Tips for Writing Effective Cold Emails

Two cartoon birds reading emails on a laptop - Vouris Images
Dan McDermott
Book Icon- Vouris Images
14 min Read

When was the last time you received a cold email from a sales rep and thought, "Wow, what a fantastic message, I'm so happy this person got in touch with me!"

It does happen...but 99% of the cold emails that hit your inbox probably trigger a different reaction. Something that's more like, "Wow, there is no way I'm going to respond to this."

Sending cold emails can be incredibly powerful, but the honest truth is that most cold emails are ineffective, annoying, and a waste of time and resources for sales teams. The ones that do start conversations often start them in the wrong places, which leads to unproductive sales situations.

So, how can you write emails that actually convert and generate positive results?

In this article, we'll discuss the importance of structure in cold emails, analyze examples of ineffective emails, and provide a step-by-step guide to creating an outline for successful cold email campaigns. Sending cold emails isn't rocket science - in fact, it's more important to put rules in place to keep your writing as simple and natural as possible!

The Problem with Cold Emails

The two cartoon Vouris birds looking at emails. - Vouris Images

Most cold emails are ineffective and annoying

The majority of cold emails fail to engage recipients and often trigger negative reactions. People are tired of receiving poorly crafted, generic messages that don't address their specific needs or interests.

Many reps send cold emails that read like a bunch of "clever" hacks that are duct-taped together and sent out. The problem with this is that most "clever" tricks really just come across as salesy, unnatural, distracting, and just plain old weird in your cold email copy.

Also, once a particular cold email hack gets popular, it tends to start showing up everywhere - and that gets annoying really quick. 

For example, recently it was popular to use a prospect's university as a hook in cold email copy. Firstly, this isn't a very relevant way to start a sales conversation, but it's also pretty annoying when the reader gets the same irrelevant template over and over. 

Here are a few examples of the same sales email template with a lazy "university" hook:

 Sales email template with a lazy "university" hook. - Vouris Images

When you see the same thing over and over in the cold emails you receive, it can kill a perfectly good offer. The reader will turn off before they get to the good stuff! If you're sending cold emails with a copy-paste hack you grabbed from the internet, you might want to reconsider what you're doing! 

Sales teams often waste time and resources on ineffective cold email campaigns

Cartoon of a bird reading emails - Vouris Images

Cold emails can work for any market. But, like any outreach, you've got to do it the right way.

If you're going to send cold emails that are upsetting, annoying, and ineffective, then you'd be better off not bothering at all, though. There's considerable effort that goes into warming up, investing in tech tools, and then writing your emails - it'd be a pity to ruin them with bad personalization, salesy tactics, wacky subject lines, and other email killers. 

When cold email campaigns are not structured properly, they'll fail to create positive sales conversations. In other words, it'll just be a waste of time, energy, and resources for sales teams, who may eventually conclude that all cold emails simply won't work for their business.

Here at Vouris, we warn founders and sales leaders against trying to build multiple channels at the same time. If you're building your first real sales process, make sure you have your cold calling built out before tackling cold email outreach. 

This will help you develop one strong channel before moving on to the next one. If you can put your full focus into developing the best communication possible, then you can make a fair decision whether the channel will work for you or not. Many sales teams - especially at the early stages of their sales process - try building everything at once and end up with disappointing results...and then abandon a channel based on a poorly executed campaign. 

Starting conversations in the wrong places leads to unproductive sales conversations

Cartoon of a bird and a person starting a online sales call - Vouris Images

It's easy to send a "small talk" cold email. You might be tempted to try and engage in a vague, friendly conversation about the prospect's favorite food, a recent trip they took, or maybe something in the news. 

But, a sales rep's job isn't just to start any old conversation. The aim is to send cold emails that start sales conversations that are laser-focused on a specific problem the prospect is facing and a solution that you can provide. 

If you want to send effective cold emails, you've got to be specific, relevant, and clear. Highlight a problem your prospect faces, make it clear that you can solve it, and start the conversation!

