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What Is Cold Email & How to Write an Effective Cold Email


Feb 19, 2018
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Email isn’t exactly a neglected marketing medium, but it’s often misused. Since it’s so easy to send a mass email to dozens, hundreds, or thousands of subscribers, we often forget that email can also be intensely personal.

Cold emails are the perfect example of an underused art. When done poorly, a cold email can reflect badly on your business and lose a potential sale. However, when done well, it’s a fantastic way to convert prospects into customers.

But what is cold email? And how should you use it for your Knowledge Commerce business?

Those are the questions we’ll dig into today. We’ve also come up with an 11-step strategy for writing your own cold emails — ones that not only convert, but might also turn customers into brand ambassadors.

What Is Cold Email?


Cold email is a communication strategy that involves reaching out via email to someone who is not aware of your brand or business. It’s similar to cold calling — you’re getting in touch with someone without first hearing from them.

We’ve all gotten cold calls from time to time. Often it involves the phone ringing in the middle of dinner, which makes it more disruptive than compelling. However, cold emails work better than cold calls because your recipients check their email whenever they want.

In other words, you’re not disrupting their lives.

When you send a cold email, you’re inviting someone to check out your brand and your digital products so they might become a customer. However, you choose prospects based on data or information you’ve collected about them.

You’re not picking numbers out of a phone book. You’re curating a list of people who fall into your target market.

Is Cold Email Spam?


There’s a huge difference between cold email and spam.

You’ve probably received spam emails before. They might look like this:

Dear Entrepreneur,

I visited your site and it looks like you need [service]. We can help! Give us a call or visit our website to learn more.

It’s impersonal, addressed to a vague recipient, and often devoid of personality and valuable information. That’s not what you want.

Spam gets your email address blacklisted and results in lost sales. Cold emails, on the other hand, help you win sales and improve your brand reputation.

“Cold emails are considered spam when they’re mass-delivered and impersonal. They’re not considered spam when they’re personal, specific, and sent for a good reason. #Kajabi” — Tweet this!

Keep in mind that even personal, specific emails can fall into the category of spam if the recipient has no valid reason to hear from you.

How To Write a Cold Email in 11 Easy Steps


If you’re not sure how to write a cold email, we have you covered. It’s not as tough as it sounds, but it does require research and creativity.

Think of a cold email as your elevator pitch. It’s your opportunity, in just a few paragraphs, to explain to someone what you do, why you do it, and how you can help them.

Do cold emails (or elevator pitches) always result in sales? No. However, they do result in brand awareness. You might get a few immediate sales, but you can’t discount the value of future sales, either.

The person you email might check out your blog, follow you on social media, or otherwise interact with your brand as a result of your cold email. Then, down the line, he or she might buy an online course, join your membership site, or buy one of your other digital products.

So let’s dive into the process of writing a cold email from scratch.

1. Create a List of Potential Customers 

Start with the people you want to email. While you’ll send individual messages to each person, it helps to start with a list. You can then prepare a template that you tweak for each individual person.

But who should receive cold emails? Ideally, you’re looking for people who fall into your target audience. These are people who are actively interested in the knowledge you sell and who can benefit from your digital products.

How do you find them? You can start with their websites. Most people post contact information.

Additionally, a cold email doesn’t always have to go out via email. Maybe you’ve encountered someone on LinkedIn who fits your target market. If you have LinkedIn Premium, you can send InMail even if you’re not already connected to that person.

The same goes for messages via Facebook, Twitter, and other social platforms. Just keep in mind that people don’t appreciate receiving private messages the second you connect with them.

If you’re going to send cold emails via social, wait until you’ve interacted with the person in some way, such as by retweeting, commenting on a Facebook post, or liking an Instagram photo.

Once you’ve prepared a list of people to email or message, you’re ready to write your cold emails.

2. Craft an Intriguing Subject Line


The subject line can make or break a cold email. After all, if the person you email never opens the message, you’ve lost the opportunity before it even presents itself.

The challenge with cold email subject lines is to avoid sounding like a marketer. That’s always tough when your goal is to market something.

There are several ways to make a subject line more clickable:

  • Mention a shared acquaintance
  • Describe how a competitor achieved something amazing
  • Ask the recipient to reserve a time for a call
  • Invite the recipient to guide you to the decision-maker
  • Ask for a favor

Keep your subject lines short and sweet — somewhere between three and five words. If you can mention something personal, such as when you met the recipient at a convention, do so in the subject line. The same thing goes for a shared acquaintance.

You can also simply let the person know you want to connect. If you’re emailing someone at a company, you can inquire about the appropriate person to contact.

3. Add Each Recipient’s First Name

In some ways, email personalization has been played out a little too much. It’s overused because it’s become easier than ever to insert personal details into an email automatically.

