Including The Best Cold Email Templates That Will Get You Replies
Cold Email is how I launched my company, made multiple millions, reach out to people I would have had no chance of knowing.
4 years ago, all you needed was an email address, a list and a few follow up emails to get an avalanche of replies.
Now? The game has changed. A lot more people entered the game, spam filters are getting smarter & react much earlier than before to potential spam signals.
So you need to be better equipped now to be successful at cold emails, and this guide will help you with that. It’s a complete brain dump of all the things I learned in the last 6 years learning and doing cold emails.
Let’s do this!
Can you really afford skipping this chapter?
Learn about the two definitions of spam and which one you should always favor when doing cold emails, how B2C can still benefit from sending cold emails and re-frame your mind about what cold email is really for.
A cold email is an unsolicited email that is sent to someone without prior contact.
By opposition, a warm email is an unsolicited email sent to someone that already had prior contact with the sender.
Spam has actually 2 definitions depending on who is answering.
If you ask the law, you’ll get a different answer based on the country the email is sent from/to and a list of hard rules. E.g. The Can-spam law stipulates that it’s not spam if you add your physical address, a means to unsubscribe, and follow a bunch of other things.
But if you ask people, you’ll get a very simple, yet subjective answer: unwanted email.
If you ask me, I’ll go with the ones who press the SPAM button 🙂 They are always right even if technically they aren’t.
Let’s say that one day, you receive an email out of the blue from your favorite industry conference asking you if you would be interested to be their keynote speaker.
Or an email from your spiritual mentor in your industry asking you if he can run an idea by you. Or your favorite author asking you if you want to get his next book for free. Or your favorite brand letting you know that they are giving away a product you already planned on buying for practically nothing (serendipity as it’s best!).
All those are examples of emails that are unsolicited, yet you would want to get.
Would you say they are spam if you are happy to receive them? Sure it’s unsolicited, but geez, this is something you’ve been dreaming of receiving!
What if they didn’t follow the law by omitting their physical address? Would you flag them as Spam? Certainly not.
So we can all agree that cold email doesn’t necessarily equate to spam.
Cold email is like a stranger reaching out to you in the street. It’s natural to be skeptical and treat it with more caution.
Going back to the legality of things, rules are much stringier with cold emailing consumers.
GDPR for example is a European regulation, which took effect 25 May 2018, which applies to every email sent to European citizens. It specifically states that people who did not opt-in for communication should not receive an email (cold email dead in the waters right there).
It does however leave the door open for companies contacting other companies by relying on legitimate interest. In short, you need to be able to prove that you have a process to identify the likelihood of other companies to be interested in what you have to offer.
Bear in mind I’m no lawyer but many lead generation companies rely on this exact clause to carry on their activities in Europe.
You don’t care because you only reach out to the US market?
The U.S. state of California passed the California Consumer Privacy Act on 28 June 2018, which took effect 1 January 2020. And there are chances that similar laws will be adopted for the rest of the states.
There is no doubt that rules to protect consumers will only become stronger with time.
This whole climate makes it difficult for B2C to reach out cold to potential consumers. But this is probably not where the game of cold email should be played.
If you have a B2C business, you could still rely on cold email, but you will need to shift your focus to a group that can influence your target customers. E.g. celebrity in your niche, retailers, partnerships…
When you will be operating in the same domain as B2B.
Now, B2B is not a guarantee for success with cold email as the button “Mark as Spam” does not disappear from the email client if the recipient is a business, but it’s a start.
So, no, cold emailing does not necessarily mean spam and my advice is to follow the law and make your unsolicited emails wanted.
Beyond all the stigma associated with cold email, it is actually a fantastic way to make some new connections and open a dialog and start conversations. I used to reach out to people I would never have been able to contact in any other form and even made some great friends in the process.
How do we do that? That’s what we’ll see in this guide! 🙂
Avoid the many pitfalls that come with buying a domain specifically for cold emailing, why you also ready this even if you already own a domain and plan on cold emailing from this domain, and what to consider when selecting the best ESP for cold emailing.
Let me be clear, you don’t have to create a new domain for your cold email outreach. In fact many so-called experts will tell you to use your own domain, and that you will inbox better and get more replies. They aren’t wrong per se, but not having a domain for cold email is the same as not wearing a seatbelt when driving a car: it’s fine unless you find yourself in an accident. In cold email, this would basically mean having your domain blacklisted.
A blacklisted domain will make it very hard to have emails from this domain delivered to the inbox of your prospects.
People recommending you to use your main domain are betting that everything will go well. Experience taught me that people starting with cold email often make mistakes that get them in trouble. Luckily for you, this guide is there to prevent you from crashing and burning. But like everything new, it’s better to have some safeguards and a new domain is something everyone should have.
Just imagine that all your emails (including the ones to your existing clients) are going straight to the spam folder of your recipients, what a nightmare.
Unfortunately, getting a new domain has its challenges too. Since they are brand new, they will be more suspicious to email providers and we’ll need to warm them up (more on this later).
A cold email domain is still useful even if you decide to use your own domain to do cold email as you can use it as a backup to continue your outreach in case anything happens to your main domain. See this as a backup.
Cold email agencies often have no choice but to create a new domain (and you’d be wise to do it) as owners often don’t want to give access to their main domain.
If you insist on using your main domain, consider creating an email on a subdomain to at least segment your traffic and have fewer chances of crashing the entire domain in case something is going wrong. E.g. firstname.lastname@example.org instead of just email@example.com.
