How to Improve Your Cold Email Outreach Skills: 15 Tips

Published: Mar 04, 2020
Last Updated:
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Cold email outreach is a powerful marketing tool when done right. The best cold outreach emails can drive sales, help you make genuine business connections, and help your company grow.

According to Smart Insights, email marketing can provide your business with up to 30 times your initial investment. Additionally, email outreach has the best return on investment compared to other marketing channels, including social media.

Yet cold email marketing can feel uncomfortable. Many people avoid cold email outreach because they fear the email will seem like spam or because they’ve tried and failed at it in the past. However, with the right strategies, you can develop an effective email outreach strategy that helps you turn cold leads into warm prospects.

What is cold email outreach?

Cold emailing is similar to cold calling, except you’re contacting your leads by email. Essentially, you’re emailing people or businesses who don’t have a prior relationship with you, but who you suspect may be interested in establishing one, if given the opportunity.

One approach is to send out a mass-produced cold email to a large number of recipients. Many people automate this approach and rely on a cold email outreach template where they only change a few elements, such as the prospect’s name.

This mass approach might make things easy, but it often leads to low response rates. In fact, Backlinko found that only 8.5 percent of outreach emails receive a response. That said, if you send thousands of emails regularly, then the low response rate might not matter. However, you can improve the open rate and response rate of your cold emails by taking a more targeted and personal approach.

15 Effective Strategies to Improve Your Cold Email Outreach

By some estimates, the average office worker receives upwards of 120 emails per day. They often have to decide quickly which emails to open and which ones to skip. For this reason, generic emails are more likely to be deleted without the prospect opening it.

Using a targeted and personal cold email approach only covers part of your task. In order to craft an email that will get opened and cause the recipient to take the action you desire, you need to take all aspects of the emailing process into account.

To help you develop a successful cold email outreach approach, we’ve broken the steps down into three phases: planning, writing, and tracking. Following the steps in these phases will help you develop an effective cold email outreach strategy that enables you to scale your business and make meaningful connections.

Planning Phase: Targeting Your Outreach Approach

Taking time to focus on the purpose of your cold email and identify your target audience and their needs will set up your cold email outreach campaign for success.

1. Identify the purpose of your cold email.

To write a successful cold email outreach campaign, you first need to identify your specific purpose. Are you trying to build business connections, generate leads, sell your product or service, secure a guest post, or gather market research?

Cold emails can be used for a variety of purposes beyond just selling. Marketing expert Neil Patel identified 11 different types of cold emails that can help your business. The more you understand the purpose of your cold email outreach, the easier it is to write a targeted, effective email that the recipient will open.

2. Identify your target audience.

Now that you know the purpose of your cold email outreach, you need to identify your target audience. Since these are cold emails, this will be the first contact you’ll have with the recipients.

Using your purpose as your guide, begin developing your contact list based on Google searches, LinkedIn, or other social media. Of course, not everyone readily offers their contact info for the general public. To find email addresses and phone numbers, you may need to use a service like ContactOut.

<div class="tip">There's a reason why people don't generally make their contact info public: they know doing so opens them up to the possibility of spam. No matter how you obtain someone's contact info, remember to be polite and respectful. Rude or abrasive wording won't help your outreach efforts get very far.</div>

3. Focus on your target audience’s needs.

The more you can keep your cold email about your prospect instead of your brand, the more successful you’ll be. Take time to consider your recipients’ needs. For instance:

  • How will the contents of your email help them?
  • Will it solve a problem, expand their network, or show them how their content is reaching and impacting others?

By understanding your target audience, you’ll be able to write a compelling cold email that grabs readers’ attention and is relevant to them.

Writing Phase: Creating a Cold Email With a High Open Rate

Now that you’ve identified your target audience, the purpose of your email outreach, and your prospect’s needs, you’re ready to write a cold email that people will open.

4. Go beyond cold email outreach templates.

Templates can help increase your efficiency and save you time, but following a template too closely can make your cold emails generic and forgettable.

When cold emailing, your message needs to stand out and speak to the recipient. Ensure that your message gets read by adding your personality and creativity to the template. Otherwise, you’ll sound like everyone else and risk getting deleted.

5. Write a compelling subject line.

Your email’s subject line is an important first impression—35 percent of people open an email based only on the subject line. Therefore, an intriguing subject line can help you overcome the fact that the recipient doesn’t know you. Here are several specific strategies that can help you write a compelling subject line that gets your cold emails opened.

  • Grab your prospect’s attention by including their name in the subject line. Personalizing your cold email’s subject line can increase the open rate by 22.2 percent.
  • Keep the subject line short. Try to keep subject lines around nine words or 60 characters. That said, if you have an intriguing personalized subject line that's a few words longer, it may be worth trying.
  • Hint at the benefits or immediate value. If you’re selling a product or service, try to incorporate or hint at a benefit in the subject line. This tactic will increase the chance that the recipient will open the email.
  • Ask a question. We are programmed to want to know the answer to questions (or to answer them ourselves). Having a question as your subject line is a fantastic way to trigger your recipient’s curiosity.
  • Add a sense of urgency. When a recipient feels they need to open the email right now to benefit from the information, they’re more likely to open your cold email and not put it off until later. While this strategy is helpful, don’t trick your audience with false urgency. You’ll lose their trust and risk having your email marked as spam.
  • Be creative. Try an original and fresh approach combined with one or two of the other subject line strategies. Use vivid action verbs when possible and try to intrigue your audience, so they want to learn more.
  • Evaluate your subject line. SubjectLine offers a free tool to evaluate subject lines. After typing it in, you’ll receive a score out of 100, along with tips to help you improve your headline.

Here are some examples of subject lines using the above strategies. As you’ll see, not every subject line needs to use every tip.

