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How to Write Cold Emails That Get Sales

Paid ads. Lead magnets. Social ads. Phone calls. Conferences. Giveaways. Events. Guest blogging. Organic traffic via search engine optimization. There are plenty of ways to generate leads and make sales in the modern world. Heck, even traditional promotion on radio, television, and billboards still has its place. Each has its pros and cons depending on […]

Paid ads. Lead magnets. Social ads. Phone calls. Conferences. Giveaways. Events. Guest blogging. Organic traffic via search engine optimization. There are plenty of ways to generate leads and make sales in the modern world. Heck, even traditional promotion on radio, television, and billboards still has its place.

Each has its pros and cons depending on your goals, niche, target, and location. But if I had to choose just one at the expense of all others, it’d be cold email. It wouldn’t even be close.

The others are all good to varying degrees, but email remains for me the one channel to rule them all. Why?

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Consumers like to receive promotional emails: 86% at least monthly, 61% at least weekly, and a whopping 15% daily.

That’s why.

However, it’s equal parts art and science to write a cold email that a stranger is going to open, read, and take the requested action on. You want to convert. Close. Get the sale.

Let’s make it happen.

Subject Lines

To be blunt, if your subject line is weak, everything else doesn’t matter. Subject lines are absolutely, positively crucial to your email success.

Legendary adman David Ogilvy said that your headline (i.e. subject line) is 80 cents out of your dollar. Spend it wisely. 47% of people decide whether to open an email based on the subject line alone.

If it’s not opened, does your email even exist at all?

Nope. So get it opened.

Personalize it. Subject lines with the recipient’s name, company name, or some other personal tidbit get up to 50% higher open rates.

Keep it short. Aim for 3-8 words at the most.

Create a sense of urgency or exclusivity: flash sale, limited-time offer, X number remaining, countdowns, and so on can nudge people into taking action (like opening, clicking, and converting).

Ask a question. Offer a concrete benefit. Pique their curiosity. Be clear, not clever. Lead with a benefit, logic, or “threat.”

Generate at least 3 subject lines for every email. A/B test them (you might be surprised by what you find out). Experiment and optimize to find what works best for your audience.

Email Copy

Getting your email opened is easily half the battle, but a sky-high open rate doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t get to them to take action. That’s where your email copy takes over.

Skip the lengthy intro. Are you going to read a long email from Mr. So-and-So that rambles on and on about him and his company? No. Frankly, no one cares. You need to keep the message crazy short, to the point, and about them. The most effective emails fall between 50 and 125 words in total.

Briefly highlight your value proposition and polish the first line, as many email providers and mobile apps display it in addition to the subject line.

Get fancy with a little psychological savvy. The more you understand human behavior, the better you can craft a message that makes people take action. A good jumping-off point is Robert Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion (reciprocity, commitment, social proof, authority, liking, and scarcity).

Avoid vagueness, ambiguity, assumptions, and self-indulgence. Keep it casual and – believe it or not – at a third-grade reading level for maximum impact.

Experiment with some tried-and-true sales and marketing acronyms like the 4Ps or AIDA.

And test, test, test.

Leave the aggressive sales tactics and pitches at home. In fact, it’s worthwhile to treat your initial email as a “creating the relationship” opportunity rather than a “making a sale” attempt. You’re aiming for a response above all else.

Which leads us to …

Cold Doesn’t Mean Cold

Personalize, personalize, personalize – where appropriate, of course. And don’t be creepy. Thoughtful, relevant personalization within the email itself delivers better open and click-through rates, an increase in sales, and more, as seen below:

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We live in the Big Data era. You can find out something about everyone, so ‘cold’ email should never really be cold. The data available for the taking also means we’re living in the personalization golden age.

Head on over to the business websites, or the social media profiles (especially LinkedIn for professionals) of individuals and brands. They’re a treasure trove of information.

Use a tool like Voila Norbert to automatically collect relevant names and details for your prospecting efforts. The more you know, the better you can customize your email message for specific segments.

If you’re using a cold email solution like Mailshake, you can’t necessarily personalize at the individual level if you’re sending out dozens or hundreds of emails. But segmentation allows you to personalize at scale via powerful integrations and merge fields within your segment templates.

You can segment based on location, demographics (like gender or job title), market or industry, company size, past purchases (if any) or behavior, psychographics, and so on. You could even further segment your segments to drill down to as personal a level as possible.

