If you are contacting someone by email for the first time without any prior communication or contact with the recipient, it’s a practice called “cold” emailing, and it’s essential to every business across all industries. Cold email is always challenging because it’s like knocking on a stranger’s door. Will they respond warmly or even at all?

Luckily, there are tips for writing successful cold emails that will help you increase receptive replies. And when you send “cold” email often, you start to notice patterns of what works and what doesn’t; what’s important, and what’s not.

When it comes to cold emailing, the most important things are:

  1. Short subject lines
  2. Keeping it brief
  3. Not introducing yourself, the signature does it for you
  4. Preparation and Personalization
  5. Testing and Optimization
  6. Stop talking about yourself

As an entrepreneur or marketer who has to reach people in order to broaden your network and generate business opportunities, these are the things that will help you break through inbox clutter and get attention.

To help you understand and adopt these fundamental cold email practices, allow me to describe them in a bit more detail.

1. Craft Short Subject Lines

The single most important thing in getting somebody to open your email – the mystical subject line.

Mystical because it seems that only a few people have an innate, natural-born talent for writing them, and for most of us it’s always a struggle.

But in reality, all it takes to write a great subject line is a bit of work plus some patience.

For example: You’re writing an email to a prospective client, and you don’t have an idea for the subject line. What do you do next?

  1. Write one subject line that isn’t great, use it anyways, keep fingers crossed
  2. Spend a bit of time writing different subject lines, reread them a bunch of times, shortlist the ones you like most, and ask a colleague to help you pick the final subject line

Choosing option B seems like the more strategic choice, but the reality is that a lot of people usually go with A, which is why they wonder why nobody is opening their emails.

Why not flip the script on how you approach writing subject lines? Put a little more work into it. Write a bunch of long subject lines. Why not flip the script on how you approach writing subject lines? Put a little more work into it. Write a bunch of long subject lines. Try to personalize them if you can. Put your most conservative, as well as weirdest ideas on paper so that you can look at them, think about how they make you feel. Mix them up, do a bit of wordplay, and at the end of this process, you’ll be able to carve out the perfect two-word subject line for your email.

The two-word limit isn’t incidental: Cold email campaigns at Uplead, for example, are able to achieve a minimum of 78% open rates thanks to limiting the subject lines to exactly two words.

2. Keeping it brief

It might seem that, since you have a lot of space to fill, you should provide a lot of information upfront to help people understand what you want from them, and what you can offer. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

What matters is this: If you look at your email, do you instantly understand what it’s about? Or do you have to reread sentences over and over in order to get the gist of it?

A good email gets the point across swiftly, with as few words as possible. An icebreaker, 1-2 sentences explaining why you’re writing, and a closing call-to-action.

If email had a character limit, sort of like Twitter’s 280 characters per tweet, people would be forced by technology to reduce their messages to the bare essentials.

But that’s not the case, so we have only our grit and self-control to help us write precise, brief emails that get to the point quickly.

3. Don’t introduce yourself, the signature does it for you

One of the reasons why you don’t have to write about yourself in your emails is because your email signature is all the introduction you need. And if you use WiseStamp, it can also be a separate lead generation tool.

Providing your business address and registration data is a legal requirement, so if you have to do it anyway, why not use it to your advantage?

A proper signature (as seen in the example below) helps you keep your emails short because you don’t have to introduce yourself in the email body. And – if properly utilized and optimized – it can also improve your campaign results.

Marketer Join my newsletter

4. Prepare and Personalize

For cold emailing to work, you have to put as much work (if not more) into understanding your target group as you do into crafting emails and sending them.

Research the people (and their respective companies) that you’re aiming to reach. Find out what they do, and how you can fit your message into what’s currently on their mind.

It won’t always be possible, because not everybody likes to share online what they’re doing in real life – there are still some industries out there that haven’t fully entered the digital age yet. But in most cases, you will find various bits of information that you can mention in your emails. These seemingly little things carry enormous weight because they show your recipients that you have taken the time to look them up, that you care about who they are and what they need.

5. Test and Optimize

Some things only come out during outreach. No matter how much work you put in—until you’ve tested your campaign it’s like Schrödinger’s cat—it could either be the best one ever or the biggest flop ever.

If you’re doing a lot of outreach, you should continuously analyze the results of your emails using software of your choice. Test different subject lines, email contents, and target groups in order to find the most effective approach.

The easiest way to do it? A/B tests! Write 2 slightly different campaigns. Or just 2 different subject lines. The first half of your contact list gets version A, the second half gets version B. After your campaign is over, you’ll clearly see which campaign got better results – and you’ll know exactly why.

The important part is to keep doing it because even if one version of your campaign works wonders at the moment, it will definitely stop working at some point.

6) Stop talking about yourself

When you’re sending cold emails, you have to keep the focus on the person you’re contacting. It’s a sad reality, but let’s face it…people don’t care about you. They care about themselves. So stop talking about how awesome you are, and start talking about their pain.

You have to be hyper-focused on solving their pain, and to do that, you have to intimately KNOW their pain. Here’s an example of a cold email that has converted like crazy for us:

I see you’re using HubSpot and I know creating blog content can be really tough. I’ve got some blog topics that I think would do really well for you. Can we chat for 5 mins?

This email doesn’t talk about what Sweet Fish does or how many clients we have. It also doesn’t talk about any of my grand ambitions or ideas. It simply identifies a potential pain and tells them that I can fix that pain for them.

Sometimes the basics are all that you need

It’s hard to level-up at something without fully grasping the fundamentals of what you’re doing. Once you master the fundamentals above, preparing a cold email campaign will be nothing but a pleasant breeze. And don’t forget two extremely important elements when it comes to closing your cold email:

1.  Your email sign off (“Best regards,” “thank you,” “Sincerely”). Check out this definitive guide on email sign offs to make sure you end your email on the strongest note possible.

2. Your email signature—it’s a very important marketing tool!

Written by William Cannon, Founder & CEO at Uplead