Writing Cold Emails That Convert in 2024: Tips and Examples

Vanessa Perplies is the External Communications Lead at Lusha and a former salesperson of 5+ years.
  • March 14, 2024

Writing cold emails that convert is hard work, and not all cold email tips are up-to-date and aimed at getting you good results.

It’s simple in theory: You just have to deliver a message to sell a random stranger on your idea, offer, or product.

But, with the average office worker bombarded with over 120 emails a day and 59% of email recipients reporting the sales emails they receive are “irrelevant,” getting results from cold email is easier said than done.

Even with a qualified list of leads and a value-packed offer, your cold email will still fail to persuade if it can’t engage your prospect and deliver enough perceived value for them to take action.

But, the absolute worst mistake you can make, and the one that practically guarantees you’ll be ignored?

Overly “me-centric” emails that fail to address the needs of the lead.

You’ve probably got plenty of them lying in ambush in your inbox (or spam folder, if you’re lucky). For reference, here’s an extreme example of what a me-centric cold email looks like:

me-centric cold emails

Not only are these emails painfully bland, but they’re also outrageously irrelevant to the receiver. Worst still, they’re completely selfish, which makes them ineffective at generating leads.

What is Cold Emailing and Why Does it Have Such a Bad Reputation?

According to Wikipedia, “a cold email is an unsolicited email that is sent to a receiver without prior contact. It could also be defined as the email equivalent of cold calling.” In short, a cold email is emailing someone you don’t know asking them to do something.

Now, here’s why cold email has such a bad rep… because most cold emails are just plain bad and feel spammy. You know them when you read them because you generally hit delete or worse—the spam button. They feel like the person wants to waste your time, sell you something or use you for something that leads to their gain—not yours.

So, What Makes a Good Cold Email, Anyway?

A good cold email is one that’s so personal and relevant that it feels like it was meant for you. It’s clear in what it’s asking, its tone is humble or somewhat deferent, and it’s short and sweet. If you have a mutual acquaintance, colleague, or point of contact—mention it. It’s the best form of social proof to make cold contact.

Cold email has a bad rep because it usually feels like spam, impersonal, irrelevant, intrusive, or just outright manipulative. 95% of salespeople are doing the same thing—sending a tired old template that feels “salesy,” spammy, and begs to be ignored.

Let’s look at 5 cold email tips that will help you avoid me-centric messages and write cold emails that actually compel cold leads to reply and take action:

Cold Email Tip #1: Win the Click With Compelling Subject Lines

tip: compelling subject lines

Did you know that nearly 50% of email recipients open emails based solely on the subject line?

Strong subject lines are the backbone of effective cold emails.

They are your first (sometimes last) chance to make an impression. If your subject line fails to grab attention and “win the click,” it doesn’t matter how good the rest of your email copy is.

Your message will not reach your prospect, and your chances of selling drops to zero.

While you want your subject line to stand out, you should also take care to not appear “spammy” — 69% of people will report your email as spam based on the subject line alone.

To write email subject lines that stand out, keep these research-backed basics in mind:

1. Stick to shorter subject lines

On average, shorter subject lines perform better. After evaluating more than 1000 email subject lines, AWeber found that 82% of experts send subject lines with 60 characters or less.

Shorter email subject lines also prevent your line of text from appearing incomplete on mobile devices (which are now responsible for at least 50% of email opens).

2. Trigger imagination, tickle curiosity

When a task, object, or interaction feels incomplete, our brains are wired to become curious and are more likely to remember it.

That’s why subject lines that tickle the imagination with a little curiosity work.

In what Kyle Racki labeled “the best cold email he received,” the rep could’ve used a normal subject line like “Better customer experience,” but he didn’t.

He piqued Kyle’s curiosity with the vague, but snappy subject line: “Magic Goggles.”

cold email example

3. Use a name, or personalize with available data

In Yesmail’s analysis of 7 billion emails, emails with personalized subject lines earned double the unique click-rate and 58 percent higher click-to-open rate than emails without personalization in their subject lines.

