How to Create Cold Emails That Get Responses

How to Create Cold Emails That Get Responses
19 October, 2021 • ... • 4255 views
Valeria Shulga
by Valeria Shulga

Cold emails are those annoying messages that try to sell you something you don’t need, right? Yes, that’s their common reputation due to a lot of poorly written marketing emails people receive.

In fact, such emails are a powerful tool for marketers, as long as it is used properly. In this article, you’ll discover what a cold email really is, how it is different from spam, and learn how to write a cold email that works.

What is a cold email?

In simple terms, it is a message sent for a particular purpose to a person that doesn’t know you. What’s the difference between a cold email and a regular email? The first one is used to outreach someone you don’t actually know. This person didn’t subscribe to your updates or share their email with you for any other reason.

What is a cold email about? People send such messages to start conversations and build relationships, not always for marketing purposes. Such emails are used for recruiting, networking, partnership, etc.

Cold Email Example
A typical example of a cold email we receive at Selzy. The sender sells a platform for external and internal events and sees our company as a potential customer.

Generally, cold emails include a proposition, which is beneficial both to the sender and the receiver. The main point about cold emails is that you can contact a person only for a legitimate reason. For example, if you are selling IT software, you won’t be emailing a taxi driver or anyone who doesn’t need it.

Sending a cold message always involves a degree of uncertainty. Often users simply don’t open emails from unfamiliar senders, whom they didn’t subscribe to. Also, you may not have enough information to make your recipients a truly valuable offer that will interest them. All in all, the risk of failure when sending cold emails is very high. But the knowledge of psychology, professionalism, and a relevant offer can help reduce this risk.

Is cold email spam?

Unsolicited commercial email (or UCE) is an official term used to define spam. UCE can include a wide range of emails from sales messages to newsletters from companies you’ve never heard of and didn’t subscribe to.

If a person didn’t give permission to send them emails with double opt-in, and these messages meet the spam criteria we’ve mentioned above, they are likely to fall within the anti-spam filters.

What is cold email and what is a spam message? These terms are often mixed up. In fact, they are opposites. Let’s compare these two types of emails:

Spam Cold Emails
What is it? Emailing in bulk without users’ consent. An email sent to a user without their consent.
How to send it? From personal email, through email service providers, or with a self-written program. From a personal email.
Is there consent to receive emails? No No
Is it legal? No Formally –– no. Depends on the way you send the email

You can send cold emails only from your personal mailbox. If you use an email service provider, your message will land in spam.

Just a few more differentiation points between cold emails and spam:

Good cold emails:

  • Contain sender’s personal information: name, place of work, contacts, etc.
  • Have useful content customized for the recipient’s needs.
  • End with a specific request.
  • Don’t always have a commercial motive.
  • Give recipients a clear and conspicuous explanation of how to opt out of future emails.

Spam emails or UCE:

  • Use the fake name of the sender.
  • Aren’t personalized.
  • Don’t have any contact information.
  • Always have a commercial motive.
  • Get filtered as spam by a mail service.

Compare these two messages:

Sending Cold Emails
Cold Email vs Spam

The first one appeals directly to the recipient and has some relevant information related to their professional interests. It also has contact information and a real sender’s name.

As for the second one, there is no personalization — just a generic “Dear Beloved Friend” at the beginning of the email. Obviously, this is a mass mailing that is being sent to absolutely anyone. Besides, the value proposition in this email is too unrealistic: who would offer $4 million to a stranger? No wonder that such a message would be filtered out by any mailing service.

Benefits of sending this email type

  1. According to Hubspot’s research, cold emails have two times higher returns than cold calling. That makes it an effective communication channel. Other benefits will convince you to try this message type at least once.
  2. People frequently check their inbox, to read the newsletters they are subscribed to, so the chance that your message will be missed is low. It is also more likely that being in the office they’d rather read an email than listen to voice messages or speak over the phone.
  3. If there isn’t any response to your email, you can send a follow-up, and you won’t seem intrusive, which you can’t say about the calls. Your recipients feel that there is enough space and freedom for them for how and when to respond.

