5 Cold Email Tips to Get Higher-Than-Average Response Rates

Cold Email Marketing is both an art and a science

Cold email outreach involves a lot of trial and error, presenting challenges and opportunities. On the one hand, it can be a great way to generate leads and drive sales. But, on the other hand, it’s time-consuming and may only work for some businesses. 

The average cold email open response is around 1%, but this number may vary from industry to industry. As far as sales go, cold emails convert at a rate of 15%, which is alright. The problem is that most salespeople spend about 20% of their workday writing emails and don’t have much time left to research leads, schedule meetings, and conduct other activities.

Sales reps also need to ensure their emails reach the recipient’s inbox. Spam filters are becoming increasingly sophisticated, resulting in low deliverability rates. Plus, consumers may not be familiar with your products or services, so you may only get a handful of responses.

But despite these issues, cold email is one of the most effective acquisition channels, and with some practice, you can get higher-than-average response rates. The key is to embrace a customer-centric mindset and personalize your outreach. These principles apply to nonprofit marketing, too. 

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Why Cold Email Outreach Is Crucial for Your Business

Why Cold Email Outreach Is Crucial for Your Business

Email marketing is 40 times more effective for lead generation than Twitter and Facebook combined. In addition, this practice includes cold email outreach, which can be a great way to get leads for your business or nonprofit. 

As an entrepreneur, you can leverage cold emails to drive sales and brand recognition. Similarly, nonprofits can use this marketing strategy to attract donors and build awareness around their cause. 

In either scenario, cold email outreach has several advantages over other acquisition channels. 

  • First, it’s relatively low cost, making it ideal for businesses or nonprofits with limited budgets. 
  • Second, you can scale it up or down, depending on your campaign goals and the size of your list. 
  • Third, it allows you to reach prospects or donors worldwide without needing face-to-face meetings or phone calls. Plus, you can segment your audience and create personalized marketing messages for each group. 

Moreover, cold email campaigns can provide valuable insights into consumer behavior. It’s an opportunity to learn more about your prospects’ needs and interests so you can position yourself as a strategic partner. 

Cold emailing could be the first step to building a loyal donor base. The challenge lies in writing emails that get read. 

When you’re a nonprofit, you may not have a prior relationship with the people you contact, so it’s harder to build rapport. In addition, you are “selling” a cause, not a product or service. Therefore, it’s essential to identify and engage with donors who share your vision. 

How to Write Cold Emails That Get Responses

How to Write Cold Emails That Get Responses

Cold emails are unsolicited and tend to have low response rates. For this reason, it’s crucial to research your leads and build rapport before reaching out. 

The more you know about your prospects, the better you can meet their needs. On top of that, you’ll find it easier to personalize your message, which can lead to higher engagement and response rates. 

According to one study, personalized subject lines can boost open rates by 50%. Including the recipient’s company name in the subject line can increase email open rates, yielding even better results. 

Similarly, you can (and should) personalize your email’s text, images, offers, and other elements. 

Having a data-driven sales strategy is just as important. Ensure you track the number of emails delivered, their click-through rates, unsubscribe rates, and other key performance indicators (KPIs). Later, you can use these insights to improve the customer experience and drive more sales. 

Ready to give it a try? Here are five cold email tips to get higher-than-average response rates

1. Test and Optimize Your Subject Lines

The subject line is the first thing people see when opening your emails. Therefore, it should grab their attention and entice them to keep reading. 

According to WordStream, nearly 70% of consumers will mark an email as spam based on the subject line, whereas 65% will open an email if its subject line piques their interest. Yet, fewer than half of marketers test their subject lines. 

Keep this phase short, personal, and relevant to the recipient. Aim for 30 to 50 characters, and write in a conversational tone. Most importantly, address the recipient by name and give him a reason to read on. 

As a rule of thumb, avoid odd fonts, special characters, and spam trigger words like “Act now,” “As seen on,” “Be your own boss,” “Get paid,” or “Free money.” Also, steer clear of clickbait language and exaggerated claims. 

Remember to test your subject lines. Draft several versions, pick three to five, and see how your customers react. Alternatively, use CoScheduleSend Check ItZurb, or other email subject line testers. 

2. Add Some Personality

Prospects are more likely to respond to emails that feel personal and relevant. For example, congratulating the recipient on a recent merger would show you’ve done your research and that you care about his success. 

B2B customers are people, too, and they want to feel valued, appreciated and understood. So if you connect with them personally, you have a higher chance of winning their business. 

Use a friendly but professional tone, and customize your message for each recipient (note: don’t use ChatGPT or AI tools to write emails as they produce generic and impersonal copy). Build rapport with potential customers or donors before asking for their money. 

If a potential donor attended an event related to your cause, bring it up in your email. Focus on the values you share with him or mention what you appreciate about his work. 

To improve your cold email response rate, ensure every email is tailored to the recipient’s current situation and interests. This could mean mentioning specific challenges they might be facing in their industry or acknowledging achievements highlighted in recent news articles about their company. By demonstrating that you understand their unique needs and circumstances, you’re not only showing respect for their time but also significantly enhancing the likelihood that they’ll engage with your message. Remember, a personalized approach is key to making a memorable impression that encourages a positive response.

3. Back Up Your Statements 

You may think your product is better than others, but why would a potential client trust your claims? To build trust, back up your statements with real-life examples, hard facts, customer reviews, success stories, etc. 

The same goes for nonprofits. They all think their cause deserves attention, but that’s highly subjective. To raise funds, you need to do more than just appeal to the emotions of potential donors. 

For example, the World Wildlife Fund and other charities use statistics and case studies in their email campaigns. This approach allows them to educate, inspire, and engage potential donors, leading to increased trust. 

