10 tips for better cold email copywriting

Nick Harland
December 2022

Cold emails are the devil's work. Still, if you're going to cold email someone, you might as well do it properly. Here are 10 tips for better cold email copywriting.

Show me someone who loves receiving cold emails, and I’ll show you a liar.

Nobody really likes them, but they’re a necessary evil, and in some cases, the best chance you have of drumming up some business. So if you're going to do it, you may as well do it properly. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time and your reader’s time.

But first up: we’re a copywriting agency, and we do copywriting, so for that reason this blog will only contain tips about the actual copywriting part of your cold email. There are some things to be aware of before you start sending out cold emails, but they’re better described here and here than we ever could. 

Read it? Great. Then let us proceed.

1. Identify a problem

The first thing you’ve got to do is make sure the recipient actually needs your help. For example, if you’ve created a mental health app for universities, you might point out that they don’t currently offer a wellbeing app to their students. And so on and so forth. Without an obvious problem, you’re not needed. So don’t waste your time.

2. Show them the solution

Next, show the other person what the solution to their problem is. If the university doesn’t offer a mental wellbeing app to its students, let them know you have built one. And make sure you concentrate on the benefits of your solution, rather than just running through its features. You can learn more website copywriting tips like that on our recent blog.

3. Give them an incentive

It’s unlikely that you’ve got the only product/service of your kind in the world. That means you’ve got to either 1) differentiate yours in some way, 2) demonstrate your USP or 3) offer the recipient an incentive. 

We recommend option three, because you don’t have enough space to do the first two in an opening cold email. You could offer the other person a free trial, a free product walkthrough or perhaps a discount code. Basically, free is good. People like free stuff.

4. Keep it short

How many emails do you receive a day? However many, it’s probably too many. And whilst it might be a good idea to respond to your manager ASAP, the same doesn’t apply to a random cold email. The vast majority either go straight in the junk or straight in the rubbish. 

So don’t waste people’s time, and keep it as short as possible. 100 words max. Any more, and you’re asking to be deleted. People don’t have the time or inclination to read long sales pitches from strangers.

5. Add more info in your follow up

So, you’ve gone through the basics about your product or service in your initial cold email. And that’s all it should contain. The basics.

If you want to include any more information, either link to it in the email or write it in follow-up emails. In those follow-ups (try not to follow up more than twice) you might explain who you are, what you’ve done, your portfolio (if applicable) and maybe add an extra incentive for the reader.

6. Make it personal

You’ve taken the time to research this company and find the perfect person to send your cold email to. The least you can do is make it seem like this isn’t a bulk email sent to hundreds of people. As a minimum, use some email software to personalise it with their first name and company name. Just writing ‘Hello Sir/Madam’ is a guaranteed route to the recycle bin.

7. Show them you’ve done some research

Here’s the weird thing about cold emails. You’re going to email multiple people at the same time - in some cases, several hundred. And most of the time, your recipient knows this too. 

So you’ve got to demonstrate there’s a reason why you’re emailing them specifically instead of bulk emailing the same thing to thousands of companies. Show them that you know their company and their pain points. Show them that you’ve done your research about them.

8. Write a subject line using this formula

John Capes. Ever heard of him? No, us neither, but he did once come up with a bunch of headline writing formulas that we find pretty effective. They’re effective for cold emails, too. If you’re stuck for a subject line, try out some of the formulas linked above. Oh, and make sure you test different ones to see which works the best.

9. Keep the call-to-action simple

So you’ve sent your email. And the other person has only gone and bloody opened it! But what now? Well, normally in a cold email you’re going to have some sort of call-to-action - book now, sign up, learn more - that kinda thing. 

But you’ve gotta keep it simple. Just include one call-to-action in your email, which could be to arrange a call with you, for example. Don’t waste all of your good work by having a ‘Sign Up’, ‘Learn More’ and ‘Buy Now’ button all stuffed into your email. It’s too confusing and distracts from your main message.

10. Make it easy for them to respond

Lastly, it’s really important to give your recipient an easy way to take action on your email. Let’s say you want to arrange a call to guide them through your mental wellbeing app. Don’t just say: ‘Let me know when you’re free for a call.’ Even that is too much for most people to respond with. 

You could try a website like Calendly, where the other person can easily arrange a call with you via a link. If the other person has been convinced to take action on your email but they don’t because it was too much of an effort, there really is nothing worse than that.

BTW. You might follow all of these tips, and STILL nobody replies to your email. But don’t be disheartened. Keep trying, keep testing, keep experimenting. There are no guarantees to this, but you might as well cold email properly if you’re going to do it at all.

Nick Harland