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Consumers expect at least some level of personalization in modern marketing. If you can’t or don’t provide it, they’ll move on to someone who will. It’s that simple.

Segmented email campaigns deliver better results across the board:

The takeaway? Personalize and segment. They want it. You need it.

Follow up

Follow up, follow up, follow up. And then follow up again. Starting to see a pattern?

The importance of the follow-up email can not be stressed enough here.

Here’s the reality of the email game: 70% of unanswered email chains stop after the first message, while 50% of sales happen after the fifth touchpoint.

So here’s the secret to email success: follow up. Studies have shown that subsequent emails after the first one continue to generate good-to-great response rates. One showed an 18% response rate to the first message, 12% to the third, and 27% to the sixth.

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Another saw 30% to the first, 13% to the fifth, and 7% to the tenth.

But don’t just resend the same message. An effective follow-up needs to up the value, add context, and adjust the call-to-action as necessary.

The follow-up email is at least as important as the initial one. Keep. Sending.

Test, Monitor, and Tweak

If you’re not tracking important metrics and optimizing for conversions, you might as well stop altogether. Luckily, any email solution worth its salt makes this ridiculously easy to do.

You should be tracking open rates (aim for 15-30%), response rates (shoot for 10-30%), and/or click-through rates (5%+) at a minimum. Go for the high end. Never be satisfied with hitting that bottom rung.

As a quick rule of thumb, a high open but low response rate means you’ve got a strong subject line but weak copy.

High response rate but low open? Great copy, weak subject line.

The open rate for October 2018 across all industries was 15.75%, while the click-through rate was 7.63%. For marketing and advertising specifically, it was 12.50% and 8.45%, respectively. Falling short of those benchmarks? Fix it. Yesterday.

As the saying goes, that which gets measured, gets managed. So measure the metrics that matter.

A Few Tips, Tricks, and Hacks

Beyond the best practices listed above, there are a few other things you can do to increase the effectiveness of your cold email outreach:

Email is the past, present, and future of digital sales and marketing. It’s affordable, powerful, far-reaching, and enormously effective. And anyone can become a master with a little patience and practice.

Keep your cold emails casual, compact, and concise. Personalize and segment as much as your target allows. Test your subject line. Test your copy. Follow-up.

And watch your sales soar.

What’s your recipe for cold email success? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below:

6 Growth Hacks to Double Your Revenue Using Email

Email marketing is widely regarded as offering a better return on investment than any other marketing channel. Image Credit However, odds are that regardless of how effective your emails are right now, implementing a few relatively simple growth hacks could potentially double (or more) the revenue your emails are generating. Sound good? Then here are […]

Email marketing is widely regarded as offering a better return on investment than any other marketing channel.

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However, odds are that regardless of how effective your emails are right now, implementing a few relatively simple growth hacks could potentially double (or more) the revenue your emails are generating.

Sound good?

Then here are 6 email marketing growth hacks to try out now:

1.   Use FOMO

FOMO is the “fear of missing out. ”It’s a common mental state that causes those affected to become anxious that they’re missing out on something great. It’s arguably become more prevalent since the rise of social media (ever seen a post about friends going on a trip and feeling like you need to go so you don’t miss out on the fun? That’s FOMO), but it’s been leveraged as a sales tool for years.

The premise is simple.

When you send out a sales email, include a condition that whatever’s on offer is limited. This might mean stating that you only have x quantity of a product available, or that the offer is only available for x number of hours.

As a result, you will (ideally) drive recipients to take action then and there. This can have a big impact on revenue since once an email gets closed, the odds of it generating a sale decrease significantly.

2.   Segment Your Email Lists to Create Targeted Email Sequences

We already know that email marketing offers the best ROI of all digital marketing channels, but not all campaigns are created equal. Even today, companies are still sending substandard (or downright crap) emails. How many people are going to go to the trouble of reading all this, for example?

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It’s safe to say that bad email marketing campaigns won’t be generating the sort of ROI they could be – but even good campaigns could probably be performing better.

You can get more out of your email campaigns with segmentation.

Segmentation (in this context) means organizing email subscribers according to factors that influence the type of email they’re most likely to respond to. It’s a foolproof means of getting more out of your email marketing because it allows you to send emails that are more closely related to each contact’s current circumstances.

You can segment according to almost any attribute you can think of – from location, age, or gender, to past purchases, what content someone’s interacted with, or the pages they’ve visited on your website.

Once you’ve decided how you’re going to organize your email list and segmented contacts accordingly, you can create the sequences themselves.