How to send cold emails correctly

To send cold emails legally, consider the following criteria:

  • Do not use email marketing services. If you send messages in bulk, through services like Selzy, they will go to spam. The point is, when you send an email through an email service provider, it is marked with a special technical header. This feature allows the service to distinguish mass mailing from a single message. Only send cold emails from your personal email account.
  • Do not exceed a certain number of emails per day. For example, you can send up to 500 emails per 24 hours via Gmail. Sure, you are unlikely to reach this limit if your cold emails are personalized messages to specific people.

Should I use a template?

Don’t use a template when creating a cold email. I’m being serious about this one.

Sure, if you Google “cold email template” you will find lots of templates for all occasions. But the main disadvantage of all of them is the lack of personalization. And it makes sense: if the message is personalized and effective, it can’t come from a template.

Compare these emails:

Example 1

Hi Kate,

What would you do if the traffic to your website increases five times?

Does that seem unrealistic, well it happened to more than a few of our customers?

Including Jake’s Donuts which increased their revenue twice in three months when they started using content marketing and SEO optimization.

As you might have noticed, both companies are similar in size and industry to your company Cupcakes by Kate.

I’m confident our content marketing services can get you similar results.

Would you have some free time so that we could discuss the details?

Example 2

Hi Kate,

We see that your website is missing some SEO content related to your product (cupcakes, muffins, and home bakery). So, the traffic directed towards your website is lower and doesn’t stay for long.

With our content writing services, we can provide you with useful and well-written content related to specific keywords surrounding your product. Having implemented it to your website, you’ll notice an increase in the time spent on your website in 1-2 months.

If you give us 15-20 minutes of your time, we can schedule a call in Zoom to explain the details. What about next week?



It’s clear that the first sender uses a predefined template, just changing the names of the companies. The message has no concrete offer, no figures –– just abstract benefits. The prospect may receive dozens of such emails daily, all ending up in the trash.

The second email is customized to the recipient’s needs, contains an attractive and concrete value proposition, and ends with a clear and effective CTA. It stands out among the flood of poorly written equal messages. Your goal is to learn how to write a cold email that gets responses. That’s why in this article we’ll lay out principles but offer no scripts.

How to write a cold email correctly

To create a message that works, follow these six steps below.

Write a good subject line

The first step to make the prospects open and read your email is to create an attention-grabbing subject line. According to the marketing research by  Finances Online, more than 30% of email recipients open messages in their inbox based just on subject lines.

When coming up with a subject for your cold message, make sure it’s not too long. Many people read their emails on a mobile device. In this case, a shorter subject line may also prove beneficial. Due to the limited screen size of mobile devices, some parts of the subject line may not be displayed, which annoys users. Convince & Convert research mentions that the length of the subject line should not exceed 60 characters without spaces.

The best cold email subject lines are short, punchy, and relevant. Pique the interest of your recipients by using the subject line with a direct reference, a question, or try to create a sense of urgency.

To improve the subject of your cold message, use the checklist below:

  1. Make the reader curious, but avoid clickbait phrases

The primary goal is to make a recipient open your email. If the subject of the message does not arouse the reader’s interest, it is unlikely to be opened.

Some marketers consider using clickbait subject lines to boost open rates.

Cold Email Subject Bad Example

If you receive an email with a subject line like this, what would you think? Probably, your only thought will be “Oh, another scam again. Mark as spam”.

Cold Email Subject Good Example

This one looks better: such a subject line evokes interest and makes a reader open the email and read the content.

  1. Create a clear offer.

Make it very clear what your main point is so that the reader could understand that even with a quick look at the subject line. Even if you choose a humorous, allegorical subject, try to make it clear to the recipient what the email is about.

  1. Add a sense of urgency.

Creating a sense of foregone benefits is a well-known marketing technique. In its investigation, Neuroscience Marketing reported that adding a countdown timer on the website increased revenue by 9%. You can’t add a timer to your cold email, but it is possible to create some sense of urgency by the words in your CTA.

Good examples according to

“Get your free copy of our secrets to financial success before midnight.”

