4 Ways to Ensure Your “Cold” Emails Stand Out

Despite the challenges of today's fast-paced digital landscape, a successful cold email is direct, valuable to the receiver, and concise. For maximum effectiveness, emails should have a clear ask, highlight mutual benefits, and guide the prospect towards an action.

Forget cold calling for a second (hooray!). Let’s talk about cold emailing (huh?).

A “cold” email is an email to a prospect who doesn’t know you or your company.

First, let’s get one thing out of the way: when I say “cold email,” I’m not talking about SPAM. SPAM is gimmicky, misleading, and irrelevant to your prospects’ needs. A cold email, on the other hand, is a direct, honest attempt to make a connection with a prospect who doesn’t already know you.

Whether they’re one-to-one messages or full-fledged email marketing campaigns, cold emails hold the key to a potentially huge source of new leads for your business. They’re fast and replicable, and you can send them to thousands of prospects at the same time.

Despite their potential upside, however, writing cold emails that reach and resonate with your prospects is a huge challenge.

Like everything else these days, your emails are in a fierce competition with a million other stimuli for your prospects’ attention. On top of that, over half of emails are now viewed on mobile devices, where apps, notifications, and hard-to-read screens present additional obstacles.

Here are 4 tips to ensure your cold emails stand out from the crowd, grab your prospects’ attention, and deliver on their massive lead-gen potential:

Get to the Point

Your prospects aren’t naive; they know you want something. If your email is too long or dense, they’ll run out of patience before they even know what you’re asking for.

To grab your prospects’ attention quickly, make sure your cold emails do these 3 things:

  • Tell them what you want in the first 2-3 sentences. When your prospects have a specific request to consider, they’ll move quickly from “info-gathering” mode (slow, passive, frustrating), to “action” mode (active, decisive). And the sooner you ask, the more responses you’ll get.
  • Tell them what they’ll get in return. Your prospects’ don’t know you, and won’t do you any favors. They’re constantly in a “what’s in it for me?” mindset. Make sure your request goes hand-in-hand with something your prospects’ will find valuable, informative, or otherwise beneficial. Be clear that, if they act, they’ll get something back.
  • Tell them what they’re supposed to do. It’s not enough to say “I have some information that you might find helpful.” Tell them exactly how to get it (call, reply, click, download, register), and make it easy for them to do just that.

Be Real & Be Personal

In a world where busy prospects are forced to prioritize and “triage” the information they’re forced to consume throughout the day, unsolicited marketing is the prime candidate for deletion.

You can’t help the “unsolicited” part—we’re talking about cold email after all—but you can do a lot to make your message less “market-y.” Here’s how:

  • Write to an actual person. When you’re staring at a blank page on your computer screen, it’s easy to think of your email as an advertisement for your products or services. But every email is ultimately from one person (you) to another person (your prospect). Write your message accordingly: be professional, but be real. Write simply and in plain English. And don’t be afraid to be a little informal—you’re trying to make a human connection, not write an essay or annual report.
  • Talk to your prospects, not at them. You won’t connect with anyone if you just talk about yourself and how great you are. Use words like “you and your,” and write your email from the perspective of what your prospect cares about.
  • Personalize. Including a prospect’s name or company is an easy way to make them feel like you’re writing directly to them. Use as many personal and company-specific details as possible (having a good prospect database like BWise really helps!).

Be Scannable

This tip comes from a recent article on the Zapier blog on general email etiquette, and it’s just as important when it comes to cold emails to prospects.

For the same reasons you should get to the point quickly, you should make it as easy as possible for your prospect to absorb the purpose and content of your message. Write in short sentences and paragraphs, use bullet points where appropriate, and draw your reader’s eye to the most important points (e.g. with bold text).

The easier it is for your prospect to process your email quickly, the more likely they’ll actually read the whole thing and consider taking the action you propose.

Follow Up

Here’s the unavoidable truth about cold emails: no matter how direct, personal, and easy to read your email is, your prospects are unlikely to respond… the first time.

A short, thoughtful follow-up email can dramatically increase your chances of getting a response. It creates a sense of urgency and sets you apart from “one-and-done” email marketers by showing your prospect you care enough to ask again.

Of course, some prospects won’t respond even after you follow up, and there’s a point at which considerate follow-up turns into inconsiderate nagging. Rather than following up endlessly on the same message until you get a response, wait a month or two and try again, but with a different angle, message, or offer.

When you balance your persistence with a thoughtful and varied approach, you’ll increase your odds of making new connections, and cold emailing will become an indispensable piece of your biz-dev puzzle.