7 email marketing buzzwords that improve open rates (and 3 that don’t)
Learn which words trigger an emotional response from your readers and cause them to open your emails (and which ones to avoid) in your next marketing email.
Spammers have given cold emails a bad rep and it doesn’t help that most people don’t know how to write a cold email correctly. At their worst, email marketers can come across as spammers even if they’re filled with good intentions.
But cold emails also have the ability to reach leads en masse, leading to more engaged customers, a larger market opportunity, and a high return on investment (ROI).
In fact, cold emails can reach ROIs of 3,800 -7,000% – not something you want to leave on the table.
So how do you avoid the spam filters or archive button and deliver a meaningful message to people's inboxes? Check out our guide on the rules to follow and the mistakes to avoid when writing cold emails.
We’ll start with the basics: What is a cold outreach email?
If you’re already familiar with the basics, skip ahead to our <a href="#tips">17 tips and tricks for writing cold outreach emails</a>.
A cold outreach email is your first contact with a potential client. The goal is to spark a conversation and build a relationship. It is the starting point for processes such as sales, networking, and collaboration. A cold outreach email introduces your company and your products or services to someone who may have no idea about your business.
Cold emails are effective for prospecting and lead generation because they require minimal resource and can be employed at scale.
In addition to the impressive ROI mentioned above, cold emails are easy to track and give you valuable data because you typically have a larger sample size. This means you'll gain more feedback and data points than cold calling, where no one tells you exactly where you went wrong or how you can improve your pitch.
Emails are also less invasive and give recipients time to respond at their leisure. They don’t interrupt people in the middle of dinner, or worse, when they still have sleep-fogged brains.
Your target audience determines if you should use cold sales emails. If you are reaching out to millennials, for example, cold emailing is the way to go since they prefer to communicate over email. B2B and B2C consumers are also a good audience for cold emails, since you can segment your audience but don't necessarily need to deliver a completely custom message to each lead.
However, cold email is not the best option if you are trying to reach prospects high up in a company hierarchy. The best way to gain access to Managers and C-level executives is by networking. For example, you can browse LinkedIn for common connections and ask for an introduction.
You may have to start at the bottom of the hierarchy, convince your contact that you have the solution to their needs, and work your way to an introduction to the executives. This works because those at the C-level value their colleagues' opinions and take these into consideration when making decisions.
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If cold emailing sounds like a good match for your target audience and business strategy, learning how to write an effective cold email will increase your chances of making a connection and prevent your message from ending up in a spam folder.
Writing a hyper-personalized cold email isn’t rocket science, but it requires certain elements and a delicate touch.
These 17 tried and tested tips are broken down into three categories to help you create a compelling cold email campaign:
Let’s dive in.
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You should optimize your subject lines because 47% of recipients open emails based on them.
How do you optimize subject lines?
Start with the length: the optimum subject line word count is between six and 10. When in doubt, go shorter.
Second, personalized subject lines can increase open rates by as much as 23.6%.
But “personalized” means more than just using the prospect’s name in the subject line. This is a step in the right direction, but it won’t get you to the promised land on its own.
In eight words, the sender conveyed a specific interest in the recipient and demonstrated that they've already invested some time in the potential relationship.
Here’s what a pre-header, or preview text, looks like:
It appears just after the subject line when a recipient is looking at emails in their inbox. Pre-header copy adds context to your subject line and gives the recipient more information.
And since 85% of users check email on their smartphones, you should always consider how to optimize your emails for mobile screens.
So how do you get the pre-header copy right?
Social proof is evidence that people have used your product or service and found it valuable. It leverages the idea that consumers want to purchase products or services because their peers already have.
It can help you avoid vague or overly sales-y language that will doom the effectiveness of your cold outreach emails because you can point directly to value.
So how do you offer social proof? Here are the best options:
Adding case studies, for example, can improve your close rate by as much as 70%.
Since the recipient may be unaware of your company, it works best if the examples and success stories involve:
Think of it like this – if you wanted to send a cold outreach email to Nike offering your marketing services, it would be beneficial if you could show how you’ve improved marketing efforts for another activewear or apparel brand.
Beyond social proof, validating is the next best option, and it works well in tandem with social proofing.
Validating yourself means mentioning any mutual connection you have with the prospect. For example, if you have a common acquaintance, went to the same school, or share a hobby. Beyond mentioning your business name, you want them to see you as human. The more unique the connection, the more likely you are to get a response.
