The Ultimate Guide to Cold Email Marketing

Samuel Edwards
March 13, 2023

Is email dead? With the rise of social media, instant messaging, and other forms of online communication, you might think so. 

But the truth is that email is far from dead. In fact, McKinsey & Company reports that it is 40 times more effective at acquiring customers than Facebook and Twitter combined.“That’s because 91 percent of all US consumers still use email daily, and the rate at which emails prompt purchases is not only estimated to be at least three times that of social media, but the average order value is also 17 percent higher,” the report says. Still, writing effective marketing emails can be difficult, especially if it’s a cold email. 

In this article, we’ll go over what a cold email is, the benefits and challenges of cold emailing, different types of cold emails, how to write cold emails that convert cold leads into warm leads, and more. 

Let’s get started!

What is a cold email?

What is a cold email?

A cold email is an unsolicited email sent to someone you have no prior connection with (aka a cold lead). It’s basically the email equivalent of cold calling

Cold emails are most often sent to potential customers or someone with whom you want to build a business relationship and add to your network. 

It’s important to note, however, that cold emails are different from spam. Unlike spam emails that are sent indiscriminately, cold emails are sent to qualified leads only. In addition, cold emails are personalized and not just a carbon copy of an email sent to many recipients.

Benefits and challenges of cold emailing

average response rate for cold emails

Some of the main benefits of cold emailing are that it’s something you can do for free, it’s completely in your control, and it’s easy to scale. 

The biggest challenge of cold emailing is that it’s hard to do well. According to a study of 12 million cold emails conducted by Backlinko, the vast majority of cold emails are ignored. The average response rate for cold emails is 8.5%, which means if you sent out 100 cold emails, only 8 or 9 of them would get a reply. 

That said, when done right, cold emails can have a huge ROI. Depending on what kind of product or service you are pitching, a single cold email has the potential to generate thousands of dollars in revenue.

Types of cold emails

Cold emails can serve different ends. Some common ones include:

  • Lead generation. Aka prospecting, lead generation is all about turning cold leads into warm leads, i.e. leads that show some interest.
  • Partnerships. These can help you grow your business and audience by providing affiliate marketing or referrals.
  • Influencer marketing. By reaching out to influencers in your niche (e.g. celebrities, podcast hosts, YouTuber personalities, etc.), you can arrange deals to have them promote your product to their large audiences.
  • Link building. Link building is the practice of getting high-authority websites to link to your website, thereby helping your business gain more web traffic and higher rankings in search engines.
  • Recruiting. Finding the right candidate for a job can be difficult, especially when you have a global talent pool. By soliciting experts directly, you can better fill important roles at your company.
  • Public relations. To get mentioned in a top publication, it helps to reach out to publishers directly. Successful PR cold emails can help boost your name recognition and brand authority.

Seven steps to writing a cold email that converts

When it comes to actually crafting an effective cold email, follow these steps:

1. Write an eye-catching subject line.

The Importance of Email Subject Lines

If the subject line doesn’t grab the recipient’s attention, it won’t matter how good the rest of the email is because they won’t see it. So, you’ve got to nail the subject line. 

To do this, make it short and sweet, personal, and interesting. You might ask a question, include an emoji, or use numbers (e.g., “How I earned $9,781 in one day"). 

The point is to grab your recipient’s attention, so they don’t overlook your email. Just make sure that your subject line isn’t clickbait. It must actually relate to what’s inside the email.

2. Say why you’re reaching out.

This is an easy step to forget, but it’s an important one. You want to tell the recipient why you are reaching out to them specifically as opposed to anyone else. People are more likely to respond when they feel uniquely qualified to help. Say you’re emailing a fintech executive. By telling them upfront that you’re interested in networking with an experienced fintech executive, they may be more likely to oblige.

3. Establish your credibility.

Give the reader a reason to listen to you. This is an excellent opportunity to list off some of your credentials, past accolades, and experience. If you can work in some social proof by mentioning past clients or partners you’ve worked with, do it. The point is to validate yourself so that the reader is more likely to take you seriously. If you don’t yet have much credibility, find something you share in common instead. For example, you could point out that you and your reader both enjoy rock climbing (this takes some research, obviously). The rarer the commonality, the better.

4. Address your reader’s pain points.

As humans, we work much harder to avoid pain than to gain pleasure. You can use this to your advantage. Research what’s bothering or hurting your reader and tap into that. Perhaps they’re a workaholic struggling to find a healthy work-life balance. 

Acknowledge that making time for family, hobbies, and relaxation can be difficult. This will help your message resonate more with your readers and they will be more inclined to read on.

5. Offer a solution.

Don’t bring up your reader’s pain points without pointing them to a solution. Ideally, the solution is your product or service. This is the whole point of the cold email, after all. So be specific about what you have to offer and how it can add value to your recipient. 

