Why Your Cold Outreach Tactics Are Wrong And How To Fix It

Why Your Cold Outreach Tactics Are Wrong And How To Fix It

Let me guess.

Your cold emails are not hitting the mark. Your cold outreach campaigns are falling flat, and email marketing itself seems to be complete hokum. Sometimes, yes.

The thing is, cold emailing can be intricate when not done right. But not as far as not being effective.  

The success of a cold email campaign depends on the strategy used to ensure that the email is opened, read and that the reader performs the action required by the CTA.

Guessing again, chances are your strategy could be improved, or your emails aren't resonating the right way.  

So, we researched and came up with the main reasons your cold outreach may not be working so you can learn to improve them. You'll learn the mistakes you're making that are causing your cold email campaign to fail and what to do to fix them.

4 Reasons Your Cold Outreach Doesn’t Work

Here are four reasons most cold email campaigns fail.

1. Your emails are not well researched and personalized

You’re sending cold emails. You had no prior relationship or contact whatsoever with the recipient. The prospect does not know about you or your product/service.

Well, you’re at a disadvantage already. The only chance you have to strike a great chord with them right off the bat is to write your emails around what they value, which implies good research and a strong personalization.

So how do you research and personalize your emails so that they drive results?

Design an excellent icebreaker for each of your prospects

Social media is a great place to start here.

Before any first good impression with your cold campaign, you’ll need an icebreaker to get the two of you going. For those who don’t know, an icebreaker is a piece of information about your prospect you can use inside the emails so it does not feel cold anymore. That way, the reader feels valued and believes the sender did their homework before reaching out.

Here’s how we do with perfection at Nerdy Joe.

First, we look up on social media platforms our prospects use the most–LinkedIn, in most cases.

Then we verify their latest activities, or their company’s activity, or anything else. And this can literally be anything like a post, a like, a comment, a recent promotion, a job recommendation, an impressive career path, a share, a mention, a selfie, a brand video, and whatever data we can talk about to create a unique first touch.

Sure, it does not seem much like it, but it truly boosts your credibility as a marketer (or a cold emailer), and prospects can easily take an interest in what you have to tell them and read through.

Here is an example of how we keep it all in a spreadsheet before the campaign.

Icebreakers for cold outreach tactics.

Now, here’s what it looks like in real life. I pitched CoSchedule’s Head of Content Ben Sailer and asked him if I could write for them.

Cold outreach tactics done right

Here’s what he replied 1 hour later.

cold outreach done right.

Why this email worked?

  1. It has a relevant icebreaker and shows that I’ve done my homework. You can tell from Ben’s response that he liked the compliment.
  2. It was straight to the point, short, and positions me as someone who knows his craft.
  3. The ask at the end of the email was super clear.

More on how to write a hyper-personalized email in the next section.

Write hyper-personalized cold emails that don’t feel like cold

It’s not 2004 anymore, simply putting your prospect’s name inside the email is not enough personalization. At least, it will not help you stand out from competing emails inside their inbox. Each email should be different and focused on the recipient. And it all starts with solid prospects data research.

Do in-depth research on your prospects, determine their view of the world, what they are interested in and what they want. Search their website or product and work out what could be the problems they face.

Ideally, you should have a clear concept of each of your prospects before shooting your first email. That way, your emails won't be derisive or generic, which indicates you've made an effort to understand them before the outreach.

Also, it has been observed that people are much more enthusiastic about helping others when they feel particularly qualified to do so. So you will also need to spark the "what makes you the perfect person for my product" effect in the email. This will help you position yourself in a way that another competitor cannot. Plus, it addresses the email to the recipient and shows value. That’s how you can design cold emails that don’t feel cold.

Once you have all of this, you can use Hunter Campaigns to send highly personalized email campaigns in bulk. If you have hundreds of prospects on your list that would be your best bet.

Create a CSV file with the Ice Breaker (as I shared above) and other information you’ll be using to personalize your email like name, company, positions, specific blog posts you read, etc. Then upload it to Hunter and prepare a campaign using custom attributes that correspond to your personalization:

Cold outreach template

Each of your emails will be automatically personalized with the data from your CSV file.

2. Your emails are very long and boring

Brevity and meaningfulness are two qualities you can’t detach from a cold email and expect success.

When running a cold email campaign, your goal is to create a relationship with the prospects at a core level. When your email is long and boring, it does not do you any good. Remember, you want to impress your prospects. That's why you need to keep your emails short, meaningful and just provide value.

