Most marketers view cold outreach as a necessary evil. You have to engage with your potential customers somehow, but that first interaction can be tricky (and painful). 

Not to mention discouraging.

On average, only 1-5% of recipients will respond, which means you’ll have to send out hundreds of cold emails in order to generate a substantial amount of business. That could take days or even weeks to start seeing progress.

Another option? Improve your cold outreach. In some cases, making even a few tweaks to your cold outreach strategies can improve your response rate by a couple percentage points. That could translate to thousands of additional dollars in revenue every year.

Do cold emails even work?

There’s a stigma attached to cold outreach. Many liken it to telemarketers that always seem to call during dinner. As such, many businesses want nothing to do with it.

But that’s just what they say. In reality, an overwhelming majority of businesses still integrate cold calling into their standard business practices. The reason is simple: it works. Nearly 82% of buyers say that they have accepted a meeting with a salesperson that began with a cold call.

Cold Outreach & Email Marketing Tips

In an effort to avoid doing cold outreach, some marketers will say they’re simply not good at it. Frankly, that’s not a good enough reason in today’s age to not embrace some form of cold calling. Whether it’s hiring a copywriter to produce a solid template or using a content writing service to craft the entire email, experts are right at hand to help your business with your email marketing strategy.

Five factors to implement in your cold email strategy

Cold outreach is difficult enough as it is, but the bright side is that learning just a few basic tips should be enough to make a difference. Implement the following five strategies into every cold email campaign, then adjust based on your success rate.

Identify yourself clearly

Most people get hundreds of emails every single day. Some of those are from mailing lists that they willingly signed up for, some are from known associates (friends, family, work colleagues), and a healthy chunk are from people they’ve never met before.

Which category do you fall in?

It’s important to establish trust right at the outset, and that begins with their inbox. Two pieces of information are immediately available as people are skimming their messages: the subject line (see below) and the sender.

The key here is to come off as completely human, while establishing instant credibility. Business emails generally don’t come from Gmail addresses (unless they’re spam), and senders with fishy sounding TLD’s are usually a red flag. Using a professional email from a registered domain will keep a lot of email providers from sending your email straight to the spam folder.

Cold Outreach & Email Marketing Tips

Email signatures (located at the end of the email) are another great way to identify yourself. Though the recipient won’t actually see it unless they open the email, it’s another opportunity for you to show who you are. Include only the necessary information about who you are (the shorter, the better), and skip any HTML unless it is very clean.

Nail the subject line

Your subject line is another opportunity for them to at least open your email, and it should arguably be the single item you spend the most amount of time creating.

The core argument of any effective subject line is answering the “so what?” Why should they open your email when they have 50 others sitting in their inbox?

There are a few subject line tactics that are tried and true and are worth considering for your subject line:

  • Scarcity. Tell them this offer is limited or that you only have a few spots left (this is only effective if it’s true).
  • Urgency. Inform that whatever you’re offering is only available for a limited period of time, or that the price will go up soon unless they act.
  • Personalization. Include their name or company in the subject line. It will automatically stand out amidst a sea of generic emails.
  • Empathize. Show them that you can connect with their pain points. Address an industry issue head on and signify that you’re there to help.

Cold Outreach & Email Marketing Tips

Cold emails need to be specific to each recipient (to a certain point), and authentic enough that it doesn’t feel like a spam email. One of the best ways to do that is to use terminology and a tone that connects with your audience. If your main audience was healthcare virtual assistants, for instance, you would need to do enough research to know how to talk to them. 

Making a subject line relatable is difficult, but not impossible. Nail it, and you’ve got their attention.

Avoid salesy speak

Few things are more annoying than a “business-first” email. Companies get dozens of emails every day from different groups trying to sell their services, but very, very few actually take the time to research the company and make a thoughtful pitch.

That little bit of effort could make all the difference in the world.

In as few words as possible (less than 200, if possible), your email needs to connect with the reader and showcase the value you can bring to the table. Highlight the benefits of your product or service – not necessarily the features – and use storytelling to evoke an emotional response.

If you’re struggling to connect with your audience through words, consider changing up the font or creating a few custom images that you can import into a template. A font generator can create a unique look for your brand and create a feel that words sometimes express. Depending on the season, you may also choose to have heart vectors or tiny Christmas tree images sprinkled throughout your email to make it a touch more relevant.

Regardless of your approach, the email itself is where you whittle down the audience to speak to a single individual. Remember, you’re not addressing an avatar – you’re speaking to a real human being with their own set of pain points. Address them as completely and succinctly as possible.

End with a purpose

No email is complete with a strong call to action (CTA), but resist the urge to ask for the sale right away. This is a cold email, after all; they’re not going to fully commit to what you’re selling in a matter of a few paragraphs.

Cold Outreach & Email Marketing Tips

Keep the task subtle. Make it something that they can do in a few seconds or less, such as clicking a link to a blog or responding with a simple one or two word reply. The larger the ask, the more friction it will create with your recipient and the less likely it will be that they’ll respond.

If it’s possible, have only one CTA per email. You don’t want to overload your recipient with seven different things to do, or else they’ll lose interest and move on.

This is also a great place to reiterate your credibility. While you never want to be showy, you should tell them a little bit of why they should trust you. You can do this via testimonials, customer reviews, or sales figures, but make sure that it’s honest. Fake reviews will destroy your reputation.

Don’t forget the followup

Just because you’ve sent your cold email doesn’t mean your outreach is over! Wait a couple days after your initial email to send a short followup asking if they received the initial email. Restate who you are so that they connect you with the previous email, and deliver your CTA again

There are a lot of reasons why someone would not reply to your initial email, many of which are completely innocent. Maybe they saw your pitch and meant to reply but forgot, or maybe it accidentally went to their spam or promotions folder. Sending a followup gives you a much better chance to show that you’re for real and worth working with.


Cold outreach doesn’t have to be a chore; in some ways, it can be an artform. Thoughtfully crafting emails of value and then communicating it to companies that can legitimately benefit from your services can distinguish you from all the others out there that are relying solely on reputation and referrals to drive traffic. Over time, that well will dry up, but an effective email outreach strategy can bring results virtually forever.