8 Steps To Writing Successful Cold Emails (Without Sounding Salesy)

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Cold outreach is vital in communication and marketing efforts in the current business landscape. But crafting cold emails that sound genuine and human isn’t easy. 

Cold email marketing often suffers from the perception that it’s spammy or impersonal, resulting in low open and response rates. This post guides you through writing cold emails step-by-step to sound sincere and authentic while offering real value to recipients. 

1) Understand & Segment Your Target Audience

Before sending messages in a cold mailing campaign, you must thoroughly understand your audience. What situations are they facing that make your offer a great solution? What do they need to achieve? What are their goals when they consider making a purchase? 

The answers to these essential questions make writing an engaging sequence that captures the reader’s attention a breeze.

Here are some practical steps to research your audience and tailor your message to their needs and pain points:

  • Set up a spreadsheet with columns for the recipient’s name, company, industry, role, and relevant information such as recent accomplishments or pain points.
  • Utilize LinkedIn and other professional networking sites to collect information about each recipient.
  • Discover patterns in the data to break your audience down into multiple lists based on industry, company size, role, or pain points.
  • Compose a personalized message for each group, focusing on their specific needs and how your product or service can help them.

2) Compose A Customized Opening

The opening of your cold email needs to establish a connection with the recipient and show that you’ve done your homework. After you’ve settled on a subject line, follow these steps to personalize the opening of your email. 

  • Begin with a warm greeting using the recipient’s name.
  • Show genuine interest in the recipient’s work, accomplishments, or background by mentioning something you learned about them during your research.
  • Relate your message to the recipient’s interests or pain points.

Here are some examples of a customized opening written with varying degrees of formality:

  • “Hello [Name], I recently stumbled upon your article on [Topic] and found it extremely thought-provoking. As someone in the [Industry] field, I totally agree with your points on [Specific Detail]. Would [Product/Service] help your team at [Recipient’s Company] achieve even better outcomes?”
  • “Hi [Name], Love what you’re doing with [Recipient’s Company]. I came across some of the work you’ve been involved with as [Title] and had a quick question. Has your team been facing [Pain Point]?”
  • “Hey [Name], I saw the work you’re doing at [Recipient’s Company] and wanted to reach out. How is your team doing in terms of sales? Do you think [Service] would make it easier to hit your KPIs?”

The examples above are highly personalized – the more personalized and natural your emails sound, the better response rates tend to be.

Here’s an example of a customized opening we used at ClearBrand. This particular opening contributed to an overall open rate of 56% for the campaign. Notice that this opening is short, clear, and to the point:

  • “Hey [Name], I saw that [Recipient’s Company] is doing well on LinkedIn and I wanted to reach out personally. Do you currently have marketing in place that generates at least 30 leads every 30 days?”

3) Make Use Of Storytelling

Incorporating stories into your cold email can keep the reader interested and make your message more memorable by showing how you’ve been in their shoes and found a solution. To add storytelling elements to your cold email, do the following:

  • Think of real-life success stories or case studies demonstrating how your product or service helped someone in a situation the recipient is experiencing.
  • Describe the situation and the problem the client faced very briefly.
  • Explain how your product or service provided a solution and the results they achieved.

When adding stories to your cold email sequences, be careful not to make them too long. The goal is to provide an experience that the customer can relate to. It is NOT to talk about how great your company is at helping people. Here’s an example of storytelling in a cold email:

  • “Last year, we assisted a company much like yours in reducing operational costs by 30% while enhancing efficiency. We think you might be able to do even better.”

In the sample above, the story is only one sentence long, but it allows the client to open up the conversation. There’s a reason it’s so short: making your narrative any longer shifts the focus away from your prospect, and onto you. When providing examples of how you’ve helped other customers, keeping your points brief gives prospects the space needed to see how your solution benefits them too.

Notice that the sentence focuses on engaging the customer and piquing curiosity. If the recipient is open to a conversation, you can go deeper into detail and talk about exactly what happened.

4) Deliver Value and Tackle Pain Points

To write a cold email that resonates with your recipient, you have to demonstrate a deep understanding of their needs and present your solution as a tailored answer to their problems. 

It’s important to note that you shouldn’t try to incorporate this step into your first email. If you provide too much information all at once, your audience checks out and loses interest in your message. Instead, save the value for a follow-up email later in the sequence. Ideally, value and pain points should be included in the second or third email of the sequence. 

Either in a follow-up email or in response to a recipient’s reply (but never in the first email), follow these steps to tackle pain points and offer value effectively:

  • Identify the most pressing pain points for your target audience.
  • Explain how your product or service directly addresses these issues.
  • Include social proof, such as testimonials or case studies, to build credibility and showcase the effectiveness of your solution.

Here’s what addressing pain points in a response or follow-up might look like:

  • “I understand that [Recipient’s Company] has been grappling with [Pain Point]. You can overcome this issue by [Brief Explanation of How Your Solution Works]. For instance, we recently collaborated with [Client Name], who experienced a [Specific Result] after implementing our solution.”