For example, you might have a software scheduling tool that can eliminate the administrative burden of making appointments. Try to quantify your solution by saying how much time or money it could save your prospect.

6. End with a strong call to action (CTA).

Every cold email needs a compelling CTA. This is how you lead your readers to do whatever you want them to do, whether that’s booking a consultation, requesting a free audit, or placing an order. 

You want to make it as easy as possible for them to take the next step. Leaving them confused about what to do next is missing a huge opportunity.

7. Be strategic with your email signature.

Your email signature consists of the information below your name. Most email providers let you create one that automatically sends with each message. 

A nice email signature can reaffirm your credibility by showing your title, the company you work for, and a logo. It can also make it easier to reach out to you by including your phone number, address, and alternate email.

Cold email best practices

Cold email best practices

At the end of the day, crafting effective cold emails is an art. It takes practice and a lot of trial and error. However, there are some tried-and-true principles that can help make your cold emails stand out. Here they are:

  • Keep it short and sweet. Most people receive dozens of emails per day. As a result, they tend to skim over emails quickly (if they open them at all). So if you want your message to get across, get straight to the point.
  • Make it personal. You don’t want your email to sound generic like it was blasted to an entire email list. Make it personal by addressing the recipient by their first name, using second-person pronouns (you, your, etc.), and writing the way you talk. This will help the reader feel like you are talking to them directly, and only them.
  • Tell a story. As humans, we love stories. It helps us make sense of our lives and the world, and they’re easier to remember. Use this to your advantage by including a brief but powerful story in your cold email. For example, as a real estate agent, you could tell a story about a family desperate to find a home, and then, through trial and hardship, the family eventually does. You could then reveal that you were the one who helped the family.
  • Make it about them, not you. It’s easy to get caught up in listing all the things you have to offer in a cold email, but this should make up only a small part of the email. The majority should be about your reader, their pain points, and how they can be solved. When it comes to your product or service, talk about benefits, not features.
  • Proofread. Before you hit send on a cold email, make sure you proofread it. Sending an email with spelling or grammar mistakes will only lower your credibility. So let your email sit for a while and come back to it with fresh eyes or, better yet, have someone else read it. It’s also not a bad idea to read the email out loud to make sure it flows smoothly.
  • Only email qualified leads. Remember, what distinguishes a cold email from spam is that the former is only sent to qualified leads. That means you’ve done some research on the recipient and confirmed that they would make a good fit for your product or service. Blasting an email out to everyone you know is ineffective and annoying.
  • Time your emails right. Believe it or not, when you send a cold email can impact how effective it is. For example, according to the research done by Backlinko mentioned earlier, sending cold emails on Wednesdays is more effective than sending them on Saturdays. Of course, this won’t hold true for everyone, so it’s important to test and determine your own best send times.
  • Track email metrics. Once you’ve sent a few cold emails, you can start tracking how they perform on common email metrics like open rate, response rate, unsubscribe rate, etc. Most email marketing software does this for you. You can also A/B test different versions of cold emails to see which performs best. Test anything from subject lines to fonts to email images.
  • Follow up. It usually takes a few cold emails for a prospect to respond. According to Woodpecker, cold email campaigns with 4 to 7 emails per sequence get a response rate three times higher (27%) than those with 1 to 3 emails per sequence (9%). So, more follow-ups are usually better than fewer.

Partner with

Hopefully, you now feel more confident about sending cold emails. If you still need help, is here for you. Our marketing experts have years of experience in crafting powerful cold emails that generate lots of leads. Work with us to take your business’s marketing to the next level. 

Feel free to contact us today for a free consultation. We look forward to learning more about your marketing needs and seeing how we can help.


Samuel Edwards

Chief Marketing Officer

Throughout his extensive 10+ year journey as a digital marketer, Sam has left an indelible mark on both small businesses and Fortune 500 enterprises alike. His portfolio boasts collaborations with esteemed entities such as NASDAQ OMX, eBay, Duncan Hines, Drew Barrymore, Price Benowitz LLP, a prominent law firm based in Washington, DC, and the esteemed human rights organization Amnesty International. In his role as a technical SEO and digital marketing strategist, Sam takes the helm of all paid and organic operations teams, steering client SEO services, link building initiatives, and white label digital marketing partnerships to unparalleled success. An esteemed thought leader in the industry, Sam is a recurring speaker at the esteemed Search Marketing Expo conference series and has graced the TEDx stage with his insights. Today, he channels his expertise into direct collaboration with high-end clients spanning diverse verticals, where he meticulously crafts strategies to optimize on and off-site SEO ROI through the seamless integration of content marketing and link building.