Ok, assuming I convinced you to create a new domain, you probably wonder what domain extension (TLD) you should use?
The standard option is to buy another .com. If your domain is domain.com, you could get getdomain.com. They are cost-effective and have a standard deliverability rate. But every new .com domains are automatically entered in minor spam lists referencing domains from less than 1 month. This doesn’t mean that your emails won’t be delivered for a month, just that the level of scrutiny will be higher for that first month.
Another popular choice is to get the .co version of the .com. This makes sense but we recommend staying away from .co domains. They tend to have worse deliverability rates than other domains (maybe because they are offered for free to all https://startupweekend.org/ teams and what’s the first thing a startup does to test their assumptions? They cold email… poorly).
A more expensive alternative is to use .io domain (Indian Ocean). It has been used by a lot of startups over the years as a geeky reference to Input/Output (used for data API). Since it’s a more expensive domain, it’s not favored by spammers going for volumes, so they tend to have a good deliverability rate. They also don’t have the “new domain” stigma from their .com counterparts.
A final option to consider is to get a.net domain. It’s as recognized as .com, not expensive, and doesn’t enter a spam list at creation time. In fact, that’s how Sendgrid (https://sendgrid.com) does it. They use .com for official emails and .net for cold outreach. They provide a good alternative to .com
For my own product, I actually have it reverse, I use the .com for cold email and the .io for my website. I also have another .io as a backup.
Finally, you can decide to reuse an old domain of yours (as long as it’s not a .co of course :))
Ok, you have decided what domain to use? Let’s go to the next step.
Once upon a time, selecting an ESP was easy. Open a GSuite account to use Gmail and move on.
Around February 2019 however, Google introduced TensorFlow (we’ll come back to it later) and for a month or so, it was a total shit show (I guess that’s what machine learning is, it needs to learn first).
People got blocked, even on the first email they sent, they contacted Google support, their support was helpless and many people started looking for other options available.
That is when I started looking at Outlook and as it turned out, Outlook was enjoying much better deliverability than Gmail.
The landscape had changed and many lead generation agencies were running only on Outlook.
Today, Outlook still outperforms Gmail (can double even in some cases) although the gap has reduced a bit since last year.
The funny thing is that Outlook deliverability outperforms Gmail even when contacting another Gmail inbox! Gmail to Gmail deliverability is worse than Outlook to Gmail. Outlook contacting another Outlook inbox has amazing deliverability (as opposed to Gmail to Gmail).
So, if you are willing to put up with the horrendous setup, then Outlook is the way to go for cold emails hands down.
What’s the big deal with dealing with Microsoft? Some sneak peek.
It used to be easy to sent cold emails.
4 years ago, all you needed was an email address, a list and a few follow up emails to get an avalanche of replies to your cold emails.
Now, not so much. Spam filters are getting smarters & react faster.
This means that you need to be better equipped these days to be successful at cold emails.
It’s becoming more important every day.
In today’s guide, you’re going to learn everything you need to know about sending cold emails to get replies.
Let’s do this!
It’s like preheating the oven before cooking, it works better.
If you plan on performing some level of physical activity, you want to warm up your muscle first to reduce the risk of injury.
Warming up a cold email domain works in a similar way. The idea is that by performing some safe email activities, you build up your Sender Reputation, which will in turn determine if you are worthy of having your email delivered to the inbox instead of the spam folder.
The worst thing you can do is buy a brand new shiny domain for cold email and have it blacklisted as soon as you start cold emailing. Or trash your existing domain by performing some unsafe activities. That happens.
Ok, but why is this needed, how does that work, and do I need to still do it if I have an existing domain?
If you already have a domain, this step may not be required but age alone is not enough to determine if you will inbox or not. I would recommend you try the tools mentioned at the end of this section first, instead of rushing headfirst with the assumption that this is all good.
Originally, only IPs needed to be warmed up. That means, when a new unknown IP contacts a mail server to deliver the emails, the new IP is treated with suspicion, more prone to scrutiny. Trust has to be earned in the realm of email servers.
Over time, trust is gained and the IP is considered warm. We use the term Sender Reputation to simply indicate how trustworthy the IP is. The higher the Sender Reputation, the better the chances of inboxing (ending up in inbox rather than spam).
A great Sender Reputation will help you to inbox without much effort.
With the ascent of modern cloud computing, however, this IP thingy meant very little unless you want to operate your own private mail server or send emails from your machine, which nobody in their right mind would do these days.
Note: It is still somehow relevant if you purchase a private IP to send emails using an existing sending provider like SendGrid. But even there, SendGrid will monitor your sender reputation and simply kick you out of their service if it drops too much.
If you are using G Suite (Gmail), you are using Google IPs without knowing it when sending emails. And if you are using Office365/Outlook, you are using Microsoft’s IPs. So who cares about warming up IPs, right?
Well, turn out that for ESPs (Email Service Providers, like Gmail and Outlook to name the main ones), it is still very relevant because they are the ones managing server IPs to deliver your emails. The last thing they want is a user trashing their IPs by sending garbage messages.
And so each ESP started to put in place their own Sender Reputation system to protect their system from user abuses.
And since there is no standard for this, your Sender Reputation will depend on what ESP you are using.
Unfortunately for us cold emailers, the factors used to determine sender reputation are not shared publicly, but finding the most important ones are not that difficult through trial and error.
