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Outbound Sales
  •   12 min read

Cold Email 101: The Ultimate Playbook to Master the Art of Cold Emailing


ByJanani H

Published September 1, 2023

cold email

According to HubSpot, 81% of B2B marketers say that email newsletters are their most used form of content marketing. This should tell you how important it is to have an optimized cold email marketing strategy in your arsenal.

In today's digital world, personalization trumps everything. If you do not personalize your communication with each prospect, you can expect low email open rates, click rates, and conversion rates.

Personalization is the key to high customer engagement, which is what emails can help you with. You're in the right place if you want to know how to incorporate emails into your cold outreach.

This article will tell you everything you need to know about cold emails.

What is a cold email?

A cold email is an email you send to someone you do not know and have never contacted. Unlike promotional spam emails, cold emailing starts conversations, not necessarily selling products or services.

Also, cold emailing is much less intrusive than cold calling.

Do cold emails really work?

The key lies in understanding that not all cold emails are created equal. A poorly crafted message lacking personalization and relevance will likely be lost in the digital abyss. However, a well-crafted, highly targeted cold email can be a game-changer.

Cold email marketing opens doors to new opportunities, fosters meaningful connections with potential prospects, and drives conversions. It all comes down to thorough research, tailored messaging, and a genuine value proposition.

How do you prepare to write an effective cold email?

If you are tempted to fire off a couple of cold emails and hope something sticks, stop and prepare yourself first. Here are a few things you should do:

1. Figure out your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

Your ICP describes a section of prospects who are most likely to become valuable customers. These are companies that will significantly benefit from what you have to offer.

Do not start sending cold emails if you haven't identified your ICP yet. Your ICP is the bedrock of your sales and marketing efforts. Your ICP comprises businesses that:

  • Spend the most
  • Use your product the most
  • Get the most value from your service or product

To craft your ICP template and narrow down on your Ideal Customer Profile, consider the following factors:

  • Budget
  • Company size
  • Company goals
  • Industry
  • Pain points
  • Location
  • Buying process

If you want greater insight into your ICP, consider asking your current customers:

  • How they found you
  • How were you able to help them
  • What made them decide to become your customer

2. Build and segment your email list

If you want to grow, you will need to generate leads. Not ANY leads. You need the right leads. These are leads that match your ICP. We recommend building your list from scratch and carefully choosing leads that match your ICP. Once you do this, you can send targeted content to your leads. As you know by now, you must send personalized content to your leads. To do this correctly, you need first to segment your email list.

However, building an email list after identifying your ICP involves targeted strategies to attract potential customers. Utilize referral programs, engaging webinars, personalized content, partnerships, and lead magnets. Leverage social media, guest collaborations, and interactive quizzes. Maintain ethical practices while fostering valuable connections for effective list expansion.

Next, break your email list into smaller 'segments' based on various factors (which we will list below) to give all your leads a personalized experience. You can segment your email list based on:

  • Customer awareness: This refers to how aware of your brand your prospect is. Some are unaware, meaning they have no idea they have a problem. Others are aware of their problems but need to know the solution. Then, you have prospects who know the problem, the solution, and what your brand has to offer.
  • Demographics: Dividing your cold email list based on demographic factors such as age, gender, and location allows you to tailor your messaging to resonate with specific audience segments, increasing the chances of engagement.
  • Behavior: Segmenting by behavior involves categorizing recipients according to their past interactions with your emails like opens, clicks, or purchases. This enables you to send targeted messages that align with their demonstrated interests or actions.
  • Interests: This involves organizing your email list according to the topics or products your recipients have shown interest in. It ensures you deliver content that appeals to their preferences, enhancing engagement and response rates.
  • Customer lifecycle stage: Segmenting by customer journey stage (prospect, lead, customer) allows you to send relevant content that guides recipients through the sales funnel, nurturing them with appropriate information and offers.
  • Engagement frequency: Separating your list by engagement levels (active, inactive) helps you re-engage dormant subscribers with tailored reactivation campaigns while rewarding active ones with exclusive content or offers.

3. Come up with a cold email strategy

Now that your ICP and segmented lists are ready, you must create a strategy to send the right emails to the right profiles at the right frequency. Most campaigns consist of 3-5 emails.