The more you dress up your cold emails with hacks and tactics, the more likely you are to dilute your email into something that's confusing, irrelevant, and unlikely to trigger a happy response from your prospect. 

Engaging in small talk or irrelevant topics in cold emails does not lead to productive sales conversations. It's crucial to start the conversation in the right place to generate interest and move the prospect closer to a sale.

Examples of Ineffective Cold Emails

Most "bad" cold emails fail because they're Long, Unclear, Salesy, or technical (L.U.S.T.). 

Here are a few examples of emails that make one of the L.U.S.T. mistakes

Too Long

Cold emails are often way too long. Before even reading the text, readers might get turned off by an overwhelming quantity of words. Think about your own expectations online, whether it's in your email inbox or your social media feed - would you like to read a long message from a stranger? 

Example

Email screenshot example "Top 10 sales training companies" - Vouris Images

Let's chop this down into a cold email that's much easier to read and digest:

Email eg of "Top 10 sales companies" shortened for readablility- Vouris Images

This is much more direct and focused on what the prospect actually cares about. It's a lot easier to understand and respond to a cold email like this, with a clear pain point!

Unclear

So, we want to keep our cold emails short and sweet, right? Well, yes....

...but it's important to deliver a clear message that the prospect understands and cares about.

Here's an example of a cold email that's short...and vague. This is equally hard to understand and reply to.

Example:

An example of an email that is short and vague - Vouris Images

Let's rewrite this to add clarity (without adding a bunch of length and weight):

A short and vague email rewritten to add clarity while still being short. - Vouris Images

This is easier to understand and directly calls out an issue the prospect cares about with an offer they're more likely to be interested in acting upon!

Salesy

Some cold emails come across as highly unnatural and aggressive. They're often focused 100% on the sender instead of the reader, which makes them tough to connect with. 

Example

An example of an aggressive sales email - Vouris Images

From the formatting (bolding, ALL CAPS, etc) to the multiple CTAs and the lack of focus on the reader, this cold email comes across as a salesy sales guy yelling at the reader. 

That's not what we want, right? 

Here's an adjusted version of this cold email:

An eg of a previously aggresive sales email adjusted to be more direct yet gentle. - Vouris Images

This is the same basic offer, just toned down into a cold email that's more direct and delivered more gently. It's also a lot easier to respond to!

Too Technical

Lastly, sometimes sales emails are way too technical. This makes them hard to understand and therefore hard to reply to. 

This often happens with technical products and/or technical founders who are very smart and excited to share all their awesome features! But, a cold email should be about the reader, not the sender. 

Example

An example of a sales email that is too technical and hard to understand - Vouris Images

This email is confusing because it covers a bunch of different channels, different options, different paths, and different outcomes. 

Here's a version that's a lot more focused on something relevant to the reader:

The too techinical email adjusted to be more focused and relevant to the reader - Vouris Images

Use the C.A.S.E. Framework

Here's an easy framework you can use to keep your sales team's cold emails on track to be clear, specific, and relevant to the reader. 

C: Concise. Keep your cold email to <75 words or less. 

A: Acute. Focus on one problem and one solution.

S: Supportive. Be polite and curious, not aggressive or assumptive.

E: Easy. Use simple, natural language as if you were talking to a friend. 

Creating an Outline for Cold Email Campaigns

If you're looking for a cold email campaign outline, you can use our 5-part cold email campaign framework. Use these more like frameworks than cold email templates. Instead of blindly copy-pasting, make these emails your own!

Email #1: The Icebreaker 
This is a simple, short, focused email that highlights one problem the prospect might be facing (and that you can solve). 

Example:

The ice breaker email template - Vouris Images

Email #2: Proof 

This is where you can share a bunch of reasons why the prospect should trust you. You can use social proof like testimonials, years in business, great reviews, a library of case studies, and any other demonstrations that you can back up your claims.

