What is a Cold email: definition, uses, and tips

To sell a product or service, it’s essential to use a complex approach that will help spread information and get prospective buyers to go further and learn more about your offer. Having determined the target audience, you need to think over the channels that allow delivering data right into users’ hands. And when making a plan of action, don’t forget cold emails as they are one of the most productive means.

What is a cold email?

In short, a cold email is an initial email you send to a potential customer without prior contact. The notion of “cold emails” may bring to mind “cold phone calls.” Although the concepts seem very much alike, in reality, emails are much less obtrusive.

Cold email vs. spam

You may wonder if cold emails may be referred to as spam? Not always. First, you address your target audience, who may be interested in the provided data. Unlike bulk emailing, cold email is more targeted, personalized, sent from a professional account, and includes neither false nor prohibited content. 

Check our blog article on how to avoid spam filters when sending out cold emails to new leads.

Cold email vs. spam

Why is cold emailing important?

These days it is hardly possible to find a person who doesn’t have an online mailbox. Not a surprise the worldwide email traffic has reached 333 billion emails a day, and the number continues to grow.

But what makes cold emailing so popular? Here are some of the uses for cold emails:

  • Lead generation: This is the most common reason for cold emailing. 89% of marketers use email as the primary channel for lead generation. All you need is just the email addresses of prospects in your target market.
  • Sales: Cold emailing is commonly used as the first step in sales outreach when a sales representative tries to build contact with a potential customer.
  • Invitation: If you’re doing a podcast, having a workshop, or a webinar, inviting people by cold emailing can help build a productive relationship with your audience.
  • Market research: You might need to identify the pain points of your target market or validate your startup idea. Cold emailing is one of the ways of doing your research.
  • Hiring: People you need might be working for someone else but looking for other opportunities. LinkedIn and email are the best ways to contact them.

How to write a cold email that converts: actionable tips

It’s not easy to stand out above others when attempting to promote your business. The probability that users will open an email from an unknown sender isn’t too high. Still, there are many ways that can help you design a good cold email that will draw recipients’ attention and make them read the contents. 

Below you will find useful tips that can help you compose an email that will have a viable chance to be opened.

Go over the mailing list

Your email list should include only those contacts who may be interested in your offer. Make use of lead generation techniques: detect users who once visited your website and, say, subscribed to newsletters or filled in the request form. Then, add them to your list. These people already have a clear idea about your product or service and may find it interesting.

Browse forums or social media like LinkedIn to see who left comments and asked questions about your business. For bulk email search and verification, use professional tools like Snov.io.

email finder

Mind your cold email structure

While preparing your cold email, ensure each element is present and elaborated. Let’s go through the email structure in detail for you to keep everything organized.

Element 1. Sender name

Your email “From” name is the first thing a recipient sees when opening their inbox. And with 42% of people claiming they check the sender name first to decide whether to open an email, it should instill trust and look solid. 

Sender name

To make yourself look trustworthy enough to convince the recipient, you can do a few things: 

Establish a direct association with your company or product

This will be an instant reminder of what the cold email is about. You can use your personal name, but don’t use it alone. Some of the most popular combos are:

  • Holly from [Company Name]
  • Kele at [Company Name]
  • [Company Name] [Department]
  • [Company Name]

Keep the sender name short

Most mobile devices and computers only display up to 30 characters. Anything longer will be cut off, and your clients simply won’t see it.

Don’t change the sender name (too often)

It may confuse recipients and damage the trust you’ve gained. If you absolutely have to, it’s better to switch between the options we’ve offered above, saving the logical link with the company’s name. 

Don’t send sales emails from a “no-reply” address

No-reply should be used strictly for transactional, verification, change-your-password emails, and the like. Your email “From” address is your lead’s only means of contacting you after the cold email. Leave it open for communication.

Make sure the sender name is similar to the sender email address

This should go without saying, but make sure your cold email from Kate is not sent from mitchel@company.com address. 

Consider using a generic sender name

Generic email “From” names like Team [Company] perform better, as the click-to-open and the click-through rates are 26% and 38% higher compared to emails with personalized sender names.  

Element 2. Subject line

A cold email subject line affects your open rate the most, with 35% of email recipients claiming they open emails based on the subject line alone.

