How to Write a Cold Email That Converts (Without Being Pushy)

How to Write a Cold Email That Converts (Without Being Pushy)

While launching a cold email campaign, your main goal should be to get a response from your prospect.

However, it’s not an easy task as it seems. Every day we receive so many emails from both people we know and those we’ve never heard about, so it’s almost impossible to answer everyone.

Your email copy plays a crucial role when it comes to whether you get a response or not.

In this guide, we collected the most effective tips and examples that will help you to write a cold email that converts and initiates the conversation with your prospects.

Don’t have time to read the whole tutorial? Download a quick check-list and start implementing tips that will help you boost your response rates immediately.

1. Create a perfect subject line
2. Start with an outline
3. Write a catchy opening line
4. Personalize your message
5. Keep it short and easy
6. Provide value
7. Include a CTA
8. Write like a human
9. Make message scannable
Automate your cold outreach

1. Create a perfect subject line

No one will ever respond to you if no one opens your email in the first place. So the first thing to do while working on a new cold email campaign is to create the perfect subject line.

Make your subject lines personal

Besides mentioning the first name and company name in a subject line, try to think of other touchpoints you may have with your prospect. For example, the content they wrote, common connections, the place you met, a conference they attended, etc.

Adding a personal touch is your best bet in getting engagement for your cold emails.

Keep subject lines short

It’s much easier to catch a prospect's attention with something short, sweet, and straight to the point. Moreover, short subject lines invoke curiosity.

Short vs long subject line example

Ask questions

Questions are a great way to spark interest and encourage someone to open an email.

If you ask a question relevant to your prospects in a subject line, they are more likely to open your email and start looking for the answer.

Read: How to Craft Perfect Cold Email Subject Line (55 Examples)

2. Start with an outline

It’s quite apparent that you need to write an outline when working on a blog post, book, or guide. However, for smaller pieces of content, outlines are often ignored.

Outlines are needed for having a better structure to any content you write. Even if you have just a couple of sentences in your email, try to think of the one goal you want to achieve with your email, the question you want to ask, and the catchy introduction to make the user read your email. And only then, start writing your cold email.

Let’s take a look at this cold email I recently sent to build links for our blog post:

Example of the outline for the cold email

Before writing this email, I wrote a short outline that allowed me to better structure the message (and later get a 19.6% response rate). Here is how it looked:

  • Mention prospect’s pain (they receive a lot of emails where everyone asks for a backlink);
  • Confess that I’m asking for it as well;
  • List two benefits prospects get by linking back to our content:
  1. our content is more up-to-date;
  2. provide a benefit for the time/efforts they invest in updating the old link;
  • Add not-too-pushy CTA.

3. Write a catchy opening line

After the subject line, the opening line is the second most crucial sentence in your cold email.

You wrote a successful subject line and made prospects open your email. The next step would be to make them read your message.

If you start with something blurry, dull, and not personalized, the chances are that you’ll never get a response from your prospect.

I recommend polishing your opening line to make your prospects interested in learning more about what you have to offer.

There are a few simple things you can write in your opening line:

  1. Ask a question
  2. Mention a mutual connection
  3. Share excitement or a compliment about their work
  4. Start with your prospects’ problem or pain point
  5. Use a recent trigger event

This email I recently received would be a great example of using excitement/a compliment about the work in the opening line:

Cold email with great opening line

Besides having a catchy subject line (“Writing for my favorite email tool”), from the first line Mostafa Dastras made me read his highly-personalized email and respond to him.

Additional reads on how to write a compelling opening line:

4. Personalize your message

Personalization is uber important when it comes to sending a successful cold email. The more personal your cold email is, the better your response rate would be.

Generally, there are two key ways to personalize cold emails:

1. If you have small volumes of cold emails

It makes sense to spend time on high-value prospects and manually add a personal touch to every email you send.

You can create a single template for the outreach, but add very specific information for each of your prospects to make the message relevant to them and provide maximum value.

A great example of such personalization is an email I received from HubSpot’s Growth Specialist Adam Toothaker.