Here’s a good example:
The average click-through rate for emails sits between 0.7% and 4.4%, depending on your industry. However, top performers can see that number shoot up to an incredible 9-10%.
Following CTA best practices can increase your click-through rate and convince your recipients to take action.
Tried and tested approaches include:
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Let's focus on the core of your email - the message body. These tips will help you write a message that resonates with your recipient and inspires them to take the next step.
Personalization is a crucial aspect of any cold email outreach strategy. Tailoring the tone of the email copy, the type of content, and specific pain points you can solve helps the recipient feel like you wrote the email just for them.
Of course, you can't really write each email individually - at least not at scale. That's where segmentation comes in; it allows you to personalize cold outreach at scale. Segmentation is the process of grouping prospects based on their job title, industry, business size, or other relevant factors and then writing cold emails that best fit each identified segment
Marketers have found that segmenting email campaigns leads to a 760% increase in revenue.
Once you've segmented your email list, create personalized emails for each group.
Most people think personalization only refers to using the prospect’s name in an email. While this certainly plays a part, personalization goes far beyond this simple trick.
Some ideas of how you can personalize an email include:
Tidbits like these tell the recipient that they’re not on the wrong end of another generic email. Showing you’ve researched the prospect’s company by mentioning their challenges or recent triumphs is another good cold email strategy.
Most CRMs and email marketing tools allow you to enter details about your leads to then use as variables in mail merges and mass emails, which means you can create endlessly personalized mass emails in minutes.
Your email itself shouldn't be endless, though. Word count is important.
Long, wordy emails are a sure way to get your prospect to click “delete” without ever giving your message a proper read. Research shows that the sweet spot is between 50 and 125 words.
Shorter emails get your point across quickly to a recipient who hasn’t decided to invest time in you yet. That’s why they work.
Of course, your goal is probably to provide more information than 50 - 125 words allow so the prospect understands what you’re offering. In those cases, you could add a tracked link to a page containing all the information.
Alternatively, you can invite the prospect to jump on a call and give an outline (bullet points are your best friend) of what you want to discuss.
Whatever you choose, keep in mind that the golden rule of cold emailing is to “deliver value to the prospect,” so make sure each word counts.
Including the pain point in your cold email is the best way to show your prospects you understand their situation.
To find out your prospect’s pain point, you’ll need to invest time and do some research on them. That time is well worth it, however, since they can immediately relate to what you’re saying.
Discussing a specific pain point also sets you up to explain precisely how you can help them. This changes the tone of the email – instead of focusing on selling them something, you’re solving their problem. It helps make the prospect feel understood and valued.
When you touch on a prospect’s pain point, you can show how you’ll provide value in a very specific way.
Let’s look at an example:
The email doesn’t include any promotional language. Instead, it states a problem and explains the causes for free.
After the recipient has watched the video, who will be the first person on their mind when they decide they want to resolve the issue?
We bet we’re thinking about the same person.
The easiest way to appear inauthentic is to use complicated, over-the-top language and make outlandish promises.
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How believable are these? Most people see these claims and immediately think "what's the catch?"
On the flip side, you don’t want to be boring or sound like every other cold email coming from a cubicle-dwelling sales rep. Add a personal touch to your email and use simple, direct language.
Take a look at this example that’s lacking personality:
I’m John Smith, and I’m the head of marketing at ZZZ.
I was looking over your social media profile, and I feel that my company would be a great fit…
This example tries to be authentic but fails.
It’s generic – John Smith probably sent the same email to a dozen people and merely changed the recipient’s name.
Let’s try this another way and consider the following questions:
I’m John Smith, and I’m the head of marketing at ZZZ.
I came across the article on how to improve email response rates that you posted on LinkedIn, and I have to say, I couldn’t agree more. Too many people simply send out generic emails and hope for the best.
That’s actually one of the reasons I’m writing to you…
Doesn’t that sound more authentic?
When you include specific details about your prospect in your emails, you show that you are genuinely interested in connecting with and helping them.
Humor can be a great icebreaker, but you can’t just drop a random joke and expect to wow your recipient.
Make sure you're weaving in the humor in a way that benefits the overall structure of the email.
Here’s a great example:
The first sentence establishes a shared interest, the commonality we mentioned earlier.
