Cold Email: The Ultimate Strategy Guide on Writing Cold Emails that Get Results

Cold Email Guide HERO

Cold emails are one of the cheapest and most effective ways for a business to find new leads and prospects.

You’re missing tremendous opportunities if you’re not leveraging a cold email strategy as part of your marketing plan. Cold email is 40x more effective¬†than acquiring customers through Facebook and Twitter combined.

A cold email aims to build a relationship that leads to a sale, partnership, or another significant benefit for your business.

Our team at crowdspring regularly supplements email marketing campaigns with cold email tactics.

Although most companies get better results emailing people who have already connected with your brand, you should not ignore leads simply because you haven’t yet communicated with them.

Cold emailing is more demanding than most other tactics. But when done correctly, cold email can be powerful. Our cold email outreach strategy has helped us to build partnerships with companies like Alibaba, Amazon, The Dallas Mavericks, other Fortune 1,000 brands, and thousands of small businesses and agencies.

This guide will share our insights and best practices for building an effective cold email marketing campaign.

Let’s review each part of an effective cold email strategy.

Identify your target audience

Your¬†target audience is the foundation on which you will build the rest of your cold email strategy. If you don’t choose your target audience carefully, your campaign is unlikely to succeed.

The goal is to match your target audience to your product or service precisely.

Narrowing your target audience benefits you in at least three ways:

  1. It’s easier to find relevant contacts with more precise search criteria.
  2. You can tailor your messaging to your audience’s specific needs. Someone who has owned an accounting business for seven years with 20 employees has a different need from someone just starting an accounting business. The more you can speak to a specific problem, the more the contact will think you are talking directly to them with your solution.
  3. It allows you to test assumptions about your target audience. If your message doesn’t resonate, you can tweak your search criteria and try again with a new target audience.

Get as specific as you can to identify your target audience. Look for the following attributes:

  • Job title
  • Industry
  • Size of company
  • Length of time in the industry or current position.
  • Location
  • Age
  • Certifications

Combine these attributes to create a stronger target audience.

For example: instead of looking for owners of accounting firms, identify owners of accounting firms who have been in business for more than one year but do not have an administrative assistant.

Ultimately, you want to qualify your prospects to be sure that at some point in the future, they will want to buy from you.

Cold emailing helps us to identify and focus on the best prospects and forces us to stop investing time and effort in communicating with audiences that are not interested in our products and services.

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Select your Call-To-Action

A call to action is the action you want a person to take after reading your message.

To develop a compelling call to action, consider the goal of your email campaign. Is your goal to sign up for more free trials? Are you trying to book more meetings? Or do you have another goal in mind?

The bigger your ask in a call to action, the less likely a person will take that action. So be sure to match your ask to how well your recipient knows you and your brand.

If the recipient is learning about you and your product or service for the first time, ask for something simple. For example, you can ask if they want to learn more about your service, signup for a free trial, or book a meeting. It is not yet appropriate to ask them to buy your product or service.

It’s not a good idea to ask someone to buy something when you initially send them a cold email. Instead, use your cold email as the first step in a marketing funnel process.

Start by introducing a person to your product or service and forming a relationship with them.

Deliver some value before you ask them to buy anything from you.

Your call to action should encourage immediate action. Why would this person take action today?

You can even gamify quick action. For example, offer a gift or an extension to the typical free trial if they take action quickly.

Or you can frame the problem so that the recipient knows putting off your solution will cause them more pain in the future.

Write an effective message

Now that you know your target audience and the action you want them to take, it’s time to craft the email message.

When someone opens your email, you have fractions of a second to grab and keep their attention. Your goal is to build trust and get them excited to read the rest of the email so that they take action.

Here are the ten best practices for writing compelling email messages:

  1. Use the person’s name in the salutation. It signals that this message is personalized and meant for them. It is a better approach than “Dear sir or ma’am.” If you don’t know their name, use a generic “Hello” or “Hi there,” but don’t leave this section blank.
  2. Get to the point quickly. Use the first line to build excitement so that the recipient will want to read the rest of your email. Don’t use your opening sentence to discuss the weather or world events.
  3. Give value upfront. Can you give the recipient some free helpful advice? What can you quickly say to stand out?
  4. Be succinct. Write emails that can be scanned on the phone without scrolling through what looks like a novel. If it seems daunting, people will ignore it. Ensure that every word, phrase, and sentence helps communicate your message. If you can say something using simpler terms, always do so.
  5. Chunk the message into paragraphs, so it is easily scannable. This makes it feel less daunting.
  6. Use “digital body language” like emojis, capitalization, punctuation, and bold text to make the message feel more personable and less formal.
  7. Experiment with animated gifs. Animated gifs, when used strategically, can capture attention while communicating your brand voice.
  8. Can you make the outreach more personal by using screenshots or videos of the company you are contacting? This might be a short video of you interacting with the prospect’s website or screenshots of the client’s brand.
  9. Can you find something you have in common with this contact? Have you shared a hobby, or have you visited where they live? The more uncommon the commonality, the stronger the potential bond. People do business with people they like. Finding similarities with the contact through their “About” page or social media creates a bond separating us from other cold outreach messages in their inbox.
  10. Remember that a real person will read the email you send. It’s easy to think when you are emailing 8,389 accountants that these are faceless corporate entities. But each person has fears, hopes, and a desire to find meaning. If your email tries to build a relationship, it will stand out among the many emails that go unanswered.


Craft the perfect subject lines

The easiest way for a cold email campaign to fail is with a poor subject line.

Your email content doesn’t matter if few people open your message to read it.

You should always A/B test your subject lines. We always do this when we send email campaigns. This is the process of sending two or more emails simultaneously to the same audience with different subject lines to see which one is opened more often.