Here are 3 strong factors you can’t afford to screw up:
Here is the catch, your reputation is rarely shared with you (certainly not on G Suite or Outlook), so you don’t really know where you stand until it’s too late. Plus, if you change provider, you won’t get to keep your good reputation (you will however keep your bad reputation as big ESP exchange information on abusers). Head you lose, tail they win. Damned…
One would think there are tools to at least monitor the number of spam complaints an account receives. And there are…
PostMaster Tools are supposed to help you figure out if people are flagging your messages as spam, the problem is that it’s only available for accounts that send a very large volume of emails, so chances are it won’t be you. But you can give it a go:
Google PostMaster Tool, Outlook PostMaster Tool
OK, if you didn’t guess it by now, you will be operating with minimum information.
It’s like Google giving you the advice to “just focus on writing great content” to rank well. Yeah right… if only that was the case there would be no such thing as a massive SEO industry.
Anyway, trying to keep your sender reputation is like driving a car blind, you only hear when things aren’t going well. The best you can do is to make sure the car is pointing in the best direction possible before starting (at least you got this guide, right?).
And if you are serious about staying out of trouble, you can follow this cold email checklist.
An remember that Domain Sender Reputations are shared between all addresses on a domain, which means that creating a new email address won’t really help you.
If you managed to read everything until here, you should know that there is no easy way to evaluate your sender reputation, using an existing domain to start cold emails is a problem. You just won’t know where you start from.
You may already have a poor Sender Reputation with the existing domain without knowing it and it’s hard to know for sure.
So having another domain will come handy to compare results.
We know that the age of a domain is a factor to determine the reputation, but don’t get fooled by it, the email activity of the domain is also an important factor. That means that reusing a domain that was parked a long time will not lead to better results than buying a new one. Resuming email activity is considered risky and you should treat it as a new domain and start warming it up.
Regardless, you will want to look at what can be done to warm up a domain.
Alright, but concretely, how do I warm up my domain?
What you need is to generate maximum engagement while avoiding bounces and spam flags.
Engagement can be boiled down to people interacting with your email (in other ways that trashing and flagging as spam). This means opening, clicking on links, and replying.
This will signal to your ESP that you are cool and should be able to send more emails.
The easiest way to generate engagement is to contact people who know you already.
It’s obviously much easier when using your existing domain as you are most likely already generating engagement through your daily email activities.
If you start fresh, you’ll need this phase is critically important to your success and you will want to nail this down. Lucky for you I got your back, this is the definitive guide after all 🙂
Send an email to a list of existing contacts, saying you just created a new inbox and wonder if they received your email properly.
This works great if you started working at a new company, just update your contact say you started working at X (hyperlink to generate clicks) and ask if they could let you know they received the email properly.
Use your colleagues for this too.
Ask your existing client if you can help them in any way possible. This may also re-engage some old leads.
Ask them if there is a feature they are dying to have and use this opportunity as a survey.
Use this to onboard new users by reaching out personally from the inbox (make sure your message is compelling so they will want to interact with it). Just thought I would send you our most important resource, you got my email, just reply something and I’ll enable a discount on your account… something like that.
You have to be careful with this but you can generate some email noise from automation tool to send emails to each other (and unfortunately, that works).
QuickMail has an auto warmer feature that will automate the inbox to contact other random people in the group. Messages are automatically sent, the ones received are automatically archived, removed from spam (useful if your deliverability has dropped) and replied to randomly to generate some engagement.
This could make the difference between a 40% open rate and an 80% open rate on brand new email addresses, so this is something you want to take advantage of while it still works.
Of course no guide on warming up inboxes will be complete without mentioning some black hat techniques.
Find an industry that will reply to your emails by nature. E.g. ask for prices, quotes agents from the service industry.
I personally frown upon this technique as it’s basically asking other people to spend time warming up your inbox and you can use technology (auto warmup tools) to do that instead.
ESP will also monitor your daily activity with email, so make sure you don’t blast 300 contacts in one go (this will raise flags especially in the beginning when your inbox history is short).
An easy way to do that is to prepare all your contact ahead of time and contact only a small number of predefined contacts each day.
As mentioned already, each ESP has its own way of calculating the Sender Reputation of their users.
And if you follow this guide until the end, you’ll see how we naturally tackle each major factor at each step (cleaning your list, making sure you gain engagement with your copy…).
But I want to give you a quick one right here that is specific to G Suite when starting from scratch.
As it turns out G Suite is very suspicious of new accounts until… they pay at least $30.
So an easy way to bump up your Sender Reputation with G Suite is to pay at least 6 months of service in advance.
This is how you do it. Got to the G Suite admin panel: https://admin.google.com and select billing
Then head to ‘access billing account’
Click on ‘Pay Early’
Enter the amount (must be at least $30 per inbox) and click on ‘Make a Payment’.
And voila, an instant boost in sender reputation.
This doesn’t give you permission to send spam, but it will give you the benefit of the doubt with your first automated emails.
Find who should be on your ideal list of prospects and what will delight them.
Research is actually not the same as prospecting.
Where prospecting is the act of building a prospect list, research helps you to identify who should actually be on that list in the first place.
It’s also the foundation for crafting really good cold emails.
To make it clear, research helps you determine who should be on your list and what to tell them to make them tick.
And this is valid whether you are selling a product, looking to increase your network, or getting some speakers for a conference.
At the end of the research section, you should know exactly who you are going after and what to tell them.