The second sentence subtly reveals that the sender has done their research.
Then comes the joke.
Afterward, they continue with the casual language but get straight to business. They offer social proof and then explain how they can help the prospect.
It’s worth noting that the CTA can be improved because it doesn’t tell the reader what the next step looks like. A better CTA would be: “If you’re game, I’d love to hop on a 15-minute call with you later this week.”
It’s important to remember what a cold email is supposed to achieve – interest.
Immediately launching into a presentation of your product/service is a sure-fire way to waste an opportunity. The prospect won’t be interested in your company because they don’t know why they should be interested.
For example, bringing up your solution’s expected ROI in a cold email can lower your success rate by 15% – it does nothing to explain how your product/service can actually help solve the recipient’s pressing problems.
At best, it’s meaningless data. At worst, it’s a reason to argue with your assumptions.
Instead, focus on building an emotional connection by:
These four steps steadily build interest so that by the end of the email, the prospect is eager to click on your CTA and learn more.
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At this point, you know what to include in a cold email and how to write an authentic, personalized message that will grab your prospect’s attention.
You’re one step away from writing and sending your own cold emails. What’s left?
You need to learn how to optimize your campaign or, in other words, how to:
Let’s get started on this final leg.
Before starting an email campaign, learn a few things about your prospects to make sure they match up with your target audience. This includes:
These factors are essential because they help guide your decision-making process when writing your email.
If you realize you should be connecting with somebody else at the company, find the prospect’s email address online or try asking for an introduction.
If you’re offering something valuable, odds are the employee will want to impress their boss by bringing them an exciting new opportunity.
Salespeople spend 21% of their days writing emails, but templates can help streamline the process.
Cold email templates are also an excellent way to ensure consistent messaging from all your team members. Templates work as a blueprint that you can continuously update based on responses. You keep adjusting them until you find the optimum email template.
On the other hand, by using templates, you run the risk of sending impersonal emails that don’t connect with the target audience.
So how do you strike the right balance between the two options?
That brings us to our next tip:
A/B testing is the process of splitting your email list into equal parts and sending each group a variation of the same email to see which performs best.
Think of it like a science experiment for emails - you want to isolate one specific change in each version so you know what is impacting your results.
You can run A/B tests for:
Before setting up an A/B test, identify the metric you're trying to improve and how you'll measure success for each test. For example, testing a subject line might impact your open rate. Testing a CTA might impact your clickthrough or response rate.
After sending out two or more versions of the same email, analyze your email outreach results. Once you know which version is the most effective, you can use that subject line, CTA, or message in future emails.
Correctly timing your emails can go a long way to help you improve your response rates.
According to a study of over 100,000 emails, the best time of the day to send an email is between 6-9am.
The same study suggests that Monday is the best day to send a cold outreach email, with an open rate of a little over 20%.
Make sure to consider who your audience is as that may affect when they’re most likely to read your emails. For example, a business software company probably isn’t going to reach as many people on the weekend as a fashion brand would.
Email Service Providers (ESPs) use spam filters to protect their users from receiving unwanted and unsolicited emails.
The most common reasons emails go to the spam folder are:
Make sure you're following best practices for email deliverability and avoiding buzzwords that may land you in spam folders.
Only 2% of sales are made during the first point of contact, yet for some reason:
These stats are even more astonishing when you consider that cold email campaigns with four to seven email sequences get three times as many responses as those with fewer than four emails.
In short, it pays to follow up on your cold emails. You’ll want to immediately follow up after your first contact and schedule a follow-up email sequence in case you still don’t get a response.
Some email outreach tools allow you to send automated follow-ups if you don't get a response from your lead. Once the lead, they're removed from the follow-up sequence so you can respond to them personally.
Cold emailing is legal, but in the United States, the CAN-SPAM Act gives email recipients the right to stop receiving unsolicited emails and includes fines for any violations.
Here's a non-exhaustive list of how to stay compliant and avoid being marked as spam:
Cold emailing is both an art and a science. Sometimes the most creative approaches are the ones that get through to leads, but you'll want to test various tactics to see what works and resonates with your audience.
Use these tips to start drafting up cold emails, and then set up some A/B tests to hone in on what's working and what can be improved. Remember that progress can be slow, but with enough data you'll eventually find what works for you and start seeing results.
Good luck and happy emailing!