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The beginner's guide to cold email

Ah, email. Wait, wasn't email supposed to slowly dissipate into the unknown and never be talked about again? Well, it didn't. Email is still handy. In fact, "the number of email users is estimated to be at 4.1 Billion users by the end of 2021" While that number might be shocking at first, is it? After all, how many times do you find yourself checking your email each day? It's easy to scroll through and be pulled in by the influx of emails from coveted brands and businesses vying for your attention. But what if you switched gears and became the sender instead of the receiver? Now, let's spice it up and make it a personalized outreach to a potential lead. Ta-da: That is the world of cold emailing, a tactic that might end up being your knight in shining armor. If the idea of a cold email terrifies you, don't let it. Here's how to conquer cold emailing.

What is a cold email, and why send one?

A cold email is sent to a potential consumer that you have no relationship or previous connection. Maybe you want to pitch your product or service to a prospect, or perhaps you want to network or recruit. Either way, when utilized correctly, a cold email can effectively build those relationships. The idea of blindly reaching out with no guaranteed response is enough to scare people away from cold emailing, but don't approach it with that mindset. A personalized and authentic cold email can be the thing that puts your foot in the door.

Basics to sending a cold email

So what is the recipe for a result-oriented cold email? Let's jump in.

Create your profile and cold email signature

Your profile represents who you are, so don't skip out on accurately updating this section. For starters, make sure you have a profile picture (a current photo that is inviting and professional is a plus). Also, make sure your full name appears as the sender— you can send a test email to a coworker or dummy address to make sure it's occurring the way you want it to.

Let your email signature be short and sweet. No crazy fonts or HTML, just your name and title should be more than enough unless you want to include a link to your socials or portfolio following your name. Make sure whatever you have loads fast.

Remember, your email provider is either a free provider (think Yahoo or Gmail) or a paid provider (like G-suite). Regardless of the type of provider you settle for, make sure your email address is "YourName" @ (insert provider here)— don't get too complicated.

Build a cold email list

Who is your target audience? Think back to your buyer persona; what are they like? What is their industry, what are their interests? By knowing who you are trying to target, you can create a cold email list of prospects catered to you and what you hope to offer them. After all, you don't want to cold email just anybody. A cold email should be your foot in the door with a prospective consumer, and it should be a tool that allows you to initiate that connection.

Write your cold email.

Here's what your email should entail:

  • Subject line: Your subject line should be 50 characters or less and should inform your prospect of the email's contents. There should be a clear call to action in your subject line.
  • Body: Keep the email short. Be mindful that introductions provide information found in your email signature and don't need to be lengthy. Include a brief introduction, a connection or commonality, and the problem/solution.
  • Closing: Your email signature is as, if not more important than your introduction in telling your prospect who you are and what you do. Make sure to edit your email signature to represent you and your business appropriately.
  • Call-to-action: A call-to-action speaks to your prospect and informs them of what is needed of them. This is an important part that should not be left out.

Send and A/B test

The downside to cold emails is that you don't always know what will or won't generate a response. The upside is that A/B testing is made just for that. A/B testing put is a test that allows you to experiment with variations in your cold emails. For example, you might A/B test different subject lines to see which generates a better response. Be sure to continually analyze your metrics to see which of your variations is yielding better results. Some things that can be assessed:

  • Are your emails being delivered and seen?
  • Are your emails being opened?
  • Are they being replied to?

What to try instead of a cold email template

Try to stay clear of cold email templates that feel stilted. Remember, a cold email is best if it feels natural, which can be hard to accomplish with an elaborate template. A personalized email or concise template works because it feels genuine, authentic, and sincere. Keep these tips in mind as you write your cold email:

  • Know who you're emailing: Now that you've done the research and built your cold email list, you know who your target audience is. You have pinpointed a problem they have and find yourself ready to offer the perfect solution. Personalization goes beyond just addressing your recipient by name. A cold email needs to showcase that you have done your research — you know who they are, what their interests and beliefs are, the work they have done, and ultimately, how you both can best serve each other.
  • Showcase who you are: You've done your research on your recipient and know who they are. But remember that you are sending an email blindly to someone you have no connection or prior relationship with, so you need to let your recipient see who you are — credible and trustworthy. Think of any direct links or things in common you might have (mutual friend, same hometown, same college, passion for surfing). As you research your prospect, these similarities jump into the main focus, and it's okay to use them!
  • Be authentic and short: Don't let your recipient read a novel. Time is of the essence. Your email should look like eye candy and be easy on the eyes. Don't write in all-caps and don't "!!!!!!!" your audience. Be authentic, talk like how you would in person, know who your target audience is and how you might be able to help them. Stay personable, find common ground, and offer your solution.

Bottom line

The term 'cold email' sounds more intense than it is. To put it all in perspective, a cold email is an initial outreach to a prospect that helps build a relationship and potentially yields positive results for your business. Once you know who your perspective is, the daunting task of cold emailing gets easier. After all, it just is a personalized email, and the personalization comes with research on your target audience and ideal prospective leads.