Even if you don’t have the name of your lead, you can still personalize with a name they’re familiar with.

For example, “I know you through x organization” or “heard about you from x person.”

If you’re looking for more inspiration on writing cold email subject lines, see our subject line guide.

Cold Email Tip #2: Use Personalization to Power Persuasion

To stand a chance of standing out, personalizing your outreach email needs to be a top priority.

Generic terms and sales messages like “favored customer” or “I’m such a huge fan of your work” bleed personality from your cold email.

Explain why you’re contacting them specifically. Explain why they’re a special or “favored” customer.

If you state that you admire their work, or they are unique, support what you say with credible evidence.

To write cold emails that connect, you need to go beyond placing a name in the subject line and calling it a day.

Here are some other ideas you can use to personalize your cold email and build trust:

  • Find and mention an interest you both have in common
  • Point to a mutual connection
  • Praise a recent piece of work they published
  • Congratulate a recent promotion

Cold Email Tip #3: Use Short Paragraphs and Sentences to Hold Interest

Most people scan content rather than reading word for word. They want digestible information they can easily understand.

If they pause or slow down, it’s only to focus on and absorb information that’s highly relevant to them.

That’s why greeting your prospect with a chunky wall of text is an instant turn-off.

what not to do in cold email: wall of text

Avoid scaring leads away by sticking to shorter sentences and paragraphs when writing your cold email.

This quickens the pace of your writing, makes it easier to understand, and surrounds your text with welcoming white space, which has been proven to improve comprehension.

As a general rule, aim for one main point per paragraph and one main idea per sentence. For more guidance, this article gives you 15 templates for writing your next cold email.

Cold Email Tip #4: Limit Distraction to Increase the Chance of Action

A famous New York Times case study tested the influence that multiple available choices have on decisions.

In a shopping mall on a busy Saturday, researchers set up a stand that sold different flavors of jam.

Every few hours, they switched between offering 24 flavors to offering only a group of 6 flavors. Take a guess at which group of flavors led to more sales?

With 24 different flavors, only 3% of people actually bought anything. When presented with only 6 flavors, however, 30% of people made a purchase.

This is known as the paradox of choice, which states that the more options and choices there are, the harder it becomes to make a decision. In other words, give buyers fewer options, and they’re more likely to buy, since they won’t be overwhelmed by all their options.

The same principle applies to writing cold emails that get your lead to take action.

For example, following the call to action is easier in this email:

tip: make your CTA easy to see

Read it:

Hi Yesware,

First off, thanks for the epic product — you’ve made the internet a better place!

I’ll be brief. I’m sure you’re busy. We are an early-stage tech startup, and we are trying to build our blog. We’ve been working hard on the articles to make it awesome for fellow entrepreneurs and people who love productivity.

In the article, “10 crucial guest blogging tips: our story…,” we referenced your company. Without such a great service, our advice to our readers would not be as useful as it is. I was more than happy to endorse it in my article, and I also recommend it to anyone I know looking for such a solution!

My request: tweet our article to your community. It would make a world of difference to use if you helped us get off the ground.

Here’s a quick tweet link, ready to go: http://ctt.ed/eeRX_

If you’d rather not, I understand. I appreciate you reading this far.


…than this email:

example of cold email CTA that's hard to see

Read it:

Hey there,

If you haven’t guessed yet, I happen to be one of those people that loves a good cold email. Am I just that sick? Maybe…

Do you know why?

Scroll Down to the Bottom Now to Find Out.

Or if you’ve had enough, please don’t let me both you anymore and unsubscribe: please click here.

Yes, I know they can be annoying. They are not for everyone, but I’ve found more customers from cold email in less time than any other method I’ve tried.

Here’s 3 reasons cold email is superior to other forms of marketing:

  1. When they respond, you know they’re serious.
  2. You can reach far more people in less time.
  3. Technology allows you to customize your cold email <making you less creepy and annoying>

Here are some statistics from this current campaign

  • Total emails sent – 301
  • Open rate – 74%
  • Unsub – 4%
  • Response – 8%

I’ve done cold calling, sales funnels, and drip marketing for months and haven’t had the responses that I’ve had with cold email.