Sounds fair enough? Okay, but where do we start?
Chances are you already have some customers, this is the easiest place to start from. Look at all your accounts and check for commonalities.
The idea is to use data to guide us at this stage.
Marketers say that the money is in the list. Who you are going to get on the list deserves all your attention.
If you are bleeding in the street and a stranger comes to you with something you need to survive, you’ll buy what they sell, no matter how bad that person’s sales pitch is.
But if a stranger tries to sell the best hamburger in the world to a vegan. The battle is lost already.
If you contact the right person, you can make a lot of mistakes.
And yet, surprisingly, everyone is trying to hone their pitch/cold email as if this was the most important thing. Sure it’s important, but you need to make sure you talk to people who are craving your solution.
One last thing. The success or failure of a cold email campaign can often be traced back to this chapter. Who you get on your list will make or break your campaign better than what you tell your prospects.
If you don’t have any clients already, you’ll need to do some guessing and/or experiments first to find out who may be interested in your service or product.
But if you have some clients already, a simple way to help focus and narrow research is to actually analyze your existing client base (people who already bought your product or services).
You could go through each client and add some information in a spreadsheet, but it could be near impossible if you have a product that is used by thousands of people.
When this is the case, I like to use Clearbit batch. It’s free and will give you a quick overview of your audience.
Here is an example of the type of output you can expect:
From this, you can deduce that your best bet for a successful cold email campaign is to focus on the US market, targetting companies that have less than 250 employees, mostly focusing on engineers in executive positions.
Building your list of prospects
Never assume your list is current, ESP hate bounces as it signals that you are reckless with your cold email activity.
One thing that often puzzles people is that having a list doesn’t guarantee that the email address on it is actually valid.
A list of 10 thousand people may in fact only contains 4000 valid emails.
Consider this, the average tenure of a job in corporate America is about 2 to 4 years depending on the age of the worker and the industry. (https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/tenure.pdf)
That means that your list is basically worth nothing after 4 years. Assuming a 4 years’ tenure, about 25% of your list will be useless each year!
On top of that, spam lists use old email addresses that have been deprecated for years to monitor who contacts them to signal spamming activity (those email addresses are called spam traps).
This shows the importance of carefully crafting the list yourself and verify the email validity regularly.
Fortunately for us cold emailers, we can rely on a few tools to help us determine if the email will bounce or not. This won’t help with spam traps but will prevent you from nasty bounces that could easily have been avoided.
There are many tools around that more of less provide the same benefit (checking if your email will bounce of not, so you can preserve your sender reputation by not sending to this email address).
I personally use NeverBounce for 2 reasons:
No matter how good those tools are, you won’t be able to reach 100% accuracy, that’s why they don’t claim more than 95% accuracy (meaning, they guarantee you no more than 5% bounce rate).
Although a 5% bounce rate may not seem like much, having more than 5% will put you on the radar with your ESP and your sender reputation will be at risk. If you have a 10% bounce rate, stop your outreach, and try to solve the problem (review how you are prospecting or the tool you use to verify emails).
We already know that email verification software has no way to determine if an email is a spam trap or not, but there is more.
In order to determine if an email is valid or not, email verification tools will primarily rely on a technique involving email servers.
Basically, if you try to query for firstname.lastname@example.org, the email verification tool will query the email server of domain.com and conversation will go something like that:
“Hey domain.com, I got an email for misterx, we are cool?” – The email verification tool
At this point, the email verification tool has no intention of actually sending an email, it just queries the email server.
The email server then can respond in 3 different ways:
1 – “Who is that?” – The email server of domain.com
At that point, the email verification tool knows that email@example.com is invalid and will close the conversation with the equivalent of “… forget it, bye”.
2 – “Sure, what do you got for mister x?” – The email server of domain.com
At that point, the email verification tool knows that firstname.lastname@example.org is a valid address and will close the conversation with the equivalent of “… got to go, bye”.
Life will be good if that was the only 2 replies possible, but there is a 3rd one:
3 – “Whatever, give me the mail and I’ll see if someone named misterx is around” – The email server of domain.com
At that point, the email verification tool can’t know for sure the email exists or not. The email server just won’t tell unless you try to send an email. That’s why they usually mark those ones as risky email (or catch-all, or accept all, depending on the terminology of the tool you yse).
There is a fourth possibility with the email server not responding (usually old or bad infrastructure), emails are generally marked as unknown and you should not email those.
For invalid and valid emails, knowing if you should email them is pretty straightforward. Just don’t email the invalid ones if you don’t want to get bounces and trash your sender reputation. But what do you do with Risky and Unknowns?
Risky emails are generally not a small portion of the list. Although this will vary, you can expect risky to be between 20 & 40% of your list. For example, on my 2.7 million email validations, I ended up with
That’s clearly not a fluke and you’ll have to decide what to do with a third of your list.
Will you run the risk to send even though it may generate some bounces?
I’d say it depends a bit on how you are building the list and how much you can afford to bounce. If this is a brand new domain, this may not be worth the risk. But if you are getting 1% bounce, you may be more open to sending to risky emails too.
Regardless, this is something you need to decide based on your situation and appetite for risks.
If you decide not to email risky addresses, don’t throw the list away, you may still use it as a custom audience on Facebook or LinkedIn to advertise to them, that way, it was not all for nothing 🙂
How to make sure your cold email campaign gets replies?