“Hurry and secure your spot for my strategy workshop before seats fill up.”

“You don’t want to miss this offer.”

“We can’t keep our prices this low much longer.”

“Don’t wait until it’s too late. Get in touch with us today.”

“There are only 10 spots left, hurry!”

“We’re holding your items for three days only.”

“Don’t forget to claim your gift before Saturday.”

  1. Personalize your subject line.

Email Marketing Chart by MarketingSherpa says, that using the prospect’s name in the subject of your email campaigns can boost the opens by 20.66%. It can be easily explained: such a trick gives the impression that the message was written for you personally and attracts attention. We concede that when you write a cold message you often don’t know the recipient’s name, so it’s enough that the message helps solve the user’s problem and is relevant to their situation.

You can find more inspiration in our article about how to write catchy subject lines.

Come up with a clever introduction

So, you’ve persuaded your addressee to open the email with a well-written subject line. You’re halfway through! The next task is to grab their attention and make them read the first sentences.

Based on the first lines, people will decide if it’s worth reading further or they can go back to scrolling through their Facebook feed. Let’s talk about how to make a catchy introduction.

When you start a cold email, the first impulse is to start telling a person about you and your company. That’s understandable, but it’s best not to rush into it. This is a sure sign that in a couple of seconds your message ends up in the trash, joining the hundreds of previous ones.

To engage the reader, keep your introduction short. Note something that is referred to the recipient: their recent achievements, blog posts, work-related events, etc. It catches the attention and entices the person you are addressing. They see that you’ve done some research​​.

Cold Email Introduction
We see that the person who sends a message to Mark is already familiar with his company and website. They have done some research and found out the issues with customer support. That’s why they know that their service is relevant to Mark’s needs. Source:

But try not to go to another extreme. Some marketers study the recipient’s personality so deeply that they resemble stalkers — it’s more frightening and repulsive than mass mailings.

Cold Email Introduction Bad Example
Showing a genuine interest in the recipient's personality is a good tactic. But this particular message is a violation of personal boundaries. Sure, it will go unanswered. Source:

The introduction is a great opportunity to show that you have a genuine interest in making contact with the person. That’s why we highly recommend learning more about the company and the person you are trying to reach out to.

Offer some value in your pitch

Here comes the most important and difficult part of cold email campaigns. That’s where we tell the recipient what we want from them — it’s a so-called pitch.

As we’ve already mentioned, using predefined templates or scripts for your cold emails is not the best idea. So in this part, we aren’t going to offer you ready-made formulas. Instead, create unique and useful offers depending on the case and recipient.

There are two main points that you should avoid.

  1. Don’t make it too salesy.

Be gentle: don’t try to sell your product or service with a single email. The goal is to create long-term warm business relationships with a customer, and it requires time and a personal approach.

If you try too hard to describe how cool your offer is, the only type of response that might come to a reader’s mind is “Okay, good for you”. The result is that recipients remain cold: they don’t see any profit.

  1. Be specific about your product’s benefits.

Avoid using adjectives like “best-in-class”, “super handy”, “perfect for” etc when talking about your product/service. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer, and you will see how strained and unconvincing it looks. Instead, replace abstract facts with concrete data (preferably in numbers). Show how a recipient can use your product and how it helps to solve their problems.

Cold Email Pitch
This email illustrates benefits for the prospect’s company. The sender uses concrete numbers and tells us how to achieve this result with their tools. Source:

So, the best practices when creating a value proposition, are the following:

  1. Add a personal approach. Refer to something you’ve noticed on the company website, or read about them. It creates the impression that the message is intended specifically for the recipient.
  2. Answer these questions: “What can I do for this customer?” “How can my product help them?”
  3. Show what’s in there for them. Define what exactly the prospect gets from your offer. Convince with numbers, not epithets.
  4. Be honest and clear. Write your cold email in a friendly manner, without trying to sell anything or praise your services. Otherwise, an overall impression from your message will be spoiled.

End your message with a call-to-action

So, the email is almost written. The only thing remaining is to convince your prospects to do exactly what you want them to do. It depends on your needs: ask them to visit a website, fill in the form, schedule a call — anything. That is why it is wiser to place a call to action phrase (CTA) at the end of your email.

