Step-by-Step Guide to Drafting the Best Cold Email Ever

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When it comes to cold emailing, less is more. And when I say less, I really mean it. The template that gave me my highest conversion rate had less than sixty words on it (signature included). Despite how short the email was, it contained everything that will impress the recipient, help them understand what you have got to offer, and most importantly ACT. In this article, I will take you through the steps you need to follow in order to draft the best cold email ever.

But before we get there, how do you measure 'best'? Marketers routinely benchmark the success of their various emails by their open rates and click rates. Marketing outreach tools like BuzzStream let their users . The trouble with measuring success this way is that open rates do not always express intent. I, for one, routinely open every email that gets delivered to my inbox only to delete them, mark them as spam or archive them. None of these actions helped the marketer reaching out to me and yet their campaign gets marked as success in their report.


A cold email should not be measured in silo, but its success needs to be measured by the conversion rate over the entire campaign — including the initiation email, follow ups, meetings and then finally the sign up. There isn't a tool today that measures this entire process in its entirety. So if you are an aspiring entrepreneur, here is an idea that you may pursue.

Alright, let's get started.

1. Segment your leads.

Before we actually start drafting an email, it is important to understand who it is intended for. A bootstrapped startup might be interested in a low priced product that gets the job done while an enterprise customer might need sophisticated API integration features to build a custom product. Yet, these are all your customers. The first thing to do before sending out a cold email is to segment your email database into niche groups. This way, you can draft a template that targets one specific group instead of coming across as a generic email blast. 

2. What is your biggest selling point?

Your product means different things to different people. Pick these niche groups one by one and identify a product feature that excites this niche group the most. You can do this either through trial-and-error or by surveying your past customers belonging to this group. At the end of this step, you will have one factor or feature about your business that excites these different customer groups the most.

3. Drafting the subject line.

The Internet is flush with articles that teach you the tricks behind a successful subject line. Recommendations here include generic subject lines like "Quick question" to the more spammier ones that either contain the name of the recipient or are prefixed with "Re:" or "FWD:". In my experience, such tricks have been abused so much that emails with such clickbaity subject lines sometimes do not even make it to the inbox, let alone be opened.


Instead, put yourself in the prospects' shoes and answer the question, "What does this product achieve for me?" For instance, if you sell online helpdesk for startups looking for cheap options, the subject line could be something like "Helpdesk tool with Free plan For Startups." You could personalize it further by replacing "Startups" with the name of the recipient's company, for instance. But even a generic subject line works great as far as I have seen. If you need to target an enterprise customer in the above example, the subject line could be "Helpdesk tool with custom API integration." The idea is to set expectations right about what the customer can expect in the email body and also position your product based on the needs of your prospect.

4. Drafting the email body.

To reiterate the opening line of this article, less is more.The ideal cold email should be as short as possible. But having said that, it should answer the following three questions:

  1. Who are you, and what is your credibility?
  2. Why did you write this email?
  3. What do you want the recipient to do?

The first thing that goes through the mind of a prospect opening your email is why they should be reading your sales pitch. It is hence important to reveal your credentials to the recipient before selling your product. A short introduction that is less than thirty words works best. For instance, the marketer selling their helpdesk tool could write something like this:

"My name is Michael Smith and I am the VP of Marketing at XYZ; an online helpdesk service with customers like Dell, Sony and Samsung."

The next component of your email needs to contain the reason you are writing to them. Again, this needs to be short and should ideally contain not more than 20-30 words. In the case of the helpdesk tool, the draft could be something like this:

"We have recently launched a Starter helpdesk package with powerful tools and lifetime Free plans for startups like yours" 

The final component of your email should tell the recipient what to do. One way to increase conversions is to include a Call-To-Action that can be answered with a simple "yes" or "no." This makes it easy for your recipient to express interest even if they are on the move and cannot write lengthy sentences. For the above example, a good CTA would look something like this.

"Is this something you would be interested to check out?"

This is it. By keeping it short, you make sure that your recipients read the email in its entirety without skimming. At the same time, you leave the recipient with sufficient credibility and information on a subject they will be interested in to act.

5. Following up.

Following up is a vital part of a cold email campaign and  to your conversion rate. Similar to your initial outreach, it is important to keep the follow up email short as well. For best results, it is recommended to keep the follow up email under thirty words and do three things:

  1. Inform the recipient that you are following up
  2. Re-emphasize the value proposition in your initial outreach, and
  3. Draft the text with a call-to-action that can be answered with a 'Yes' or 'No'

For the above example, the follow up email could look something like this,

"How are you doing? I wanted to follow up on my earlier email. Would you like to demo our "Starter" helpdesk package that comes with a free lifetime plan for startups like yours?"


By informing the recipient that you are following up, you make them aware of an initial email that they may check out in case the short follow up is not sufficient. At the same time, by explaining your value proposition, you make it easy for your recipient to understand the context of the email without having to read through the other previous outreach and follow up emails in the thread.

Cold emailing can be a science and the fundamental reason it doesn't work as well as you want it to is because everybody is doing it. An average user goes through sifting a lot of clutter in their inbox and it is important for them to perceive your email useful and not discard it as spam. By keeping it short, personalized and to the point, you save the reader time while at the same time explaining what you want to sell them. It's a win-win and converts best most of the time.

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