The email subject dramatically influences the number of people who open your email (your “open rate”).

Writing email subject lines that are misleading or false might increase your open rate but at the cost of losing the relationship because the contact feels tricked and not interested in pursuing the relationship.

Here are subject line best practices:

Sample Email

Here is a cold email example tying together the lessons above. The email targets business owners on Yelp to book appointments and talk about crowdspring’s logo design services.

Sample email breakdown

Here’s why this email is effective:

  • The subject line is personalized with the company name, so the recipient knows you are talking about their business.
  • The subject line creates curiosity.
  • The salutation addresses the recipient by name, showing this email is meant for them.
  • The first sentence gets to the point and answers the question from the subject line.
  • The screenshot further personalizes the email, showing we are discussing the contact’s business.
  • The following two sentences focus on the pain and the solution.
  • Social proof shows why the solution can be trusted.
  • There is a clear call to action.
  • The email is short and easily scannable, so the person will not feel overwhelmed when it is opened.


Build a follow-up plan

People will rarely take action the first time you reach out by email. People receive hundreds of messages daily, and building trust in the solution you are offering takes time.

You can double the response rate in your cold email campaign by simply emailing the same contact multiple times.

Follow-up messages can take two approaches.


This follow-up message strategy refers to your original message. You’re simply reminding someone to reply.

New Information

This strategy presupposes that the person saw your email and decided you couldn’t add value. By providing new information, the person can make a new decision.

Here are examples of how to provide new information.

  • Tell the contact about a similar company you helped.
  • Share an example of how the contact’s competitor is solving the problem similarly to your proposal.
  • Provide news about your company, like a recent award or new product.
  • Correct a misunderstanding you’ve heard from contacts who have replied to this email campaign.

You should plan three follow-up messages after the initial pitch.

Follow up every couple of days. If your contact is a busy person, give them a bit more time between follow-ups to have a chance to look at your messages.

On the last follow-up, consider saying: “This is the last time I’ll reach out to you about this pain/desired outcome since it doesn’t seem to be a priority. If you think it makes sense to talk, let me know when you are available.”

This final follow-up message produces three effects.

  1. First, if they were not the appropriate contact for your solution, this lets them know you won’t be reaching out anymore, which can prevent them from clicking spam.
  2. Second, if they are interested in a conversation, they will often respond because you will not send them reminders, and they don’t want the conversation forgotten.
  3. Third, by saying it’s the last time you’ll message them “about this desired outcome/service,” it leaves the opportunity to start a new conversation in the future when you have a different approach or information to share.


Review metrics

Here are the metrics you should review in a cold email campaign.

Bounce Rate

A bounced email is an email that is not delivered to the recipient. Emails bounce for several reasons.

  • The recipient has blocked you from sending emails
  • The contact no longer works at the company
  • The email server is temporarily unavailable
  • The email is invalid or misspelled
  • The recipient’s inbox is full and cannot accept additional emails

Your bounce rate should be less than 10% for cold email campaigns. If you have a high bounce rate, your list quality is poor.

Open Rate

Open rate is the percentage of people who opened your email.

Several factors impact open rates:

  • The subject line
  • The day and time you sent the email
  • The strength of your brand recognition

A/B testing is critical to improving your open rate.

Click Rate

Click rate is the percentage of people who clicked a link in your email.

If your email doesn’t have a call to action, the contact will not have a reason to click.

Additionally, If your subject line was misleading, it might have caused people to open the email but not click if they felt tricked.

Aim for a click rate of 3 to 5%.

Response Rate

Response rate is the percentage of people who respond to your email.

There are several reasons someone might respond:

  • Your call to action asks the recipient to respond
  • They are providing feedback on your outreach
  • They have asked you to unsubscribe

Your response rate will show how well you can start a conversation with the contact.

Unsubscribe Rate

The unsubscribe rate is the percentage of people who ask you not to email them again.

Keep your unsubscribe rate below 1% per send.

Not everyone you contact will find your message appropriate. However, a high unsubscribe rate signals you are targeting the wrong audience or your email is not offering value.

Conversion Rate for the Campaign Goal

The conversion rate is the percentage of people who take the action you want them to take.

The conversion rate is the ultimate measure of success for a cold email campaign. Your conversion rate will show how effectively your cold email campaign reached your defined expectation for the audience.

Cold email conversions could include booking a meeting or signing up for a free trial.

Use helpful email tools

Here are some of the helpful tools for cold email marketing campaigns.

Hunter, Snov, Clearout

Email lookup tools like and Hunter are indispensable for finding the contact details for your cold email marketing campaigns. Such tools might not find exact emails for all contacts, but they can usually find the email style used by that company to guess the email. You can also try an email finder tool like Clearout, which offers the added benefit of confidence scoring against each lead.


Grammarly is an excellent tool for improving your writing. Strong grammar is essential in cold emails because you are trying to build trust and look professional. If your email is sloppy, people won’t respond.


If you use a scheduling tool like Calendly, you can more quickly find a mutually convenient time to speak when everyone is available.


Streak helps you organize email conversations directly from your inbox. Streak combines the benefits of a Customer Relationship Management tool with the simplicity of a spreadsheet managed from your email inbox.


When someone responds to your outreach, you might not have the time or appropriate answer to provide a reply. Use Boomerang to resurface the email to the top of your inbox at a future date and time you select.

Personalized cold emails targeting a precise audience are a great way to develop new partnerships and find new leads. But you need to do cold email correctly. Use the strategies, insights, and examples we shared above, and you’ll soon learn that cold email can be one of your most powerful sales, marketing, and outreach weapons.

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