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Feb 23, 2021

Writing

How to write a cold email – A step-by-step guide

Follow these steps to cold email anyone and discover a faster way to turn your research on the recipient to a personalized cold email.

Blog writer

Samuli Pehkonen

Marketing

Blog image
Blog image

It's hard to think of a more competitive environment than a busy person's inbox. Yet, people find success in writing cold emails every day. This blog post is all about unbundling how to reach out to that potential client, land a job, or ask for advice with a cold email.

Instead of providing you with templates, we're going to equip you with principles to write one from scratch. With the help of our step-by-step guide, you can learn how to write cold emails to anyone no matter who they are and what you are trying to achieve. To get the most out of your new knowledge and skills, we'll finish by introducing you to an entirely new way to write them faster than ever. 

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If you already know what a cold call is, you can consider cold emailing to be the online equivalent of it. By definition cold email is an email sent to a recipient with whom you haven't had prior contact.

Do your homework before sending a cold email to a person

Personalized cold email is much more than filling variables on a template touted to get responses. You want the recipient to feel that you put in the effort to get to know and understand them. However, there are some caveats here. 

Before you dive too deep into the research, you should ask yourself if there's an easier way to achieve whatever you are looking to accomplish with your cold email. Don't bother anyone with a question you can find an answer to yourself or ask a person about their life's work before taking the time to digest it. You need also make it clear for yourself why you are contacting this person instead of anyone else. 

When you get to know the person, your goal is to see the world through their eyes. The more high-stakes the email is, the more time you want to put into research. Google will get you far in familiarizing yourself with the most recent work and the career of the person you are about to reach out to. However, remember that you don't want to come off creepy in any situation. Keep it professional, and don't look for information about their private life.

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If you share a mutual connection with the person, you should ask if your connection can introduce you.

A step-by-step guide on writing a cold email

In addition to personalization, there are a couple of best practices to keep in mind whenever you write a cold email. First of all, remember not to blabber. It's not only appreciative towards the time of the person you are contacting, but short emails are more likely to get read by the recipient. Also, make sure to avoid common pitfalls of poor grammar, making it about yourself, and appearing entitled.

1. Start by greeting the recipient by their name‍

A study shows that people love hearing their name (surprise, surprise). So, greeting the recipient with their name is already a small step towards getting a response. 

To
oliver@corpod.com
Hi Oliver,

If the person you are reaching out to is in a position of authority, you'll want to opt for a more formal greeting. If there's any doubt about the appropriate way to address them, familiarize yourself with common ways to start an email in different situations. You don't want to begin the new relationship on the wrong foot.

2. Grab the attention with a personal opening line

You have about 3 seconds to capture the attention of the recipient, so don't start with "I hope this email finds you well!". Instead, think about what you've learned about them and come up with something personal that directly relates to the subject matter.

To
oliver@corpod.com
Hi Oliver,

I saw your Tweet, and agree. There should be a better solution for managing personal connections than a spreadsheet. In fact, I've built one.

Sometimes it's hard to come up with something that shows that you got to know the recipient. Try complimenting their recent work you came across, lead with a question that sets up the stage for your value proposition or consider skipping the opening line altogether. It's better to go straight to the business than waste their time with something irrelevant.

3. Establish credibility for yourself

Remember that at this point, you're still a stranger to the recipient. Why should they care about whatever you have to say? In addition to introducing yourself, you need to find a way to appear as convincing and trustworthy to them – stand out and fit in at the same time. 

To appear credible to the recipient, you can:

Mention people you both know

Having someone in both of your lives makes you a friend of a friend instead of a stranger.

Point out your status

If there's anything relevant that could make you seem "important" in the eyes of the recipient, now it's the time to play that card.

Highlight a similarity

The more uncommon commonality such as hometown or hobby you two share is, the more likely it's to appeal to the recipient.

To
oliver@corpod.com
Hi Oliver,

I saw your Tweet, and agree. There should be a better solution for managing personal connections than a spreadsheet. In fact, I've built one.

I'm the Co-Founder of Personal Relationship Manager Grava, and your ex-colleague Jane just led our pre-seed round. 

Don't feel discouraged if you feel like nobody who doesn't belong to their world – we all start somewhere. Highlighting what you've done to help yourself before turning to the recipient has been proved to be a powerful way to win them over. Whatever your approach is, you shouldn't spend more than a sentence or two talking about yourself.

4. Tell the recipient what's in it for them

You should always give before you ask. When writing your value proposition, remember that people are willing to go to greater heights to avoid pain than to acquire pleasure. If you can't relieve their pain, help them avoid getting sick in the future or give them something they want.

To
oliver@corpod.com
Hi Oliver,

I saw your Tweet, and agree. There should be a better solution for managing personal connections than a spreadsheet. In fact I've built one.

I'm the Co-Founder of Personal Relationship Manager Grava, and your ex-colleague Jane just led our pre-seed round. Grava automatically enriches your data on your contacts, shows whom you're losing touch with, and helps to reconnect with them with just one click. We're in Private Beta and I'd love you to be one of our first users – free of charge of course.

Even though your email wouldn't have a commercial motive, you are always selling the recipient on something – if nothing else, yourself. If you find an opportunity to be a painkiller or vitamin for them, go for it. In case you feel like you have nothing to offer, remember that a chance to help can be something they want. Tap into that.

5. Make your call-to-action clear and easy

People want to take action on the emails they receive quickly and are more likely to do so if they get clear directions on contributing. That's why you should make a specific ask. You want to do everything within your power to make it easy for the recipient to say yes to whatever you want them to do. 

To
oliver@corpod.com
Hi Oliver,

I saw your Tweet, and agree. There should be a better solution for managing personal connections than a spreadsheet. In fact I've built one.

