Cold Emails: How to Leverage it Effectively to Meet your Goals

cold emails

I should start out by saying that relying on cold emails can be a very difficult way to communicate with people who could easily be our potential customers.

For one thing, there are no pre-existing connections with the audience, meaning there’s no way to get immediate feedback and modify the approach being used in real-time. This is one of the reasons why most cold emails fail. But it is actually possible for them to succeed. Many people launch startups or build successful careers around nothing more than emails for B2B lead gen.

As with most marketing activities, results can vary based on the various components of a marketing campaign, therefore, to increase the likelihood of cold emails being effective, keep in mind five points mentioned below:

Tailor the Message

cold email

The message being sent should be tailored to the recipient, which means doing a bit of research. All too often – in the many thousands of cold emails I’ve received over the years – I see people making the same mistake over and over again when it comes to “research.”

It’s not personalization if the sender simply looks up a bit of basic information about the recipient on Google and then sends an email that is clearly formulaic.

To personalize a cold email, it’s necessary to really think about the message recipient, including:

  • Who they are,
  • Their interests,
  • What they want, and
  • How they see the world.

This creates a mental portrait of the email recipient. They will appreciate this recognizing that the sender has actually gone to the trouble of understanding them. It will also make them more likely to visit the sender’s website or contact them.

Furthermore, it’s also important to clarify why the email is being sent to them as opposed to someone else, which is much easier to do if the target list is segment. Email campaigns to highly segmented lists realize open rates more than 14% higher than those that don’t.

Stop Being a Stranger

cold email

Whenever I meet someone in a business setting or receive an email from a total stranger, I want to know who that person is and why what he or she has to say should matter to me. When sending cold emails, the sender is the stranger in the exchange. Even when the email and its content are backed up with significant research on the people being contacted, those people still don’t know the sender.

This is why it’s important to demonstrate trustworthiness and credibility.

When sending cold emails, knowing someone in common with the recipient is one of the best ways to remove the “stranger” stigma. When I can demonstrate in an email that I have a mutual acquaintance who either recommended me, recommended them, or who uses my products or services, I am making a personal connection.

Short of that, I have found that in some situations my social status, authority, experience or credibility can be useful in establishing who I am and why the recipient should be interested in the rest of the email. Just one or two lines about this at the beginning (but after the value-add statement) should be sufficient. Put simply, senders need to make themselves seem important.

Even without such status, there are other approaches to take. For instance, it’s possible to seek some other commonality – such as being members of the same organization or group. Interesting connections between the sender and recipient – like sharing the same hobby or hometown – make it much more likely the email will actually get read.

Keep in mind that such connections and similarities are most impactful when they are unusual or rare. Just saying that we’re all human beings probably won’t do the trick. The point of all of this is to not seem like a stranger.

Give Them Something They Want

Anyone receiving cold emails is going to wonder why they should care about them. After all, why should this very busy person take the time out of their day to respond to someone they’d never had contact with before? How will it benefit them?

When thinking about this, it’s important to consider the psychological truth that an individual will do much more to avoid discomfort than to get pleasure. If when researching a potential email recipient, I discover that they have some significant problem that I can help to address, I make sure to highlight that in the email.

On the other hand, even if the email can’t solve a particular problem, it’s also possible to give the recipients something they want. At the very beginning of the email, offer to connect them with someone they might like to know. This makes a cold email stand out, since few people offer to give something before asking for something else.

At the same time, this gift needs to be appropriate to a situation where one stranger is interacting with another. A gift card at Starbucks might seem a bit strange. Also, I have found that some people enjoy helping others so much that offering them the chance to help me gives them something they want since it offers them the opportunity to feel good about themselves.

It’s also important to keep the email offer short, simple and actionable.

Shorter emails have a much better chance of being read than longer ones. And remember that a straightforward, specific call to action is far more likely to get a higher response rate. No one enjoys reading a long, rambling email.

One of the most effective ways to structure cold emails for B2B lead gen is to write them the way people talk.

If I run into potential clients at a party, I’m not going to just walk up to them and start pitching my offer or idea. Instead, I’m going to introduce myself, say something pleasant, try to connect with them by mentioning a common interest or friend and then finally make a reasonable request – a.k.a call to action.

In line with this, I always suggest that anyone sending out cold emails read them out loud. If the email sounds natural when spoken aloud, it will read that way as well. Natural sounding emails give people the impression they’re getting a message from an actual person, which can make a huge difference in the B2B lead results.

Be Appreciative

cold email

While it’s not necessary to actually grovel, it might be helpful to be a bit submissive in the cold email message. After all, when I’m sending out one of these emails I’m actually asking a person I don’t know for a favor. By revealing a degree of vulnerability and expressing thanks, I’m helping them to view themselves as a good person for choosing to help me. It also gives them a feeling of status and power.

This part is actually amazingly easy. Adding something as simple as “Thank you very much! I am extremely grateful” to an email can double response rates. Oddly, it’s always good to tell people it’s okay if they are too busy to do whatever it is they’re being asked to do. Providing this kind of escape hatch for them actually, makes them far more likely to respond positively.

Despite how obvious the above may sound, few people sending out cold emails actually do all of it. For instance, in my experience less than half of those who have sent me cold emails have expressed their appreciation – beyond the usual perfunctory thanks at the end. The tone used in an email has enormous repercussions when it comes to response rates.

One Last bit of Advice

One last bit of advice I can offer is to avoid using templates. While Googling “cold emails template” will turn up hundreds of them, none of them can create the kind of personalized email I describe above. And this only makes sense, since by definition for something to be personalized it can’t be produced by a template.


Matt Haag

Matt Haag has more than 20 years in technology roles ranging from Programmer/Analyst, Sales Engineer, Business Development and Product Management across an array of products but working with those primarily in the Internet Marketing and Technology space.