Cold Email Tips: 5 Ways to Take Emails from Boring to High-Converting

  • February 26, 2020

Writing cold emails that convert is hard work, and not all cold email tips are up-to-date and aimed at getting you good results.

It’s simple in theory: You just have to deliver a message to sell a random stranger on your idea, offer, or product.

But, with the average office worker bombarded with over 120 emails a day and 59% of email recipients reporting the sales emails they receive are “irrelevant,” getting results from cold email is easier said than done.

Even with a qualified list of leads and a value-packed offer, your cold email will still fail to persuade if it can’t engage your prospect and deliver enough perceived value for them to take action.

But, the absolute worst mistake you can make, and the one that practically guarantees you’ll be ignored?

Overly “me-centric” emails that fail to address the needs of the lead.

You’ve probably got plenty of them lying in ambush in your inbox (or spam folder, if you’re lucky). For reference, here’s an extreme example of what a me-centric cold email looks like:

me-centric cold emails

Not only are these emails painfully bland, but they’re also outrageously irrelevant to the receiver. Worst still, they’re completely selfish, which makes them ineffective at generating leads.

In this post, I’ll give you 5 cold email tips that will help you avoid me-centric messages and write cold emails that actually compel cold leads to reply and take action.

Cold Email Tip #1: Win the Click With Compelling Subject Lines

tip: compelling subject lines

Did you know that nearly 50% of email recipients open emails based solely on the subject line?

Strong subject lines are the backbone of effective cold emails.

They are your first (sometimes last) chance to make an impression. If your subject line fails to grab attention and “win the click,” it doesn’t matter how good the rest of your email copy is.

Your message will not reach your prospect, and your chances of selling drops to zero.

While you want your subject line to stand out, you should also take care to not appear “spammy” — 69% of people will report your email as spam based on the subject line alone.

To write email subject lines that stand out, keep these research-backed basics in mind:

1. Stick to shorter subject lines

On average, shorter subject lines perform better. After evaluating more than 1000 email subject lines, AWeber found that 82% of experts send subject lines with 60 characters or less.

Shorter email subject lines also prevent your line of text from appearing incomplete on mobile devices (which are now responsible for at least 50% of email opens).

2. Trigger imagination, tickle curiosity

When a task, object, or interaction feels incomplete, our brains are wired to become curious and are more likely to remember it.

That’s why subject lines that tickle the imagination with a little curiosity work.

In what Kyle Racki labeled “the best cold email he received,” the rep could’ve used a normal subject line like “Better customer experience,” but he didn’t.

He piqued Kyle’s curiosity with the vague, but snappy subject line: “Magic Goggles.”

cold email example

3. Use a name, or personalize with available data

In Yesmail’s analysis of 7 billion emails, emails with personalized subject lines earned double the unique click-rate and 58 percent higher click-to-open rate than emails without personalization in their subject lines.

Even if you don’t have the name of your lead, you can still personalize with a name they’re familiar with.

For example, “I know you through x organization” or “heard about you from x person.”

If you’re looking for more inspiration on writing cold email subject lines, see our subject line guide.

Cold Email Tip #2: Use Personalization to Power Persuasion

To stand a chance of standing out, personalizing your outreach email needs to be a top priority.

Generic terms and sales messages like “favored customer” or “I’m such a huge fan of your work” bleed personality from your cold email.

Explain why you’re contacting them specifically. Explain why they’re a special or “favored” customer.

If you state that you admire their work, or they are unique, support what you say with credible evidence.

To write cold emails that connect, you need to go beyond placing a name in the subject line and calling it a day.

Here are some other ideas you can use to personalize your cold email and build trust:

  • Find and mention an interest you both have in common
  • Point to a mutual connection
  • Praise a recent piece of work they published
  • Congratulate a recent promotion

Cold Email Tip #3: Use Short Paragraphs and Sentences to Hold Interest

Most people scan content rather than reading word for word. They want digestible information they can easily understand.

If they pause or slow down, it’s only to focus on and absorb information that’s highly relevant to them.

That’s why greeting your prospect with a chunky wall of text is an instant turn-off.

what not to do in cold email: wall of text

Avoid scaring leads away by sticking to shorter sentences and paragraphs when writing your cold email.

This quickens the pace of your writing, makes it easier to understand, and surrounds your text with welcoming white space, which has been proven to improve comprehension.

As a general rule, aim for one main point per paragraph and one main idea per sentence. For more guidance, this article gives you 10 rules for writing your next cold email.

Cold Email Tip #4: Limit Distraction to Increase the Chance of Action

A famous New York Times case study tested the influence that multiple available choices have on decisions.

In a shopping mall on a busy Saturday, researchers set up a stand that sold different flavors of jam.

Every few hours, they switched between offering 24 flavors to offering only a group of 6 flavors. Take a guess at which group of flavors led to more sales?