You need to craft your email campaign such that your content is consistent and relevant to each prospect from the first email to the last. Remember, captivating starting and subject lines are your golden keys to sparking interest, enticing recipients, and unlocking higher cold email engagement and conversion rates.

However, frequency and rhythm are the key factors that make a significant difference. Frequency refers to the number of emails you send, while rhythm or cadence refers to how you time emails. Setting the right cadence requires you to map your customer's journey from the opening email to conversion.

Once you understand this, you can turn this into a template for your other prospects.

4. A/B testing 

Now, it's time to test. A/B testing, or split testing, is crucial in optimizing your cold email marketing campaigns. By comparing different versions of your emails, you can uncover what resonates best with your audience. 

Experiment with subject lines, opening lines, email body content, and Call-to-Action (CTA) elements. This iterative approach allows you to gather valuable insights into what drives higher open rates, click-through rates, and conversions. 

By consistently refining your email elements based on A/B test results, you can fine-tune your cold email strategy and achieve better engagement and, ultimately, higher success in your outreach efforts.

What makes an excellent cold email?

If you are reaching out to people you have never contacted, it helps to know precisely what makes a cold email that your prospects cannot resist. Here are a few characteristics of excellent sales emails:

1. Short and straightforward

People do not have the time to go through emails and decipher them from start to finish. If you want your prospect to read your email and reply, keep it short and crystal clear. 

Avoid word stuffing, space out your sentences, and tell them exactly what you want. This holds for both - the subject line and the email body because most prospects will read your emails on their phones. Keep it short.

2. Personalization

You know, 74% of marketers say targeted personalization increases customer engagement.

As we've mentioned multiple times in this article, personalization is critical. The last thing you want is for your prospect to think you've sent a different email to thousands of people.

They want content tailored to them because they want to know you care about them and can solve their problems.

3. Relevance

In some ways, relevance and personalization go hand-in-hand. You can only create content relevant to your prospect if it is personalized. Make sure every component of your email is relevant to your prospect.

If you were to send them a random subject line that may have nothing to do with their situation, they might not even open the email.

4. Grammatical correctness

This one is a no-brainer. If you want to come across as authentic, do not make any grammatical errors. Use a tool like Grammarly or Grammarcheck to proofread your cold emails.

The result? A polished and trustworthy impression on your prospects. Investing extra time to perfect your writing showcases your commitment to quality. It fosters a positive perception of your brand, increasing the likelihood of forging valuable connections and driving desired outcomes through your cold email marketing endeavors.

Structure of a cold email

Well-written, well-structured emails that trigger curiosity do well. Here's what the structure of a cold email looks like:

1. Subject line

Your email's subject line is critical. The quality of your subject line will determine the chances of getting your email read in the first place. Your subject line must:

  • Be short (especially since they are probably reading your email on their phones)
  • Be relevant
  • Trigger curiosity 

A good subject line causes your prospect to want to read the rest of the email. So, ensure it does not come across as 'sales-y' or 'promotional.'

Here are a few examples:

  • (Mutual connection) referred me to you. 
  • I loved your piece on (insert topic)
  • Have you considered (suggestion)?

2. Opening line

Your opening line needs to grab attention. Like your subject line, your opening line should be concise, add value, and be relevant.

Being overly general and unoriginal with your email opening lines will not grab your prospect's attention. Instead,

  • Send them a compliment.
  • Mention a mutual connection.
  • Specify a shared background.

Here are some examples to illustrate each of the above points:

  • Hey (name), I loved your speech at (event)
  • (Mutual connection) suggested I talk to you
  • I see you are also into (mention common interest or background)

3. Email body

You must personalize your email body, like the subject and opening lines. You must convey what value you can bring instead of sending them a generic pitch. Your email body should include answers to the following questions:

  • Why are you contacting them?
  • How can you help them?
  • How did you help a competitor or another client?
  • What are the benefits of working with you?

We shall illustrate this in an example later in the next section. Feel free to ask questions to help you better understand your prospect's situation and how you can help them.

4. Closing statement

Your closing line should be crystal clear and include a CTA. This CTA could be a quick call, a demo, an appointment, or anything else. However, add a CTA to get your prospect to do something after reading your pitch.

Examples are:

  • Do you have time for a quick call on Tuesday?
  • If you have any questions, feel free to reply to this email.

