Writing a compelling cold email is not as easy as it seems. Every line is important and should hook your prospects in. Fortunately, there are powerful formulas you can use to structure your copy and improve the cold email reply rates.
This article, as well as the ebook, have been put together by our team of marketing specialists combining their years of unique experience in email marketing with the best techniques and strategies from professionals all over the world.
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Personal Approach or AIDA
ATTENTION • INTEREST • DESIRE • ACTION
Let’s start with probably the most common copywriting model – AIDA, which focuses on a specific reader. Using this formula your email will become more personal and recipient-centered. Moreover, AIDA-based email won’t look like a blast, but like a friendly offer from one person to another.
These are the AIDA elements:
Attention – Catch the prospect’s attention with the subject line or opening sentence. Analyze your target audience to identify what can get them to notice you.
Interest – Now that you have your target audience’s attention, appeal to their professional or personal interest. Highlight their pain points. Make it all about your prospect, not you.
Desire – List all the benefits you offer, describe their value. Stimulate desire by deploying social proof, scarcity effect, exclusivity, or telling how your offer would change your prospect’s life.
Action – Seeing that you have caught your lead’s attention, piqued their interest and built desire for your offer, it’s time to end your email by asking for a specific action. Be exact in your instructions and don’t confuse them with multiple options.
Let’s take a look at an example of the AIDA formula in action:
Notice the brevity of this email. It perfectly illustrates the one thing you should remember about cold emails – making your email as short as possible increases the chances of the recipient reading it in full. Speaking of brevity, let’s check out the next formula.
Get to the Point or BBB
BRIEF • BLUNT • BASIC
The shorter, the better. People appreciate brevity and simplicity. Leave out all the unnecessary adjectives and don’t go around in circles. Build your BBB email according to these principles:
Brief – Keep it as short as possible. It was found that shorter emails result in faster response time.
Blunt – Cut right to the point. Lay out what you have to offer and why it might be useful or helpful.
Basic – Keep it simple. Don’t use overly elaborate words or sentence constructions. Bear in mind the person you’re writing this email to.
Don’t ask for an appointment or beat around the bush. This cold email formula produces the shortest email letters, so every word has to bring something of value.
Your email should look something like this:
In about 40 words we managed to express that we are aware of our prospect’s main pain point, introduced ourselves and what we do and inspired the prospect to take action. Nothing extra.
Create An Image or BAB
BEFORE • AFTER • BRIDGE
The BAB formula is designed to make a specific offer that appeals to the needs and desires of your recipient:
Before – Describe a challenge your prospect faces. Make sure to only list the problems and consequences that your product or service can reduce or solve.
After – Show them how awesome the future without this problem could be. If you have specific stats or numbers – use them.
Bridge – Explain how your product or service can help them reach that future.
For maximum effect, write one short paragraph for each element of the formula. Don’t forget about a call to action either.
This formula is a big hit among cold emails. It works because it is based on the Freudian pleasure principle, according to which humans are instinctively seeking for pleasure and avoiding the pain. These are the two main things that motivate people to act.
Take a look at the example:
By using the BAB formula you will transform your product-focused copy into a benefit-focused one appealing to your prospects and making them convert.
Pain Points or PAS
PROBLEM • AGITATE • SOLVE
Similarly to the BAB formula, the PAS formula is based on determining a unique pain point. But instead of giving a vision of the glittering future free of this problem, you are pouring salt on the wound. It goes like this:
Problem – Identify a sore point.
Agitate – Hammer home the severity of this problem by going into the specifics of it. Reinforce your statement with examples, personal experience or links to sources that prove it.
Solve – At this stage, you should be the hero who has a solution to the problem.
The PAS formula works because pain is a greater motivator than pleasure. People are more likely to take action to avoid possible negative consequences than doing something for positive gain. Causing the recipient to imagine how their problem could get worse or affect other aspects of their life will motivate them to look for a solution.
Here’s this formula in action:
The Problem and Agitate elements have to stir just enough frustration in your prospect to push them to action. Just make sure the Solve element resolves them completely – never agitate your prospect with a problem your product or service doesn’t solve.
It’s All About The Question or QVC
QUESTION • VALUE PROPOSITION • CALL TO ACTION
Did you know that starting your email with a question helps attract the recipient’s attention? It is also recommended to keep your cold email between 3 and 5 sentences. If you don’t know how to manage this complex task, use the helpful QVC formula below.
Question – No need for introduction. Instead, go straight to the point and lead in with a question closely related to your offer and the recipient’s problem.
Value Proposition – Communicate your core message and try to highlight what makes you stand out from everyone else.
Call To Action – The final point of your email should be strong. Use a closing call to action that elicits a response.