When customers have objections or concerns about a product, hard facts can help alleviate those concerns and provide reassurance. This practice also helps reinforce your unique value proposition and boosts brand awareness. 

4. Provide Value Upfront

The average consumer receives about 100 emails per day, of which over 85% are spam. Given these numbers, putting some thought into your message before hitting Send makes sense. 

You need to provide value from the get-go and then continue to deliver value at every touchpoint. It all starts with a thorough understanding of your customers’ needs. 

Once you’ve identified those needs, you can create content that resonates with the target audience. 

Let’s see a few examples:

This approach makes it easier to build trust and recognition, which can lead to higher response rates. Simply put, it lays the foundation for future communications. 

Let’s say you want to raise funds for a dog shelter. Consider allowing donors to sponsor a specific dog or group of dogs. In return, they’ll receive photos and updates. Describe the program and its purpose. 

Alternatively, promote the donors on your social media pages or allow them to name a dog in the shelter. Another option is offering them a shelter tour so donors can see how you will use their money.

5. Have a Follow-up Plan 

Spam filters are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and getting around them can be challenging. For this reason, you’ll want to use an email checker and verification tool and then tweak your strategy accordingly. 

If your emails don’t get past spam filters, you may need to replace certain words or phrases, such as “Best price” or “No obligation.” As discussed earlier, some words can trigger spam filters and affect email deliverability rates. 

But there are cases where people simply don’t open unsolicited emails. Even those who open and read your message may forget to reply. If you use an email checker, you’ll know exactly when the recipient opened an email you sent. 

Next, follow up with unresponsive customers. Marketers who send four to seven follow-up emails get three times more replies than those who send one to three emails. 

For best results, offer something of value with each follow-up. For example, you could provide additional data, make a special offer, or tell the recipient to book a free consultation. Then, wait at least two days before reaching out a second or third time. 

Master the Art of Cold Emailing

Master the Art of Cold Emailing

As you can see, cold email outreach is both an art and a science. You can’t just send messages to random strangers and get results. Instead, the key is to continuously refine your strategy and embrace a value-based approach. 

Take the time to research your audience and its pain points. After that, tailor your message to each customer group and provide value from the beginning. Keep your emails short and sweet, personalize the subject line, and back up your claims. 

Most importantly, build rapport with your prospects before trying to sell. Establish some common ground and then capitalize on shared interests or values. Finally, add a personal touch to each interaction and make it all about the customer.


What is a cold email?

A cold email is an unsolicited email sent to a recipient without prior contact, typically used in sales and networking to initiate a conversation or pitch an idea.

How can I make my cold email stand out?

Personalize your email for the recipient, use a compelling subject line, keep your message concise, and highlight the value or solution you offer.

What should the subject line of a cold email include to increase open rates?

The subject line should be clear, specific, and intriguing without being misleading. It can include the recipient’s name or a relevant topic to them.

How long should a cold email be?

Ideally, a cold email should be short and to the point, around 2-3 paragraphs. It should deliver your message quickly without overwhelming the reader.

Is it important to personalize cold emails?

Yes, personalization is crucial. It shows you’ve done your homework and are genuinely interested in the recipient, increasing the likelihood of a response.

What are some effective cold email strategies?

Research your recipient, use personalization, provide clear value, include a clear call to action (CTA), and follow up if you don’t receive a response.

How often should I follow up on a cold email?

A good rule of thumb is to follow up 1-2 times if you don’t receive a reply. Space your follow-ups 3-7 days apart to avoid appearing pushy.

Can I include attachments in cold emails?

It’s best to avoid attachments in initial cold emails as they can trigger spam filters. Instead, offer to send more information upon reply or include a link.

How do I avoid my cold email being marked as spam?

Avoid spammy language, excessive links, or attachments in your initial email. Ensure your email list is clean and that you comply with email regulations like GDPR.

What is a good response rate for cold emails?

Response rates can vary widely depending on the industry and how well-targeted and personalized the emails are. A good response rate can range from 1% to 10%.

How do I choose the right target audience for my cold emails?

Identify your ideal customer profile based on your product or service, and then segment your list based on industry, role, or other relevant factors to ensure your message is relevant to the recipient.

What is the best time to send cold emails?

The best time can vary, but generally, sending emails on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday mid-morning (between 9 AM and 11 AM) has been shown to increase open rates.

Should I use a template for cold emails?

While templates can save time, it’s important to customize each email to the recipient. Use templates as a foundation but personalize them to make your email more effective.

How can I track the success of my cold email campaigns?

Use email tracking tools to monitor open rates, click-through rates, and response rates. This data will help you refine your approach and improve future campaigns.

What should be included in the call to action of a cold email?

Your CTA should be clear, direct, and easy to act on. It could be a request for a meeting, a prompt to reply with their interest, or a link to schedule a call.

How do I handle negative responses to cold emails?

Respectfully acknowledge the response, thank them for their time, and if appropriate, ask for feedback on your offer. Use any feedback to improve future emails.

Is it necessary to include an unsubscribe link in cold emails?

Yes, to comply with email marketing laws like CAN-SPAM in the U.S., it’s important to provide recipients with an easy way to opt-out of future emails.

How can I improve the deliverability of my cold emails?

Ensure your email list is clean, verify email addresses, warm up your email account by gradually increasing your sending volume, and avoid spam trigger words.

Can I use cold emails for networking?

Absolutely. Cold emails can be a powerful tool for building your network. Personalize your message to each recipient, showing genuine interest in their work and how you can provide value to them.

What are common mistakes to avoid in cold emailing?

Common mistakes include failing to personalize, neglecting to research the recipient, writing long and unclear messages, using a generic subject line, and not having a clear call to action.

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