5. Signature

Sign off with your name and relevant contact information like your phone number and a link to your LinkedIn or Facebook. And now easily generate a professional email signature using tools like Outplay Signature Generator for a polished and impressive touch.

Cold email marketing templates are inspirations for you to get started

You can experiment with several templates as you craft your cold email. Here are a couple you can start with:

Template #1

Subject Line: This might help you!

Hey (Name),

I found your recent post on (insert topic), where you mentioned you had trouble with (insert challenge).

Here's a (post, blog, or any other information) that may help you. I hope you find it useful.

Feel free to contact me if you'd like to discuss it further.

(Your name)

(Contact information)

Template #2

Subject Line: This will take you less than 30 seconds!

Hey (name),

This will take 30 seconds to read and will be worth your time.

As a (insert your job title) at (your company), I've managed to help (your prospect's competitors) solve (insert pain points). We cannot do the same for you.

Do you have time for a 15-minute call tomorrow? Even if we don't end up working together, we can help you with (insert smaller challenge), and it will be worth your time.

(Your name)

(Your contact information)

Are you looking for more cold email templates to boost your outreach game? Dive into our blog for expert-crafted templates and elevate your email campaigns. Read it now.

Common mistakes to avoid while writing cold emails

A significant part of writing excellent emails is avoiding the mistakes everybody else makes. Here are the most common mistakes to avoid while writing cold emails:

1. Weak opening lines

A surefire way to ensure your prospect DOES NOT read your cold email is by using a weak subject line and opening line. Being unoriginal, wordy in your language, not personalizing your content, and ultimately not bringing your prospect any value will cause your prospect to ignore your email.

2. Generic emails

Your cold email has to look like you are talking to the prospect, not promoting a product you hope just anybody will pick up. You must personalize your emails for each prospect to sell them.

3. Not proofreading your cold emails

If you send a cold email with a ton of grammatical mistakes in it, your prospect will not take it seriously. A well-written and well-formatted email tells your prospect that you are professional and know what you are doing. A poorly written cold email, on the other hand, destroys your credibility.

4. Not including a CTA

If you have done an excellent job grabbing and holding your prospect's attention with valuable, personalized, relevant content in a well-formatted email but do not give them a CTA, you will lose them.

After all, your entire pitch builds up to the action you want your prospect to take. Is the action:

  • Booking a quick call or a demo?
  • Replying to your email with questions?
  • Purchasing a product with your link? 

Decide on a CTA, and include it in your cold email.

Best practices to write excellent cold emails

Now that you know what mistakes to avoid, here are a few practices to follow when you are writing  cold emails:

1. Personalize

If you guessed personalization, you were right. We've been harping on personalizing your emails as the most crucial thing because IT IS!

Everyone you contact wants to know you are interested in helping them solve their problems. You can only do this if you tailor your solutions to each potential customer.

You need to be able to answer the following questions that the prospect will have:

  • Why me?
  • Why now?
  • Why should I care?

2. Grab attention with your subject line

Crisp, playful, and engaging subject and opening lines that tell the story will get your prospects' attention. If your prospect is getting 100s of emails a day, how will you stand out? Use your subject line and opening line to grab their attention.

3. Write an elevator pitch

You need to be able to explain what value you are going to give your prospect in one simple sentence. If you do not have an elevator pitch ready, write one immediately.

4. Highlight the benefits

The elevator pitch is a start. However, the prospect still needs to know why they should care about what you have to offer. In other words, they need to know the benefits of working with you. Highlight the benefits in bullet points so the prospect can understand them at first glance.

Supercharge your cold email response rates with Outplay

There you have it - a quick and digestible cold email guide. Harness the potential of personalized cold emails, unlocking increased customer engagement, higher open rates, click-throughs, and conversions. Alternatively, simplify your cold email outreach efforts with Outplay, the ultimate cold email software to streamline your strategies.  

From intuitive dashboard and campaign management to automated follow-ups and dynamic email templates, Outplay equips you with the tools to connect with your target audience and secure meaningful interactions effectively.

By integrating Outplay into your cold email endeavors, you're not just simplifying the process but enhancing your capabilities. Explore its endless possibilities and witness firsthand the transformation it brings to your outreach initiatives.

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