Digital Marketing Tips

What is Cold Email & How to Cold Email a Prospect

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When the goal is to acquire new customers, email works almost 40X better than Facebook and Twitter. In this article, we’ll talk about cold emails — the type of emails extremely effective for generating new leads if appropriately implemented.

What is a cold email

A cold email is a communication strategy that consists in emailing your potential customers, who are not aware of your company or are not part of your mailing list yet. It is a bit similar to cold calling but less disturbing — you don’t break in the middle of whatever a user was doing but begin your communication in the inbox, which a person opens up when they wish to.

“But, wait, what’s the difference between cold email and spam?” — you might ask. Well, the difference is huge.

Spam messages are sent out to large audiences and usually sound impersonal. They never address any particular problem of a person or their business simply because a sender doesn’t even know who the receiver is and hasn’t held any research on them. Cold emails, for their part, have a thorough analysis behind them, so they are addressed to a particular person and their needs.

The difference is also visible in the results. Sending out spam gets you blacklisted and makes you lose prospect customers and sales, while effective cold emails enrich your customer base, bringing you higher revenue and improving brand reputation.

The benefits of cold emailing

Cold email is commonly aimed at turning cold leads into warm leads, but there are few other goals you might have in mind:

  • networking and spreading the word about your business;
  • getting the attention of an investor or a would-be partner;
  • reaching out to professionals to offer them a position at your company;
  • contacting influencers to schedule an interview, and so on.

Let’s take a look at three real-life examples of cold emails that actually helped a business grow:

  1. Alex Berman, CEO of the Experiment27, generated $1mln in revenue in just a year sending millions of cold emails intended to close the sale.
  2. Justin McGill, the founder of a lead generation platform LeadFuze, said “no” to cold calls and used cold emails instead to grow a seven-figure business.
  3. Jake Jorgovan, a creator and entrepreneur, generated $12,030 with cold emails, and his list of customers included companies from Fortune 500.

These companies had different business goals, but all of them started by identifying potential leads, holding large research on the people and companies they wanted to contact and writing high-quality cold emails.

How to cold email a prospect

Essentially, cold emails are made to establish a point-of-contact. Whether you received a positive or a negative reply, it’s still a reply, which means that a person has read your email and spent a minute to get to know you.

There are a few basic recommendations which can bring you more opens, more clicks and, above all, more positive replies.

Do your research

Build a list of potential customers by researching companies and their websites, social media, blogs, and other platforms that serve as a “habitat” of your prospects. That is where they share information about their company’s and personal needs which your products may fulfill.

Gather all the background information about every person on your list to understand what style of communication will be suitable for them and what offers they may be interested in.

Connect through personalization and value

Cold email is not the same as a promotional email. Your primary goal in cold emailing is to set up a connection with a person, and begin selling only when this connection has become stable.

The first thing your recipient sees while opening the inbox is a subject line, and every third email is opened based on it. So, feel free to include your recipient’s first name, use questions, refer to mutual acquaintances, thank for a great blog post. In other words, make your subject line sound personal and engaging to win the full attention of a prospect. But remember that the content of your email should correlate with the subject line.

Base your cold email content on the needs of the prospect which you have found out at the research stage. If a person feels that you are an expert who can offer something valuable and relevant to them and their company, the chances of a reply are a lot higher.

Introduce yourself properly

Your recipients don’t know anything about you, that’s why introduction truly matters. Highlight but not boast about your or your company’s experience, prior projects and the benefits you can bring. Sound trustworthy and inspire confidence by stating real numbers, facts and sharing expertise. Again, imagine what information your prospect would want to know, what facts would help to build trust in that particular case.

Conclude with a CTA

Your cold email should logically lead to a call to action — a person might contact you, write a reply, visit your website, check out the pricing, and so on. Think what actions are appropriate at this stage and do not overwhelm your prospects with choices.

Don’t stop at a single email

Send out a few follow-up emails: the more emails you send, the higher are the chances of conversions. Start emailing your prospects with relatively high frequency which you will then decrease as time passes. Reveal your new advantages with every email you send, trying to bring actual value.

Save your time by automating your outreach processes — from lead sourcing and email verification to reply management — with online tools like

5 effective cold email formulas

There are several working cold email formulas which you can take in consideration or apply right away in your emails. We’ll discuss five most effective of them.

1. Before-After-Bridge (BAB)

The formula is made out of three parts:

  • Before — describe a challenge which your prospect faces right now;
  • After — show how awesome the future without this problem could be;
  • Bridge — explain how your product or service can make that future come true.

There are two factors that usually motivate people to take action: pleasure and pain. Here, we combine both by talking about the problem and offering a solution.

Moreover, the BAB formula is often based on storytelling, which is a very effective engaging technique. Stories lay in the foundation of communication. If your story is interesting and logically structured, a recipient will remember it. Storytelling helps to involve the audience, guide people through the email and explain the offer in more detail.

See how a cold email template with the BAB structure might look like:

Hello James,

Most email marketers struggle with gathering enough data for deep segmentation and personalization. By losing time, companies lose potential customers. If you also have faced this problem, we are ready to offer you a solution.