Example:

The proof email template - Vouris Images

Email #3: How it Works

In this email, you can give the prospect a high-level summary of how your solution works. If you can break it down into a simple 1-2-3, it'll give the reader a quick idea of your process. Ideally, it'll position your solution as logical and easy to implement. 

Example

The "How it works" email template - Vouris Images

Email #4: More Proof!

Here, you can add a second layer of proof. If the first proof email was about casting a wide net and covering a lot of different types of social proof, this email should be a deep dive on something highly relevant to the reader. If you have a specific case study that covers a similar example, use it here!

Example

The detailed proof email template - Vouris Images

Email #5: See You Later

The last email in a sequence is often referred to as a "breakup" email. We prefer using "see you later" and leaving the conversation thread open. 

If a prospect asks you not to contact them, then of course you should not keep reaching out. But in many cases, the prospect just missed your emails, wasn't ready to move immediately, or some other reason. 

Example

The see you later email template - Vouris Images

Subject Lines That Get Opens

When you're creating cold email subject lines, don't overthink it and don't try to be clever.

Instead, be direct, concise, and clear - even if it's boring. 

If your subject line simply describes what's inside the email copy, you're more likely to create a good experience for the reader. 

You need to consider the impression you're creating with the reader, and that starts with the subject line. If you're obsessing over open rates without thinking about the experience you're creating, you might run into problems.

For example, imagine receiving emails with subject lines like:

  • Subject: "I'll 200X your business next month"
  • Subject: "F*** [YOUR BUSINESS]"
  • Subject: "Special gift for you" 

All 3 of these subject lines might create a little bump in your open rates, but are they starting healthy sales conversations? Probably not.

(And yes, I have seen versions of these subject lines in real life!)

So when you're sending cold emails, keep your subject lines short (<5 words), simple, and clear. Try writing your subject lines after you write your emails. 

If you want to see a big collection of real subject lines, check out this set of 150 subject lines from Hubspot.

Write Cold Emails That Convert

Keep a swipe file

One of the best ways to improve your cold emails is to maintain a swipe file where you save screenshots of your favorite emails. 

You can find an example of a swipe file here where I save emails I love (and a few that I hate). If you do this with your team, you'll build a database of emails that you can use as inspiration when you're creating new campaigns.

Use frameworks and "rules"

When you're writing cold emails, try to avoid sitting down with a blank document and trying to write "cold". Instead, use pre-built frameworks that you can use to quickly get past writer's block.

Frameworks are also great to keep yourself in line with best practices. For example, you can use the C.A.S.E. rules above to create emails that resonate with your readers. You can find plenty of cold email templates out there, but you should always break it down to the underlying framework. 

As you write, focus on clarity and conciseness. Use simple, straightforward language and avoid jargon. Keep your sentences and paragraphs short to make your message easy to read and understand. Just like social media, your writing should be punchy, natural, and simple.

Focus on being relevant

Many people get personalized cold emails wrong. They use all sorts of hacks and tools that promise "personalization" but actually just end up feeling weird and distracting. 

If you want to send an excellent message that's truly personalized, just focus on being relevant. You can do that by clearly identifying the main pain point your prospect faces and how you solve it. If you have a very small target market, then it might be worth writing your emails manually with deep research. But for most B2B sales teams these days, your best bet is to write something that's targeted to a single problem that a specific persona faces. 

Conclusion

Writing effective cold emails that convert requires a structured approach that focuses on clarity, conciseness, and personalization.

By understanding the problems with ineffective cold emails, recognizing the importance of structure, and following a proven outline, you can create engaging messages that convert to meetings and enthusiastic sales conversations. 

You can use the strategies and techniques in this article to help you minimize negative reactions, maximize ROI, and start productive conversations with your target audience. By continually refining your cold email approach and staying close to your prospects' needs, you can build strong relationships and drive long-term success for your business.

Ready to take your cold email campaigns to the next level? 