Personalized cold email

This email is great because it’s not another unpersonalized spammy message where someone only wants to sell you something.

Adam did a lot of work by conducting such in-depth research. Besides including essential personalization, he made the email personal by:

  • Mentioning a common connection (he previously talked to Hunter’s co-founder Francois);
  • Checked my Linkedin profile and noticed that I just started handling marketing at Hunter (so he decided to reach out to us one more time using a different angle);
  • Mentioned services he worked with before (they are very relevant to our product and have some features that intersect);
  • Found a possible pain point (drive in more leads into our website).

Explore more highly-personalized cold email templates

2. If you have large volumes of cold emails

For bigger email volumes, it’s not always possible to manually edit all of the emails, since that can take a decent amount of time.

Fortunately, tools like Hunter Campaigns can help you save time preparing and scheduling highly-personalized emails.

Hunter Campaigns doesn’t “automate the whole process” but still saves hours of your time. It’s always better to spend a bit more time to add a personal touch to each message, even though they will ultimately be sent on autopilot.

  • All you need to do is to create a CSV file with detailed information about your prospects.
CSV file for personalization
  • Upload it into Hunter Leads (a simple CRM tool that allows you to structure information about your prospects).
Hunter Leads

Note: If you use Hunter to find your prospects’ email addresses, there is no need to create a CSV file—you can save this info directly to Leads.

Use the data from CSV/Hunter Leads to personalize emails in bulk automatically.

5. Keep it short and easy

As Sleeknote discovered, emails with shorter copy of 95 words significantly outperformed emails with longer copy of 170 words. In fact, shorter emails had a 5.81 percent higher CTR. That’s significant!

There are three key elements your cold email should contain:

  1. Who you are/or short introduction
  2. What your offer is
  3. The action you want a prospect to take

As long as you have these three elements in your email, you won’t need to write any extra sentences.

Try to eliminate unnecessary greetings like “I hope you’re doing well.” Being polite is a must, but it could be easily achieved by using the right style for your email.

Also, don’t use wordy sentences. Give your writing a confidence boost by eliminating words that weigh down your writing and make your sound uncertain.

Here is a good example of a short and straight to the point email I received from G2 Crowd:

Short cold email

This is one of the shortest and most effective cold emails I ever saw:

  • Jake starts with the value in the opening line (potential Hunter’s lead was actively shopping on G2)
  • He confirms it with a screenshot from G2’s account (no words needed to describe that we might get a few new warm leads)
  • He finishes his cold email with a non-pushy CTA (offering to continue a conversation on getting new leads from G2)

6. Provide value

Some companies think that if they have a specific service or product, they can just drop a few lines describing it and get a customer. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work this way.

It’s better not to send any sales pitches in the first email, but rather try to offer a solution for the problem your prospects may have or show how your product/service can improve their business or life.

While writing your cold email, talk about the benefits prospects will get, not the features you sell.

To make your email even more convincing, be very precise with the benefits you are talking about. For example, there’s a huge difference between describing software that “saves a lot of time” and software that “saves 10 hours of your time weekly.”

One of the best examples of a cold email providing value was shared by Daryl Rosser on Ahrefs blog:

Cold email providing value

Daryl used this email to “pitch” his SEO services to potential clients. Besides creating a highly-personalized email, he focuses on what the client really wants.

He is not telling prospects about his on-page SEO ability, or how great he is at building links. Daryl focuses on what they care about—getting prospects’ phones ringing.

Another essential element in his email is that he is not directly selling his services. Daryl is not asking prospects to get on the phone with him or buy anything at all. All they need to do is to respond “yes, send me the video.”

7. Include a CTA

Setting the right CTA (call-to-action) is the key to boosting your reply rates. This is the part of your cold email that persuades prospects to take action—send a reply, click the link, submit a form, etc.

The CTA should have a perfect match with the goal of your cold email. Try to focus on a single thing you want to achieve with your outreach. It’s definitely easier to achieve your goal by including one CTA rather than asking your prospect for too much. Optionally, you can incorporate a CTA into your email signature giving your cold email a personal touch and making it less pushy.