This could mean creating a sequence of emails designed to help onboard new customers. It could entail promoting particular products to customers, depending on what they’ve bought previously. Or it could involve suggesting content to visitors based on what they’ve viewed already.

You can learn more about creating effective email sequences in The Ultimate Guide to Email Sequences. You can also get started with creating and sending email sequences using a tool like Mailshake (and if you’re missing any email addresses, use a tool like VoilaNorbert to quickly track them down).

3.   Upsell

You probably already know that current customers are more profitable than new ones (on average, 40% of an e-commerce store’s revenue comes from 8% of its customers) – but can you honestly say you’re doing enough to maximize profit from your existing customers?

The fact is that many businesses focus far too much on customer acquisition, and not enough on customer retention or upselling.

This is where email comes in.

Email sequences have many uses, but they’re especially valuable when used to target and upsell to your existing customer base. You can segment your customers according to the products they currently use, or their average spend, and drip feed emails to them that demonstrate what they stand to gain if they move to a higher price plan or purchase xyz product.

4.   Push for Referrals

Referrals are one of the fastest and most effective ways to generate new business (we know this because consumers consistently state that they trust each other more than brands).

Unfortunately, we can’t rely on customers to refer others without being prompted to do so.

In fact, research has found that while 83% of happy customers are willing to refer others, only 29% bother to do it.

The lesson here is simple. Want more referrals? You’re going to have to ask for them.

But there’s a precedent.

While you could just send out an email to your current customers encouraging them to refer you to others, you’ll likely get better results if you leverage that email to make it as simple as possible for them to do this – allowing customers to send details to others with the click of a button, for example:

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Or upping the ante and giving customers a personalized referral page:

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Another thing to consider is incentives.

You might have noticed in the examples above that these brands aren’t just asking customers to refer somebody else out of the goodness of their hearts – they’re ensuring there’s something in it for the customer if they do.

There are loads of examples of businesses that have been built off the back of incentive-based referral schemes. Dropbox. PayPal. Airbnb. None of these companies (and many more) would be seeing the success they are today without the help of incentivized referrals.

If you leverage email marketing to ask for referrals and simultaneously give your contacts a reason to act on your request, you could very easily double the revenue your campaigns are generating (or more).

5.   Design Emails for Mobile First

The vast majority of emails are now opened and read on mobile devices (especially among younger generations).

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This means that if you want to maximize the impact your emails have, and, in turn, the ROI they deliver, you should be designing them for mobile first and desktop second.

6.   Focus on One Thing Only

The downfall of many marketing emails is their focus. They simply don’t have one. They will try and tell customers about too many things at once, and consequently, their recipients don’t really listen to any of them.

Take this example:

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They’ve included recommended books, an ad for an eReader, and an offer for a $10 eBook credit.

There’s just too much information.

Emails with a single focus are much more effective. They’re easier to absorb, and as a result, are better at getting recipients to take action.

If you’re currently packing multiple talking points into one email, try paring down to a single point and call to action, and see what impact this has on your revenue (I’m willing to bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised).

Do you have any other ideas for ways to double your revenue using email? It’d be great if you could take a minute to share them, using the comments below.

How To Quadruple Your Email List in 13 Weeks

A Doz Email Marketing Case Study A regular newsletter is one of the most effective means for reaching out to clients – existing and potential – and demonstrating the value of your brand. Value is the key word here. Not sales, not conversions, and not revenue. Value. A weekly or monthly newsletter allows your business […]

A Doz Email Marketing Case Study

A regular newsletter is one of the most effective means for reaching out to clients – existing and potential – and demonstrating the value of your brand.

Value is the key word here. Not sales, not conversions, and not revenue. Value.

A weekly or monthly newsletter allows your business or brand to reach out and give something away to people who have already connected with you.

You can offer them information, you can offer them practical advice, you can offer them products that they’ll want to use, or links to the products of others that will complement your own offer.

Approached in this way, the possibilities for long-term conversion, sales, and revenue should be clear. While it seems a little unintuitive, by not focusing on converting a customer and pushing them into a sales funnel, the sales will eventually come.

So why doesn’t everyone have an email newsletter?

Well… They do.

Most every business engaged in a sustained digital marketing effort has a newsletter. The signup forms are ubiquitous on websites across all industries and often acts as a gatekeeper to the content that people arrive on a site seeking.

But then why isn’t everyone singing the praises of their newsletter for driving awareness of the value of their brand?