Subject line

There are a couple of ways you can create the best subject lines for cold emails. Here’s how:

Keep the subject line short

Don’t forget about mobile optimization – for example, iPhones cut off subject lines over 32 characters. Subject lines under 10 words show a better open rate (0-5 words – 16%, 6-10 words – 21%). Besides, millennials (who are dominating all industries right now) have an attention span below 2 seconds, so make sure your subject line can catch their attention within this time frame.

Keep the subject line relevant to the email content

If the subject line doesn’t reflect the message inside, it can be seen as misleading. So, if you need to combine multiple points in one email, find a common thread to include in the subject line.

Double-check personalization

62% of emails are opened because of personalized subject lines. Add personalization variables to your email subject lines, and always have a plan B in place. For example, in case there’s no name associated with the recipient’s address, add replacement words (like “there” in a “Hey [[NAME]_replacement],” turning it into “Hey there”).

Use the most important words in the beginning

Start with the most significant information so your recipients can see it on any device. 

Add power and trigger words

Power words trigger an emotional response in people. You can find more in our list of emotional trigger words and phrases that can help your cold email convey an emotion easier and convert faster.

Never bait or give false promises

Creating a clickbait email subject line might boost the open rate, but it will also increase your spam report rate. Don’t play with people’s trust.

Don’t use capitalization

This is a rather old and ineffective way to stand out in the recipient’s inbox. A capitalized subject line, or even a part of it, will look unprofessional and spammy, especially in B2B communication.

Try using emojis

It has been proven that emojis in email subject lines increase the open rate, but only if they fit in. It’s a good idea to use emojis for specific mailings, like the ones dedicated to holidays. However, always make sure emojis will be met positively by your target audience.

Don’t start a sentence that will be finished in the email body

Though it may seem intriguing, people prefer not to receive such emails. They try to minimize the time it takes them to check their emails and use subject lines to evaluate whether an email is relevant.

Avoid spam trigger words

To pass through spam filters, make sure your cold email subject line doesn’t contain spam trigger words. We have collected the list of 550+ spam trigger words, so you can check which ones are better not to use.

Element 3. Preheader

Preheader is a piece of text visible right after the subject line in your inbox or at the top of the email template when the message is opened. It’s usually either left unused or wildly underused. But by experimenting and optimizing the preheader text, open rates can be boosted by 45%.


Let’s investigate the preheader best practices:

Don’t leave it blank

Or else it will be replaced with content on top of the message. It may also stay blank, taking away an opportunity to show something more than just a subject line to a recipient who is still deciding whether to open your email.


Keep it short

Preheader length varies depending on the OS, device, the length of the subject line, etc. Generally, it should be between 40-130 characters long. However, most mobile devices only display up to 55 characters

Don’t repeat yourself

Both the cold email subject line and the preheader will be displayed side by side. Use this space to tell more about the email and intrigue the recipient. 

Continue the subject line idea

One email, one goal. If your subject line is about inviting the recipient to a conference, your preheader should confirm it, not introduce a completely different offer.

Insert a call-to-open

Make sure both your cold email subject line and preheader engage the prospect to open an email.

Element 4. Greeting

Greetings set the tone for further communication, so never omit them in your cold emails. To write professional greetings, consider the following: 

Consider the relationship with recipients

Know your audience. If your prospects are old-school business people, they will hardly appreciate familiarity. At the same time, professionals in their 20s can be bored into inaction by a “Dear Sir or Madam.”

Don’t use gendered language

Banned by top firms, gendered salutations like “Dear Sirs” can be petty, exclusive, and offensive. Besides, they show you didn’t do your research. The gender-neutral language will let you come across as polite and avoid any mishaps in addressing the prospect. 

Personalize your greeting

While this shouldn’t be the only personalized element of your email, mentioning the recipient’s name in the very beginning will show them that you know who you’re talking to. But do double-check the name of the person you’re addressing no to pay for a tiny mistake with a good potential client gone.

Don’t use exclamations

Too many exclamations might come across as overwhelming. It’s better to use one in your email body instead of the greeting. 

