Some people say ‘cold email doesn’t work anymore’. I say ‘you’re just not doing them right’.
In fact, I believe cold emails are one of the best methods for getting new leads, providing you’re prepared to do the work. And work it takes. If you haven’t cold emailed before, you need to know that it could take 100 or more cold emails before you receive even one reply.
Sounds like it’s a whole lotta work for next to no return, right?
You see, cold emailing is a numbers game. A percentage of the people you email won’t be interested in your services. A percentage won’t find your services even remotely relevant. Some of the emails you send will end up in the junk box or bounce. Many more will be simply ignored.
These emails will poke and prod at your self-esteem. You’ll be worried you’re annoying people, stressed about being labelled a spammer, confused that you’re working your hands to the bone without getting a return for your hard work. If you have so much as a smidgen of self-doubt, these emails will seek out your inner-monologue of ‘I’m not good enough’ and do their best to play it on repeat. Yes, my friend, cold emailing is tough.
But if you can keep your cool through all of that, there’s a flip side to cold email that’ll make it worth your while.
You see, there’s a select few people who’ll read your tantalising tales and be compelled to hit reply. They’ll love your swagger and style, and they’ll want you to inject your personality into their business too. They’ll be chomping at the bit to get on a call and put gold bars in your bank.
While you have to accept that many of your emails will go unread and/or unanswered, there are a few tips and tricks you can implement to increase your chances of receiving positive replies.
1. Be the rainbow on a cloudy, grey day.
Being boring is the cardinal sin of email. In short, don’t do it. You’re not speaking to the school principal. And even when you’re speaking to a CEO, they have a sense of humour too. If you can make ‘em laugh, or paint a beautiful image in their mind, you’ve got ‘em hooked. Then it’s up to you to reel ‘em in.
The easiest way to inject some personality into your writing is to draft your email saying exactly what you want to say; boring is totally acceptable at this stage. Now walk away for at least 24-hours. Then when you return to edit, do so with one goal in mind – to make your email more interesting. E.g. The title of this section was originally ‘don’t be boring’. Boring, huh? When I edited this piece, I switched it to ‘be the rainbow on a cloudy, grey day’. Not so boring now.
As for how far you can turn up the entertainment dial, the more it makes the butterflies churn up your stomach, and your finger hover, shaking uncontrollably over the mouse button before you take a deep breath and click send, the better. There’s nothing worse than being mediocre.
When you’re entertaining, you get responses like this:
“Love the creative cut through. We agree and have a plan, but I won’t forget your name in a hurry”.
2. Write a catchy subject line to begin your cold email.
There’s no point in writing an incredible email if you can’t even get people to open it. You’ve got 5-8 words to wow your recipient. So ensure your subject lines are packed full of intrigue. Make them an offer they can’t refuse.
Try to lace your cold email subject lines with emotion.
One of my best performing subject lines is:
“Did you pug-et about me?”
This generally does the trick of getting the email opened (this email has about a 70% open rate). Then inside the email, you’ll find a picture of a sad pug. It pulls at the heartstrings, so it’s no surprise this is the email that gets the most replies.
When you pack your subjects and emails full of emotion, you can get replies like this:
“I like your persistence and bringing the emotional side into your spam is a great idea ( and well why I replied)”.
Sure, I got a ‘no’ in that case. But had they been looking for a content writer at the time, I likely would have got a look in.
Need a little help with email subject lines? Check out this post –> “10 of the worst email subject lines in my inbox (plus how to fix them)”.
3. Stop talking about you in a cold email; talk about them.
Many a cold email that arrives in my inbox reads like a resume… boring as reading the phonebook, right? (Do they even exist anymore?).
Often, when a cold email graces my inbox with its presence, I start humming that old song “what about me?” Seriously, I don’t care how many degrees you have or what shade of pink you’ve chosen for your office walls… I want to know what you can do for me.
When you’re on the other side of cold email (a.k.a. writing it), you have to talk about your potential client.
