June 3, 2024
June 5, 2024

Cold Email Best Practices Guide: 2024 Edition

I’ve been in the cold email game for a dozen years now. Trends come and go, but the core tenets of effective writing have remained largely the same.

I'm confident that these simple principles will increase your open rates and response rates, and lead to quality conversations. Don't confuse "simple" for "easy" though. Doing this well takes plenty of practice and takes time to master. 

The Prospecting Venn Diagram

Before we get into the elements of great emails, I have to issue a caveat. Effective writing can only come on the heels of deep research and understanding – of your accounts, your prospects, and your own product. If all you’re doing is trying to tweak subject lines and CTAs, you’re missing the forest for the trees. The goal is to develop meaningful relationships with your buyers. And to do that, you need to really understand them.

  1. Persona Knowledge. Way beyond what you get from a battlecard. You need to really understand what matters to the people you’re communicating with. Read what they read, attend the events they attend, follow the people they follow. Make sure you can speak their language, understand what their key responsibilities are, and know what metrics they’re accountable for. 
  1. Account Knowledge. Way beyond the industry they’re in and the number of employees they have. You need to know what’s top of mind for their leadership teams, where they’re placing bets for growth, and what challenges they’re likely to face. Speaking to these things is essential to breaking through the noise. 
  1. Personal Knowledge. Way beyond where they went to school or the type of car they drive. You need to understand people’s backgrounds as best you can to get a sense of what they care about and what they focus on now. Work experience and history can sometimes tell you more than their current title, so you need to dive in. And hey, if you happen to find a sports team they care about maybe that’ll come up in small talk down the line. Be thorough, but don’t be creepy. 
  1. Value Prop Knowledge. Way beyond what’s on your website. You need to really understand the deep pains your solution solves and why it matters to your target audience. Ask yourself “why?” five times when reasoning out your value props, and do this in the context of points 1-3 above. You’ll start to find more creative, more interesting angles to pursue and ways to present your solution. 

How’s that for a preamble! You thought you were getting cold email best practices, and now you’re getting lectured. Classic me. Let’s talk about The Checklist. 

The Cold Email Writing Checklist

I first published this back in 2021. What’s changed most? My penmanship writing on the iPad has greatly improved. 

The principles outlined here are largely the same. There’s one key thing I recommend changing based on 2024 data – keep reading to find out. 

Digging into Substance

Starting with the subject line. There are three main things someone sees when an email hits their inbox: the sender's name, the subject line, and the preview line. Nothing you can do about your name, so let's focus on optimizing the other two.

A 1-3 word subject lines which allows for ~18 words of the body to be seen. Make the most of this real estate, and maximize your odds of getting an open. Of course, I can't guarantee they'll respond. But I can guarantee they won't respond if they don't open the email in the first place. Have a look:

Moving along to Personalization in the first line. The word “personalization” is the most overused word in all of sales. I’d like to take this opportunity to change it to “Relevance in the first line.” Back to our Venn Diagram above, this is your moment to show some insight you have about them or their company, proving to them that you’ve done your homework. Don’t write a full essay here, we’re talking one or two lines. Brevity is key, as you see if you move further down the checklist.

Make sure you have a legitimate reason to reach out, and be specific about it. The best way to do this is in the "challenge & solution" format I touch on in the checklist. You'll see an example of that a bit further down, but for now, here are some compelling reasons to keep in mind.

So, Call out a challenge they face that’s associated with that relevance in the first line. What about realizing their corporate strategies will be particularly difficult? This may be something they already know, or it could be a new concept to them. Either way, it helps show that you both understand what matters to them as well as what the potential blockers are. 

This helps tee up A perspective on a better way. Show not only that you understand the problem, but that you have a solution to that particular problem. And if you can, make sure you communicate the value to them personally, not just the value to their company. Remember, you’re communicating to an individual who has their own priorities and emotions. 

Here’s the big change in 2024

The Interest based call-to-action has been overdone. The whole sales world switched to this, often with tortured triple negatives like “would it not be horribly offensive if you didn’t consider this idea?” Recipients got sick of it, and the preference has switched (back!) to a more direct ask for a meeting. So, instead of “Interested to learn more?” the guidance is to say something like “Free next week to discuss?”

Put it all together, and it looks something like this:

Hopefully you can track all the elements from the Substance section of the checklist. Let’s spend a minute talking about Style.

Digging into Style

It’s about them, and then it’s about me. But even when it’s about me, it’s focused on the solution for their company and for the individual. 

It’s plain language, no jargon about “getting a 360 degree view on your sales process” or any nonsense like that. Real words that real people would use in real life. It should sound conversational. In fact, it should be a script that you could use as a voicemail. If it sounds stuffy or formal, or if there are words you wouldn’t actually say – don’t use them. 

Put separate thoughts on separate lines. This does not mean that every sentence should be its own line. That gets monotonous and actually becomes harder to read. But weaving in the right amount of whitespace makes your email easy to scan and for the point to still come across. 

And it’s only 77 words! If you can somehow make it even shorter without compromising the power of the message, be my guest. But this email gets a 95 in Lavender, so I’m not going to sweat it too much. 

There you have it! Welcome to 2024, y’all. These are the best practices we use when we help design sequences for our customers. We’re seeing great results and we hope you do, too.

Copy.ai Can Help

Getting consistently excellent writing from your sales team is way easier said than done. Our customers rely on Copy.ai to codify their processes, learn from examples of "what good looks like," and ensure that best practices are being applied by every rep in every segment and geo.

We'll help your team construct purpose-built Workflows for doing deep account and contact research, connecting that research to value props, and turning all of that thinking into solid sales outreach.

Worth a call? Request a demo here and our team will be in touch.

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