There are a little over 200 billion (with a B) emails sent everyday. That’s 2.4 million a second, rounding out at 74 trillion every year. There are just over 7 billion people in the world (only about half of which have internet access). Very roughly, that’s about 20,000 emails per person who could actually have access to them in some way—per year. Still think you only need a good template for your cold email outreach?

To be completely honest, most of the people who hear “cold email” immediately think “spam”. While you are emailing people who weren’t expecting it with the (eventual) intent to sell something—it’s definitely not spam when done correctly.

So, what’s the secret?

There really is no “secret tip”, or way to increase your conversions by X% with this “one strategy”. Just several sensible, effective, and research-driven tips that can be implemented regardless of your offer.

Don’t believe me?

At LeadFuze, we see both good and bad cold emails. A lot of them. Over the past few years, we’ve really been able to find and hone in on some of the best ways to garner responses from even the toughest and most saturated markets.

Results? One of our clients actually was able to have 71 sales conversations in a super-crowded medical niche using only cold email.

As an entrepreneur, you’re looking to grow your business while working in your business. Finding quality leads, personalizing the emails, and getting a hold of them is hard work. But cold email is one of the best ways to achieve growth early on in many business models.

I used it to grow my 7-figure digital marketing agency.

Trust me, you don’t want to do all that emailing without knowing that your potential customers are going to respond.

At least a decent percentage of them. Let me walk you through the simple, yet incredibly powerful ways to get your emails answered.

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Cold email outreach

A Quick Word on Subject Lines

It’s amazing to me how much emphasis the world has put on subject lines. They are the reason so many people associate cold email with spam. The opening line is writing checks that the message can’t cash.

We all put so much time in getting people to open up, but so little time in crafting the very email that we wanted prospects to see. Imagine if you tool all your time setting up a demo, but threw your presentation together on the way to the meeting?

Isn’t having a great open rate, but a terrible response rate just as bad?

Subject lines are important, without a doubt. No one will see the email if they don’t open it, but beside the data-related things (e.g. keep it under 50 characters, don’t use certain words, etc.)—you should follow a simple rule.

Subject Line Rule: Describe what’s in the email in the subject line and convey what’s described in the subject line in the email.

Do this and your emails won’t be spam.

That said, the body of your message may still be bad. Which is why you should take all of your current templates and run them through these 10 “best practices” until your email comes out glistening and ready for your list.

Practice #1: Know Them (Your Recipients)

Number one is critical. We’ll spend some time here.

The awesome thing about building a list of leads based on certain criteria (as opposed to buying a list) is the ability to know who you’re talking to before you hit send. One of the best reasons to know about your prospects? You don’t show up empty-handed.

Everyone wants to know “what’s in it for me?”

You’re reading this to get more email responses and move the needle on your new-ish venture, GrowthLab wants to help you sell more, and LeadFuze helps small business owners build a high-quality list of leads and put outreach on autopilot (see what we did there).

The reason you’re reading, I’m writing, and the IWT team is letting us (thanks!) is to find something we all want.

Leads are no different, but how can you use firmographics and demographics to “know” your ideal customers?


Let’s say your target customers are dog groomers and you do Facebook ads. Your customers don’t care about advertising on FB, or how good you are at it.

Every day we see emails go out that say something like, “We’re awesome at using FB, use us to do FB ads!”

Those get virtually zero responses.

What do dog groomers want?

They know how to primp, brush and cut already. But they may want to know more about budgeting, bringing in more business, or hiring their first employee.

Best Practices to Maximize Cold Email Responses (Beyond the Subject Line)

Create a fantastic piece of content that answers the basic question that most of your leads happen to share. You could find something that currently exists, but if it comes from you it’ll bolster more authority.

Sample Resource: Give them a video telling how they can lower their ad expenses and actually gain customers.

It works.

  • That client I told you about used a podcast full of similar tips for their leads (a super tough medical niche) to generate those 71 conversations in a single month.

