The Ingredients of a Perfect Cold Email

The Ingredients of a Perfect Cold Email

Most cold emails I get land straight in the trash.

I’m not happy about it – I’d love to get more relevant cold emails – but that’s not the case, and I’m sure you can relate.

There are so many things that need to happen for an email to get a positive reply; you could write a book about it.

But I’ll try to squeeze them into one article to see how long the list would be.

The identified prospect is qualified

No matter what happens next, you’ll fail if you send cold emails to people who aren’t qualified prospects.

Qualification is a multi-faceted process, and you can’t always fully qualify prospects before you engage them using cold emails.

But the more you can learn before reaching out, the more likely you will send a relevant message that gets a positive reply.

The key to finding qualified prospects is:

  1. You need a detailed ICP that breaks down what makes a prospect qualified.
  2. You need to find a method to surface prospects meeting your criteria.

If you don’t know where to start, I recommend using the Value Proposition Canvas.

The Value Proposition Canvas diagram

You can also get some inspiration from sales frameworks like MEDDIC or BANT.

The contact information is correct

Once you find the right people to contact, you need their valid email addresses.

Some prospecting tools can find email addresses for you, but they don’t always verify the contact information, or their verification processes are lackluster.

Here’s one example: Although many tools claim to verify all returned email addresses, they often report accept-all addresses as valid.

On the other hand, Hunter lets you know about the difference so you can make an informed decision on whether or not you want to contact this address.

Hunter's detailed Email Finder report

This means you should never trust any email addresses you find before verifying them with an actual email verifier (like ours).

The email gets delivered

Most people know that emails bounce if you use a non-existent email address. But finding a valid email address doesn’t mean your message will get delivered.

There are multiple reasons why emails bounce, and I listed them all in my article about email bounce rate.

It lands in the primary inbox

If your email doesn’t bounce, you’re very close to landing in the primary inbox, but… there’s one more obstacle.

The spam/promotions folders.

A spam banner displayed for a spam message in Gmail

Most people don’t read emails that don’t land in the primary inbox, so you should only be satisfied if you manage to avoid landing elsewhere.

I wrote an article covering best practices to avoid landing in spam. It also contains a checklist you can follow to make sure your bounce rate is as low as possible.

It has a great subject line

We’re getting closer to success!

After your message lands in the primary inbox, it must be opened.

All the recipient sees at first is your:

  • Sender name
  • Subject line
  • Preview text

These elements must grab the recipient’s attention: they can’t look like another irrelevant spam email, or like an automated notification. On the contrary, your email needs to look like an important message from a colleague – something the recipient should want to send.

Then, your subject line must convince the recipient that your email is worth their time.

A subject line that stands out with its information scent

I shared some best practices for making your subject line work in my article about writing subject lines.

It’s personalized

Personalization is key to proving your email is relevant to the recipient.

That’s because if you can bring up details about the recipient or their company related to your offer, it indicates you’ve done the legwork to research and qualify them.

You can apply personalization both to your subject line and the email body.

An example of a personalized cold email

But be sure to remember about the personalization-privacy paradox: while people can appreciate personalized messages, they also don’t like you digging on their social media for irrelevant details!

It uses the right arguments

Even if you target a highly qualified recipient, you need to use the right arguments or you’ll lose them.

For example, if your message is focused on pricing considerations but you send it to someone who isn’t involved with pricing decisions, it won’t click. However, they'll want to know more if you speak directly about how your solution can address their daily struggles.

Finding the right arguments isn’t easy because it requires that you predict your recipient’s attitudes toward your offer.

Subject line: Your ad on <<location 1>>
<<first name>>,
I'm hearing from many marketing leaders that attribution is the #1 obstacle preventing them from running more outdoor ads.
Wouldn't it be awesome to run brand ads at <<location 2>> or <<location 3>> and get accurate numbers for how many website visitors they're driving?
Our new AI product does exactly that, and with our experience buying outdoor ad space, we can drive local traffic with a much higher ROI than online advertising.
If you'd like to hear more, I can send specific estimates for the costs & ROI of outdoor ads in your location.

It’s persuasive

People aren’t always logical, which is why you need to sprinkle some persuasion over your arguments.

Luckily, there are many persuasive techniques that can be easily applied to cold emails. I describe them in my article about writing email copy.


Finally, you won’t get any success if your goals aren’t realistic.

Email outreach has distinct characteristics that make it different from any other sales/marketing channel:

  • Your recipients won’t always trust you
  • With every email, you’re starting a personal relationship
  • You’re asking your recipients to take action
  • Your prospects will react in different ways to the same message.

For these reasons, I developed the WARM framework to help you set strategic goals aligned with the cold email channel.

Wrapping up

These nine elements must happen if you want to send an email that elicits a positive response. Of course, the devil is in the details – each item has multiple obstacles along the way.

If you're looking to step up your outreach game, I recommend checking out my Cold Email Guide and I'll guarantee you'll find room for improvement, one step at a time.

Was this article helpful?
Ziemek Bućko
Ziemek Bućko

Content Manager and cold email evangelist at