You can grab our cold email playbook here. Also, you can download all of our free sales resources by clicking below:

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About The Author

Dan McDermott

Dan McDermott, our Chief Marketing Officer, is a seasoned copywriter and strategist who has helped over 500 businesses carve out a competitive edge. With a career spanning nearly 20 years, Dan has fine-tuned the art of developing compelling messaging that accentuates a business's strengths, setting it apart from competitors.

  • Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod

When was the last time you received a cold email from a sales rep and thought, "Wow, what a fantastic message, I'm so happy this person got in touch with me!"

It does happen...but 99% of the cold emails that hit your inbox probably trigger a different reaction. Something that's more like, "Wow, there is no way I'm going to respond to this."

Sending cold emails can be incredibly powerful, but the honest truth is that most cold emails are ineffective, annoying, and a waste of time and resources for sales teams. The ones that do start conversations often start them in the wrong places, which leads to unproductive sales situations.

So, how can you write emails that actually convert and generate positive results?

In this article, we'll discuss the importance of structure in cold emails, analyze examples of ineffective emails, and provide a step-by-step guide to creating an outline for successful cold email campaigns. Sending cold emails isn't rocket science - in fact, it's more important to put rules in place to keep your writing as simple and natural as possible!

The Problem with Cold Emails

The two cartoon Vouris birds looking at emails. - Vouris Images

Most cold emails are ineffective and annoying

The majority of cold emails fail to engage recipients and often trigger negative reactions. People are tired of receiving poorly crafted, generic messages that don't address their specific needs or interests.

Many reps send cold emails that read like a bunch of "clever" hacks that are duct-taped together and sent out. The problem with this is that most "clever" tricks really just come across as salesy, unnatural, distracting, and just plain old weird in your cold email copy.

Also, once a particular cold email hack gets popular, it tends to start showing up everywhere - and that gets annoying really quick. 

For example, recently it was popular to use a prospect's university as a hook in cold email copy. Firstly, this isn't a very relevant way to start a sales conversation, but it's also pretty annoying when the reader gets the same irrelevant template over and over. 

Here are a few examples of the same sales email template with a lazy "university" hook:

 Sales email template with a lazy "university" hook. - Vouris Images

When you see the same thing over and over in the cold emails you receive, it can kill a perfectly good offer. The reader will turn off before they get to the good stuff! If you're sending cold emails with a copy-paste hack you grabbed from the internet, you might want to reconsider what you're doing! 

Sales teams often waste time and resources on ineffective cold email campaigns

Cartoon of a bird reading emails - Vouris Images

Cold emails can work for any market. But, like any outreach, you've got to do it the right way.

If you're going to send cold emails that are upsetting, annoying, and ineffective, then you'd be better off not bothering at all, though. There's considerable effort that goes into warming up, investing in tech tools, and then writing your emails - it'd be a pity to ruin them with bad personalization, salesy tactics, wacky subject lines, and other email killers. 

When cold email campaigns are not structured properly, they'll fail to create positive sales conversations. In other words, it'll just be a waste of time, energy, and resources for sales teams, who may eventually conclude that all cold emails simply won't work for their business.

Here at Vouris, we warn founders and sales leaders against trying to build multiple channels at the same time. If you're building your first real sales process, make sure you have your cold calling built out before tackling cold email outreach. 

This will help you develop one strong channel before moving on to the next one. If you can put your full focus into developing the best communication possible, then you can make a fair decision whether the channel will work for you or not. Many sales teams - especially at the early stages of their sales process - try building everything at once and end up with disappointing results...and then abandon a channel based on a poorly executed campaign. 

Starting conversations in the wrong places leads to unproductive sales conversations

Cartoon of a bird and a person starting a online sales call - Vouris Images

It's easy to send a "small talk" cold email. You might be tempted to try and engage in a vague, friendly conversation about the prospect's favorite food, a recent trip they took, or maybe something in the news. 

But, a sales rep's job isn't just to start any old conversation. The aim is to send cold emails that start sales conversations that are laser-focused on a specific problem the prospect is facing and a solution that you can provide. 

