What I've Learned from Hundreds of Cold Emails, Received and Sent

Cold Emails - Violeta Nedkova's Blog

There was a time I was cold-emailing like crazy. It was for a collaboration, so naturally, people were more prone to say yes. But it wasn't just about the collaborations aspect. After all, let's remember that these people didn't know me.

Another thing that compelled me to write this is the fact that I've been getting a lot of cold emails lately. And - get this - they all kind of suck. Have people forgotten how to do this? It sure seems so. But I don't want YOU to fall in this trap so...

Let's look at the anatomy of a GREAT cold email.

Part 1: The Warm Intro

It may be a cold email but the intro must be warm.

I'm not talking about compliments and butt-kissing. I'm talking R.E.S.P.E.C.T. 

I usually start with showing the person that I know what they're about and that I've read or bought or faved their stuff. And I do it in ONE SENTENCE.

On the contrary, a bad cold email would:

  • start with the intro to their product;
  • start with a name of a person I *sort of* know;
  • jump right into "the ask" without warm-up.

When you rush over to the punchline or don't tell me WHY you've contacted me, it makes me feel like: a) you've sent this same email to 1000 other people and b) you have no respect for what I do and you probably don't know what it is.

Part 2: Use names & details.

I'll never forget the one time I sent a cold email and they replied it was obviously a generic template I sent to a hundred other people. It wasn't!!!

When I went back to the email, I saw the glaring problem - there were no names and no details. For example, I said "loved your book", but didn't add the title. Everything was super vague and could have been true for a lot of people. So if you can include something like, "I loved your latest post about [topic] and your course [name] was a life saver" (or something even better), it would not render the same result as mine. 

Part 3: Don't forget anything!

There's nothing more frustrating than someone asking you for something and forgetting to include the link to the thing. You want me to check it out? Do I have to look for it in your signature? Is it even in your signature?! I have even ignored emails from friends because they totally buried the lead. (Please don't judge me, I'm busy.)

Bottom line is, you're not supposed to make it hard for me. You're not even supposed to make me think - which is a rather popular title of a book about User Experience by Steve Krug. The moment you make them think, you've lost them.

Part 4: What's in it for me?

I get too many emails that make no sense whatsoever. You get in touch, tell me about your product or project, and you expect me to get excited and share. However, you've missed one little detail - what you're offering has nothing to do with what I do or who I am or my marketing strategy - which is utterly obvious on my website.

If you want my attention, you need to show me HOW this benefits me and my target audience. Which would mean you have checked what I'm about and who they are exactly. What most people do is write up an email that is novel-length and all about them. Can you guess what I do with those emails? I don't answer them.

P.S. Check out this cold email Noah Kagan got once. It's pretty creative.

Part 5: Keep it brief.

It should go without saying, but sending a Kafka-length DM on twitter or cold email and expecting them to read it all and respond quickly is a no-no.

In fact, this one time I got into an argument with a man, who kept nudging me to answer his email and get this - HE DID NOTHING to help me out. He wrote a long, narcissistic kind of email, then he acted like I was wasting his time, and he didn't even get my name right. What was that I said about respect in the beginning? Yeah...

Part 6: An Extra Zing

This is what a lot of people get right - that extra zing. 

When you send a cold email, you have to warm it up first. Some people do it with compliments, some use bribery, but it is best to do it with ENTHUSIASM.

If you're not excited about your project, how do you expect me to be?

Passion shows in words. I have learned this from many years of blogging. I can immediately tell who's passionate about their craft and who's forcing it. Same goes for emails. Your passion will drip in your words and translate into my ears.

Don't forget this vital component. Show me you care, so I can, too.

Part 7: The CTA

You would not believe how many times I've gotten an email without a CTA. I get things like "have you seen this" and "we're launching" all the time, but there's either no call-to-action at the end (or anywhere) or it's buried in a wall of text.

If you're cold-calling, you want something. Make it abundantly clear what you want and make me want to help you. It's like any other piece of marketing text - email, blog, sales page - without a call-to-action at the end, there will be no action.

In conclusion,

Those are obvious things, but sometimes we get a bit carried away and stuck in our own heads, especially when the reason we're reaching out matters to us.

I get it.

The number of times I've totally missed the point or miscalculated is so high that it's funny. But those are learning experiences. Mistakes make us better.

Happy cold emailing, my friend!

Warm those babies up.

P.S. Le CTA:

Share your cold email faux-pas in the comments.


Violeta Nedkova

Violeta Nedkova is a multipassionate marketer who loves helping people. She talks and writes about marketing with purpose and personality because it's so much better than traditional marketing.