I’d love to show you how I do it. I can customize your marketing efforts to fit your company’s message and reach the prospects you are looking for in no time at all.

Let’s set up a time to talk via Skype and I’ll tell you more. The worse that happens is I tell you my strategy and you use it yourself.

For more information about me visit my LinkedIn profile. Link below.


The message in the first cold email funnels down to one request, it’s easy to follow. The second, however, is a meandering mess filled with multiple links and requests.

Excessive links, attachments, and CTAs increase the chances of your email being marked as spam.

More importantly, they make it harder for your lead to choose what action to take and make it look like the email is more about the sender than the recipient.

To encourage prospects to take action, narrow your message to one main request or call to action.

Cold Email Tip #5: Use Gifs, Emojis, and Images to Emotionally Engage

Imagine that you’re browsing for a new vehicle at a car showroom. After a few minutes, you’re approached by two different salesmen, Jack and Adam.

Jack is pushy. He’s poker-faced and he fails to ask what you’re looking for.

Adam, on the other hand, approaches with a smile and asks how you’re doing. He asks you questions about the car you’re after and gives his honest opinion on what you should buy.

You’re most likely to trust and listen to Adam over Jack, right? Simply because he was more likable, relatable, and human.

When writing your cold email, you want to be like Adam. Because no matter how logical we assume we are, most of our decisions are heavily influenced by emotion.

We’re less likely to buy from someone if we don’t like them. And we’re more likely to buy from companies that push our emotional buttons.

When you’re sending a cold email to someone you’ve never met, showing personality is hard. There’s no facial expression, body language, or intonation to convey the energy behind the words in your email.

Emojis, images, and gifs are useful tools to fill this “expressive gap” with emotion. When used correctly, they can warm up cold emails by breathing life to digital words.

For example, let’s say you’re finishing a cold email that ends with:

“I’m excited about working with you.”

Does it sound supportive and likable?

Sure. But, why stop there when you can amplify the sentiment with an expressive gif

Cold Email Can Be Successfully Used to Reach Top Execs
(Think: Tim Cook, Steve Jobs, and Jamie Dimon)

The beauty of cold email is, if you play your cards right, you can send cold emails and receive a response from top execs like Tim Cook and Elon Musk.

Tim Cook (CEO of Apple) is known to directly reply to customers by cold email about their issues with Apple products within hours. Even if an executive doesn’t reply to you, about 80% of executives read their inbox carefully.

How to Write Cold Emails: The Cold Email That Won Steve Jobs Over

Katia Beauchamp, CO and co-founder of Birchbox, is someone who successfully cold emailed and received a response from Steve Jobs in less than 24 hours.

The year was 2008, and she was a student in Harvard Business School, looking to receive a student discount on an Apple computer. You see, IBM was offering a student discount and she was an Apple girl, through and through. She emailed Jobs to see if he would provide her with the same discount that IBM was offering.

Incredibly, Jobs replied to her cold email in less than 24 hours and gave her a discount…

The Four-Step Cold Email Formula that Worked on Steve Jobs

According to Beauchamp, there’s a four-step process you should be following when you send cold emails.

  1. Use a “compelling subject line.”
  2. Make sure the email is so short you don’t need to scroll down on a smartphone.
  3. Don’t attach a business plan, or something that seems “overwhelming.”
  4. A one-pager attached to your (short) email should do the job.
  5. Ask for something “that’s hard to say no to.” Don’t ask for big favors, a small ask like “do you have 5 minutes to give me advice?” is a great example.

How to Write Cold Emails That Earn a Response: Examples from Mailshake

We love Mailshake’s blog post on 15 cold email templates to test, because it shares winning cold email templates to get you started and on your way.

What I personally like about this blog is that you can see the author of each template and the company they work for—so you can see if the text matches your use case.

The templates are short, sweet, and to the point. Which is perfect when you’re trying to break the ice with Mrs. Hot Prospect.