The CTA should reflect the purpose of the whole mail in a single, catchy sentence. Don’t create a CTA which is longer than one phrase: keep it as short as possible. Be concise and concrete.

Good examples:

“Would you be available for a phone chat this week?”

“Would you be interested in talking with me, so I can tell you more?”

“Can we schedule a 10-15 minute demo call next Thursday or Friday?”

If you ask your prospects to leave feedback about your product or visit a website, you’ll need a bit of a different approach. Try to make this process as convenient for readers as possible. You’re asking for a favor, so provide the user with the most comfortable interaction process. In this case, your CTA can look as follows:

“Please share your experience of using *product name* with our team: leave 1-2 sentences in response to this email. Thank you for your valuable feedback.”

“Click here to submit your review on our website. Thank you for taking time to leave your opinion.”

“What do you think about new features in *product name*? What can be improved? Please share your opinion in response to this email. Thanks for your feedback!”

Sure, it is hard to blind guess which of the possible CTA will work on your recipient. That’s why (we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again) make research to learn more about this person, their needs, and problems. If your offer is attractive enough, they won’t need much persuading.

Polish your signature

The signature is very often ignored, but this part of a cold email matters too. Its purpose is to tell an addressee who you are, which company you work at so that a person can find more information about you.

A good and trustworthy signature contains enough information about you and your professional activity. Usually, these are 3-4 sentences: your full name, contact information (excluding email), your company, and position:

Cold Email Signature Good Example
This signature has everything needed: full name, job title, place of work, address, phone, and a website. Source:

Please, avoid inspirational quotes and other uninformative sentences in your signature: they spoil the general impression from your cold email.

Cold Email Signature Bad Example
The only thing you can tell from this signature is that its author is a bit weird. Source:

If you are using a complicated signature with a photo, and some specific layout, make sure it is displayed correctly on all popular devices.

Good cold email examples

Example 1:

Hi Julia,

My name is Ann from Palmtree Company.

I came across your company on G2, and I was super impressed by your customer reviews.

We help companies specializing in B2B sales free up time and increase revenue by 30%. I wanted to learn what sales tools you’re currently using and discuss how you could make some changes to get the same revenue results for your business.

Are you available for a brief call next week?



Also, check out this good example that shows something of value and doesn’t overwhelm your prospect with too much information early on.

Example 2:

Hi Albert,

My name is John, and I’ll keep this quick.

I’m the founder of a software tool that saves busy executives like you as many as 10 hours each and every week.

Could I have ten minutes of your time next week for a personalized demo that’ll make clear why entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuk, Tim Ferriss, and Malcolm Gladwell love our product?

A cold email can be brief –– that’s a so-called 3-sentence format. Using a more-is-less approach, you cut the text of your email to leave only the main point. But in this case, you’ll need deeper research to make the most relevant offer to the prospect.

Example 3:

Hi Derek,

What would you do with an extra 10 hours each week?

I ask because clients like yours have seen savings like these – if not more – after adding our software to their tech stacks.

Just ask experts like Gary Vaynerchuk, Tim Ferriss, and Malcolm Gladwell, who we’re happy to count as satisfied customers.

I’d love to set up a time to walk you through a personalized demo. Would you have some free time next week to connect?

This one is also brief and concrete. Look at the open question at the beginning of the email: it catches the eye and makes you read further. But, in our opinion, the value proposition is weak: it lacks the details about the product and benefits for the recipient.

How to write a follow up on a cold email

Even if your cold email is written perfectly, it can fail to hook your prospects in one go. Also, there is the human factor: they may miss your message or just forget to respond. Don’t worry — that’s OK, and this is why you always need to follow up on your email if there wasn’t any response.

The first thing to remember when you are writing a follow-up email is to link it with the previous message. There should be a smooth connection between them: the follow-up is like a continuation of the first cold email.

It is recommended to send the second email in the same thread as the first one: so that your prospect could easily read the previous message in case it was missed. It also creates a logical connection between these two cold emails.

