People hate cold emails. That’s just a fact, and it’s not exactly surprising. Cold emails are the emails you get without having asked for them in any way. They appear in your inbox just out of the blue and try to sell you stuff. It’s no wonder that nobody feels good about them. But the cold emails continue — why? If people didn’t respond, salespeople and marketing experts would have stopped using them a long time ago. So, there must be ways to write these unwanted emails that get responses from recipients, and that’s exactly where this guide comes in.

By following these few simple rules, you can write cold emails that work wonders for your small business. Cold emails are a fantastic way to promote your business and generate leads while sparing the budget. Now, let’s dig right in and see how you can write that ideal first-contact email.


What are Cold Emails

Cold emails are supposed to be first-contact tools, breaking through all the noise, and making enough of an impression for a stranger to trust you.

It may not be immediately obvious what being cold has to do with being unwanted, but cold emails are the ones that you haven’t signed up for in any way. The reason why they are called that goes back a few decades. Before people used the Internet and emails for everything, sales were all about making phone calls. Salespeople would start and finalize everything while on the phone with the customer.

Back then, it was very common for sales teams to just start dialling numbers from a list and get people interested enough to consider buying a product or service. Between themselves, the salespeople called this cold calling. It probably had something to do with that game where you get warm, warmer, hot when you move closer to the goal. However it started, the expression for cold calling stuck around and continued to stick around even when the calls stopped being phone calls.


How to Write Cold Emails that Get People to Respond

First Things First — The Right “From” Line

To understand just how vital the so-called “from” line can be, we need the recipient’s perspective. We have all had cold emails in our inboxes, so it shouldn’t be hard to imagine yourself as the recipient of the email you’re writing. What is the first thing you see when you find a new email? From the left, the first thing to jump out at you is the sender’s name. So, aside from your email address, you also need to select a sender name. Is it going to be just a name? The name of your company? A combination? Here are a few templates for the “from” line (the sender name the recipient sees):

First Name Only — Jesse

Full Name — Jesse Adams

First Name at Company Name — Jesse at RunSensible

Full Name at Company Name — Jesse Adams at RunSensible

First Name from Department — Jesse from Marketing

You can see how they give different impressions of the email and its sender. Some are more formal, and some are more approachable and friendly. Of course, the more challenging part is to find which of these you should use as your cold email’s “from” line. One way to answer that is to consider the prospect, the recipient, as a potential customer. They’re part of your target market, and you can use your buyer persona to gauge what type of voice they respond to the most. In the following section, I’ll reveal more about tailoring emails to fit the recipient. Another way you can decide on the best “from” line is to make sure it’s along the same lines as the body of your email. If you have written a cold email in a friendly, almost familiar voice, you should also pick an informal sender name. For example, using the first name instead of the full name can be a good idea. Naturally, the way you write the cold email’s body is also determined by the prospect and what you know about their preferences. Let’s talk about that.

Check the Fit — The Right Audience

Okay, so you have gotten a list of emails. These can be the people who have attended a sales conference or work in companies you like to target. However you got the list, you should also know their demands and pain points and how close they are to your ideal buyer persona.

Of course, getting to understand the prospects of a cold email campaign will be more challenging than nurturing leads from inbound marketing campaigns. You can’t be exactly sure how close they are to your buyer persona. That’s why it’s essential to research your recipients as much as you can. You should try to personalize the email based on that research. It may take longer this way, but you will see much better results than you would by just sending random bulk messages.

Intriguing Invitation — The Right Subject Line

Now that you know how to fit the email to your prospect, it’s time to get back to the recipient’s perspective. The second vital piece of information that pops out at you is the email’s subject line. In almost all email clients as web services (like Gmail), the bold typeface emphasizes the subject line. That makes writing an intriguing, seductive subject a critical part of getting a response. A good subject line works as an invitation, or better yet, a hint at something extraordinary. You’ll need to get the prospect’s full attention, tickle their curiosity, make them wonder. Think back on all the cold emails you have opened. What was it about their subject that made you want to open it?