I'm the Co-Founder of Personal Relationship Manager Grava, and your ex-colleague Jane just led our pre-seed round. Grava automatically enriches your data on your contacts, shows whom you're losing touch with, and helps to reconnect with them with just one click. We're in Private Beta and I'd love you to be one of our first users – free of charge of course.

Would you be available for a 15-minute onboarding call on Thursday at 10 am PST? If this time isn't convenient for you, let me know when you are free, and I'll make it work.

Go straight to the point and keep the CTA short. Don't ask for the moon or more than one thing. "Let me know if you want to chat" only puts the weight on the recipient's shoulders instead of prompting action. You can do better. 

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People are more motivated to take action when they feel they have a unique contribution to make. Consider asking for a specific value-add that only the recipient can make.

6. Express gratitude and give the recipient an out

A little thanks often goes a long way. By showing gratitude, you not only appear as humble but make the recipient feel good about themselves if they decide to take up on your ask. Being explicit about them always having a chance to decline will only increase your chances of achieving what you want. 

To
oliver@corpod.com
Hi Oliver,

I saw your Tweet, and agree. There should be a better solution for managing personal connections than a spreadsheet. In fact I've built one.

I'm the Co-Founder of Personal Relationship Manager Grava, and your ex-colleague Jane just led our pre-seed round. Grava automatically enriches your data on your contacts, shows whom you're losing touch with, and helps to reconnect with them with just one click. We're in Private Beta and I'd love you to be one of our first users – free of charge of course.

Would you be available for a 15-minute onboarding call on Thursday at 10 am PST? If this time isn't convenient for you, let me know when you are free, and I'll make it work.

I'm grateful for your time and understand if you're not interested or too busy. 

Many people fall into the trap of appearing entitled in their cold emails. You should remember that people provide more extensive and useful help when it's an enjoyable choice than when feelings of pressure or obligation drive them. Even though you want to be confident, avoid coming off as pushy at all costs.

7. End with a proper sign-off

Similar to greeting, you should choose your sign-off based on the recipient. You don't want to appear too formal when reaching out to potential clients or too casual when cold emailing for a job. 

To
oliver@corpod.com
Hi Oliver,

I saw your Tweet, and agree. There should be a better solution for managing personal connections than a spreadsheet. In fact I've built one.

I'm the Co-Founder of Personal Relationship Manager Grava, and your ex-colleague Jane just led our pre-seed round. Grava automatically enriches your data on your contacts, shows whom you're losing touch with, and helps to reconnect with them with just one click. We're in Private Beta and I'd love you to be one of our first users – free of charge of course.

Would you be available for a 15-minute onboarding call on Thursday at 10 am PST? If this time isn't convenient for you, let me know when you are free, and I'll make it work.

I'm grateful for your time and understand if you're not interested or too busy. 

Thank you,
Jamie

Don't overcomplicate things, even though you'd feel that your life depends on this email. Go with a sign-off that feels natural to you. In writer's block, you can find the right closing for any cold email from this list of professional email sign-offs.

8. Perfect the subject line

The subject line is your first and often the last chance to make an impression. A study shows that people are more likely to read an email if the subject line taps into their curiosity or provides utility. So, aim to intrigue the recipient or be useful to them. Remember also that a compelling subject line is not about you; it's about them.

To
oliver@corpod.com
Your personal network deserves more than a spreadsheet
Hi Oliver,

I saw your Tweet, and agree. There should be a better solution for managing personal connections than a spreadsheet. In fact I've built one.

I'm the Co-Founder of Personal Relationship Manager Grava, and your ex-colleague Jane just led our pre-seed round. Grava automatically enriches your data on your contacts, shows whom you're losing touch with, and helps to reconnect with them with just one click. We're in Private Beta and I'd love you to be one of our first users – free of charge of course.

Would you be available for a 15-minute onboarding call on Thursday at 10 am PST? If this time isn't convenient for you, let me know when you are free, and I'll make it work.

I'm grateful for your time and understand if you're not interested or too busy. 

Thank you,
Jamie

Whatever your subject line is, it should connect with the rest of the email. You have already done the heavy lifting at this point, so draw inspiration from the email body and write out different options to find the winner. Ask a question, tell them how you can help, highlight a pain point – the possibilities are endless. Just remember that even in the most desperate times, you shouldn't mislead the recipient with clickbait.

🔎
Before sending, make sure to proofread the email with fresh eyes. You don't want to ruin through-out email with spelling mistakes.

Remember to follow up

If you don't hear back immediately, don't lose your confidence. The chance is that the person is buried in their inbox. If you don't get a response, show persistence and send appropriate follow-up

The most natural way to follow up on an email is to send a new email to the same thread. In the follow-up email, try approaching your value proposition from a new angle if possible. You can also point the attention back to the original email. Whatever you do, remember to include your call-to-action also in your follow-up.

How soon and often you should follow up depends on what you are trying to achieve. Some sales representatives follow up with potential clients with an email in two days. In contrast, an HR professional might suggest you follow-up on a cold email for a job only after a week. Whatever the situation, when you no longer can count your follow-ups with the fingers of one hand, there's likely no point in continuing.

The fastest way to write cold emails

Try to Google "cold email template" and see what comes up. The apparent popularity of these templates you fill in the variables suggests immense pressure to spend less time writing cold emails. Some of the templates are pretty decent if for spray and pray, but sending a personalized message tailored to a specific person is not about ticking boxes.

With Flowrite, you can turn your research on the recipient to a personalized cold email faster than ever. Just provide a couple of bullet points based on the principles laid out in this blog post, select the right cold email template, and let our AI writing tool do the rest.

Supercharge your communication with Flowrite

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Explore Flowrite

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