The 5 key factors to effective cold email outreach

First, the bad news: unless you are in the porn film industry, selling your stuff or services to complete strangers always required stamina, perseverance and the ability to keep chasing people not once, twice, but three times at least to make them listen to you and convert possible leads into customers.

The good news is that the Internet, mobile phones and emails simplified a lot of things for service providers and their sales teams in terms of reaching people who could be your customers.  In this blog post, we will dwell into the topic of key factors that you need to pay attention to when writing to people you wish you knew, but at this point you don’t.  If this sounds daunting, you may still opt out of reading this post, the porn industry is always an option for many.

  • Understand your target audience well

One of the most important things to effective cold email outreach is a sound knowledge of your target audience.  When you have a single product or service, yet you are targeting a whole different bunch of people with it, they are likely to all have different reasons and needs to use your product.

Let’s say you’re in the organizational development and training business and would like to focus on offering your communication training to organizations.  For some companies, your training will be beneficial, because of its ability (benefit) to make people play less psychological games with each other, leading to fewer conflicts and ultimately leading to less fluctuation (which means lower turnover of staff, better morale and less money spent on finding new people for the ones that have just left.  For smaller companies on the other hand, you might find that their main issue is around communication between the boss and the team and the boss needs coaching first.  This pain point is very different to the previous scenario as you are sure to observe. So don’t take your topic for granted. Create customer clusters to succeed!

  • So find out about their pain points and wished-for gains BEFORE you send an email with your lovely offer. Value proposition design is a great tool, developed by Strategyzer for such purposes.
  • Do your homework, research your potential client-company’s sector and typical challenges; where are they stuck, how might your product or service help them? What might it solve for them? Address THEIR needs in their language, not a general public audience’s!
  • Research not only the sector, but the person you are writing to as well! Don’t have a clue who to contact? Your website will, if you hook it up with Google Analytics and add a clever B2B lead generation tool that decodes IP network address numbers into actual companies and people working at those companies who have looked at one of your website’s pages. Sounds too good to be true? Try Leadberry to add some turbo-boost to your lead generation efforts!


  • Make yourself credible

Switch sides for a minute and imagine all those times when you received an email from a stranger and you wondered why you should believe what they are writing? This is credibility.

  • Validate yourself, your expertise and experience BRIEFLY. (Don’t overdo it, you don’t need to defend it, simply present it!  OJ Simpson couldn’t make it work for him either.)  If you have written dozens of articles on effective communication within organisations, put it on your LinkedIn profile and link it with your website to make yourself credible.
  • Offer social proof (such and such company uses my product/service with great satisfaction).
  • If you can find a common link (a referral) between you and the email’s recipient, mention them. ‘If my acquaintance or friend hired your services already, then I am more trusting.’ – goes the thinking.
  • If you have some sort of authority in your field, don’t be shy to mention it! The recipient can look you up and be assured you are not some dodgy used car sales agent.


  • Keep it sweet and short - brevity is key

Short emails tend to be read more often than long ones.  Most people like to understand quickly what it is someone wants from them and what do they (the reader) need to do.  If we convert that into a sales pitch, it becomes obvious that you need to highlight that

  • you understand their pains and wished for gains;
  • you are offering them a solution; and
  • this is what they have to do to take action on resolving their pain.


When you write, your main purpose is to get a response.  That’s it.  Nothing more. Why? Because you want to merely start a conversation, raise their interest in your services and get them to respond to your offer to find out how you may alleviate their pain. Research shows that 4-5 sentences at max. work best for such emails.  There are many proven formulas on the structure of effective copy for such emails, pick one that you feel comfortable with.

Here’s an example of the Attention-Interest-Desire-Action (AIDA) model:

“Hi Jennifer,

(Attention): I saw that you were interested at taking a look at our (company name) ultimate communication training for HR teams course on Twitter.

(Interest): My colleague and I have had great success teaming up with internal HR directors such as yourself.

(Desire): A few notable experts we partnered with include (list names of HR directors)

(Action): I would love to get your feedback on our training and explore how we could work together to share our training’s unique benefits with your organization’s team members.  Would you have some time next week to connect?”

  • Measurability of your emails

You want to measure three things in your cold email campaigns and move up on your own effectiveness score. Let’s assume you send your email to 100 people.

  • Open rate: this is how many people opened your email.
    • If you open rate is below 30% (e.g. less then 30 people), you either have an outdated CRM with email addresses that simply don’t work anymore, or weak subject line.
    • Make sure you start out with a subject line that people actually want to read on further, e.g. will want to open your email. Experts say 5-7 words at max are the optimal for subject lines.  Yesware has a great article on this, worth a read!
  • Response rate: this is how many people respond to your email (from the ones that opened it).
    • Pay attention to having a clear, single message within your email, and…
    • a compelling Call To Action that supports your main message.
    • If your response rate is below 30%, you need to work on your Call to Action. So if 30 people have opened it from 100, then 30% of that 30 people will be 9 people that actually responded – but you haven’t sold them anything yet.
  • Conversion rate: these are the people who responded to your email and you successfully converted them into paying customers.
    • If this number is below 50%, you didn’t follow up properly (e.g. at least 2 more times after initial contact established). Taking our simple case further, of the 9 people on your hook now, you better sell something to at least 5 to be able to celebrate.
  • Timing and formatting of your emails

  • Timing is more important than you may think about it. Sometimes the offer is right, the email’s style is right and you managed to track down the right person to send it to, yet your email doesn’t even get opened.  Why? Because you sent it during peak-Inbox-hour(s) and since it is ‘cold’, the recipient has more important things to do than read a stranger’s email. Mondays and Fridays are usually worst and should be avoided for sending out such emails, and hence Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays work best (for workaholic’s, Sunday evening is also prime time to get in front of them).  Use timing to your advantage!
  • Formatting is important to mention as well. With the widespread use of mobile phones, your email is likely to get read on a mobile and not on a desktop. The latest US research shows that 66% of emails in the US are already opened on mobile devices, and hence email designing for mobile phones has established itself as a new niche market. Litmus has a nifty article on designing mobile email campaigns.

Questions, comments? Give us a shout!

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