Just like the BBB formula, QVC is supposed to be concise and strong. Pay attention to every word. Let’s take a look at this formula as an email:
This is one of the most effective formulas that hook your prospect in from the very start. Try to make your email sound relaxed – more like a friendly recommendation, less like a desperate attempt to get attention.
Be Nice or PPP
PRAISE • PICTURE • PUSH
The PPP formula works because, once again, psychology is at play: being praised, even by the people you don’t know, releases dopamine and, as a result, improves your mood.
Praise – Open up by genuinely praising your prospect in some way. Receiving a compliment activates the same pleasure centers as receiving money. It’s a compelling scene starter for your email.
Picture – Build a cause-and-effect sequence to clearly show how your product or service can help your prospect. When you explain cause and effect, prospects trust you and your arguments more.
Push – Fuel their curiosity by giving a taste of your offer, but don’t go into detail on all the benefits. Provide just enough information to excite the prospect’s interest and push them to action.
Here’s an example of an email we’ve created with this formula:
A common mistake we’ve seen many marketers make with this formula is not putting enough effort and research into the Praise element.
It’s the main element of this formula that affects your prospect’s decision the most. Make sure it’s a genuine compliment highlighting a real, specific, and important achievement, not empty praise.
Do not overpraise either – point out just one or two things that make your prospect stand out to keep the human touch without sounding too salesy.
Star of the Show or SCH
STAR • CHAIN • HOOK
This SCH formula was originally designed as an advertising message. Its elements are similar to those of AIDA formula, but the key parts are more distinctive and specific. Your steps are as follows:
Star – Introduce the star of the show – your idea, service or product. Make your opening positive and catchy.
Chain – Provide a series of strong facts, advantages, and reasons why your star will improve your recipient’s life. This part is intended to turn the recipient’s attention into interest and then into desire.
Hook – Catch them with a powerful call to action.
The chain is the element you should focus on. It should provide enough information to support your star and hook. This could be unique data, trusted sources, testimonials, case studies or significant use cases. Here’s how it works:
What makes this formula great is that it allows for a lot of creativity in your copy, so it’s perfect for experimenting with new unconventional ideas.
For better conversions add info about any current discounts or offers that will convince your prospect to act faster.
Stir Their Feelings or SSS
STAR • STORY • SOLUTION
SSS is a short character-focused formula with the following elements:
Star – Introduce the star of your story. It can be you or your prospect, as well as your idea, product, service or new feature.
Story – In this paragraph talk about the problem the star faces. Keep your story coherent and captivating.
Solution – Describe what turned out to be a winning situation for the star.
There is no need to be too dramatic with your story. Just try to identify your prospects’ problems and stir their feelings. This will make your solution stand out. The SSS formula will translate into an email in the following way:
If you don’t have a lot of experience as a copywriter, test your final copy on your coworkers and get their feedback on the Story element to make sure it’s convincing and genuine enough.
Let Them Go or BYAF
BUT YOU ARE FREE
The BYAF is a very simple but extremely effective compliance-gaining technique.
To bring it into action you just need to state that a prospect is free to refuse your offer or request. Its persuasive efficiency has been proven by 42 independent psychological studies on more than 22.000 participants.
The fact is that by recognizing the target audience’s freedom to say “no” you double your chances to receive an affirmative response and grow your response rate overall.
Yes, it’s really as easy as that!
The BYAF formula is very easy – your email can be structured any way, as long as you add the But You Are Free element:
This is the formula we ourselves use most often. It doesn’t require much planning or structure – the BYAF element takes away the objection that is automatically stirred in any prospect receiving a cold email as it takes off any pressure to respond or act on your offer. It also makes you come across friendlier in the eyes of the prospect, which is always an advantage.
The Classic or RDM
THE READER’S DIGEST MODEL
This model is based on John Caples’ study of the structure of the Reader’s Digest articles from his classic book Tested Advertising Methods.
According to him, the best articles all have a couple of things in common:
- They are fact-packed
- They are specific
- There are few adjectives
- They are telegraphic
- They arouse curiosity
Make sure your email checks all the boxes. This formula is what you could call an oldie but a goodie. Here’s how it can be used for cold emailing:
These elements are exactly the qualities any email marketer will name when describing a good email copy. Make sure to top it off with a great CTA or an open question that will push the recipient to respond.
Choose your formula
Cold emails are difficult, but you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Use these 10 tried and true formulas to transform your cold emails into meaningful messages that generate leads and build stronger relationships with prospects.
In my opinion, the best formula you should try is P(roblem)-A(gitate)-S(olve). It is short enough, lets you communicate your message in a few words, and is problem-solving. Try your favorite formulas in practice: register on Snov.io and receive 100 unique Email Drip Campaign recipients for free.
Have you tried any of these before? Which one do you think converts best? Share your thoughts in the comments below!