5) Use The Power Of Personalization

As we mentioned earlier, personalizing your cold emails is a must to make your message stand out and increase the likelihood of a response. Here are some ways to keep things personal, even when sending emails to a large audience:

  • Use mail merge features or third-party tools to customize the content based on your recipient’s information. Programs like Mailshake allow you to import large contact lists using a CSV. Choosing which columns to include when uploading your contacts makes it easier to personalize emails to each recipient. You can also add custom columns after researching performing in-depth research on your prospects for a more tailored approach.
  • Include personalized details, such as the recipient’s name, company name, or recent achievement, to make the email feel more genuine and unique. As you research your prospects and break them down into smaller segments, identify other information that shows you’ve done your due diligence. Info to consider could include titles for specific positions, tools commonly used in the prospect’s industry, or the company’s location.
  • Avoid using generic phrases and overly promotional language. A great cold email never sounds like a cold email. Using informal language and avoiding industry-related jargon keeps your tone natural and approachable.

6) Write A Call-to-Action (CTA) that Connects

Great cold emails include a clear and concise call-to-action (CTA) that guides the recipient toward the desired outcome. To create a CTA that connects with your recipient, follow these steps:

  • State what you want the recipient to do very clearly (e.g., schedule a call, reply with more information, or sign up for a demo), but follow up with an open-ended question that invites a reply.
  • Make the CTA easy to complete by providing a direct link, a calendar invite, or a pre-filled email response.

Below are some examples of personalized CTAs that use open questions to boost the probability of a response. When the recipient sees the question, they feel engaged in a conversation instead of feeling like they’re reading an ad or pitch.

  • “I’d like to have a 15-minute call next week to discuss how [Your Product/Service] could help [Recipient’s Company] with [Pain Point]. Would you like to schedule a few minutes on your calendar next week?
  • “Want to put a few minutes on the calendar to talk about how [Company] could use [Product/Service]?
  • “Can we schedule some time to talk about improving [Recipient’s Company]’s sales performance with [Product/Service]?

The examples above all use open ended questions to drive engagement. You can use whatever CTA you want as long as they’re consistent throughout the email sequence.

7) Test and Refine Your Cold Email Sequence

It’s impossible to know which emails work without testing and tracking them. Follow these steps for testing different email elements and analyzing open and response rates:

  • Use A/B testing to compare subject lines, messaging, and CTAs. The majority of reputable cold email platforms include the ability to run tests with each campaign, allowing you to test anything from subject lines to individual lines within your email’s body content.
  • Use the reporting functionality of your cold email software to analyze open rates, click-through rates, and response rates for each variation. The messaging with the best rates can then be tweaked and tested for further improvement.
  • Refine your approach based on the results and continue iterating to improve your cold email strategy.

When using A/B tests to optimize your messaging, remember not to test more than one variable at a time. For example, imagine an email marketer who wants to track performance for different subject lines using A/B tests. Ideally, the only difference between sequence A and sequence B is the subject line being tested.

If multiple variables change between sequences A and B, it becomes impossible to determine whether differences in performance are due to the changed subject line or something else.

Single father taking care of his daughter while writing cold emails on laptop at home.

8) Design an Engaging Subject Line

An effective cold email begins with an eye-catching subject line that both clearly states the contents of the email and grabs the recipient’s attention. However, we write the subject line last to be sure it accurately reflects the content of the email. 

To grab their attention, don’t attempt to be shocking. Instead, be giving. In step #1, we understood our audience, now use that information. What do they want and how can we give it to them?

Here’s how to craft a perfect subject line that catches the recipient’s eye:

  • Brainstorm a list of 5-10 subject lines for your cold email that accurately reflect the contents of the sequence.
  • Test each subject line with a small sample of contacts using A/B tests.
  • Look at the open rates for each test and choose the subject line with the highest open rate for your final email.

Here are some examples of captivating subject lines that seem personalized while remaining equally applicable to all applicants:

  • “Discover how [Company] can flourish with…”
  • “Idea to cut costs at [Company] by X%”
  • “[Company]’s growth strategy – can we talk?”
  • “Idea to help [Company] grow”
  • “[Name], let’s discuss [Company]”

Test different subject lines within your sequences to see which works best. When you have a clear result, use it in future sequences. In our experience, short, casual subject lines are more effective than long, salesy subject lines.

Create Genuine Connections And See Clear Results With Cold Email

Writing authentic cold emails that get responses takes a delicate balance between personalization and scalability. Understanding your target audience, designing engaging subject lines, using storytelling, tackling pain points, and optimizing your email sequence all help you create cold emails that feel genuine and provide value to the recipient without sounding robotic or overly salesy.

Closing a deal that began with an appointment set via cold email

Follow the practical advice and examples provided in this guide, and you’ll be well on your way to crafting cold email campaigns that generate results and foster meaningful connections with your prospects.

Anyone can write a high-performing email sequence with the right toolset, but developing the knowledge and understanding needed to connect with prospects consistently takes time and effort. For those who need extra support and assistance, ClearBrand handles it all. Click here to schedule a call to learn more about how we can help you write and launch high-performing cold email campaigns.

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