Go the Extra Mile When Writing Cold Emails: Make It Personal and Relevant

Take these Mailshake templates and use them as a starting point for your cold email text. Now, take a look at your cold prospect’s LinkedIn. Maybe they recently hosted a webinar that they rocked. Or wrote a recent LinkedIn post that garnered tons of controversy. Or you even have a mutual colleague. Start with that. What can you say that will draw the recipient in, in a way that’s truthful, authentic and relevant to them? Is there a cause that they care about that you love? Speak to that.

Now, find a business pain that your prospect is looking to solve. Maybe they’ve mentioned it on LinkedIn, or even in recent comments on a LinkedIn post. Can you somehow connect your offering to this? The key in your outreach is—find a way to make your prospect care, make the message relevant, and make sure that your offering makes sense to them.

Ok, But I Don’t Know My Prospect’s Email Address…

Ok, so you know how to write a cold email that begs a response from Steve Jobs. Now, how do you find your prospect’s email address?

Whether you know your prospect’s email address or you have no idea what it isthere’s an easy, free and legal way to find it. Lusha is a B2B contact database that’s free to sign up for (no credit card required.) Every month you get 5 free leads which let you find B2B prospects, their direct dials, and email addresses (if Lusha has the information in its database.)

Just install the Lusha web browser extension and open a contact on LinkedIn. Click the “show” button, and in one-click, Lusha will reveal your prospect’s email address and phone number.

Or, let’s say you prefer to prospect at scale. You can log into Lusha Prospecting and quickly find thousands of qualified prospects according to smart filters, based on company name, industry, size, location, revenue, department, seniority, job title, and more. Once Lusha Prospecting generates a list of prospects, click “Show Details” and that’s it—you have your prospect’s contact details like their phone number and email. Lusha is used by over 800,000 B2B companies like Google, Uber, Dropbox and Snowflake, as well as GDPR aligned, CCPA compliant, and ISO 27001 certified for legally compliant prospecting.

Find a Cold Email Template That Works For You with Mailshake

The beauty of cold emailing is that you can keep testing your messaging until you understand what approach to sending cold email works and what doesn’t.

Mailshake’s automated sales outreach tool lets you A/B test email templates and automate responses with ease. It’s also perfect when you have that winning cold email, because you can send thousands of personalized cold emails with automated responses for maximum responses and results.

Mailshakes Pocket Guide to Cold Email Outreach

Our team at Mailshake has helped thousands of customers send millions of cold emails. We’ve also written extensively on the subject.

We took all of our first-hand experience and distilled what we’ve learned down to fewer than 600 words.

The Mailshake Advantage

Mailshake empowers you to automate, optimize, and scale every part of your outreach strategy:

  • Personalize your emails in bulk with powerful mail-merge
  • Maximize deliverability by scheduling your sending calendar to limit the number of emails you send per day
  • Set follow-ups to send a certain number of days after the previous email
  • Pause follow-ups if you receive a reply, or trigger follow-ups if an email is opened or a link is clicked
  • AB test subject lines and body copy
  • Reply to leads from within Mailshake
  • Sync your campaigns with your CRM

Mailshake also allows you to incorporate social media and phone into your outreach cadences.

Sign up for Mailshake and if it’s not a fit, let us know within 30 days for a full refund. Or, schedule a demo and learn more about how Mailshake can supercharge your outreach.

Key Takeaways and Next Steps

Cold emails get a bad rep because they’re usually pretty bad—irrelevant, long, rambling and they usually feel like spam. Make sure your cold email doesn’t get sent to spam by ensuring your messaging is short, sweet, to the point, respectful and feels like an easy ask. If you’re afraid of cold email, don’t be. The biggest execs in the world are usually glued to their email inboxes, and will respond if your email is compelling enough.

If you don’t know where to find your prospect’s email address, Lusha is a free B2B email finder that will find anyone’s email in seconds. When you’re ready to test your email messaging, Mailshake makes it easy to A/B test and iterate your cold emails, and mass email thousands of prospects through automation. And, that is a formula for cold email success.

Vanessa Perplies is the External Communications Lead at Lusha and a former salesperson of 5+ years.

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