sentences is the perfect length, as far as he’s concerned.

The trick here is to engage the recipient as quickly as possible. Chances are, you’ll lose them in the time it takes them to read the first couple of sentences, or worse yet — your message will end up directly in the trash. To avoid that, get personal in the first line. If there is important information, reveal it at the beginning. Always place important keywords at the top. If you want to provide a reference to a video or a web page, the sooner they discover it the better.

Presentation & formatting

Appearance and formatting matter. Use line breaks. Emails with single or double line breaks seem easier to consume at a glance.

Other important things to remember

  • Never write in all caps or use “!” — they are digital equivalent of “screaming”

  • Along with subject lines, the Fast Company article also points out that of the emails that were opened, the ones that performed best both thanked the recipient, and never asked for a favor (but do ask for knowledge).

  • Take a look at the email you’ve crafted. Would you reply if a stranger sent it to you? If you wouldn’t, chances are your recipients probably wouldn’t either.

Start tracking 

And finally, start tracking. Include relevant links to your website and sign offs, and track them by adding UTM codes to your URLs.

Now go back and review your auto email outreach and make sure everything discussed here is being considered. What could you do differently to improve your email traction?

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