Best greeting ideas

It’s impossible to choose the actual best greeting that will suit any person in any position. So have a look at the table of the most popular greetings and select one that suits your cold email best. 


Element 5. Body 

Here are some pieces of advice that can help you write a persuasive copy:

Adjust your language and tone

Use the professional email language. If you know you are writing to an experienced CEO, try to avoid colloquialisms and slang acronyms. Hardly any business person will be happy to see such an email from a potential partner. Just look at the example below:

Cold email example

Keep it short

The best cold email length is between 50 and 125 words. Our advice is to make your emails a one-minute read. Try to stick to email marketing statistics and don’t make your copy longer than 250 words. In addition, you can conduct an A/B test to find out what email length works for you. 

Get to the point quickly

Don’t write unnecessary long introductory parts. Quickly get to the things that are of greatest value to the recipients. 

Avoid spam trigger words

Spam words are the things to avoid as they decrease email deliverability and open rates. Spam detection mechanisms use smart algorithms that track everything about you and your email, including SMTP server information, domain information, links, pictures, and more.

Personalize emails

No doubt, if you don’t want your cold email to look like spam, take advantage of personalization. Personalized emails show six times higher performance rates, but many companies fail to use them.

Add a bit of color

Every color has its influence on people, calls them to do a certain action, and evokes feelings. Learn the psychology of colors in email marketing and design emails like a pro. You can use:

  • red for CTA;
  • yellow and orange to provide a sense of cheapness;
  • green to soothe readers;
  • or purple to create a sense of luxury and creativity.

Too many colors look like a mess; two are enough: one color – for the text itself (or the background) and another one  – for the CTA to attract attention to the most important spot of the text. 

Emdil drips

Choose the font

Times New Roman? Courier New? Or probably Arial? When it comes to the font, it’s better to stick to the classics or conduct an A/B test to find out which one your recipients are more favorable towards. 

Here’s the list of 10 email web safe fonts that are the most popular and widely used (the list was kindly provided by Stripo):

Email font

Of course, you can create your corporate font and make your emails stand out in the recipients’ inbox. But be careful with them and check if they are displayed correctly in every ESP and on every device. Unfortunately, web fonts are not supported by most ESPs; the exceptions are:

  • AOL mail
  • iOS Mail
  • Apple Mail
  • Android (default mail client, not Gmail app)
  • Outlook 2000
  • Outlook.com app

If you still decide to use your corporate or web font, make sure you’ve chosen the best fallback typeface (the one that will be displayed in the ESP if it can’t display your font). 

Element 6. Call-to-action

Call-to-action (CTA) is a word or a word combination used to create an immediate response. As a rule, this significant part of an email is placed in the end. It provokes readers to click on it and, as a result, get what they want. Some of the examples include “Click here,” “Buy now,” and “Subscribe.” 

Here are a few tips for creating an effective CTA:

Write one CTA

Two or more CTAs drive the recipients from the main goal, confuse them, and make them less eager to click. Emails with a single CTA can increase clicks by 371% and sales by 1617%.

Keep it short

To write “Subscribe now. Read more. Download for free” in one CTA button isn’t the best idea, as it will be either extremely large or unreadable because of the small font.

Use large fonts

Make the CTA visible and easy to read and click.

Make it stand out

If the whole email is in blue, then use red for CTA. It will stand out and attract readers’ attention. 

Address a recipient

Add the possessive pronoun “your,” e.g., “Download your ebook.”

Create a sense of urgency

Persuade the prospects to click right now, not in a day or two, e.g., “Download your ebook now.” 

Use the rounded CTA button with italicized text

The rounded button won’t improve the CTR but can reduce the unsubscribe rate by 25%.

Email verifier

Element 7. Sign-off

Sign-off (or you can call it simply a farewell) is the conclusion of an email. This particular piece of any message bears and expresses the desire for further seeing, cooperation, and gratitude. 

According to HuffPost, the most popular sign-offs are:

  •  Thanks (62%)
  •  Name or initials (46%) 
  • Sincerely (44%) 
  • Love (28%) 
  • Regards (22%). 

The most annoying sign-off is “peace” (21%). 

Look through the list of sign-offs you can use for your cold email. Choose any of them with definite recipients in mind.