The reason is because most of them don’t succeed.

They end up in spam folders, go unread, or are deleted on arrival in inboxes.

The list of subscribers doesn’t grow, and the newsletter becomes a chore instead of an outreach and branding tool. Eventually the newsletter becomes more of a drain than anything else and you quit – and your subscribers barely notice you’re gone.

To get the most out of your email newsletter you need your list to grow and your audience to expand. You need new readers, motivated readers, and for your own motivation you need to see those subscriber numbers ticking up each week.

I’ll explain exactly how you can do this in just  a sec…

But first, let me tell you how I learned this strategy.


In the last 13 weeks I’ve taken our small scale email newsletter here at DOZ to new heights. Since the beginning of 2016 our audience has exploded four times over and we’re on track to meet our mid-year goal of 10x growth.

In other words, we’re not just another marketing company ‘talking the talk’ – we’ve ‘walked the walk’, done the hard yards, and have a proven strategy for blowing up an email list fast.

Our strategy is composed of four different elements and each one has played a part in helping us grow our reach and take our brand to more people.

I’m convinced that if you follow our process you’ll experience the same sort of growth we have and, yes, see the sorts of medium and longer-term benefits that we are starting to experience even just three months in.

Here’s how to do it.

 Tackling a New Market

About ten months ago DOZ launched a new email newsletter we called Marketing Monday.

It was to be a weekly digest of the best in marketing from around the web and a way for our marketing team to share their favorite tips, tricks, and sites with an audience that wanted regular, fresh content.

DOZ already had a regular monthly newsletter for the thousands of experts who work in our marketing ecosystem, and a second newsletter for the people who were generally interested in the company, our work, our trajectory, and our growth.

This newsletter, though, was positioned to be something different.

It wasn’t aimed at people interested in DOZ, but at people interested in marketing. We were proud of our knowledge, proud of the content we curated internally for our marketing team, and we believed we could add value to the wider digital marketing community with a newsletter tailored to their needs.

The very first edition of our new newsletter was sent on 27 July 2015 and looked like this:

Weekly Digest Email Example

Original Weekly Digest Email

It went out to a relatively small number of early subscribers but we got great results with a 63% open rate and an 18% click-through rate.

Our audience might have been small but they were interested – now we just had to find more of them…

Over the next few weeks we built on the success of the first newsletter and managed to double our small audience by the time we sent out newsletter #6.

Our open rate remained high (+50%) and our click rate, too. We were adding value, we were reaching more people, and the newsletter was getting read.

And by the end of 2015, we had sent out 23 newsletters and doubled our subscriber list.

We were happy with the open and click rates that remained high and well ahead of the industry average, and we were happy to have doubled our list twice in around five months.

But we were also at a turning point…


An Editorial Change

At the end of 2015 the team member who had been building this newsletter left DOZ and the newsletter was passed on to me. I was set the seemingly unachievable task of growing the audience for the newsletter 10 times by the middle of 2016.

The boss here at DOZ loves a big, hairy, audacious goal and growing a subscriber list 10x in just 26 weeks was the sort of challenge he liked to challenge his team members with.

And so I took over the newsletter and set out to build the sort of list that the boss had asked for – and I did.

Here’s the steps I took…


Step One: Refresh

The first thing I decided to do was to change up the layout of the newsletter to make it more engaging. We are in the marketing business, after all, and words aren’t always enough to attract and keep eyeballs.

Here’s what the final email of 2015 looked like:


Weekly Digest Email Marketing Example 2

Weekly Digest Email format hasn’t changed in 23 weeks.


Not a lot of change between that and the first email we sent and no way to tell that this week’s email is different to the one the week before.

It’s text heavy and while the header image is something I liked and aligns nicely with DOZ’s branding overall, the newsletter wasn’t immediately engaging for readers.

So, I thought it was time for a refresh, the addition of some images, and something to catch the eye of the reader. Adding elements like this is easy with Mailchimp, our preferred email platform, and our newsletter quickly transformed to something more visually appealing:


Weekly Digest Email Marketing Example Long Form

Improved Format


Note the changes:

  • An image has been added to draw attention to the ‘lead’ link in the newsletter. There’s another one further down the newsletter for another link (more about this in a bit).
  • The ‘Read More’ prompt has been retained but it has moved to the right-hand side of the text. This is easier for readers to identify and encourages clicking.

The newsletter is now more visually appealing and a nicer reading experience for the subscribers.


