Make Your Cold Prospecting Emails Feel a Little Less Cold

Email marketing is often praised as one of the most effective marketing channels, and for good reason: you’re reaching out to people who have already expressed interest in what you’re doing.

But sometimes, especially in the realm of B2B, there’s a case for reaching out cold…

I just met you, and this is crazy, but here’s my number, so call me maybe?

I’m talking about cold prospecting emails: reaching out to someone you don’t have a direct relationship with and starting a conversation.

Now, this isn’t about blasting them with info about your business. It’s about providing immediate value and serving up an irresistible next step.

It’s worth noting that there’s a fine line between cold prospecting and spam, so please read up on laws for your country. But when done right, reaching out cold can be an easy way to pull in highly qualified prospects — especially when you’re A/B testing to perfect your strategy.

And that’s exactly what this post is about.

Here are five recommendations for improving your cold prospecting email copy and subject lines — pulled from real-life testing data.

Let’s dig in.

1. Get up close and personalize

If you don’t have a relationship with the person you’re reaching out to, you can at least demonstrate that you’ve done your research.

Mentioning the prospect’s name and demonstrating familiarity with their business can help in easing that initial friction… in some cases.

Have a look at this A/B test we ran for a social media SaaS tool:

Subject A: If you chat with only one social media firm this year, make it {COMPANY}

Subject B: {PROSPECT} + {COMPANY}: let’s work together

Subject B was the winner with a 38% lift in open rates (statistically significant) and more clicks. I found this somewhat surprising result because A, unlike B, mentions the subject matter — showing that the company has done their research.

However, I’ve found the combination of mentioning the prospect and client names in conjunction tends to beat many worthy subject line opponents.

Pro tip: Some of the most effective personalization comes before you send your first email — by getting your targeting right. Here are some key targeting elements to you get started:

  • Geography
  • Title
  • Industry and company size
  • Age, gender and other demographic criteria

Filtering by these factors will help you create and test hyper-targeted messages that prospects will be much more likely to find relatable.

The bottom line here? You can’t send relevant messages before knowing who your prospect is.

Do your research and target your emails — the more personal, the better. (For extra credit, check out great Quora thread on why segmentation, targeting and positioning are important in your marketing efforts.)

Want more help writing emails that convert?

Check out our Smart Guide to Email Marketing Conversion for more pointers.
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2. Prove your pudding!

There’s a big difference between saying you improved something and demonstrating it.

When introducing your company to a prospect, get into the details of how you’ve helped other others. In particular, provide before-and-after statistics, usage numbers and any other data that demonstrate the impact your involvement had.

Take these two approaches to email body copy, for example, which we wrote for social media image recognition tool Ditto Labs:


The version on the left was the control that focused on concisely summarizing who uses the product and core benefits. Although well written and concise, it lacked any proof through hard numbers.

Our hypothesis was to sacrifice brevity for working in meaningful statistics and specifics around how the technology works.

The result?

The version on the right won… by a lot. It had a 61% higher CTR and 119% higher conversion to scheduled meetings.

What do I think contributed to the success of the challenger? A few things.

  • The value proposition is super clear and encapsulated in five words: “Visual search for social media.”
  • The second paragraph jumps right into what differentiates this technology from competitors.
  • The third paragraph gets super specific about where Ditto gets it data.
  • The fourth paragraph drives home the technology’s value through hard numbers and data.

But most importantly, the second to last paragraph makes the next step crystal clear, which brings us to…

3. Sell the next step with a clear call to action

Forget about closing the deal in one email.

Focus instead on asking for a next meeting and getting in-depth on how it will be of huge benefit for your client, regardless of any future next steps.

Getting back to the Ditto body copy A/B test, take a look at the call to action from either variation:

Are you open to learning more?

In the losing version, the CTA feels abrupt and vague:


In the winning body copy, the same call to action is much more contextualized and therefore more actionable:


We make it clear that the way in which you’ll learn more is via a 20-minute call. There’s no guesswork — it’s ”Yes” or “No” to a 20-minute call.

Here are some other questions and calls to action you can borrow to be even more direct in your cold email prospecting call to action:

  • “What are a few times that work best for you over the next few days for a call?”
  • “Please reply to this email with whether you’re willing to talk further.”
  • “When works for you tomorrow to jump on a quick call?”

The wording should fit your writing style and sales process, but be sure your call to action achieves three things:

  1. Give context and specifics around the next step
  2. Make the next step low pressure
  3. Convey that the next step will be of value to your prospects, regardless of whether or not they become customers

At the end of the day, you’re starting a conversation.

So be real ask to continue the conversation in a meaningful way.

4. Get the subject line right

The subject line sets the tone for your future relationship with your prospect — which should carry from the email to the landing page to the conversion and beyond.

If this sounds like a tall order, it’s because it is. And there’s no “hack” or “cheat” to get it right.

Ultimately, you need to test subject lines that feel and read true to you and your value proposition.

I’m about to show you a couple of subject line tests. The takeaways here are meant to serve as inspiration more than firm guidelines. Just because you see A/B testing data here or elsewhere does not mean it will apply to your business.

With that in mind, let’s dig in.

Subject line test 1 for an anonymous company:

Subject A: You’ve got to see the new {product name}

Subject B: If you demo one {type} tool, make it {product name}

Subject C: Take 20 minutes to demo {product name}. It’s worth it.

Winner? Subject C with a 44% higher CTR than A and 21% higher CTA than B.

Notice this is the only subject line of the three that talks about the length (20 minutes) of the demo. Also notice that it starts with a verb: “Take.” This subject line was probably the most successful because it’s an upfront and specific call to action to take a 20-minute demo.

Subject line test 2 for another anonymous company:

Subject A: Save {prospect} significant time & money.

Subject B: This is the *one* {type} tool you must demo in {year}

Subject C: {Type} software that’s 10% faster and actually pleasant to use.

Winner? Subject line B with 62% higher open rate than C and 18% higher than A.

What’s my two cents? “10% faster” isn’t that exciting in email copy, and “significant time & money” is pretty vague. Subject B skips the unimpressive stats and vague promises for a direct and upfront call to action.

So what’s the point of sharing all this testing data?

To show that the words you use in prospecting email really matter. What message is going to encourage prospects to click and take the leap to set up a conversation with a stranger?

Choose your words carefully or get really wild — only a test will reveal what resonates best with prospects.

5. Keep the momentum going

You’ve tested for the most clickable subject line, and you’ve crafted a compelling CTA.

So what happens when prospects decide that they want to take you up on your “next step”?

Will you let them navigate to your website themselves and scramble for your contact information? Well, you could… but that’s likely to kill the momentum you worked hard to build.

Instead, link to a dedicated landing page that continues the conversation you started in your subject line and email body copy. Reassure prospects that they’re in the right place and that they’re closer to receiving the value you promised them.

And if really want to get that landing page experience right, check out Unbounce’s Landing Page Conversion Course.

Cold prospecting emails don’t have to feel cold

Cold prospecting emails shouldn’t feel cold.

It’s the beginning of the relationship with your future prospects, so talk to them as you would your favorite client. And test all the things to be sure you’re doin’ it right.

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About Josh Krafchin
Josh Krafchin is the founder of Clever Zebo, a multi-channel paid advertising and email prospecting conversion optimization boutique.
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