Here are some tips for writing the best sign-off:

Stay professional

Mince the words. Think about whether you would be happy to see “CU soon” in the sign-off from a business partner or a subscriber. Write the words you believe to be professional and avoid colloquialisms, slang, and taboos. 

Avoid caps and exclamation marks

They convey the idea of being shouted at. 

Don’t use emojis

Though emojis in the subject line can increase the open rate, in the sign-off, they are out of place. They are unprofessional and informal. 

Element 8. Signature

An email signature is the closing part of an email that provides the recipient with your personal information: name, business phone number, email address, website URL, or social network links. More than half of marketers use a signature in their emails (52%). 

Tips for writing a prominent signature:

Keep colors simple

The simpler, the better. No cacophony of colors.

Stick to 7 lines

Fewer lines won’t provide the prospects with full information about you. More lines will be too cluttered. 

Add your photo

Emails with photo signatures gain 32% more replies than those without it as they prove you are a reliable person.

Provide your company information

The company name and website are enough.

Include social network icons

Prove that you are a real person with personal pages (or, what is even better, with working professional pages).

Make sure the recipients have the opportunity to not get any emails from you in case the email doesn’t correspond to their needs. Not giving subscribers a way to opt out is guaranteed to land the sender on the spam list very fast. 

Tips to make a good unsubscribe link/button:

Use a clear language

Ensure your unsubscribe button or link is not confusing or difficult to understand. Doing so can be a CAN-SPAM violation.

Don’t hide an option to unsubscribe

Your unsubscribe button or link should be visible to email recipients. As a rule, it is located in the email footer and contains a clearly visible hyperlink.

Unsubscribe link

Don’t ask to log in to unsubscribe

Unsubscription should be easy – one to two simple clicks away. It is unprofessional to ask email recipients to log in and, this way, gate the unsubscription process.

Element 10. Attachments

It is not a necessary element of a cold email. However, if you need one, make sure you’re doing it the right way. 


Attaching a video in an email can increase CTR by up to 300%. Using videos, you can easily attract prospects, catch their attention, and gain respect. With visual support, people will grasp the information much faster. 

You can either attach them or paste a link in the email body. In both cases, it will be displayed correctly. Other ways out are a GIF, a picture with a link to your YouTube channel, or a cinemagraph. 


Pictures can be used as an alternative to videos. The advantages of images are simple: a human brain conceives visual information 60,000 times faster than a textual one, and it makes plain text look better.

But pictures can make you lose: some ESPs don’t display them by default, and spam filters may activate if you use too many images. It’s up to you whether to insert pictures, but if you’ve made up your mind to use them, these pieces of advice might come in handy:

  • don’t attach too many images; one is enough;
  • be ready with a fallback text in case the image doesn’t display in the recipients’ ESP;
  • create your own images for the email campaign (you can try such free services as Canva or Crello).

Links are an easy way to improve CTR and increase your cold email conversion rates. This is why every marketer should include them in their emails. Using links, you push customers to click on them, go to your website, and make a deal. 

But don’t think that lots of links in the text will lead you directly to success. The more links you insert into the cold email, the higher the chance the email will land in the Spam folder instead of inbox, and the more suspicious the email is to ESP.

Decide how you will send emails

Although this step has nothing to do with actual mail-creating, still, this is an important aspect that should be carefully thought out.

In case you prefer to make it on your own, make sure you are not going to exceed the limit set by your Internet provider. Another important point is to check that the recipients won’t see other addresses. Unlike bulk mailing, your message should be truly personalized.

Check out available mailing services. Choose among the variety of free and paid tools. Some of them offer useful features that can significantly simplify the task: tracking open rates, link clicks, etc. We have made a short comparison of the most popular drip mailing tools

Wrapping up

Being a part of email marketing, cold email outreach allows developing and expanding customer base. 

Now you know how to write a cold email to potential clients and call yourself a professional cold email marketer. You can compose the best cold email subject lines that will improve your open rate, greet people in a professional way, add well-performing CTAs that improve the CTR, say a professional good-bye, and have the best email signature. 

And if you need to automate your email sending, such tools as Snov.io email drip campaigns will do it for you with enviable ease. 

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