Writing good cold emails

Writing good cold emails

There’s no one size fits all cold email or “golden framework”. A good cold email is a cold email that receives a positive reply from the recipient, leading you to a closed deal.

That means there are no fixed rules, what works in an industry or for a given offer might not work for the other, and vice-versa.

So if you have one thing to remember: test things out.

That said, here are a few pointers and ways of doing things that have been working for us.

Golden rules

The goal of any cold email is to:

✅ Get read

✅ Be relevant

✅ Trigger a reply that starts a (good) conversation

Your goal is to do everything you have to do to maximize your value on those 3 points while spending a minimal amount of time for a given lead.

Here are some guidelines on what can be done to improve on each (but again, there are no hard rules):

Get read:

  • Send short emails - wall of text gets ignored
  • Use a good subject line (see below)
  • Be human - any robotic sales pitch gets ignored

Be relevant:

  • Have a clear and strong offer
  • Target the right people
  • Try to talk less about your solution/feature and more about their pain/problem
  • Have a contextual trigger that makes you outreaching to them relevant

Trigger a reply that starts a (good) conversation:

  • Do not send your calendar link before they agree to jump on a call
  • Have one clear call-to-action
    • asking a question they can easily answer to is a good option. If they can answer by only yes/no, even better
  • Be conversational.
    • Don’t be casual to the point of being disrespectful but cold emails are often too formal. Write like a human!

Would you reply to your own email?

Try your messaging on small batches of prospects then, if it’s a winner, try to scale it if possible. Try different angles, different pains, different tones etc. until you find what’s working for your offer & your ICP.

Winning campaigns might look like this:


But to find those, I also had to test angles that did not work:


Remember that’s part of the game and don’t get discouraged if your first campaign doesn’t work out!

If you keep morphing your ideas and you still don’t get any results though, your offer may simply not be strong enough / in demand by the market. Unfortunately, cold emails won’t solve the problem of people not wanting your product / service.

Following up

Many people won’t reply to the first email you’re sending, simply because they’re busy and life happens. It’s important to follow-up and remind them that you exist.

You can two different approaches when following up:

  • using follow ups as a reminder only:
    • if your first email is good, you might just want to bump your first email in their inbox. This will catch people that read your first email but were too busy (or something else) to reply at this moment, and give them another moment to consider you
    • A simple effective example for this is: “{firstname}?
  • using follow ups as a way to add more info:
    • if you followed the steps above, your prospect shouldn’t know much about you then so maybe they don’t know enough to be interested
    • you can take your second email to introduce a little more context/info to your offer: could be some social proof, a case study, etc.

It’s also important to be able to “take the hint” ; don’t be so pushy that you end pissing (too many) people off and they start reporting you in spam. Needs to be balanced ⚖️

Again, how much exactly you can get away with will depend on your audience, your offer, your phrasing etc.

Subject line

The best subject lines are boring. You don’t want to look like a sales or marketing email. The closer you are to an internal-looking email, the better.

Usually that means:

  • short
  • lowercase

Don’t overthink it, it’s not as impactful as it seems. I’ve sent campaigns where the subject line was “carrots” 😅

For example, you can simply state the problem you’re solving or area you’re in:

  • cold emails
  • churn
  • customer conversion

It can also be something related to the segment/personalization:

  • your twitter
  • your post
  • your newsletter

Some more generic lines can also be used, especially on audiences not receiving as much cold emails:

  • quick?
  • should we explore?
  • {firstname} <> {your company}

Those are only a few examples… Anything:

✅ short

✅ natural

✅ simple

✅ not cliché

will work, really.


There are a number of things you should do in your content to optimize your chances of landing in the inbox and not in spam. None of these are deal-breakers by themselves, but stacking up negative factors will lower your odds of landing in the inbox.

  • Images: avoid sending images. That includes your signature if it’s a HTML signature with your photo. That also includes open rate tracking systems, turn them off if you don’t need open rate tracking.
  • Links: avoid sending links. That includes your signatures.
  • Spam keywords: avoid any words associated with spam such as free, money, dollars, $$, viagra etc.

Handling replies

If you’re sending campaigns through Instantly or Smartlead like I recommended, you have access to an unified inbox that will include all the replies from your different email accounts.

From there, I recommend to send the interested leads to your CRM to continue the sales process and close the deal.

An alternative setup can be to forward all emails to one main inbox and only have a look at this inbox. This is good if you don’t want to rely on a tool and don’t want to miss any replies such as people replying in another thread with a different email (won’t be picked up by the unified inboxes) - but requires additional setup.

Campaign management

Even though the sending part is automated, it’s important to keep an eye on your campaigns to react accordingly.

You need to follow your numbers closely and shut down campaigns when:

  • the bounce rate is too high (> 5%)
  • the reply rate is too low
  • the positive reply rate is too low

How to interpret the numbers?

  • High bounce rate may indicate an issue with your leads or your domain reputation or your ESP. Check the bounce email to diagnose the reason
  • Reply rate too low: your copy is not compelling or you’re landing in spam
  • Positive reply rate too low: if you get replies but they’re all not interested, that means you at least land in the inbox but the angle/offer of your copy is not working.