Our platform X has already helped 150+ companies to learn more about their audience and use every piece of data to personalize their emails and get higher conversions, much higher than ever. For instance, one of our customers received 590% higher conversion rates thanks to just 1 personalization tweak in the subject line.

We take away all the pain of this time and effort consuming task and may provide you with the data you can apply right away.

2. The Reader’s Digest model

Back in 1961, John Caples, a famous copywriter, studied the structure of articles in the Reader’s Digest magazine. He had learned how to make people want to read more by using strong intros and titles. This experience helped him to create a copywriting model for successful sales texts.

According to Caples, a sales copy should

  • be rich in facts;
  • be concise;
  • be specific;
  • have adjectives;
  • arouse curiosity.

Here’s a cold email example written according to this formula:

Hello Amy,

My name is Mike, and I’m the CEO of a company X. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now. With every new post, I’ve been getting more and more ideas on how our visions of email marketing correlate with each other.

Here’s an idea: why don’t we launch a skyrocketing email marketing course based on your and my professional experience?

Why it’s going to work:

  • we are targeting the same audience;
  • last year, collaboration with the email marketer X brought us both 230 new customers;
  • we’ve managed to gain $50,000 from one course, which is absolutely amazing!

Let’s explore the ways we could achieve even greater results. I would be glad to hear out your ideas via email, phone, or over a cup of coffee.

When is it the best time for you to connect?

3. Star-Chain-Hook

This formula has three equally important parts:

  • Star — present the star of the show or an idea;
  • Chain — demonstrate numbers or facts supporting this idea;
  • Hook — catch the final attention of a reader and call them to action.

Compared to the BAB, in emails written based on Star-Chain-Hook formula, you begin on a positive note. You provide an attention-grabbing opening, then support it by numbers and facts, and finish up with a call to action.

Here’s how you can use it in your cold emails:

Hello Kim,

More than 400 companies don’t even bother HR experts with everyday headaches leaving them time for more strategic and important tasks.


HR Consult app helps companies outsource daily tasks which don’t require a real person’s presence. I’ve conducted a short presentation for you to see what tasks you can say “goodbye” to and how much working time and money you can save with our app.

You can begin a free 30-day trial right now! No hidden costs or obligations.

If you are ready to start or have more questions, don’t hesitate to contact me any time.

4. But You Are Free (BYAF)

This is an effective technique to influence customer decisions. After you’ve made a request, mention that a user is not obliged to follow up on it. Researches show that when you give that freedom of choice, most people agree.

Consider the cold email example:

Good afternoon, Michael!

First of all, I would like to say that I’m a huge fan of your company product and I admire your professionalism.

That’s exactly why I decided to contact you, as, I’m sure, your level of expertise is what we all at startup X could learn from. Right now, we are building our content marketing strategy and write articles on digital marketing for our blog.

I would appreciate if you could take a look and give a few short comments on what you think could be improved.

It would be a great honor. Though I fully understand if you cannot as your schedule is probably very busy.

5. Problem-Agitate-Solve (PAS)

This formula is built around the problem and a solution which you or your company can offer.

Here’s how it goes:

  • Problem — begin with stating a real problem;
  • Agitate — explain what damage this problem can bring;
  • Solve — offer a perfect solution.

Studies show that avoiding a problem is more motivating than achieving something good, that’s why the PAS formula works so well in cold emails. By explaining the negative outcomes of a problem, you prove how important it is to solve it, and finally come up with a solution that lets a reader sigh with relief and trust you.

Take a look at a cold email example based on this formula:

Hello Max,

The companies which don’t step a foot into the social media world now are at risk of losing thousands of customers and conversions. I’ve just visited your company website and noticed that you don’t use social media to reach out to prospects, being unable to contact a number of potential customers.

2.27 billion people around the world use Facebook. They are ready to engage, make purchases and interact with your brand, but if your company isn’t presented on social media, people won’t even have a chance to get to know you.

I simply couldn’t walk away from your website, and I offer to help your company win over as many customers as you want via social media channels.

Let me explain how we at company X provide companies with a consistent flow of leads from social media. We work with companies like X, Y, and Z, who all together have an audience of 15 mln subscribers on Instagram constantly generating and closing leads. Here’s a short presentation for you to see our case studies.

We take responsibility for all elements of social media marketing including:

  • Content creation: production, copywriting, photo and video shooting and editing;
  • Promotion: collaborations with influencers and bloggers, targeted ads and other tools for bringing more subscribers and raising engagement rates;
  • Community management: building a strong community around your products and guiding warm leads to direct messages where all you need to do is close the lead.

When is it most comfortable for you to meet for 15 minutes and discuss our offer?

Bottom line

Cold emails really work if you know how to use them. Just keep in mind these top three recommendations while cold emailing:

  1. Remember that every email you write is addressed to a real person, so your main goal is to establish a contact and engage with them.
  2. Curate a list of prospects and hold research to find all the information which can help you write a relevant email and offer what your recipient needs.
  3. You don’t need to invent the wheel every time you write an email: there are time-tested copywriting formulas which you can apply right away.

Have you ever sent cold emails? What hacks did you use? Share your experience in the comments below and remember to check SendPulse Blog for more marketing tips.

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