If you want to send effective cold emails, you've got to be specific, relevant, and clear. Highlight a problem your prospect faces, make it clear that you can solve it, and start the conversation!

The more you dress up your cold emails with hacks and tactics, the more likely you are to dilute your email into something that's confusing, irrelevant, and unlikely to trigger a happy response from your prospect. 

Engaging in small talk or irrelevant topics in cold emails does not lead to productive sales conversations. It's crucial to start the conversation in the right place to generate interest and move the prospect closer to a sale.

Examples of Ineffective Cold Emails

Most "bad" cold emails fail because they're Long, Unclear, Salesy, or technical (L.U.S.T.). 

Here are a few examples of emails that make one of the L.U.S.T. mistakes

Too Long

Cold emails are often way too long. Before even reading the text, readers might get turned off by an overwhelming quantity of words. Think about your own expectations online, whether it's in your email inbox or your social media feed - would you like to read a long message from a stranger? 

Example

Email screenshot example "Top 10 sales training companies" - Vouris Images

Let's chop this down into a cold email that's much easier to read and digest:

Email eg of "Top 10 sales companies" shortened for readablility- Vouris Images

This is much more direct and focused on what the prospect actually cares about. It's a lot easier to understand and respond to a cold email like this, with a clear pain point!

Unclear

So, we want to keep our cold emails short and sweet, right? Well, yes....

...but it's important to deliver a clear message that the prospect understands and cares about.

Here's an example of a cold email that's short...and vague. This is equally hard to understand and reply to.

Example:

An example of an email that is short and vague - Vouris Images

Let's rewrite this to add clarity (without adding a bunch of length and weight):

A short and vague email rewritten to add clarity while still being short. - Vouris Images

This is easier to understand and directly calls out an issue the prospect cares about with an offer they're more likely to be interested in acting upon!

Salesy

Some cold emails come across as highly unnatural and aggressive. They're often focused 100% on the sender instead of the reader, which makes them tough to connect with. 

Example

An example of an aggressive sales email - Vouris Images

From the formatting (bolding, ALL CAPS, etc) to the multiple CTAs and the lack of focus on the reader, this cold email comes across as a salesy sales guy yelling at the reader. 

That's not what we want, right? 

Here's an adjusted version of this cold email:

An eg of a previously aggresive sales email adjusted to be more direct yet gentle. - Vouris Images

This is the same basic offer, just toned down into a cold email that's more direct and delivered more gently. It's also a lot easier to respond to!

Too Technical

Lastly, sometimes sales emails are way too technical. This makes them hard to understand and therefore hard to reply to. 

This often happens with technical products and/or technical founders who are very smart and excited to share all their awesome features! But, a cold email should be about the reader, not the sender. 

Example

An example of a sales email that is too technical and hard to understand - Vouris Images

This email is confusing because it covers a bunch of different channels, different options, different paths, and different outcomes. 

Here's a version that's a lot more focused on something relevant to the reader:

The too techinical email adjusted to be more focused and relevant to the reader - Vouris Images

Use the C.A.S.E. Framework

Here's an easy framework you can use to keep your sales team's cold emails on track to be clear, specific, and relevant to the reader. 

C: Concise. Keep your cold email to <75 words or less. 

A: Acute. Focus on one problem and one solution.

S: Supportive. Be polite and curious, not aggressive or assumptive.

E: Easy. Use simple, natural language as if you were talking to a friend. 

Creating an Outline for Cold Email Campaigns

If you're looking for a cold email campaign outline, you can use our 5-part cold email campaign framework. Use these more like frameworks than cold email templates. Instead of blindly copy-pasting, make these emails your own!

Email #1: The Icebreaker 
This is a simple, short, focused email that highlights one problem the prospect might be facing (and that you can solve). 

Example:

The ice breaker email template - Vouris Images

Email #2: Proof 

This is where you can share a bunch of reasons why the prospect should trust you. You can use social proof like testimonials, years in business, great reviews, a library of case studies, and any other demonstrations that you can back up your claims.