Bonus Tip: Try BuzzSumo. It’s like a search engine for finding popular content. You put in what your leads would like to know and see what content was most successful.

Best Practices to Maximize Cold Email Responses (Beyond the Subject Line)

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Practice #2: Forget Yourself

You want to know how to ruin a good subject line in three words? Start your email with “My name is…”

The first sentence is a close second in importance to your subject. Most email apps will show several words from your message and they need to be great. Make it short, sweet, and describe the key benefit they desire (using what you know from number one) — and not yourself.


Hi, Dog Groomer

Do you want to spend less on advertising and have more dogs to groom?

It’s concise and it conveys what your list wants to know. It’s not a throwaway line, but rather a reinforcement that increases your open rate. Consider it more of a sub-heading to your title and an extension to your subject.

Note: There are other ways to start an email that could work better for you. Another I like is the “gush” where you talk about how you came to find the lead and how you love their work.

“I spent my life savings turning my van into a dog. The alarm alone cost me two hundred.”Harry Dunne

Practice #3: Talk, Don’t Write

Of course, you write the email, but it’s not a mid-term paper.

Email is part of the sales conversation and should sound more like a face-to-face than a 19th-century love note. This point goes back to putting as much effort in the body of an email as the subject line.

Besides getting the points you want to convey in there, you have to do it in a way they can read and understand in less than 10 seconds.

So, instead of this:

If you would like to schedule a consultation where we can discuss how Facebook advertising could increase the number of canine clients, please respond to this electronic notification.

(A bit overboard, but you get the point).

Try something like this:

I’d love to hear if you liked the [resource]. You can reply to the email, or call my cell at [cell number].

Take all of your emails, read them out loud. Then, send them to your colleagues and have them read them aloud and critique. Make those changes and do it again until things sound smooth enough.

Practice #4: Keep It Short

If you can’t clearly show the benefit you offer that cures the pain of your ideal buyers in, at most, five sentences—you’re not ready to do cold email. As entrepreneurs, our job is to solve problems and communicate our solutions clearly.

This skillset we share should translate to your outreach efforts (e.g. cold email).

Get that concise first sentence in there and 3-4 more, max (not counting the p.s. which we’ll get to a little further down).

Use those same colleagues in number three to help you whittle it down.

Best Practices to Maximize Cold Email Responses - guest post via @Jus10McGillClick To Tweet

Practice #5: Keep it Concise

You can write a short email or a whole book and not say much. It’s crucial that every word says exactly what it needs to in order to keep it short, but impactful to the reader.

Best Practices to Maximize Cold Email Responses (Beyond the Subject Line)

(source: Google)

Trying to reach dog groomers in a way that makes them want to move forward is hard with all that barking and what not. You have to make sure you’re making the point in such a way they have to find out more.

You don’t have an hour-long webinar to convince them you’re the right person to help them. It’s more like you’re putting your hand out and saying, “Do you trust me?”

Best Practices to Maximize Cold Email Responses (Beyond the Subject Line)

What do you have to say to get their hand? Say that.

My three quick tips to do so:

  1. Use a Business Domain: Get a website and set up your email. Don’t hit them with an “awesomefacebookads[@]”.
  2. Social Proof: Give your profiles (better if you have a decent following), share a guest post, etc.
  3. Check Grammar: Seriously, one misspelling or obvious “they’re, their, there” error stands out in a short email. Check it. Re-check. Check again.

Practice #6: How Low Personal Can You Go

Don’t spam them to try and get them to respond. With a higher quality list of leads made from an ideal buyer profile, you don’t need as many.

Not having as many people to email means that you can spend a little more time personalizing your message to them. Of course, you may have more or less time depending on several factors like:

  • The cost of your product (lower prices mean more leads)
  • B2C vs. B2B makes a big difference in the “who” you’re emailing
  • Longer buying cycles may mean a funnel needs more leads

If you are able to reach out to a few dozen leads a day, you’ll be able to spend 2-3 minutes on LinkedIn/Facebook doing a little bit of stalking.