With 24 different flavors, only 3% of people actually bought anything. When presented with only 6 flavors, however, 30% of people made a purchase.

This is known as the paradox of choice, which states that the more options and choices there are, the harder it becomes to make a decision. In other words, give buyers fewer options, and they’re more likely to buy, since they won’t be overwhelmed by all their options.

The same principle applies to writing cold emails that get your lead to take action.

For example, following the call to action is easier in this email:

tip: make your CTA easy to see

Read it:

Hi Yesware,

First off, thanks for the epic product — you’ve made the internet a better place!

I’ll be brief. I’m sure you’re busy. We are an early-stage tech startup, and we are trying to build our blog. We’ve been working hard on the articles to make it awesome for fellow entrepreneurs and people who love productivity.

In the article, “10 crucial guest blogging tips: our story…,” we referenced your company. Without such a great service, our advice to our readers would not be as useful as it is. I was more than happy to endorse it in my article, and I also recommend it to anyone I know looking for such a solution!

My request: tweet our article to your community. It would make a world of difference to use if you helped us get off the ground.

Here’s a quick tweet link, ready to go: http://ctt.ed/eeRX_

If you’d rather not, I understand. I appreciate you reading this far.


…than this email:

example of cold email CTA that's hard to see

Read it:

Hey there,

If you haven’t guessed yet, I happen to be one of those people that loves a good cold email. Am I just that sick? Maybe…

Do you know why?

Scroll Down to the Bottom Now to Find Out.

Or if you’ve had enough, please don’t let me both you anymore and unsubscribe: please click here.

Yes, I know they can be annoying. They are not for everyone, but I’ve found more customers from cold email in less time than any other method I’ve tried.

Here’s 3 reasons cold email is superior to other forms of marketing:

  1. When they respond, you know they’re serious.
  2. You can reach far more people in less time.
  3. Technology allows you to customize your cold email <making you less creepy and annoying>

Here are some statistics from this current campaign

  • Total emails sent – 301
  • Open rate – 74%
  • Unsub – 4%
  • Response – 8%

I’ve done cold calling, sales funnels, and drip marketing for months and haven’t had the responses that I’ve had with cold email.

I’d love to show you how I do it. I can customize your marketing efforts to fit your company’s message and reach the prospects you are looking for in no time at all.

Let’s set up a time to talk via Skype and I’ll tell you more. The worse that happens is I tell you my strategy and you use it yourself.

For more information about me visit my LinkedIn profile. Link below.


The message in the first cold email funnels down to one request, it’s easy to follow. The second, however, is a meandering mess filled with multiple links and requests.

Excessive links, attachments, and CTAs increase the chances of your email being marked as spam.

More importantly, they make it harder for your lead to choose what action to take and make it look like the email is more about the sender than the recipient.

To encourage prospects to take action, narrow your message to one main request or call to action.

Cold Email Tip #5: Use Gifs, Emojis, and Images to Emotionally Engage

tip: use gifs, emojis, images

Imagine that you’re browsing for a new vehicle at a car showroom. After a few minutes, you’re approached by two different salesmen, Jack and Adam.

Jack is pushy. He’s poker-faced and he fails to ask what you’re looking for.

Adam, on the other hand, approaches with a smile and asks how you’re doing. He asks you questions about the car you’re after and gives his honest opinion on what you should buy.

You’re most likely to trust and listen to Adam over Jack, right? Simply because he was more likable, relatable, and human.

When writing your cold email, you want to be like Adam. Because no matter how logical we assume we are, most of our decisions are heavily influenced by emotion.

We’re less likely to buy from someone if we don’t like them. And we’re more likely to buy from companies that push our emotional buttons.

When you’re sending a cold email to someone you’ve never met, showing personality is hard. There’s no facial expression, body language, or intonation to convey the energy behind the words in your email.

Emojis, images, and gifs are useful tools to fill this “expressive gap” with emotion. When used correctly, they can warm up cold emails by breathing life to digital words.

For example, let’s say you’re finishing a cold email that ends with:

“I’m excited about working with you.”

Does it sound supportive and likable?

Sure. But, why stop there when you can amplify the sentiment with an expressive gif

Now You: Put These Cold Email Tips to Work

As you’ve seen, there’s no magic to writing great cold emails. You simply need to make a genuine connection.

Despite the army of people ready to tell you that there’s no point writing cold emails because “nobody reads opens them anymore,” or that “cold outreach is outdated,” you know the truth.

You know that cold emails have the power to launch startups and advance careers.

But, the way cold emails work has evolved.

In today’s crowded environment, with thousands of companies competing for your lead’s attention, selfish me-centric emails are ignored or trashed.

To stand out, you need to write personalized cold emails that have the warmth to allow a genuine human connection to be made.

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