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How to Write Cold Emails that Convert


No matter what anyone tells you, cold emails work. They just need to be done right.

In fact, cold emails are one of the most important marketing/sales strategies to master because it’s how most early stage businesses acquire their initial customers after they’ve exhausted all their online communities (posting on Facebook groups, slack channels, ProductHunt, HackerNews, etc).

I figured I’d write this post after my last post on How I Acquired My First 50 Customers received a lot of positive feedback. Like all strategies, don’t take these as gospel but only as guidance. You want to pick and choose and tailor them to suit your business’ unique needs.

Display Name

Who the email has come from is the first thing someone reads before they even read the subject line or consider opening the email. We do this because we read left to write but also because we’re curious to know who emailed us and whether we recognize them. Ensuring your display name is personalized is therefore incredibly important.

Here are some guidelines:

  • Personalize this by ensuring your name is being displayed. Full name is more effective than just your first name alone.
  • Don’t include just your company name. Seeing a company name as the first thing can trigger a lot of subconscious biases and negative perceptions people have towards companies.
  • If you do want to include your company name because the company is recognizable (either because you’re big enough to be or because the customer has previously interacted with your business), you can do it using the classic “(First Name) from (Company Name)” format. Such as “Michael from TransFin”.

Subject Line

This is the second thing someone reads after the Display Name. Here are some guidelines:

  • Keep the subject line long enough to spark curiosity, but short enough to not give away too much.
  • Be as specific and personal as possible. You can do this by segmenting your recipients by industries, location, etc. So instead of saying something like “CRM Tool for Entrepreneurs”, say “CRM Tool for Vancouver Entrepreneurs in FinTech”. I know this is more effort but it’s worth it if you want higher conversions.
  • Experiment with questions in subject lines, they can be very effective.
  • If you’re wondering whether the subject line sounds too salesy, then it does sound too salesy. Change it.

Email Body

This is the meat and potatoes of your email. If they are reading your email body, you have sparked enough curiosity. Now you just need to nail it. While this is the hardest bit to nail, it’s not impossible.

Here are some guidelines:

  • Don’t start with fake pleasantries like “I hope this email finds you well”. It’s disingenuous and you’re wasting precious email real estate.
  • If you know their name, address them by their name. If you don’t, don’t use salutations like “Hi there”. Instead, you’re better off using the simple “Hey” or “Hi”.
  • Remove the awkwardness right away. They are definitely wondering how the hell you got their email so the sooner you answer that, the better. You can say something like “I came across UpStat and found your email on Startup School”. Or if you don’t want to disclose that, simply remove the awkwardness with something like “Sorry to email you out of the blue”.
  • Add a human touch by personalizing the email even more. You want to make them feel like you emailed just them and no one else. As soon as you give them the impression that it’s a widely distributed email, you trigger those subconscious biases towards mass email distribution lists. Say something like “I came across UpStat and I really like your landing page, particularly the interactive animations. Super cool. ”
  • Use the active voice instead of the passive voice. The active voice makes your email sound a whole lot personable.
  • Keep the email short. No one likes reading long emails, especially not from strangers. Use your elevator pitch and leave a link to your landing page. They will click on it if they need more details.
  • Include a question or ask for advice. This prevents the email from sounding salesy, gives it a human touch, and opens the door for conversation.
  • An incredibly effective persuasion technique is to make a request and then tell your prospect “but you are free” to do whatever they’d like. Giving someone a way out doubles the chances of them giving into your request. This persuasion tactic is supported by 42 psychological studies. Examples include: “No worries if you’re unable to make time. I appreciate you reading this far :)”, OR “I understand if you’re too busy to reply. I know life as an entrepreneur can be a little hectic”.
  • Offer a unique incentive. Including incentives such as sign-up discounts, referral bonuses, etc. can really increase cold email conversions. We’re human, we like free shit and are more likely to “give in” if we think we’re getting a unique deal on something.

I hope this post triggered some ideas and helps you write high converting cold emails. What kind of techniques have been effective for you? Reply in the comments sections, I’d love to hear them 🙂

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