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How to write a cold email that converts

A winning formula, plus Dos and Don’ts to keep in mind   

In 2020, more than 305 billion emails got sent and received worldwide every day (Statista). Estimates have that number jumping to about 370 billion by 2025. Every. Day.

All those messages flying around and still nobody responds to your cold emails…hmmm.

That doesn’t seem right – or even possible.

But it actually makes sense. Cold emails only work when done correctly. Unless you know a little something about the art of persuasive writing or what to include and avoid, odds are you’re not doing it right.

Not to worry. Here’s a handy method to help ensure your next round of cold emails sizzle.

What’s a cold email and why should you write one?

A cold email is an email sent to someone with whom you have no prior connection. Essentially, you’re introducing yourself and your product/service to a stranger.

And if you were meeting stranger face-to-face, would you ask them to buy something in the first few seconds? No. Unless you’re a sociopath. And even then…

First and foremost, a cold email is a way to start building a relationship – always a worthwhile thing for a business to do. Cold emailing doesn’t have to result in a sale to be considered a success. It’s an excellent way to create brand awareness, to network with others, to initiate lead generation and generally make a connection. That’s not to say you can’t make a pitch, but the right approach requires a little knowledge, effort and tact.

Then again, if your brand is ‘unhinged’ or ‘psychotic,’ go for it.

How to write cold emails that work – your winning formula

As with any communication, before commencing writing, know your aim and research your audience. Plan to create something that is clean and concise. Keep language personable and specific – strong verbs, short sentences. With that in mind, follow these steps for a winning formula.

Step 1: It starts in the inbox. Make a good first impression and pay attention to your From, Subject and Preview Text. From lines can take a few different forms. First name and company name is a good place to start; last name and job title can increase credibility or make things more formal. So be consistent with your tone and consider who is on the receiving end. Subject lines can make or break it…no pressure. If you’re too vague or schticky, you’ll get deleted without a second glance. Too many CAPS and !!!! exclamation points can get you in the spam folder. Short(ish), personalized, informative and/or curiosity-piquing subjects win the day. Oh, and if you can mention a keyword and a pain point in seven words, so much the better. For Preview text, keep it short and simple, perhaps inject humour, intrigue, time constraints or a question. You have already begun to set the tone, make sure to keep it consistent moving forward.  

Step 2: Settle on a salutation. Hi, Hey, Dear, Good morning – all have a different vibe and tone. Go with what feels comfortable for your brand and your prospect, then personalize with an actual name. If you don’t have a name, you haven’t done enough research.

Step 3: Nail your opening line. Again, no pressure, but this is a biggy! You have two to three seconds to capture your prospect’s interest and entice them to keep reading. So PLEASE don’t start by saying your name – not only do they know it from the inbox, but also it’s not about you, it’s about them! Focus on their needs, problems or pain points. Set up the context of why you’re connecting but wait until the next paragraph to get into you and your solution. This set up can be done with a question, a stat, a little humour, flattery, mentioning a mutual contact or interest.    

Step 4: Email body gets into the who, why, what. Succinctly introduce your company/product/services and what makes you trustworthy; explain why you’re in touch and how you can make their life easier. You may want to offer social proof of your awesomeness, mention some similarity or overcome any objections (time, money) if you’re making a specific offer. And make sure you keep things brief – say three sentences – and focussed on the prospect. It’s a tricky but vital little dance.  

Step 5:  Get in a low-pressure CTA. Don’t be too pushy. After all, you just met. Suggest that if they want more info, simply reply to the email. No big commitment, no catch, it’s up to you, easy-peasy.

Step 6: Sign off, with a signature. Choose an appropriate, on-brand sign off – Thanks, Sincerely, Cheers, Best regards – and include a clean signature that includes your first and last name, title and company name, website link. If it’s compact enough, you may also want to include a logo, phone number and social media links.

Optional Step 7: Include a PS. Depending on your brand and audience this is another chance to get in a few more words, such as a link to testimonials. Some people find it charming; others find it gimmicky or overly familiar. If it’s smart, helpful or recalls back to opening, you may want to consider it. If its sole purpose is to vaguely induce fear (Don’t wait too long!), think again.

11 Cold email Dos and Don’ts


  • Be pushy.
  • Be long-winded or vague.
  • Use too many “I/We” statements.
  • Copy and paste.


  • Personalize the greeting and at least once somewhere else.
  • Try it out on a friend or two first and ask for feedback.
  • Be brief. Use short paragraphs (one to three sentences) and try to limit to three graphs or fewer.
  • Be specific and cut to the chase.
  • Be friendly and appreciative.
  • Proofread (and again) before sending.
  • Follow up.

Cold emails – not for the faint of heart but a worthwhile endeavour. Pithy and potent, done right they can pack a punch. Poorly written missives can make just as notable an impression. Take your time, follow the formula and you’ll find success.

At Rock.Paper.Copy, our professionals work with you to create high-impact, effective copy and turn browsers into buyers.

Nancy Miller
Nancy Miller

Owner and editorial rockstar at Rock.Paper.Copy Writing Solutions

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