Example:

The proof email template - Vouris Images

Email #3: How it Works

In this email, you can give the prospect a high-level summary of how your solution works. If you can break it down into a simple 1-2-3, it'll give the reader a quick idea of your process. Ideally, it'll position your solution as logical and easy to implement. 

Example

The "How it works" email template - Vouris Images

Email #4: More Proof!

Here, you can add a second layer of proof. If the first proof email was about casting a wide net and covering a lot of different types of social proof, this email should be a deep dive on something highly relevant to the reader. If you have a specific case study that covers a similar example, use it here!

Example

The detailed proof email template - Vouris Images

Email #5: See You Later

The last email in a sequence is often referred to as a "breakup" email. We prefer using "see you later" and leaving the conversation thread open. 

If a prospect asks you not to contact them, then of course you should not keep reaching out. But in many cases, the prospect just missed your emails, wasn't ready to move immediately, or some other reason. 

Example

The see you later email template - Vouris Images

Subject Lines That Get Opens

When you're creating cold email subject lines, don't overthink it and don't try to be clever.

Instead, be direct, concise, and clear - even if it's boring. 

If your subject line simply describes what's inside the email copy, you're more likely to create a good experience for the reader. 

You need to consider the impression you're creating with the reader, and that starts with the subject line. If you're obsessing over open rates without thinking about the experience you're creating, you might run into problems.

For example, imagine receiving emails with subject lines like:

  • Subject: "I'll 200X your business next month"
  • Subject: "F*** [YOUR BUSINESS]"
  • Subject: "Special gift for you" 

All 3 of these subject lines might create a little bump in your open rates, but are they starting healthy sales conversations? Probably not.

(And yes, I have seen versions of these subject lines in real life!)

So when you're sending cold emails, keep your subject lines short (<5 words), simple, and clear. Try writing your subject lines after you write your emails. 

If you want to see a big collection of real subject lines, check out this set of 150 subject lines from Hubspot.

Write Cold Emails That Convert

Keep a swipe file

One of the best ways to improve your cold emails is to maintain a swipe file where you save screenshots of your favorite emails. 

You can find an example of a swipe file here where I save emails I love (and a few that I hate). If you do this with your team, you'll build a database of emails that you can use as inspiration when you're creating new campaigns.

Use frameworks and "rules"

When you're writing cold emails, try to avoid sitting down with a blank document and trying to write "cold". Instead, use pre-built frameworks that you can use to quickly get past writer's block.

Frameworks are also great to keep yourself in line with best practices. For example, you can use the C.A.S.E. rules above to create emails that resonate with your readers. You can find plenty of cold email templates out there, but you should always break it down to the underlying framework. 

As you write, focus on clarity and conciseness. Use simple, straightforward language and avoid jargon. Keep your sentences and paragraphs short to make your message easy to read and understand. Just like social media, your writing should be punchy, natural, and simple.

Focus on being relevant

Many people get personalized cold emails wrong. They use all sorts of hacks and tools that promise "personalization" but actually just end up feeling weird and distracting. 

If you want to send an excellent message that's truly personalized, just focus on being relevant. You can do that by clearly identifying the main pain point your prospect faces and how you solve it. If you have a very small target market, then it might be worth writing your emails manually with deep research. But for most B2B sales teams these days, your best bet is to write something that's targeted to a single problem that a specific persona faces. 

Conclusion

Writing effective cold emails that convert requires a structured approach that focuses on clarity, conciseness, and personalization.

By understanding the problems with ineffective cold emails, recognizing the importance of structure, and following a proven outline, you can create engaging messages that convert to meetings and enthusiastic sales conversations. 

You can use the strategies and techniques in this article to help you minimize negative reactions, maximize ROI, and start productive conversations with your target audience. By continually refining your cold email approach and staying close to your prospects' needs, you can build strong relationships and drive long-term success for your business.

Ready to take your cold email campaigns to the next level? 

You can grab our cold email playbook here. Also, you can download all of our free sales resources by clicking below:

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