What’s the best cold email marketing strategy?

Mark Davis, Wednesday 17 May 2017
6 min read time


Cold emailing, like it’s cousin cold calling, is about making contact with people you haven’t spoken to before, to try and start a profitable business relationship. 

It’s a tactic you are likely to use regularly, if you work in sales and marketing. Whether you’re using account based marketing, or any other method, you will need some sort of cold email to get the ball rolling.


But reaching out in this way and getting a positive response can often prove tricky. The good news is, if you get your approach right, then it could lead to some great results. So, thinking about your strategy and investing time preparing will be key to your success.


The purpose of your email


The first issue you need to address is the purpose of your email. What do you want it to achieve?


In B2B, you’ll typically want to start a conversation, book a call or meeting, or introduce some other kind of activity that can be used to qualify a potential lead, to reveal if there is a genuine opportunity.


Trying to achieve everything at once is a common mistake. Instead, try throwing out some bait and seeing if you get a bite. Then giving out more information bit by bit, to start building interest.


Your intended recipient is likely to be extremely busy. They won’t have time to read long unsolicited emails. Keeping it short and to the point is, therefore, the number one criteria, if you want your email to not only be opened, but read and acted upon.


But writing a snappy and succinct message is very difficult, so don’t be surprised if it takes considerable time to get your purpose clear and your copy just right.

What your email needs to include


Even if you’re aiming for something short and sweet, your email needs to have a clear structure, if it’s to be effective:


  • Be original

Always avoid using jargon, clichés and corporate speak. If you’re business is very corporate in nature, find ways to inject some personality.


  • Watch the length

We can’t emphasis this point enough! Imagine every word you write is going to cost you money. That will help you see what’s vital to be in there and what you can get rid of.


  • Be specific

Avoid long and winding sentences. Always focus on being specific. Don’t lose yourself in generalizations and unneeded fluff, it will only lead to poor emails.


  •  Demonstrate understanding

There is nothing worse than time wasters who clearly have no clue about you and what you really need. Do your research. Find out what their problems are and reference them in your email. Showing you understand will go a very long way towards building trust, which is crucial for any successful relationship to be formed.


  • Make the benefits clear

When contacting those who may go on to buy from you, you have to focus on answering the ‘what’s in it for me?’ (WII-FM). At this early point in the process, all that really matters are their needs and how the product will benefit them - for example, saying an iPod allows you to carry 1000 songs in your pocket (the benefit), is far stronger than saying it has 160GB storage capacity (the feature).


  • Have a clear call to action

When you’ve got them to open the email and read it. What next? You need a clear call to action which will tell them exactly what to do next. Such as:


  • “Hit reply and let me know when you have time for…”
  • “Click this link for more information on…”
  • “Give me a call on ….”


You need to strike a balance between asking too much of them, or too little. Perhaps include a couple of different options - ask for a reply and also provide a link.


The contents of your first cold email


A great first cold email will be formed from the following ingredients:


  • Reference to any existing connection that exists
  • Mention of the benefits to them of engaging with you (keeping it general for now)
  • Short description of how you will solve whatever problem you’ve referenced
  • Some qualification as to why they should engage with you
  • A call to action guiding the next steps


In this Facebook feed respected author and marketing expert Chris Brogan mentioned one great cold email he received that got him hooked. In the comments, it soon becomes clear that others also appreciated its style and form. So, let’s analyze that specific cold email example, to reveal the secrets of its success.



1)  Introduction

The first sentence states the simple truth that they don’t know each other - Brownie points for honesty. In the same sentence, he asks for permission to send the email. At this point, you clearly have the choice to delete it, or click away, but as he’s already shown honesty and asked for permission, you’re more likely to be inclined to read on out of curiosity.


2) Benefits


He separates himself from the competition (other authors also seeking reviews) by being genuinely clever. He shows he’s thought about how to set himself apart and how the recipient could benefit from reading his book. He offers the book, not just as a link but a hard copy and tops it off with the offer of a coffee. Again, delivered in a very personal and friendly way that even includes a smiley icon.


This kind of offer just doesn’t happen that often, as anyone who receives these kinds of emails regularly will know.


3) Qualification


This one is again tackled with honesty and bags of personality. He admits to being new to this and keeps it all very straightforward. We get the impression that what’s in the book will probably be good (he has experience) but that he’s new to the game of selling books. His honesty shines through.


4) Description


He adds a link to the book online, which gives the recipient the opportunity to quickly find more information. Done, simple and easy.


5) Call to action


The call to action is very simple - look at it and let me know if you want it.


6) Politeness


The last sentence again shows understanding of what he is actually asking at this point – for the recipient’s time to read the email, decide whether it is worth looking at the book and eventually reading it.


Overall, the email works because it is short, to the point, very friendly, honest and shows some personality.


Response rates


In sales, you need to know what works and what doesn’t so you can focus your efforts in all the right places. As far as personalized sales emails go, you always need to be watching the response rate.


As a general rule of thumb, anything achieving below a 10% response rate probably needs more work. If your rate is low, you need to work on your templates then test your approach, keep track and find the best option, which you can then roll out to everyone.

Subject lines

Subject lines and headlines are among the most important elements of digital marketing, especially when it comes to cold emailing. They act like a gatekeeper. Your subject line is what will make a recipient either openyour email, or ignore it. They need to be exciting and never spammy. The purpose of any subject line should be nothing more than to intrigue someone enough that they open the email.


There is nothing worse in this world than an impersonal, unsolicited cold email that’s trying to sell you something. At the very least, you need to tailor your email to include the name of the recipient and their company. But the more personal you can make it, the more effective you will be.


So, can cold emailing work?


As the earlier example shows, if you manage to hit on the right content, composition and style for your target audience, then you could be on to a winner.


Give yourself the best chance of success with cold emailing by ensuring you put in the work before you ever press send. Follow these guidelines, be clear on the purpose of your email and research your target to personalize the copy as much as possible, and you’ll be making the strongest approach.

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Topics: B2B sales, Open Sales Conversation

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