8-Point Checklist to More Effective Cold Emails

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If you feel like your cold email outreach doesn’t bring you the results you expect from it, the first thing to check is the copy of your emails. To gain some new clients or business partners, you need to send well-written messages. What is a “well-written” cold email, though? Check the 8 questions you should ask yourself to identify the points of your cold email campaign that call for improvement.


This is a guest post by Cathy Patalas from Woodpecker.co. On her blog, Cathy writes about cold email practices that drive start-up growth by bringing new partnerships and deal opportunities.


#1. Is your message about you or about your prospect?

Many cold emails I see start like:

Hey, I’m Jane from Company XYZ. We offer this and this and that…


And that’s the point where most addressees stop reading.

If you want your addressee to reply to your email, you need them to read it all and find some genuine value in it. You need to draw their attention and make them genuinely interested in what you have to say.

That’s difficult, since you’re a perfect stranger to them. Telling them your name at the very beginning of your message doesn’t change that. If you start your email this way, they don’t get any piece of information they can refer to. At first glance, they cannot see anything relevant to them in your email.

If your opening message starts like this, it’s time to change the introduction for something that’s not about you and your company, but about your prospect and their company instead. Make a comment on something you found on their website, blog or Twitter. Refer to something they care about. Next, smoothly pass on from the intro to a relevant pitch.

#2. Is your message longer than 5 sentences?

As soon as you stop writing about yourself and start writing about them, it will be easier to make your emails short and concise.

I know you can probably think of at least seven possible pain points your solution is going to relieve, but don’t try to squeeze all of them in a single message. “It saves time, it saves money, it increases productivity, it’s easy to use, etc.”

Instead of writing a list, focus on one specific benefit your prospect will be interested in, and form your message around that. Remember that you have follow-up messages to try different angles.

#3. Does your message feel like it’s been sent to this particular addressee?

This question is actually connected with the previous two. An intro that will make your prospects read further has to be personalized. A concise and relevant message can be created if you previously researched your group of prospects – you know who they are, what they care for, what they struggle with.

It’s crucial to define the reason why you decided to reach out to them. Cold email should NOT be a leaflet you drop into your prospect’s inbox just in case.

We paint houses. You’ve got a house, so maybe you need painting?” – that’s a leaflet. No doubts about that.

The same goes with:

I saw your website. We do web design; maybe you want us to redesign your website? (Plus, here’s a list of services we offer considering web development…)

Sounds familiar?

Email leaflets are spam. Everyone gets too many leaflets every day. No one wants any more leaflets. If you really want to start a relation with your prospects, you need to show them why you chose them as your addressees and what they can actually gain by contacting you. They need personal, dedicated approach.

#4. Are all the parts of your message logically connected?


Starting with the ‘From’ line of your email, ending on the signature – your message should be coherent and make perfect sense. Make sure the subject line promises interesting content. Make sure the content keeps up to the promise of the subject line. Adjust the intro to your prospect and then make a link between the intro and your value proposition. Link all the elements together. End up with a relevant CTA.

#5. Does your message tell the addressee what the expected next step is?

That’s crucial. In the intro you tell them why you reached out to them. In the pitch you show them what you’ve got. And at the end of your message, in the call to action, you need to tell them exactly what you expect from them as a next step.

Ask them a simple question, like:

Are you available for a 30-minute Skype on Tue or Wed morning?”

Tell them what to do, for instance:

If you’re interested, drop me a line.

The more specific you are, the less effort will they have to put in planning and deciding on what to do next. That’s convenient for both sides, as you’ll both know what to expect from each other. Give them some directions so that the process of forming a relation follows the right path.

#6. Does your message sound like an email from a friend or from a salesperson?

A simple test to check that is to read your email out loud to yourself. You know how TV or radio commercials sound like, right? If your email sounds like a commercial, packed with too many adjectives and adverbs in superlative form, it’s a sign you should work on your copy.

Cold emails are not supposed to sell your product. They are supposed to start a relation with a potential customer or partner – which may in turn lead to a deal. But don’t try to sell your product within a single email because that’s a waste of your time and a terrible influence on your prospects’ nerves.

#7. Is your message original or is it a “most effective template” taken from someone else?

Templates created by cold email gurus are not supposed to be directly pasted into your messages and sent as your own emails. Firstly, you’re not the only person who could use those templates. If a lot of people send the same cold emails, the addressees are getting annoyed and frustrated.

Such templates are not personal (even if they include some personalization info). They may sound generic and flat to people who get dozens of cold emails each day. And if you really want your addressees to give a crap about you, you need to show them that you give a crap about them. ‘Copy, paste, and send’ does not demonstrate that you actually care.

Use the available templates to get some inspiration for your own email copy. But use phrases and tone characteristic to you and relevant to your group of prospects. Be human. Try to start a real conversation.

#8. Does your campaign include follow-ups?

If you send just one message to each of your prospects, you’re really missing a lot from the power of cold email outreach. Follow-ups are a must if you think of a truly effective cold email campaign. Follow-ups show that you care enough to ask more than once if they’re interested.

Follow-up messages bring replies from those who had too much on their plate to respond right away, as well as from those who intentionally waited till you show them your real interest. Follow-ups increase reply rates dramatically. So if you feel like you don’t get enough replies, work on your copy, and make sure you follow up equally well.

I always try to follow the 8 rules creating my own cold email outreach. Here’s a template I used to invite some experts for interviews considering our app Woodpecker.co. I got 50% response rate to this one:


Final words

Hope this 8-point checklist will help you improve the effectiveness of your cold email outreach. Even the best prepared cold email campaigns require constant testing and improvement. Don’t be afraid of that. Just keep in mind your prospects, be emphatic and try to initiate relations valuable to both sides.

Cathy Patalas
Cathy is Marketing Manager at Woodpecker.co. She's learned a lot about outbound email outreach, and is still learning. See other articles by Cathy on blog.woodpecker.co, and follow @woodpeckerapp on Twitter to get best cold email practices.