If this is the first chapter you read on this page, make yourself a favor and read the other chapters too.
Way too often I see people jumping into email copy before making sure they have the bases.
For example, if you think you have a list already and all you need to do it to know how to write to that list, you are at a serious disadvantage and I would recommend that you read the chapter on list building first.
That said, let’s get into it as this is (for me at least) the most exciting part of cold email!
The hypothesis here is that an email that is not opened has no chance to generate a reply. That is true, but that’s not what’s important here for a few reasons.
You will start optimizing for the wrong things. A classical pitfall is to prefix with “Re:”. This will increase your open rate but will actually hurt your reply rate. Plus, do you want to start a relationship with tricking the recipien?
A great example from Steli (founder of Close.io CRM) is the subject line “Disappointed in you Steli”.
Yet, the data shows that the impact of the subject line is actually minimal on the open rate. Which means that people would have opened the email anyway.
What catchy subject lines do however is to shift the order in which the emails are opened.
Now, let’s come back to that email that caught your eyes and decided to open first. How would you feel if the email tricked you into opening?
In the example of Steli, where he thought this would be about his product, it was in fact an invitation to connect on LinkedIn.
If you believe that first impression matters, I’d say that this person is screwed. So much for building trust…
The problem with claims that this amazing subject line increases open rate by more than 50% is that the sample size is often too small to be any proof.
Here is an example to illustrate the point. Imagine you are sending 20 emails total, 10 with a certain subject line, and 10 with another.
Even if you more than double the open rate, this is still not statically significant!
Find the calculator tool here
They provide the tool for surveys, but the maths are the same for any A/B test, so no need to reinvent the wheel here…
If you play with the number, you’ll be like, hey look this is statically significant.
First, make sure you actually select 99% confidence.
Then, be careful, you can have pseudo-significance with a very low volume of emails very easily.
Imagine you are sending 2 batches of just 3 emails each.
In the first version, 1 person opens, in the second version, 3 opens… Seriously if you take this as a conclusion that version B is better, you will have a hard time reaching a real improvement as you’ll keep changing between versions constantly.
6 emails is just not enough of a sample size to determine if a version really is a winner, and I don’t care if you claim 3x improvements.
Be extra careful when using low volume, open rate is just not as accurate as we’d like it to be as many people have images turned off, and images can be triggered by spam filters (called false positive – meaning people didn’t even open the email themselves and yet it still counts)
Opens also take time (usually 2 days) to get a clear number because not everyone opens their emails as soon as they receive it (plus some days have more opens than others and many don’t open emails on weekends).
So beware of wrong conclusions and especially conclusions from people not sharing the actual variables of their test (like how many emails were actually sent for both versions… at minimum).
Regardless, I aggregated all the millions of opens on my system to figure out what the best email subject was.
The results? Well, it turns out that email subject actually didn’t matter much for open rate.
Even mentioning the person’s name didn’t have a significant impact. What seemed to have an impact (about 10%) was to actually mention the name of the company, so that may be worth considering.
So much for all that noise…
My recommendation is to use the subject line as a contract between you and the reader that implicitly states “if you open my email, this is what I’m going to talk about”.
That way, you start building trust from the moment your recipient opens the email.
For example, if your email has a subject line of “Quick question”, don’t follow up with an email with a 6 pages body. Make it a quick read.
All great cold emails start with a simple subject line:
“Promote QuickMail to 850,000 Entrepreneurs!”
“Jeremy, see a video of Intercom on QuickMail’s website”
“Doing a story on you”
That should be enough to know what the email is about and set the tone.
The final thing I’ll have to say about this subject line frenzy is that it’s incomplete. It’s only one side of what the prospects actually see!
Each new email has 3 parts that the recipient see:
– 1 Who send the email
– 2 The actual subject line
– 3 A snippet of the beginning of the email
This is how it looks like on Gmail:
A good chunk of the view is spent on the subject line, yet who sends the email is probably going to be where your eyes go first.
This is far worse on Outlook as the subject line is limited to a small number of characters while the snippet takes a good chunk of the view.
Same with using the built-in iPhone mail app.
My good friend Amar actually ran an experiment. He changed his name to a sexy girl’s name. The results? Let’s just say that it had a much stronger impact than playing with the subject line to increase the open rate…
Stop obsessing about the subject line and focus on higher-impact activities that will increase what you really want: positive replies.
This is what everybody wants advice on. People will search the internet for the best cold email templates and the best cold email tactics to write the perfect cold email. But the truth is that if you ignore all the other parts (like creating a hot list of prospects), no amount of information in this section will help.
Ok, before looking at what every cold email needs to have, let’s spend a bit of time making sure we enter this section with the right mindset.
Because all cold email tactics successes fade with time, so it’s important to learn what makes things successful first. With the right mindset you can generate an infinite amount of tactics.
Let’s take Amazon, Jeff Bezos famously said that there are some truths that won’t change with time. For example, no customer will ever say “I hope they would make it more expensive”, or “I wish it took longer to deliver”.
Here is what he said exactly:
I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time. … In our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that’s going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want vast selection. It’s impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says, ‘Jeff I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher’, ‘I love Amazon; I just wish you’d deliver a little more slowly.’ Impossible. And so the effort we put into those things, spinning those things up, we know the energy we put into it today will still be paying off dividends for our customers 10 years from now. When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it. – Jeff Bezos
As in retails, there are some truths that will still be true in 10 years. Cold outreach, whether by email or another medium will still be there. Learning how to transform strangers into customers is an important skill.
