A guest article from Andrew Lowen, CEO of Next Level Web.

Cold emails – we all dread sending them.

No one wants to see them in their inbox, and no one wants to read them, right? We know that if we send an unsolicited email to a prospect, the said prospect is going to shake their heads and instantly press “delete.”

Actually, that’s not quite true.

Sure, the average conversion rate is just 0.5%, and sure some prospects will shake their heads, shove their fist into their mouth and instantly delete your cold email …

… But only if you do it wrong.

Like with everything in life, there’s a right and a wrong way to write cold emails. If you get it right, you could end up with conversion rates that reach an insane 86% – just like these guys.

And these guys.

Oh, and these guys, too.

Because businesses kind of have to send cold emails out (it’s one of the best ways to warm new customers up), let’s take a look at how to write effective cold emails.

Deliver an Awesome Subject Line

First impressions are literally everything where cold emails are concerned. If you don’t get the subject line right, the prospect will pass – and they won’t give you a second chance.

The type of subject line you compose will depend on what your overall aim is, but if it’s to warm more customers up, it’s key that your subject line stands out.

The average open rate for cold emails is around 30%, which isn’t bad. But it could be better. However, to even get 30%, your subject line has to be on the money. Here are two different types of subject lines you could try:

The Referral Subject Line

You can only use this if you actually have been referred to someone by an individual they know. If you have, leverage this. There is, after all, nothing quite as powerful as a bit of name dropping.

For example:

“John Richardson told me to get in touch with you.”

The Curious Subject Line

The curiosity theory shows us that humans dislike being uncertain about things.

If someone goes missing? We feel anxious.

If we’re stranded at the airport? We feel anxious.

You can take advantage of this sense of unease by delivering a subject line like this:

“I’m gonna cut to the chase …”

The recipient has one question that they shout out as they sip some more coffee:

“Cut to the chase about what?!”

You’ve already hooked them!

Nail The Intro With Originality, Personality, and Humor

Imagine if you’re a business owner who’s just received your 20th cold email of the day. Like the previous 19 cold emails, it was dull and really salesy.

You sigh and delete it.

This is generally what happens. Prospects are tired of the same formula. You might have something for them, but if you’re clichéd in your delivery, your email might not be read.

So that your emails stand out, try something different with your copy – try being original, personable and funny.

Humor makes us smile. It can help warm prospects up by building rapport, and it can really brighten up what is an otherwise dull day. If you’re funny and a bit different, there’s a chance that your whole email will be read.

Consider these two examples:


“To whom it may concern,

I am writing in the hopes of finding the appropriate person who handles …

If this is not you, could you please point me in the right direction?”


“Hello ‘appropriate person’,

So why am I writing to you today?!

You’ve got three choices at this point:

  1. Delete this email (popular choice)
  2. Block me (Noooooo!)
  3. Read on for how I’m going to solve your BIGGEST problem right now.

The first email is bland and people get it all the time. It tells the recipient that yet another sales pitch is on the way.

The second email is playful, original and creative. It’s funny, too.

Remember, your aim is to get people to open your email. The next aim is to get them to read the next line and then the next line, all while building rapport and trust. This is what humor can help with.

Build a Relationship

When you send a cold email to a prospect, the prospect is cold. They didn’t ask for this email, and they weren’t expecting it. As far as they’re concerned, they don’t have a problem.

Your copy is your weapon – it’s how you build a relationship with prospects and convert them into paying customers.

Sales pitches used to cut it – but not so much anymore. If it’s crystal clear that you would cut loose and run to the next prospect the moment a recipient hesitated, they’re just going to think “good for you” and move on.

Building a relationship with a total stranger via cold email sounds impossible, but it really isn’t. As mentioned earlier, it’s very important that you come across as personable, as this helps to instill confidence in both you and your product.

This is easy to do. Tell them you hope they’ve had a great day so far, and perhaps make a comment on the weather.

You also need to provide them with as much value as possible. Take them on a brief story that starts by highlighting their problem. Then, show them how you’ll solve it.

To this end, use numbers:

“I boosted another client’s open rate by 13.1% and here’s the evidence.”

Support your efforts by outlining the benefits they’ll receive. Remember, while a prospect is happy to laugh along with your humor, what they really want to know is what’s in this for them. Show them as soon as possible.

Lastly, the key to warming prospects up and building a relationship is brevity. Don’t waste their time. Get to the point as soon as possible. You could structure your emails like this:

  • Humorous (or at least original) intro
  • Introduce pain points
  • Show them how you’re going to solve this for them
  • CTA

Naturally, there’s no magic bullet here. You will need to do your own split testing to see what works and what doesn’t. But if you use the above structure, arouse curiosity with your subject line, hook them with your intro and use a bit of humor in your copy, you can warm your audience up and boost your cold emails.


Andrew Lowen is the CEO of Next Level Web, a trusted marketing agency based in San Diego, California. He has three lovely daughters and the most patient wife of all time. They specialize in Web Design, Search Engine Optimization, PPC Advertising, and Email Marketing (The Agency – not the daughters… yet).