We have gone through hundreds and thousands of successful cold emails, and it turns out their subject lines have some points in common. According to our research and other marketing experts, I have compiled a list of pointers. When writing a subject line, try to match one or two of these winner attributes:


Subject lines that seem to be exactly about you, the recipient, work wonders in getting people to open their mail, and they help you to write cold emails that get responses. You know your prospect; you know their pain points and their attitudes. Try to work that into the perfect subject line.


If it’s done right, almost nobody can resist an email with an intriguing, mysterious subject. This isn’t even limited to emails — I’m sure you’ve also seen those clickbait ads to this or that blog post. They have perfected the art of making you curious. I’ve opened these links and emails more than once, to be honest, even when I knew it was just clickbait. The usual approach to writing mysterious subject lines is usually saying something and leaving the most critical part vague or unsaid. Try to look through your inbox for inspiration, and you’ll find many.


Just like every other marketing and sales context, giving your target a sense of urgency will go a long way toward lowering their resistance. So, you can use your subject line to make the recipient feel like they may lose an opportunity if they don’t act soon. However, you should be careful of being too obvious or too direct. Hard selling and cold emails don’t mix. More than that, people don’t trust loud, dramatic statements on how it’s already too late. There are much more subtle and effective ways you can go about this.

My favorite example of a subtle way to imply urgency is this: “claim your discount/voucher/trial now.” The verb “claim” just does all the work for you, giving the reader the sense that there are only a limited number of whatever it is you’re offering.

Directness and Simplicity

There is something to be said about simple, to-the-point subject lines. The reader knows that what they see is what they’ll get when they open the email and respond. There is a sort of honesty here that inspires trust in the recipient. They will trust you even before they read what you have to say. Here is an example to inspire you: “Get 20% off on our popular men’s wear collection.”

Less is More — The Right Email Length

This tip seems too obvious to be here, as it’s true for almost everything you may want to write. It’s even one of email writing best practices. So, was it necessary to include it here? Definitely. A cold email’s word count will determine if the recipient will actually read it or just discard it after a quick glance. So, writing a brilliant email that showcases your work and explains why people should trust you is all good and well, but it will backfire if you spend too many words on it.

Of course, there is no definite word count for how long the perfect cold email should be. But there really is a ballpark figure. Data from 40 million sales emails shows that for a cold email, the ideal word count is somewhere between 50 to 120. Some researchers round this down to 100, which is a great idea.

Very Actionable — The Right CTA

Building Trust — The Right Social Proof

Cold emails are unwanted (“unsolicited”) emails that people find in their inboxes. By definition, the recipient will have no idea how good your products are or even if you are legit. That makes it more challenging to build trust.

Naturally, trust-building is always a part of the sales process, usually done gradually and at every sales funnel step. However, with cold emails, you have to inspire at least a bit of trust, and very quickly. Your email will have only one or two minutes to build enough trust to convince the reader to write back, fill out a form, or visit your website. How can you do that?

There is, of course, no shortage of ideas on how to build the necessary level of trust. Here, I will discuss the two most practical ways suited to small businesses like yours.

Social proof is basically a way to prove to your recipient that you’re a real business, with actual customers. They want to know they won’t be alone in buying from you or any other action you want them to take. One of the most common methods to establish social proof is testimonials. Of course, even a dozen great testimonials without some way to validate them don’t mean anything. You should always add a LinkedIn or website address next to the testimonial. This way, they’ll know the good review they’re seeing was written by an actual customer.

Testimonials are not the only way to establish social proof, however. Another popular method is to display your active social media profiles and how you engage with your customers there. A barely used social media account with a few followers is not likely to inspire much trust. So, make sure to spend some time and effort on maintaining your social media presence. Considering how you can leverage social media as an affordable marketing tool that’s just right for small businesses, investing in it will have a lot of benefits.


The Secret to Maximizing Cold Email Response Rates

As a small business owner, you need any marketing type that works. That means you can’t ignore a super-affordable marketing opportunity like cold emails. We just went over some basic rules and tips on how to write cold emails that get responses, but the most effective way to ensure that is to use the right tools. You need an email marketing tool to keep track of everything and simplify things through templates and customization features. RunSensible is a CRM and marketing tool that comes with all and much more, as it lets you integrate your sales data into the email marketing campaign.

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