But no matter how much you want it, you have to remember that simple rule:
The goal of your cold email is to open a conversation.
If you can do that, you’ll be the king (or queen) or cold emails, and everyone will think you are a sales genius.
Cold Email Recipe
All successful cold email outreach has 3 elements that answer 3 different questions.
1. Why me?
2. What’s in it for me? (Value Proposition)
3. What’s the next step? (Call To Action (CTA))
Look how AppSumo nailed it:
They did a lot of things right. In my book this is as close as a perfect cold email you can get.
This is the first thing that goes through the mind of a reader. They need to know why you are contacting them. They won’t be able to hear you fully until they can get an answer.
The value proposition is where most people struggle.
Make it crystal clear & easy to get it.
Make it about the recipient, not you (what’s in it for them, not you).
Make is crystal clear & easy to act on.
ONE question only, at the end.
Without a doubt! The bar is higher this year and this will get you an edge. In fact, these days, personalization is your entry ticket to the game.
Everyone worries about the time this takes but those worries are not always justified. For example, if you follow the advice given in the research and prospecting section to have a narrow list, you can use those criteria as personalization.
For example, if you target high growth companies with 3-5 sales reps, you could personalize your message with a “PS: Amazing what you have been able to achieve with just a few sales reps.”
If you want to have a process to do it at scale individually, check out the chapter on automation but regardless, do it manually first. Don’t optimize your process too soon!
Cold Email Templates
Cold email templates depend a lot on what you want to do with cold email. Do you want to increase your network, invite someone to a podcast/event, sell a product/service/course, partner up for cross-marketing promotion…
I built a website where I list all the great cold emails I received, you can check it out here
Should you follow-up if you get no response? How to properly follow-up on a cold email? How many follow ups, how often? What should I say?
If you are wondering if you should follow up or not, consider that 40% of replies come from a follow-up on average, so it is one of the easiest ways to increase your response time if you don’t have any follow up yet.
For example, I rarely bother answering a cold email on the first email.
Yet, many people are afraid to follow up as they interpret silence as a ‘no’.
Nothing could be further from the truth…
Your prospect could be:
So please avoid guilt-tripping the recipient (e.g. “I didn’t hear from you yet”).
The worst follow-up is the one when the person sounds angry or frustrated that the prospect didn’t reply yet. Unbelievable, like we have nothing to do than replying to stranger emails. That’s a looser mindset.
Proper follow-ups are powerful, especially for people that are gently persistent. It’s not uncommon to get positive replies after the 12th touch email.
Poor follow-ups, on the other side, will accelerate your spam complaints.
Let’s see what there is to know about follow-ups.
Ever received this email before?
Did you read my email below?
Those are classic bump emails. They are not meant to add more value, just to come back at the top of the recipient’s inbox.
The advantage is that it works with any campaign you may have. Just stick that in front and you are good.
BUT, is it effective?
To some extent, but it’s not 2018 and you should not use them anymore as you’ll get more spam complaints than answers.
Those are lazy follow-ups and people know it. Plus, you’ll miss an opportunity to impress/inform/educate your prospect.
After reading their section you’ll not only know why but also how to craft an amazing follow up so you are the one that will feel guilty NOT to send a follow-up 🙂
This has the same effect as a classic bump email (putting your email back on top of your prospect inbox), but add some freshness to it.
Vary your CTA with each follow-up. Some people are more receptive to certain CTA, so if you asked for a 10-minute phone call, ask for an interest (lower your CTA). The goal is to maximize your chances here.
Next, add some information that was missing in the first email.
For example, AppSumo’s cold email could add a follow-up mentioning how much people make on average, or that it takes no more than 48h to get started…
Those are the best follow-ups. They aren’t as hard to craft as people think. Most people add too much information to their first email. Instead, design your campaign so each follow-up touches a different point.
Break up email became popular as a quick, cheap, and dirty way to increase your response rate at the expense of future potential replies.
You may get fewer replies in the future, but at least you’ll get some now.
If you are following the advice on smaller, more targeting list, why would you ever want to break up?
There are a few cases when it makes sense:
When it comes to timing, you have 2 conflicting ideas.
On one hand we know that sending many follow-ups *will* get you more replies (note: not necessarily positive ones), and on the other hand you want your prospect to remember you 6 months down the line, when business priorities changed.
Fortunately for us, there is a mathematical formula that helps solve this problem by combining email spacing and regularity.
Mathematics to the rescue!
The Fibonacci sequence is a sequence of numbers such that each number is the sum of the two preceding ones, starting from 0 & 1.
The sequence is the following: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55 …
Now if you strip the beginning, you may well have the perfect sequence of time between emails.
Depending on how *aggressive* your email sequence needs to be, you can start at 1 or 2 or 3 days and simply keep following the sequence.
I came up with a cool nifty tactic while experimenting with follow-ups.
Space your first follow-up 4 hours after your original email and adds a missing piece of information.
For example, if you tell the prospect about coming to your podcast, your cold email follow-up 4 hours later can be as follow:
Should probably have added the podcast link: https://itunes.apple.com/podcast/cold-email-outreach-with-jeremy-jack/id1272643794
What metrics to track with cold emails? What should you really be paying attention to?
6 years ago, I was keeping track of my cold email campaign success using nothing but a Trello board. Luckily, nowadays, all cold email software has some kind of metrics embedded.
