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The Do’s And Don’ts Of Cold Email Outreach: 16 Expert Tips

By News Creatives Authors , in Leadership , at September 8, 2021

Recipients of cold emails will often find their inboxes flooded with messages from sales representatives hawking products or services offered by companies they’ve never done business with before. But how often do they actually read them? Moreover, how often does a cold email result in a conversion, or even a warm lead? 

While it is all too easy to turn prospects off with cold emails, they can be effective at getting the attention of prospective customers and clients when done right. Here, 16 members of Forbes Communications Council share their top do’s and don’ts when it comes to cold outreach via email. See their tips below to wow your prospects with a message that inspires them to open the next cold email you send.

1. Do ‘Show ’Em You Know ’Em’

Cold emails work when we don’t come across as if we’re trying to make a sale. An effective approach is to “show ’em you know ’em.” Research their website, LinkedIn page, their company’s news—anything that can give you insights so you can connect in a meaningful, relevant way. Provide value on that first contact with a research report or article, for example, to build trust and credibility. Then build from there. – Viki Zabala, First Orion

2. Don’t Be Robotic And Sterile

Let your company identity and your personality shine when you are sending cold outreach emails. We crave human connection, so don’t be afraid to be real—be you and be conversational. Another “do” is to determine what the recipient’s pain point is. It’s best to give versus asking them to give you something. The more value you provide, the more likely they are to connect. – Ashleigh Powers, ADM Productions, Inc.

3. Do Find An Actual Contact

Cold emailing is the name of the game when reaching out to your target audience or potential client in many instances. The trick is to make it appear as though it is not a cold call. To impress them, my No. 1 tip would be to find an actual contact and do some research on the person by finding out their position in the company, for example, and any prominent news about them before emailing. Wait a week before following up. – Preity Upala, The Omnia Institute

4. Don’t Be Formulaic, Grandiose Or Hyperbolic

Cold emails drive me crazy. Formulaic ones with grandiose claims are instantly deleted and blocked. They’re just so superficially salesy. One exception? An introductory email articulating the value of a product or service without hyperbole, which I can review on my own timeline. Also, “Dear [insert name here]” with no tailored insights about my company is not personalization. – Michelle Stark, Red Sage Communications, Inc.


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5. Do Deliver Value Slowly Over Time

It’s okay to cold email if you are slow-rolling it. Make sure your list is exactly in your scope, then push out some value, but do it over time and slowly. Bring them along, and never be pushy. If you deliver value over time, they will interact when the timing is right on their end. You have to be patient. If you blow them up, you will get in trouble pretty quick. Don’t do that. – Stacy Gentile, Vengreso

6. Don’t Blast A Generic Message

Cold email can be extremely effective when done correctly, as can most marketing channels. Don’t simply blast a generic message to an email list. Use the information available about each recipient to target the content to what actually matters to the recipient. Remember, these prospects may not know your company, so don’t assume they know more than they do. And, of course, include a call to action. – Tom Wozniak, OPTIZMO Technologies, LLC

7. Do Pitch New Ideas Through Tailored Emails

Cold email outreach can yield some of the best results when pitching new ideas. A great way to successfully do so is by sharing a tailored, direct email that is relevant to what you are pitching and adds value for the recipient. On the other hand, don’t send a blanket email that is not targeted or perceived to be of value to the recipient, as that will almost always be quickly deleted. – Lynn Kier, Diebold Nixdorf

8. Don’t Come In Cold With An Ask

I do not recommend doing cold email outreach where you “ask” for something. If you have never engaged with the individual before, I suggest reaching out with something to offer. That can be anything from a chance to join a press briefing call you think they might be interested in to the opportunity to have a sit-down conversation. Don’t come in cold with an ask; come bearing gifts. – Dallas Lawrence, Roku

9. Do Make It Incredibly Creative

Whether or not to do cold email outreach is a case-by-case decision. If outreach is totally cold, do make it incredibly creative. Frankly, I’m surprised that most of these initial cold emails even make it through most companies’ spam filters. However, cold emails supported by research and personalization tend to work. But—and it’s a big but—the team has to do the work, and I’ve found that few teams do. – Mark Roberts, TPx Communications

10. Don’t Be Threatening Or Ugly

I get some very interesting cold emails. Some are very clever and have caught my eye, and I’ve followed up with them. The worst ones—the ones that I recommend you do not emulate—are the threatening, ugly ones that demand my time. They get an immediate delete. – Ingrid Burton, Quantcast

11. Do Identify A Strong Subject Line

Cold email outreach is a numbers game that is about trying to continuously improve your perceived value. It is important to have a personalized template, meaning that you base your email off of a predetermined framework, but personalize the message to show the reader that you thought about them. Identify a strong subject line, such as, “Quick Question” to gain interest, then A/B test and continuously measure your results. – Rob Russini, Hudson Heritage Federal Credit Union

12. Don’t Be Silly, Cute Or Fluffy

The effectiveness of cold email outreach depends entirely on what the email contains. Do not open a cold email with a short poem or joke incorporating your prospect’s name. Do not send across five paragraphs of fluff and then ask for 15 minutes of their time. Craft an email that addresses your target’s business challenges, then succinctly explain how your product is uniquely positioned to help. – Merrily McGugan, LogicMonitor

13. Do Imagine You’re Being Introduced At A Party

I like to imagine I’m at a party, being introduced to the person I’m emailing. What would I say to make them feel good about me and to get their attention? Using this imaginative approach makes it easier to write emails that are authentic and personal. It takes more work, because you have to research each person you are emailing, but it also pays off in much higher returns. – Dave Platter, Juwai IQI

14. Don’t Be Pushy Or Fail To Provide Significant Value

For a cold email, it’s important to provide significant value. This can be in the form of a complementary offer, relevant content (such as a recent study) or an offer to provide education on a new or interesting topic. Asking for 20 minutes of time with no differentiated offering and being pushy is not the best approach for this type of outreach. – Tom Treanor, Treasure Data

15. Do Send A Personalized Email From An Individual

Cold email can be an effective tactic as long as a few rules are followed. The communication needs to be relevant (meaning it understands a pain point and gets to the point fast), personalized and sent by an individual—ideally, someone at a similar level. A CEO is more apt to read an email from another C-suite executive or, even better, from someone they know. – Heidi Bullock, Tealium

16. Don’t Use A ‘Canned’ Template

When sending cold emails, make sure you do not use a “canned” email template. Take the time to customize the email so that it is really tailored to your audience and presents them with thoughtful insight into how you can work together. – Sherry Jhawar, Blended Strategy Group

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