As for the length of your follow-up, try to make it as short as possible. Don’t use ornate persuasive constructions: just gently remind that you have sent an email and there isn’t any response yet. Also, try to refer to the most essential benefits mentioned in the first email.

Cold Email Follow-Up Good Example

There is no need to write a long follow-up. Two-three sentences are OK –– you just check whether the previous message didn’t get lost and gently remind of yourself. That’s a follow-up message for the first email example from our article.

Write no more than 3 sentences: refer to the previous email, and ask an open question –– you can repeat the CTA mentioned in the opening message. It is possible to paraphrase it or offer a bit different options.

One follow-up email is a must when you create your sales campaign strategy, but investigations by Marketing Donut say that the optimal number of messages is five. In our experience, it is enough to write 2-3 more messages. Here the less is better, otherwise, there is a risk to irritate or even scare the recipient:

Cold Email Follow-Up Bad Example
Is it a message from a marketer or an obsessed lover? Source:

Tips for sending cold email job inquiries

Cold emails are suitable not only for lead generation — they are also a great tool for employees looking for a new job. If your dream company still doesn’t have any open positions, don’t hesitate to ask them about it.

What is a cold email job inquiry, and how to make it perfect?

  1. Identify a person you’re trying to contact. Check the website of the company you are applying to. Usually, the senior-level employees are listed in a special section like “Team”. There you can find their contact information and probably social media profiles. Having checked their pages on Facebook and Instagram, you’ll get a clear picture of the person you are trying to reach. It will help you speak their language and add more value to your cold email.
  2. Consider personalizing your message. Use the recipient’s name in the body of the email and refer to their notable works or recent professional activity. It shows your genuine interest in cooperating with them personally.
  3. When writing an email, tell the person about yourself. Describe who you are, where you have found the opening, and why you are interested in working for them. The goal is to evoke interest and make your prospects continue reading. Then show how your skills and experience can benefit their company and what kind of work you are interested in. Focus on what you can do for the company rather than what they can do for you.
  4. Attach your CV, or describe your relevant job experience, and include links to the examples of your works. The latter option is better: It saves the recipient’s time to understand whether you are skilled enough for this position.
  5. If there is no response a week after the email was sent, it is appropriate to write a follow-up. Senior-level employees may be busy and have a lot of other work messages to reply to. So, ​​keep it short and sweet, and just reiterate that you’re very interested in this position.
Cold Email Job Inquiry
This email is personalized, contains the previous job experience of the candidate, and samples of works attached. The message is written in a friendly tone and doesn’t have any extra information. This candidate may not be a fit for a current position, but their email definitely makes a good impression. Source:

Some other tips for those who are applying for a job:

  • Send emails only at appropriate times. Do not contact a person outside business hours or at weekends.
  • Keep your email short and to the point. Try to fit the whole essence of your request in a brief message of 10-15 sentences.
  • Create an appealing subject line to grab their attention, but make sure that the main point of your message is not lost behind a catchphrase.

Proofread the final version of your cold email, avoid spelling and grammar mistakes.

Wrapping things up

No matter what many people may think, cold emails are a great and effective free marketing tool both for b2b and personal communications. Here are the most crucial points to keep in mind when writing it:

  1. Consider doing some research before sending an email to a person you don’t know: it will help to customize your message.
  2. Offer more value in your pitch: prove it with facts and statistics, not epithets.
  3. Keep your cold email brief and concrete. Place a CTA which will help the recipient understand the main purpose of the message.
  4. Write in a natural and friendly tone: avoid being too salesy and using phrases that are too general.
  5. It’s appropriate to send at least one follow-up email if you don’t get a response within two weeks.
19 October, 2021
Article by
Valeria Shulga
A writer by nature, study, and trade with more than 7 years of experience. Contributor at Selzy wearing many hats: I create special content projects, write articles, and own Facebook and Reddit communities. My expertise lies in email and content marketing, but I also have experience with the topics of real estate and immigration. Outside of work, I like spending my free time learning foreign languages, seeing plays at our local theaters, and doing yoga.
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