Nobody wants to feel like they’ve been sent a template. More importantly, nobody wants to feel like they’re just a name on a list. It’s crucial that you do some research about your recipients before you send them a cold email, then make sure that research shines through in your email copy.
If the planets align, you might get a positive reply, other times not so much (like the one I received below). But I guarantee, if you only talk about yourself, you won’t get a look in.
“I will admit, your letter did not go down well with the team that look after the customer communication, I don’t think the team got past the fairly blunt intro. But you’re absolutely right”.
4. Follow up your initial cold email… then give people an out.
All of my cold email sequences have a minimum of 8 emails. About 5 emails in, I give people a very simple opportunity to opt-out of receiving any follow-ups. I straight out ask them to hit reply and say ‘no thanks’ if they’re not interested. This short, simple email helps both me and the recipient. If they say they’re not interested, I won’t continue to follow-up, and they stop getting emails. It’s a win-win.
If recipients choose not to opt-out, I continue following up. Then, the last email I send has the subject ‘this is the last email I’ll send you’. If you haven’t received a response after 8-10 emails, it’s likely your emails haven’t hit your mark, or they have, and your recipient isn’t interested.
But once in a while, your emails piqued interest but replying got pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. That’s when an ‘I’m leaving now’ email can work its magic.
In one case, I sent a 9th and final email to a potential client who I felt I could help. Finally, after email #9, I received this reply:
“I have to say, I was intrigued by your emails, then I got busy and put it all aside”.
So, don’t always assume people aren’t interested. Just assume they haven’t got back to you yet. But, there’s no point flogging a dead horse, so you have to give yourself a cut-off point too. For me, I finish a follow-up sequence around 10-12 weeks after sending the first email. If I haven’t received a response by then, I move on.
5. Don’t give up.
This advice may seem to counter the previous point, but it doesn’t. When you’re emailing a cold lead and have had no contact at all, walk away after the 10-12 weeks have elapsed. However, in the event where a person has replied, keep emailing even if you haven’t received a reply. Until you get a hard NO, don’t give up. (If you’ve sent multiple follow-ups and you’re still getting ghosted, try the ‘reply with no thanks if you’re not interested’ approach discussed above).
I had this exact experience recently, where I’d spoken to a potential client then they went quiet on me for a good 6-8 weeks. Then suddenly, through complete coincidence, we ended up on a phone call for something unrelated. During that call, she said:
‘I still haven’t hired anyone for that social media stuff. Let me know when you’re settled and we’ll set up a meeting’.
Bonus: For the love of chocolate, don’t miss the cold email opportunities that fall in your lap.
While it’s important to keep the tips above in mind, sometimes it’s even more important to be open to the opportunities that come your way. Like this one…
I received a cold email from a LinkedIn connection on the same day I discovered my website had been hacked. After a stressful few hours, I had my site back up and running. So I wrote a LinkedIn post about it.
The person who’d sent me the cold email then commented on my post to say they’d noticed my website wasn’t working properly while they were looking for my contact details. Yet, the email that landed in my inbox on the same day I discovered my website was hacked had no mention of my website issues. In fact, it was all about the sender.
If there’d been any chance of working with the company in the past, they’d just put a bomb in the middle of our relationship and exploded it.
The face of my business (my website) was f*cked, yet all this person could care about was throwing me into an automated cold email sequence. This clearly showed they weren’t interested in helping me; only in making money off me.
Sure, pre-write your cold email sequences. It’s a numbers game, so you’d be silly not to. But, as this example shows, it’s still incredibly important to personalise your cold emails as much as possible. That’s how you win at cold-emailing.
If you’re struggling to get freelance clients, have a go at cold email.
If you’ve never tried cold emails before, or you’ve been intrigued but hesitant about the potential results, it’s time to break free from the shackles and tackle your fears.
Yes, you’re going to get rejected. You will be ignored. But by implementing these 5 tips, you’ll level up your cold-email game. Once you start to get some positive replies, you might just find cold emailing is the lead generation strategy you’ve been dying to find.
Need a little help with writing your cold email templates? Send me a message here and we’ll chat about how I can help you.