That said, it’s not because getting information is easy that it’s worth your time and attention, you need to be mindful as to what exactly is worth tracking.
Let’s review together what you can track and what to pay attention to.
Open tracking is an indicator to determine how well your emails are inboxing, but it is not a perfect science.
To understand why you can’t always trust the open rate, you’ll need to understand how it works.
The core idea is very simple, a link to an invisible pixel (a 1 by 1 pixel large transparent image) is added as part of the cold email you send.
The recipient will then automatically load the image when opening the email.
The image is located on a remote server that listens to requests for images. Given the personalized URL requested for the image, the server can then know which one of your prospects opened the email.
Although the theory is nice and simple, users who don’t have an image turned on (like me), will never trigger the loading of this image.
On Gmail, this looks like this:
Unless I click on “Display the images below”, the invisible pixel won’t load and this person has no way to know if I opened the email or not.
The same thing happens on mobile too, here is the how it looks on the iPhone app:
Unless clicked, the images won’t load.
Even with a Microsoft Client 😉 Outlook.
By the way, this is how you would disable open tracking on your email client so open tracking won’t work on you.
– In Gmail:
Go in the settings:
And turn off the autoloading of external images.
– On iPhone:
Go in Settings / Mail
Then disable loading of Remote Images
At this point, you may say, ok Jeremy, it’s just something to factor in. A certain amount of email will not trigger an open.
That’s fair enough, but that’s not the end of the story, unfortunately.
You also have to deal with false positives as spam filters do check the image too before showing it to the user.
Spam filters protect the recipients from receiving spam in the form of images. It could be an image with text selling you stuff (used to be a trick from shady marketers in the past).
That is fine, but they also will trigger an open even though the prospect didn’t even open the email.
Then you have to consider that Gmail preloads images in its proxy before the user requests the email. So you end up getting an open trigger even though the user hasn’t opened the email yet. And if the user opens multiple times the email, the image will come from the proxy and therefore not trigger an open on the server that tracks opens.
Ok, so you can start to see why this is not that reliable and there are two drawbacks to consider too.
The first one is that open tracking is a lagging indicator. This means that it takes time to actually show the right number.
Imagine you are sending 300 emails now, some may open it in 3 days, maybe more if there is the weekend in between. It’s not a big deal but you need to take this into consideration.
The second drawback is much more annoying. Spam filters generally dislike sending images so they will give you a bad score for including an image.
It’s the Observer Effect, by observing how well your messages are delivered, you are affecting the results (in a negative way, unfortunately).
Fortunately, the impact is minor, but I’d avoid running the risk on fresh new inbox/domain.
Since the higher the ratio text to image, the lower the effect, we always recommend not to add open tracking pixel on the first email you send, but add them in your follow-ups. The idea is that your followup reply to the original message, there will be more text and therefore will be less of a problem. This will, unfortunately, add a lot of lag and it will take time for you to diagnose deliverability issues.
By now, you should understand that open tracking is neither reliable nor ideal. But that’s the most common way to make sure our emails don’t go to spam.
Another way to do it, if monitoring deliverability is a concern (and it should these days) is to regularly send emails to monitoring inboxes that will tell you where you land (inbox/spam/promotional tab…).
For example, this is how it will look like in QuickMail once you enable deliverability monitoring.
It won’t generate engagement (e.g. people interacting with your email and replying to you), so don’t go wild with this.
So, love it, hate it, some people simply disable open tracking and I know I do for many campaigns as I’m relying on the deliverability report instead.
If you decide to track your open rate, you should aim to be in the 60-80%range.
If you are below 40%, something is going horribly wrong and you should pause your campaign to address this first. It could be your prospecting, but it’s more likely to be deliverability issues.
Anything in between (40-60%), you need to dedicate some time to improve your open rate. Review how your list is generated, check if you aren’t in a spam list, and that all technical indicators are good (SPF, DKIM).
Click Tracking works in a similar way as to open tracking, but instead of an image being loaded on the server, the request hits the tracking servers. The server then redirects the request to the correct website and logs a click notification for that prospect.
I’m definitely not a fan of click tracking as it’s like having a big sign that says I’ll know as soon as you click on the link.
I get it, you want to know if your prospects click on the link and engage with your content and maybe you can adapt your communication if they open the link or not.
But you are getting it all wrong. The goal is not to have them click but to engage in a conversation with you and no one likes to talk to creepy stalkers.
Plus, it has the same problem as open tracking as some spam filters will randomly check your links, therefore generating false positives.
You can (and should) use custom domain tracking (basically white-labeling the links to use your domain instead of the cold email application you are using), but even so, it’s too easy to spot for the recipient.
On top of this, if you actually write the URL, the address in the text will be different from the actual address you are sending the person to, which is a big red flag for spam filters.
Spam filters see that as a possible Phishing Attack. For example, you could write http://google.com yet redirect to Bing. Here is harmless but imaging we are writing Paypal.com and in fact, you are sending the user to your personal hacking server.
How about relying on URL shorteners? That way the user will think we only wanted to shorten the link instead of tracking them. This may work, but spam filters see those links as potentially harmful, so your deliverability will tank (it’s been used by many spammers to hide the real website they are sending people toward).
So if you plan on having click tracking turned on, use word, not URL as text. Like THIS
Or better, don’t track clicks as people will refrain from clicking on your links, which is not what you want.