Step 2: Ask for Help

One other thing that the screenshots above demonstrate is that between the standard header image and the first of the links in the newsletter is a short introduction.

This was important in getting our audience to spread our newsletter for us and help us build our subscriber base. Something as simple as:

  • A welcome that puts the email in context (“…it’s the 36th edition of…”)
  • An explanation of what the newsletter is about (for anyone who has not subscribed before
  • A request to pass the email newsletter on to others who might be interested

Every week our newsletter gets forwarded to new readers and some of those new readers sign on as subscribers. Sometimes just giving permission to your audience to share encourages them to do just that.

Step 3: Link Premium Content to the Newsletter

We produce a lot of premium content over at DOZ…

We have eBooks, white papers, slide decks, checklists and more, and our audience loves to read them. It’s a type of content that we love to publish because it is incredibly effective at helping our customers market themselves better andn the past, we had produced the content and made it available for download to the benefit of the audience, but, in reality, little immediate benefit to us.

Now, with an newsletter audience to build, I chose to install a plugin and start exchanging the premium content for an email address.

As we hadn’t done this before I was a little nervous that we might find some push-back from the audience.

After all, if we used to give something away for free and now we’re asking for an email address there’s bound to be some in our audience who might not like the new deal. So I was a little worried but, as it turned out, I didn’t need to be.

We didn’t see any appreciable decrease in downloads and while we did have some people sign on to the list, download an eBook, and then unsubscribe from the list, such occasions were rare. The bump in subscriptions when we rolled this out for our January convinced us to go back and add a similar ssign-upform to our previously published and evergreen premium content.


Step 4: Pop Ups and Drop Downs

Like any business that relies on content marketing, you hope that the content published is of the quality required to attract eyeballs and, eventually, customers.

You plan, draft, edit, then publish and – if it’s good enough – it gets some early reads, gets some shares, and then attracts a larger audience.

There will be social media shares, there will be comments on the article, and some people will even drop the author a short email with a word of thanks – really, it happens!

Some of these readers, though, won’t find their way back to your site the next time they are looking for information. You need to give them a reason to come back and inform them about your new content, and what better way to do that then your newsletter?

We’ve already used different pop ups and drop downs to gather email addresses for our general email lists but, beginning in January, we decided to adapt those pop ups and drop downs on the company blog to collect email addresses for the weekly newsletter.


It was just a small change, but it helped connect us to the readers and kept them reading our content.


Step 5: Social Outreach

The most successful of the major social networks for us has been Twitter. Beginning in January, we committed to making better use of Twitter to support the email newsletter and try and drive deeper engagement.

What we did was rather simple:

  • Every Monday in the hours before the newsletter was sent we’d tweet a reminder that there was still time to get on the distribution list.
  • In the hour after the email went out we would tweet to any company or individual influencer mentioned in that week’s newsletter to let them know that we had featured them.

Usually this would result in a couple of new subscribers on the basis of the reminder tweet. When it came to the tweets we sent to featured authors, we would almost always get some engagement in terms of likes or retweets, and we’d also pick up some additional subscribers through the increased engagement, too.

It’s simple but just telling people we had a newsletter and that we liked their content enough to include them in it proved effective in helping us build our list.


The Results

So how has this affected our growth?

Subscribers Growth Graph

In short: our email list has exploded in the best possible sense.

As the chart above demonstrates, we experienced steady growth in our mailing list from the launch of the newsletter right through to the end of 2015.

By the time we sent the last email of the year (Edition 23) we had doubled, and then doubled again the size of our mailing list.

But the special steps that we’ve explained in this post had a marked and almost immediate effect on the growth of the subscriber list.

Within two weeks our mailing list was spiking and we doubled our 2015 list in five weeks, tripled it in another five weeks, and quadrupled it by the end of March.

By the end of April, we fully expect that our list will be five times bigger than it was on the first day of the year.

And what’s more, the boss’s 10x mid-year target is not only in sight but the marketing team is quietly confident we’ll hit and surpass it with a couple of weeks to spare.


Final Thoughts

At DOZ, we’ve made some specific strategic changes in the last three months to ensure our slowly-growing newsletter audience would grow – and fast.

Nothing we’ve done is all that difficult and nothing we’ve implemented is out of the reach of most businesses and brands. Yet implemented in combination, the steps in our strategy have helped double, triple, then quadruple our email list in just a few weeks, and we’re on track to increase the size of our list 10x by the end of June.