The no B.S. Guide to cold email copywriting

cold email copywriting

I previously wrote about how I use simple, straightforward subject lines and pretargeting to achieve open rates of ~35%. Those same principles are largely applicable to writing good, customer-centric copy as well. The short version of that article was:

1. Be clear, not salesy. 

There’s an art to cold email copywriting. Instead of relying on some combination of {{results}} x {{time}} x {{objection}}, consider using direct, concise sentences that clearly tell your prospect why you’re reaching out & what specific problem you solve for them.

Eg: Interested in a chat about the {{Job}} you posted.

2. Start the relationship before you reach out. 

Pretargeting prospects don’t just build familiarity and improve open rates, it also provide context for compelling openers.

Eg: “I came across your LinkedIn profile and thought I’d drop you a quick note via email as well”

3. Loop in multiple leads at once. 

Not only does leveraging existing relationships improve response rates, but it also lends credibility to your outreach and lets you start meaningful conversations.

Eg: “Hi {{Prospect 1}} and {{Prospect 2}}, Did you have a chance to review my previous email?”

Pay attention to your preview text

I’ve had success with several cold email formats such as AIDA, PAS, and BAB. HubSpot and SalesLoft have fantastic format guides that can help you redesign your emails and write high-performance copy. Keep in mind the first ~50-80 characters of your email show up in the preview text, so they’re just as important as the subject line to your open rates. 

Much like my subject lines, I prefer straightforward openers that cut to the chase before the prospect has even opened the email. For example, if I’m reaching out to book a meeting or a call, I use something along the lines of: 

Hi {{First Name}}, I’d like to explore working with you on brand positioning and marketing. 


Hi {{First Name}}, can you share how you experiment to test your messaging?

Scannability is key, so I like to let prospects know precisely why I’m reaching out, and what’s in it for them, within the first paragraph of my email. This is especially important for B2B outreach where prospects are inundated with spam and are usually too busy to engage with irrelevant content.

Be focused on a specific problem

I’ve sent tens of thousands of cold emails and worked with ~50 companies across multiple industries over the last 5 years. If I had to give you just one piece of advice, it’d be this: prospects couldn’t care less about your product, they only care about their problems.

A good sales letter or email must be customer-centric. Irrespective of how elegant your features may be, your goal should always be to communicate the benefits of your solution as concisely as possible.

Consider the following two sentences:

“We can help you visualize genomic data, compare disparate datasets, and upload your files to the cloud”

“We can help you unravel complex genetic regulatory networks, and collaborate with your team in real-time”

Features are simply facts about your product. Your customers are interested intangible results. Try to drill down into the needs and desires of your customers to identify the results they care about the most. 

One Problem at a Time

Another common mistake, often a result of poor segmentation, is overloading your prospects with multiple offers at once. 

Everyone has gotten a cold pitch like this before:

bad cold email copywriting

It’s clear this pitch knows nothing about me or my company and doesn’t care. This is not about solving any of my specific problems. It’s just spam. I can’t imagine that this is effective. If you send 10,000 emails a day, maybe.

Even if your business offers several products or services, an avalanche of offers is just confusing. It also makes it impossible for you to understand your customer’s needs. Again, the vast majority of emails are read on mobile devices and so they absolutely have to be scannable. I encourage all my clients to focus on just one product at a time and keep the door open for different offers further down the line. 

Using CTAs in your cold email outreach

Every email you send needs a clearly defined goal, ergo it should also end with a clearly defined CTA. Whether it’s a survey, cold email, or a follow-up, move the conversation forward by asking the prospect to take the next step. Most of the cold emails I send are commercial in nature, so I generally use one of three CTAs:

  1. Interest vs Time: 

Instead of asking prospects if they’d like to meet, I ask them if they’re interested in what I’m offering. Asking someone for their time requires something from them. However, asking them whether they’re interested is a straightforward question that requires no concrete commitments. This simple approach can help you disqualify uninterested prospects and get off on the right foot with qualified leads.

  1. An offer they can’t refuse: 

Whenever possible, I try to offer prospects value upfront like a free website audit like what we offer at CrowdTamers. A pertinent case study depending on their stage in the buyer’s journey is also useful. Much like charities that make a dime off of every nickel they mail, offering value upfront encourages your prospects to reciprocate.

  1. A link to my calendar: 

An extension of the first CTA, I sometimes include a link to my calendar in my CTA. This way, interested prospects can book a call immediately and avoid the hassle of a tedious email exchange. I try not to do this too often though because while it works, it still comes across as a little salesy. Further, links can get caught up in the spam filter and hurt deliverability. Still, it’s worth including at least one in your sequence.

Following up

Even the best-written email can fall through the cracks if the prospect is busy, forgets to respond, or if it gets buried in their inbox. Even more sore when it’s a cold email. Polite, timely follow-ups are an indispensable part of cold outreach. At the very least, your cadence should include 3 – 4 touches, preferably over more than just one channel. For example:

1st day, week 1: email 1
3rd day, week 1: LinkedIn outreach 1
6th day, week 2: call 1
12th day, week 3: email 2

This simple, non-intrusive cadence doubles the time between each touchpoint. It sends your prospects gentle reminders while still being respectful of their time. Bear in mind you’ll almost certainly need to make more than 1 call and send 2 emails. Keep iterating on your cadence to see what works best for you. 

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If you have any questions, let me know in the comments!

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