Find out where they live and mention a landmark or climate. Favorite ball team, or other cultural reference and compare it to your own. Not too cheesy, just enough to get them thinking of a response they’d like to give.

Example: “How do you deal with the weather in [insert state/region]? It’s a lot different than here in Scottsdale.”

Practice #7: Come in Hot, Leave Cool

We already mentioned that you should state your business benefit strongly in the first line of your email.

Best Practices to Maximize Cold Email Responses (Beyond the Subject Line)

As you go through the remaining sentences, you’ll build rapport. The dialogue will become more personal and end up being tame, yet personal. The thing is, you always want to leave with a question.

That said, the question shouldn’t be salesy, it should be respond-y.

You don’t want their credit card number, but you do want them to convert in a way. It’s just a mini-conversion. They opened the email, that’s a conversion. They’ve read what you have to say and it’s time to ask for their response.

It’s this last line of the body that you really want to drive home with a relevant, but non-aggressive question.

Example: “What do your best dog grooming customers have in common?”

Practice #8: Remember Yourself

The message needs to be all about your target leads, but there is a great place to talk about you—the signature.

All of your emails should have a professional-looking signature attached to them. It should have ALL pertinent information about you, your business and possibly some social proof like a recent guest post for a prominent blog, or accreditation. Nothing else.

If you have a quote, please take it down. There may be some business model where it’s relevant, but no one needs to see a “not all who wander are lost” at the end of your email.

Here are the most common and essential elements:

  • Name (of course)
  • Title/Role
  • Company Name
  • Company Logo
  • Social Proof (e.g. “Check out my latest Huffpo piece on dog grooming business growth”)

Sans quote.

Best Practices to Maximize Cold Email Responses - guest post via @Jus10McGillClick To Tweet

Practice #9: One Last Thing (aka P.S.)

The postscript (p.s.) is the gem of a cold email.

Everyone reads it. Not because it’s there, but because they’re curious. Often times, it’s the first thing a person reads when they open the email. It get’s massive attention and should be the place where you give value.

HubSpot did a great post on the different ways to use the p.s. and you should check it out. The key point here is that it’s perfect for lack of a better phrase—click bait.

If you want a mini-conversion that could lead to a conversation, give your lead something they’ll want to click on and look at. If you do create a resource, this will be an ideal place to put it. If leads are interested at all, it’s often the link in the p.s. that gets them moving.

Practice #10: Have a Cadence (Fancy word for sequence)

One of the worst mistakes small business owners make when giving cold email a try is sending a batch or two and then saying, “Meh”. Entrepreneurs should love the idea of a cadence.

You’re working and possibly bootstrapping. That means you have to get all you can from the leads on your list and may not be able to afford only hitting them with one or two emails and giving up.

For anything to work, you have to keep at it. Email outreach is no different.

The first email isn’t going to get opened by the majority of your list. But that doesn’t mean you’ll never get them to open, let alone get their business. If you track your email metrics, you’ll be able to see who opens, who doesn’t, and who responds.

Each way a lead reacts requires a different response.

  • Those who don’t open get a few slightly different versions of your original email until they open or are put on hold for a while.
  • Leads that open but don’t respond can get a different message that shows them you’re paying attention (can be great for responses).
  • Those awesome people that respond get pulled from any automation so you don’t look like an idiot and send them another sales email.

Automating your outreach maximizes your response rate while helping you keep your sanity.

Test Everything

There they are. 10 best practices to help your response rate dramatically improve for cold email outreach. Run your current templates, or any new email through this gauntlet and you’ll likely have to rewrite them a few times.

After you come up with a great couple of emails, send each one to 200-300 leads and track everything that is pertinent to your outreach (open rate, click-through, response, etc.). If neither of those work as well as you’d expect, tweak.

Run each variation until you’ve filled your funnel with qualified leads and are having plenty of conversations about your product.


Author Bio:

Justin McGill is the Founder of LeadFuze, an outbound marketing and sales tool to help B2B companies have more sales conversations. See 25 Sample Leads for Free.

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