21 Cold Emails Best Practices Learned From Over 20,000 Emails

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In this post, I’ll be revealing the 21 cold emails best practices I learned after sending tens of thousands of cold emails with a reply rate of 25 to 40 percent.

These are the low-hanging fruit or core essentials of email marketing.

I used to do a lot of cold emailing back when I ran a marketing agency in the games industry.

Lots of emails, lots of failures, and lots of lessons learned.

Here’s what I’ve gathered over the years.

21 Cold Emails Best Practices

21 Cold Emails Best Practices

1. Find the right person to contact.

Make sure you’ll be reaching the decision-maker. Don’t waste time sending emails to people who can’t take action on the email.

2. Know who you’re emailing and their role.

If you’re targeting technical VPs, you better formulate the copy to resonate with them. Make sure your message is aligned with who you’re emailing.

3. Reach out to your recipients if you can before you inbox them.

This adds an extra layer of complexity but also skyrockets the open and reply rate of your cold emails.

If you can ping them on Twitter or genuinely engage with a LinkedIn post of the recipient, they’re much more likely to reply to your email.

4. Make sure your tone isn’t robotic or generic.

If it doesn’t sound like a conversational and personal email, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

If you’re going to use a template for your cold emails, personalize the hell out of it and write as you talk.

Unless you talk like a robot, then I don’t really know what advice to give you there.

5. Keep it short and straight to the point.

Keep the email under 8 sentences if at all possible. Longer emails end to be thrown in the bin. The shorter, the better.

6. Use power words.

Throw in the words You, New, and Free as much as possible without having it sound cheesy.

Use a text-to-speech reader and/or read your sentences out loud. You’ll know if it’s cheesy.

7. Include a strong call to action.

Your cold emails should end on a benefits-driven call to action. Open up a curiosity/reward loop and get them legitimately interested in opening the email.

8. Keep it about them, not you.

It’s okay to drop one or two sentences about you for credibility and context, but don’t write an entire paragraph about who you are.

Instead, focus on the benefits and use your signature as a way to demonstrate expertise.

9. Give them an honest compliment.

This isn’t really scalable, but if you can give them a compliment, it’ll go a long way.

If you genuinely enjoy their work, don’t be afraid to let them know, and go above and beyond to prove that you’re not just flattering them. Be real.

10. Proofread it a few hours or a day after you write it.

Some of my most egregious cold email copy mistakes and typos happened immediately after I drafted them.

It takes a while for your brain to feel less “attached” to your work, and so I’d give it a solid day before revisiting it with an editing round.

11. Always follow up.

You’ll need to follow up with the recipient anywhere between 3 and 7 times.

The more you follow up, the higher your response rate. It’s important to keep this copy professional.

You don’t want to annoy the recipient and have them flag your email as spam.

12. Don’t include attachments.

If you’re attaching something to a cold email, the chances of it getting flagged for spam are much greater.

Save the attachments for after the recipient has actually replied if you want to send something over. Or better yet, just use a link.

13. Keep it simple and plain text.

This goes without saying, but don’t add any fancy designs and don’t use any custom templates. You want it to be plain text.

14. Establish common ground.

Build rapport ASAP by highlighting a commonality if at all possible. Do it in one quick sentence. Then, move on.

15. Go above and beyond.

Ninety-nine percent of cold emails will be non-personalized hot garbage.

Be the one percent that actually goes above and beyond by giving more value than everyone else. This isn’t too scalable but will boost your reply rates.

16. Use the law of reciprocation.

This goes hand-in-hand with the point above.

If you give them legitimate value (and not just perceived value), you’ll build more trust and compel them to give you a response.

17. Keep your subject line between 5-10 words.

The shorter and more curiosity-provoking the subject line, the higher than reply rate in my experience.

18. Experiment with different days and timing.

I’ve found the middle of the week to work pretty well. Avoid Mondays.

19. Make replying feel truly effortless.

For the initial email, if you prompt them to come up with a longer reply, they’ll probably put off replying — potentially indefinitely.

Instead, make sure that the ask is as painless as possible for them. Remove friction.

20. Remind the recipient what’s in it for them if they reply.

It’s helpful to add another line closer to the end of the email (above the CTA) to remind them of the value of replying.

21. It’s okay to use an image, but keep it to only one.

Make it count. If you can use the image to add a bit of relevant humor, this works as well. Be warned though, humor is tricky and can backfire if you do it inappropriately.