Now here is what a long and boring email looks like.

  • It is too long, and the text blocks are too dense.
  • The sentences are too wordy and jargoneous, making it difficult to read.
  • It feels too reminiscent of a formal sales email, and the first sentence doesn't grab the reader’s attention.
  • It's focused more on product features than on how it helps the prospect become Superman instead of Clark Kent.

Here’s a live example:

Cold outreach mistake to avoid

Or this example from Irina Matseva’s LinkedIn post.

Irina's LinkedIn post

It’s hard to stand out from the noise with other businesses (not necessarily competitors) and social media platforms vying for our attention. That's why you need to frame your emails around value, triggering imagination and titillating curiosity.

3. Your subject lines don’t motivate action.

A cold email subject line has two core goals.

  • Tell the reader what the email is about or at least give them an idea
  • Drive action, which is, triggering the open.

The subject line is one of the first email components that impact how people engage with your cold emails. If you make it compelling and spot-on, it will drive action, and your email marketing metrics will soar. But if it’s not good enough (aka does not motivate action), your cold campaign will fall flat. That’s it.

So, how do you design a subject line people actually want to click and read:

  1. Striking curiosity

Ask yourself a simple question. If the prospect didn’t know about you, what would make the prospects want to check your cold emails? Curiosity.

Here are some examples of subject lines that stir curiosity:

  • Too good to be true?
  • Are you the right person?
  • Quick question,  {{first_name}}

2. Creating a sense of urgency

Your ability to create a sense of urgency in your subject line is what will drive the clicks you need. Without a proper sense of urgency, your email is just another one in your target’s inbox.

And it will ultimately get buried beneath a pile of other emails.

Here are some examples of subject lines that create urgency:

  • Last chance to get XYZ, {{first_name}}
  • 10 hours left before XYZ close
  • Expires in 3 hours

3. Keeping it basic and clear

While designing your subject lines to motivate action, you shouldn’t miss out on their core purpose: telling recipients what the email is about. Keep it short and concise, convey the message.

Here are some examples:

  • How to do XYZ
  • [PDF] The guide to XYZ
  • What’s the right time to send an email

4. Your targeting is not spot on

Here's a truth about cold emailing that most marketers learn the hard way (so did I, by the way). You don't need to target 1,000 prospects to make ten calls and close one deal, maybe two?

I know for a fact that you can do better.

All you need to do is create a list of 20 prospects your services will be most valuable to. Then do the hard work of creating hyper-personalized content that will make them want to read a future email with your name on it until the campaign is over.

So do your research, find out who has the decision-making power at the company you are targeting, and get to know them before you send them the first email.

No matter how compelling your cold email copy is, if your targeting isn't good, you won't get any results, at least not good results. While targeting a thousand people may seem like increasing your chances, it's not.  One super targeted email is worth 100 emails, and that's a fact.

Now that you know why your cold outreach does not get results, here’s how you can fix it.

Effective Cold Outreach Tactic Example (Backed By Tom Gil’s 9-figure Success Story)

Tom Gil is a Real Estate Copywriter who has worked with some of the world’s biggest real estate businesses and written for big publications such as Forbes, Inc, CNN, etc.

“Every good email needs to be opened before it’s read. Even if you write the best email of your life, the body of your email won’t matter if the recipient isn’t interested in opening it,” Tom says.

One of the fundamental rules of engaging copy is creating a “hook” in each line, so the reader wants to read the next. Email copy is no different, and the first line your recipient reads is the subject line.

The subject line is: “why you need to hear this now.”

The email body is: “why you should reply right now.”

The only purpose of the headline is to be the first sentence of a sufficiently exciting conversation. Basically, if it's not interesting enough, the conversation will fail to continue. And you want to have a chance to communicate with more than ~5 words.

Here’s how Tom puts it, “The more you know your target audience, the better you’re equipped to pick the right hook. Generally speaking, you can choose from four hooks that are known to yield high open rates:

  • Curiosity
  • Relevance
  • Urgency
  • Value.”

It’s true the value, urgency, and relevancy hooks might earn you points with prospects who appreciate you saving them time by being genuine. But if you’re cold-emailing, or furthermore, trying to sell—being a bit vague to gain interest is your best route.

They might have more urgent things, or a headline too direct might turn them off.

When asked what’s the strongest of all these hooks, Tom says, “Out of these four, the strongest is curiosity.” He explains, “Because it’s universal. Age, gender, ethnicity, industry, sector, and other variables in the equation don’t affect it—as long as you’re targeting humans.”

