Do you remember the last cold email you actually read? What do you remember about it? What made it different from all the other cold emails that you ignored? I bet it had at least one element of the four I’m going to describe in this post. Check what you can do to get your recipients reading your emails and encourage them to respond.


Way #1: Target


Even the best email copy won’t do its work if you send your message to a poorly adjusted group of prospects. Well-thought-out targeting is key to successful email outreach.

First, you need to decide who may be possibly interested in your offer.

How do you find that out?

One approach assumes that you’ve done some research, usually based on your current customer group, and you define your ideal customer profile. That means you discover what companies benefit the most from your service and you look for similar companies to reach out to as potential clients.

Within this approach, cold email senders focus on specific types of businesses and target decision makers who occupy specific positions at companies within a specific industry. For example, if you’re trying to sell a CRM software, you will be probably looking for sales executives or sales directors; if you’re offering a social media monitoring app, you’ll be looking for marketing directors or social media managers, and so on.

That’s one way to approach targeting. Another one assumes that you have some evidence that a person or a company may be interested in certain kind of solutions or topics close to your service. You presume that they are currently doing some market research, they’ve got some context, and that why it’s a perfect moment to try and start a business relation via direct email.

How do you gather evidence showing that someone may be interested in solutions similar to yours or topics connected to your field of expertise? You can look for specific topics on social media platforms and research communities like Quora, build contact lists, and reach out to people who have expressed their interest. Or you can hire tools like LeadSift to automatically sieve the public web and find some actionable data for you.

The latter approach is very powerful, as it allows you to reach out in a perfect moment and fit into the right context. Remember, though, that timing is one of its greatest strengths – someone looking for a CRM a year ago will not necessarily be interested in it today.

Way #2: Customize


Once you found your ideal prospect group, and worked out a system to get their contact info, you’re halfway through. The next part is adjusting your messaging to the group that you’ve chosen. Try to get into their shoes for a while and understand what they care about. Think about their goals, pains, and fears. Think what’s really important to them. Make a list.

If your prospect base can be segmented into a few smaller groups based on a common criteria – do segment it, and prepare various versions of email copy for each of the groups.

For instance, perhaps Marketing Directors and Sales Directors can both benefit from your service. But the marketing people will have slightly different goals than the sales people. As soon as you grasp the differences and adjust your emails accordingly, you may see some increase in your reply rates.

Find out what resonates with specific groups of prospects and put it in your email. Don’t send them a blunt description of your service – which, in your view, could obviously be fit for anyone. Instead, show them how exactly your service/piece of content/software will be beneficial for them with their specific role, goals, and challenges.

Way #3: Personalize


The first rule to remember about a cold email is: it’s never about you. If it is, it won’t ever work. You need to make it about your prospect to make it work.

The two ways I described above are built on this rule. The third one – personalization of your email copy is the most vivid way of showing your prospect that you care.

I usually personalize the initial part of my cold email – the introduction. I don’t start from introducing myself. Instead, I mention something I found about my prospect: their comment, their Quora answer, their blog post, a particular element I found on their website.

Not only does it catch their eyes and make them read my email, but it also shows them that I did my homework and made an informed decision to reach out to them, and not to a bunch of random people.

You need to be careful not to turn creepy, though. Mentioning some personal stuff you found on someone’s Facebook may be a step too far. On the other hand, a meaningful reference to one’s blog post should do the job.

Way #4: Follow up


And, last but not least, there’s the one thing that seems so obvious, yet it’s ignored or simply forgotten by many cold email senders: follow-ups.

Your prospect may not respond to your first message for various reasons, not necessarily because they are not interested. A well-written and properly scheduled follow-up sequence will increase your chances to get a reply.

It’s important to keep the follow-ups short and positive. Don’t ever blame anyone for not responding to you yet. Show them you are still waiting for their response without telling them “hey, I’m still waiting here…”.

Instead, mention another reason why it’s worth talking to you, refer to another perspective, another pain point you may alleviate for them, or send them something humorous (and I’m not talking about the “alligator follow-up” here, templates get old and some people may get really annoyed by them – be creative!).

How many follow-up should you send and how often? Send at least 2-3 follow-ups, each time giving your prospect more time to respond. It’s not about sending them a weekly reminder every time at the same time.

How to send the follow-ups efficiently? Scheduling a follow-up sequence to be sent manually can be done, but it’s a real challenge. I’ve tried that, and believe me, it can get really messy. To make the process bearable and tangible, you can use some email automation tools designed to send cold email sequences, like Woodpecker.

This way you set your sequence to be sent once and you don’t have to worry about sending your follow-ups manually every couple of days. Your messages will be sent automatically from your mailbox and if someone responds, the sequence will get cut off automatically as well.

This will give you more time for talking to interested prospects and finding new valuable contacts to be added to your cold email campaign.

Final words


These four ways work best if combined together. But you can start making changes in your email outreach step by step. Start by applying one of them, and slowly, add more improvements. Cold emailing is about continuous testing and drawing conclusions to make things better in each campaign. As soon as you understand that it’s not about the quantity of your prospects and emails but about quality, you’ll get more positive replies.


Guest Blog By Cathy Patalas – Head of Marketing at Woodpecker.co – email automation software helping companies directly contact prospective clients via personalized sales emails & follow-ups. She writes weekly about cold emailing and prospecting at blog.woodpecker.co.