There are a few exceptions though. Some links are whitelisted, meaning you won’t get penalized if you add them. That’s the case of LinkedIn profiles and YouTube videos to name just 2. There is no guarantee however as not all companies are using the same infrastructure and some may indeed reject your email.
Just don’t track clicks. And ideally, just write the link without making it a link if you need to.
Like what I do with my signature:
Founder & CEO QuickMail.io
Check me out on LinkedIn / Facebook
What’s QuickMail in 1 minute? -> https://youtu.be/9IleUfqbuP0
(see, it’s not a clickable link, yet Gmail will transform this into a clickable link when read by the recipient and will even pull out the thumbnails for you when it’s youtube… nice)
Ok, now we are talking. People start replying to you. Surely we need to keep track of this right?
Yes, for sure replies are important but there are a few things to pay attention to.
Like Open Rate, the Reply Rate is a lagging indicator, and you’ll need to wait even longer as people put aside emails they will reply to later.
Reply rate is what I call a vanity metric. It doesn’t move your bottom line and is “Take me off your list” something to really consider a success?
Therefore the real metric you should be tracking is positive reply rate or appointment booked.
It’s like getting more traffic to a website, the relevance of this traffic is only known in the action performed.
Holistically speaking, with cold email, you should aim for a reply rate of 20% or more.
If you are getting below 10%, it could be that your targeting is off or that the message still needs tweaking. Keep iterating at this stage, you didn’t strike a nerve yet.
Not all replies are equal. For example, your reply rate could be good, but what if everyone is telling you to take a hike, or fly a kite?
One of the easiest ways to improve the positive/negative ratio is to simply pay attention to the negative replies. Back in the days, I did a campaign targeted at Doctors and although the reply rate was good, the replies were angry at me one way or another for not using Doctor in front of their name (they worked 8 years to get this after all) and for using the word ‘customer’ instead of ‘patient’. Two very easy fixes to get the campaign back on track.
What should you aim as a ratio between positive and negative?
Have a minimum of 50%. You should not get more negative than a positive reply. Keep iterating until you have at least a ratio of 1 negative for every 3 positive.
I’m often amazed at how little people pay attention to their bounce rate.
Every bounce is signaling to the ESP that you are taking emailing lightly. This would immediately kill a new inbox as it signals you are going to be reckless with it and clearly not use it to contact people you know.
So you’ll get huge deliverability problems if you don’t tackle this quickly (as discussed in the chapter about verifying your list).
This is a data problem.
But it’s also lead you paid (one way or another, time, research, and/or data), so you are throwing money out of the window.
You should aim for less than 5% with every cold email campaign. If you are reaching 10%, you should stop the campaign and address this first. Anything above, and you won’t be doing cold email for very long.
It would be amazing, but unfortunately not possible.
You got a reply, now what?
How to automate my cold email campaign so I can scale my outreach process?
Usually, you will need to have some automation in place when comes the time to scale. The idea of scaling is always scaling beyond oneself.
We can however scale with more humans or machines.
For example, before tools like QuickMail helped with sending cold email and follow-ups on automation, people relied on VA (virtual assistants).
This may sound like a silly question, yet people often scale too early.
Think about it a moment, would you scale something that doesn’t work?
It sounds absurd yet many people are doing it by scaling before knowing if it will work or not.
There are many problems that are specific to scaling, so better nail down working at low volume first.
That means: Do your prospect chose email to communicate? Do you know who you can go after & having a compelling value proposition?
In other terms, make sure you get a minimum of 15% reply rate with at least half of the responses being positive.
The risk of burning through your market is real. Even if your market is the entire world, you will need to segment your list in smaller list to better target of you’ll never reach the 15% reply rate, which in turns will affect your deliverability rate (as many will flag you as spam, same as saying: “not for me”).
And because this is hard to have a compelling message for a lot of people, you’ll likely experience the law of diminishing returns. So your role will be to actually maintain your performance as you scale. Don’t think you will figure it out and improve as you scale, it’s likely to worsen, not improve.
Another point that people quickly forget is how much stress the company can take. Stress in terms of workflow and processes.
Imagine you are getting 10 prospects to reply each day.
Do you have the resources to handle 20? 50 or 100? Often, leads will fall through the cracks, what a terrible waste.
Remember that the goal of a cold email is to open a conversation, not to close, so you’ll need people/processes to convert a reply into a buyer.
Do you need to change your team composition to reflect the change?
Deliverability will be a challenge, especially if you try to scale before nailing down messaging and get positive replies.
Have a backup plan (e.g. some backup domains pre-warmed) in case you managed to trash your reputation and sender reputation.
Deliverability is a real pain. Where sending 20-50 emails a day is not really a problem, this could quickly become a massive problem when scaling to hundredths of emails per day.
One way to get around this is to rely on multiple inboxes to do the job (each inbox sending a smaller batch of emails).
This works great but until now, scaling with inboxes proved complex and complicated to manage as you’d need to duplicate a campaign for each inbox. Imaging to change the copy of one email and having to do that for all campaigns that are exactly the same (and pulling stats together to know what works).
We actually solved this problem with QuickMail inbox rotation feature. Each campaign can have any number of inboxes participating. That way, you only have one campaign to manage even if the emails are getting distributed between all the available inboxes. Volume stays low for each inbox and deliverability is maintained despite scaling up without adding management complexity.
What to remember from this big piece on cold email?
Hopefully you now have all you need to be successful with cold emails.
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