“Another factor is ego. People always want to be the right person. And when you personalize the email like you’re talking specifically to that person, you tick that box,” he added.

Tom Gil combined the curiosity and ego factors to create one of his strongest subject lines: “The Right Person?”. It helped one of his clients get replies from Levis and Nike and has an outstanding open rate of 89%.

Tom's LinkedIn post

“When crafting it I thought: what can any person in the world receiving an email be curious about? Themselves, of course,” Tom explained.

This headline works very well for another reason. It evokes curiosity. The person receiving thinks: is he talking about himself or me? The curiosity alone is enough to generate a click.

Finally, the body copy must be clear, concise, valuable, relevant to the headline—so it doesn’t mislead people. Check out the body text of this cold email, which landed him a nine-figure client from one cold email.

Tom's cold email

Here are some elements that make this email successful.

  • The first paragraph flatters the recipient's ego and positions his company as one of the largest in the industry.
  • The second paragraph does a great job of introducing Tom and shows his expertise.
  • The rest of the email drops a ton of value for the prospective client and shows that Tom has done his homework.

3 Steps You Can Follow to Nail Your Cold Outreach

These are the exact steps Tom Gil followed to get maximum results.

Know your audience

In email marketing, it’s always about the people that read the emails. What you sell matters the least.

And if your emails don’t circle things people value, then it’s all doom and gloom. You need to do thorough audience research to understand the people you’re reaching out to. What’s a day in their life like? What’s keeping them up at night? What are their objections regarding your offering?

Here is what Tom suggests, “Being/having the solution is only half the battle. Communicating that you’re the solution while knowing their desires, fears, objections, budget, and needs is how you win, and how your prospect wins too.”

It’s all about them. Your cold outreach’s success lies in aligning your emails with your target audience.

Beware psychological tricks

This boils down to keeping your language simple and your offer as straightforward as possible. Avoid industry jargon or subject-specific language as much as possible.

Your team and you find it very useful, but your customers don't care too much about it. Speaking the prospects' language is the best way to get into their minds.

You will also be able to evoke emotions easily and challenge the readers. Furthermore, you have to focus on the benefits, not the features. Readers couldn't care less; the benefits are what interest them, not the features.

“Behavioral economics. It teaches us that buyers are selfish in nature and are always in it for themselves. If your emails are about you, your company, or your product, you failed,” Tom says.

Test first, then launch.

Tom suggests keeping testing different outlines, trying to achieve the same goal. “Pivot according to what works,” he adds.

There is no such as a one-size-fits-it-all or a surefire cold outreach strategy. You need to test your emails before launching the campaigns. You can run it through your teammates or coworkers and gather insights and feedback before the actual off-kick.

Use the Best Email Finder to Find Emails and Hit “SEND”

Now that you've done your research and have a pack of information about the prospect, it's time to go get their email address.

It's all wonderful to say that subject lines and icebreakers are essential, but if you don't have the correct email address, your campaign will just flop.

Here, I highly recommend Hunter. The software can help you in two ways:

  • You already have the person's name and want their work email.
Hunter Email Finder

Hunter allows you to fill in information such as the person's company, name, and surname, and with one click, you have the email address.

Hunter Email Finder
Hunter Email Finder
  • You don't have the name of the person.
Hunter Domain Search

Hunter's allows you to search in the company's registry all the employees' emails. And in front of each name, you will see the role and the degree of accuracy of the email address.

Hunter Domain Search

The cool thing about Hunter is that you can use it for free every month. And by far, it's the best and most accurate email finder. And once you found the email, it’s time to verify it.

Verifying emails is paramount as it helps you improve your email deliverability, and reduce bounce rate. Think about it, what happens when you hit the “send” button and the recipient’s email address happens to be wrong? It bounces.

Well, that’s why you always need to verify the email addresses on your list. You can learn more about how to verify an email address here.


Running cold email campaigns is not an easy task, but if you do it the right way, you will get great results. To start with, you have to follow Tom's advice to the letter:

  • Find the right hook.
  • Research the person you are contacting.
  • Pack your email with value so the recipient can't say no.
  • Use the right tools to find the emails.
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Ernest Bio Bogore
Ernest Bio Bogore

Ernest is the founder of Nerdy Joe, an email marketing agency for SaaS brands. He's run hundreds of campaigns that have generated 1000s of signups, and MILLIONS in the sales pipeline for his clients.