Also, try to be very precise and specific with your CTA. I receive quite a lot of emails offering to “have a call and see what we can do together.” The chances are that prospects (like I do) just decide not to lose time on the blurry offer where they don’t see any value.

Depending on the goal of your cold email, you can use similar CTAs:

  • What are the next steps on your end?
  • Are you still interested in {{your_offer}}?
  • Will this work for you?
  • Can you please put me in touch with the right person?
  • Is this a priority issue you want to resolve?
  • Don’t you mind if I share {{your_research}} how we can help you grow your {{business_goal}}?
  • Book your slot now.

8. Write like a human

No one likes talking to robots. Even if you decide to automate your cold outreach fully, make it look like your prospect is receiving an email from a real human being.

For that, your first step would be to do your research and make the email personal.

The second step—write an email using simple words and construction. The main goal would be to make your prospects feel like they are talking to a friend or someone they’ve known for a long time.

Here is a great example of a casual informal email from Noah Cagan:

Email with a simple language

Besides that, don’t use HTML templates for your cold emails. Even if they look good and clean, it’s a clear signal to your prospects that they are a part of the automation. Moreover, this might decrease your deliverability rate—quite often, emails land in the “Promotions” or “Spam” folders.

Using plain text in the cold emails would be your best bet for making it look human and improve the deliverability rates.

9. Make message scannable

If you want prospects to read your cold email till the very end, avoid giant walls of texts.

Here is an example of what I’m talking about:

Wall of text cold email

Instead, stick to short paragraphs that are 1–2 sentences long, incorporate breaks, lists, and nice formatting.

Formatted emails are easier to read, especially on mobile devices. Here is an example:

Formatted cold email

This email is a bit long for cold outreach, so to make it more scannable, I:

  • Utilized short one-sentence paragraphs;
  • Added hyperlinks to illustrate the webpages to which I refer;
  • Inserted image with highlighted explanations of the things that could be improved;
  • Highlighted with italics the part I wanted my prospect to change in their article;
  • Highlighted in bold the main parts of the content I offer to replace.

Automate your cold outreach

After you find your prospects’ email addresses, it’s time to set up your cold email campaign and send all emails on autopilot. This can  be quickly done with Hunter Campaigns:

1. Connect Hunter to your Gmail account

Start by connecting Hunter to your Gmail account to start sending emails to existing leads or new emails found.

Connect Gmail account

2. Compose your message

Write the first message of your campaign or choose one from previously saved templates.

Compose first email

Add custom attributes into the email body and subject line that are automatically filled when sending the email based on your lead’s information.

Hunter custom attribites

3. Add a follow-up

You can set up to three follow-ups in Campaigns that will be sent if a recipient hasn’t replied to the first email. You can choose a timeframe that suits your campaign the best (1 day, 2 days, etc).

Send follow-up

4. Add people to the Campaign

To select the audience of the campaign, choose whether you want to:

  • use the leads saved in your Leads section;
  • upload a list of contacts with attributes in CSV;
  • manually enter a list of emails that you want to send the campaign to.
Add people to the campaign

5. Review your emails

In the last Review step, each email can be manually edited and personalized:

Review emails

6. Monitor the campaign’s performance

Once you launch your campaign, you can easily monitor its performance in the Statistics section of the selected campaign.

Campaigns stats

Wrap up

Writing a cold email that converts is not an easy task, since it’s quite difficult to initiate a conversation with someone who’s never heard about your or your business.

While sending cold emails, make sure that your offer is relevant to your prospects, personalize the message, write like a human, and structure the content in a way that your prospects can’t resist replying back to you.

You can keep this checklist open every time you write a new cold email to follow the best practices, and make a few steps forward to higher response rates.

What tips do you typically use to write a high performing cold email? Feel free to share them with me at or on Twitter.

Irina Maltseva
Irina Maltseva

Head of Marketing at Hunter. I enjoy working on inbound and product marketing strategies. In spare time, I entertain my cat Persie and collect airline miles.

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