  • Grow your business today [sense of urgency, short]
  • A better way to manage your blog starting today [value, urgency]
  • Do you have 5 minutes right now, Steve? [urgency, personalized, specific, intriguing]
  • Save time today by outsourcing [value, urgency]
  • Learn the secrets of outsourcing right now [intriguing, value, urgency]

6. Write naturally.

While cold emails are not spam, certain words can trigger recipients to flag them as such. The best way to minimize having your email marked as spam or deleted is to write naturally.

When writing, use lower case type, casual or business casual language, and avoid strictly following a template. Always read your email out loud before you send it so you can catch any stiff or awkward wording.

7. Get straight to the point.

While it’s natural to want to start a cold email by explaining who you are, skipping this introduction may keep the recipient reading longer. Your prospect only has a few moments. They care most about how your email can help them, not who you are.

Lead with how your information will help the recipient, and they will keep reading until the end. There are places to include who you are later in the email when they are ready to know more about you.

An added benefit of this strategy is that your prospect may see a preview of the first few words of your email right after the subject line, depending on the email provider they use. By leading with what’s relevant to them, you’ve increased the chance that they’ll open their email.

8. Keep it short.

When you open a cold email and are staring at a lot of text, what do you do? Close it? Delete it? That’s what you risk if you send your prospects a long email.

Keep your cold email short. Aim for two to four sentences in total. If you start going over five sentences, you risk losing your audience.

9. Get straight to the point.

If your cold email solves a problem for the recipient or helps them in some way, they'll keep reading—even if you break some of the other rules of cold emailing. Make sure you show how your email is relevant to recipients immediately.

For example, grab their attention early with information like:

  • Did you know that your website isn’t [insert observation here]?
  • You can save money by using [product name] instead of [product they are currently using].

By focusing on their needs, your prospect is more likely to read the whole email and take action.

10. Don’t undercut yourself.

Cold emailing can feel uncomfortable. Often, a marketer’s first impulse is to apologize and undersell themselves with phrases like, “I’m sorry to bother you…” or “I know you’re busy…”

If you see similar phrases in your cold email, remove them. They only undercut what you have to offer and waste space in your email. Present your information confidently and professionally.

11. Include one clear call to action.

When you’re cold emailing someone, you want them to do something. State the one action you want them to do at the end of your email. Additionally, the body of your email should naturally lead to your call to action.

Here are examples of effective calls to action:

  • Schedule your free 15-minute consultation call today.
  • Download your free Guide to Writing Effective Headlines here.
  • Enter your email here to receive the Guide to Writing Effective Headlines.
  • Call me by [date] to [the benefit they receive].

You can also end with a question. This tactic will prompt the recipient to email you and allow you to start a dialogue with them.

12. Include a P.S. and an obvious opt-out link.

A postscript is an efficient way to include one last reminder, ask a question, or include your opt-out statement. Don’t use the postscript to add a new or different call to action, though. Your email should only have one action that you want the recipient to do.

13. Include your contact information in your signature line.

Make it easy for your prospect to learn more about you and your company by including all your contact information in your signature line.

To avoid being perceived as spam and to comply with anti-spam laws, you should also include your business address. Using a free signature generator like the one offered by LeadFuze makes this step simple.

Tracking Phase: Measuring the Effectiveness of Your Cold Email Outreach

To increase the effectiveness of your cold email outreach, you now need to track how well your cold email is doing and follow up with your target audience.

14. Test and measure your cold email.

After you’ve sent your cold email to at least 1,000 prospects, assess how well it’s doing. To test its effectiveness, measure:

  • Open Rate: this helps you know whether your subject line is effective
  • Response Rate: this enables you to evaluate whether your message is working

If your open rate is low, you may want to create a new subject line to try and see if it affects your numbers. If you have an extensive enough list of prospects, you could try using a service like MailChimp that provides A/B testing to help you identify the best subject line for your cold email.

You can also split test the content of your cold email to see if you can improve the response rate. LeadFuze has collected 50 split test ideas to help you assess your cold email campaign.

15. Follow up with a cold email outreach sequence.

People are busy. You could have the perfect subject line, but if your email arrives on a day when your prospect is preoccupied with other things, your email may get missed. To increase your success rate, plan to send more than one cold email. By creating a cold email outreach sequence, you can significantly increase your response rate.

Depending on your purpose, plan to send two to four follow up emails after your initial cold email. Use automated tools to make this task easier like that offered by Propeller.

No matter how you approach the followup process, the key is to be consistent.

Pulling It All Together: Cold Outreach Email Examples

Cold emailing is an effective strategy for almost any business. To help you improve your cold emailing, consider saving cold emails you receive. Take time to study what worked and what didn’t. This strategy can save you time when you start writing your campaign.

Here are two fictional examples of cold outreach emails that use the strategies discussed.

Example 1: Making a Business Connection and Getting a Link

This email is short, relevant to the recipient, and provides value. The call to action is clear. The subject headline is personalized by including a reference to the recipient’s headline tool and piques their interest with the phrase “new article.”

Example 2: Making a Connection and Starting a Soft-Sell Approach with a Free Guide

This email is a little longer, but stays on point and shows value by offering a free solution to the recipient’s problem. The included P.S. adds additional personalization by highlighting one of the strategies that the sender feels will genuinely help the prospect. This extra touch adds to the sincerity of the email and the relevance. The call to action is specific and easy to follow.

Taking Time with Your Cold Email Strategy Can Pay Off

An effective cold email outreach campaign can help you turn dead ends into promising new leads or even conversions. Taking time to plan, write, and track your cold email outreach sequence can significantly increase the response rate from your cold emails, which can save you time and money in the long run.

This article was written by writer Shannon Whyte.


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