However, with cold emails, personalization is essential. You must do everything in your power to make sure your message sounds personal and hand-crafted for the recipient.

Start with the person’s first name. Insert it in the subject line if you can, then add it to your email’s greeting.

You can add other personalization features, too. For instance, you could mention the recipient’s job title, company name, or geographic location. Show that person you’ve done your research.

4. Explain Why You’re Contacting Each Recipient Individually

Continuing with the personalization track, let’s make sure that you’re tweaking your cold emails to suit the recipient. Remember that you don’t want a cold email to sound like marketing speak.

Instead, you want to appeal to the recipient’s specific needs.

Let’s go back to our example about a Knowledge Commerce professional who sells online courses on public speaking.

Maybe you know that the recipient is a member of Toastmaster’s or that he or she is preparing to speak at an event in the near future. You can mention that fact in your email.

Just do so casually. You’re not a stalker — you’re a pal offering a lifeline if the recipient is worried about his or her speaking skills.

Above all, get to the point right away. Why are you getting in touch? What can you offer? Why should the recipient respond in the desired way?

5. Avoid Over-Selling Yourself

Over-selling yourself can result not only in getting your email send to the trash bin, but also in your email getting blacklisted. People hate the hard sell.

The best way to approach a cold email is as a friend. You might not know this person, but you want to help him or her out.

Maybe you don’t even mention your online course yet. You just invite the person to get in touch for a chat. Perhaps you mention your online course by explaining that a shared acquaintance has taken it in the last month and enjoyed it.

Whatever the case, play down you and your business. Build up the recipient.

Focus on what he or she can gain from your message instead of what you’re trying to sell. That way, your recipients feel like they can trust you moving forward.

6. Capitalize on Social Proof and Compelling Data Points

Social proof is huge in cold emails. People like to buy products that other people have enjoyed — it’s human nature.

Think about the last time a friend recommended a product. When you saw that product in the store, did you buy it? If so, did your friend’s recommendation flash through your mind?

That’s how social proof works. It alleviates the stress of being “the first.” People don’t like to become guinea pigs. They want to know that other people have enjoyed a product before they invest their own cash.

It’s kind of like peer pressure — but in a good way. You’re not trying to convince someone to meet you behind the school for a cigarette; instead, you’re sharing a product that he or she might enjoy.

Social proof can come in the form of a testimonial, compelling data points, the recommendation of a shared acquaintance, or the seal of approval from a recognized industry expert.

7. Don’t Waste Your Recipients’ Time

If you waste someone’s time, they’ll never give you a second thought. In fact, they’ll actively avoid you in the future.

Think about it. We can always make more money, find other friends, cook more food, and find more water. Time is the one thing that can actually run out.

When you’re sending cold emails, keep your messages brief and to the point. If you can delete a word, phrase, or sentence without affecting the meaning of the paragraph, do so.

Some cold emails are just a couple lines long. Others take up two or three paragraphs.

The important thing is to make sure that every word conveys something useful and intriguing. If it doesn’t, cut it out. Be ruthless.

8. Provide Multiple Ways to Get in Touch


Everyone has a preferred method of communication. Some people like to send emails. Others like to call. Still more would prefer to talk via social media first.

Provide multiple ways for the recipient to get in touch with you at the end of your email. Make sure to add your email address even though it’s in the sender’s information at the top. Add your phone number and social media handles.

9. Offer Multiple Times to Talk

As we mentioned, some people want to talk to a live human being. It might sound crazy, but it’s actually beneficial for you to hop on the phone or Skype for a quick chat.

In your cold email, suggest three or four times when you’re available to talk. If the person is interested, invite him or her to reply with the desired time (or an alternate).

Be very specific. For instance, suggest Tuesday, January 16, 2018, at 3 p.m. EST. That way, there’s no confusion over dates, times, or time zones.

10. Offer Something of Value

Generosity is one of the most powerful motivators in your arsenal. When you show someone that you’re generous, you invite that person to reciprocate.

Remember when we said that cold emails can serve multiple purposes? Even if the person isn’t interested in buying from you yet, he or she will be more likely to check out your website or social media accounts if you provide something of value right off the bat.

You could provide a link to your most recent blog post, for example, based on the person’s interests. Even better, provide a free download (or link to a download) that might help the recipient solve a specific, painful problem.

Link to a YouTube video, a webinar registration form, or anything else that serves up true value. Your goal is to demonstrate that you’re free with sharing your knowledge, which suggests that your paid products are even more valuable by extension.

11. Track Your Emails 

Your work isn’t done after you click the “send” button. You need a way to track your emails so you know how well your cold email campaign is working.

This is why it’s essential to send every cold email individually. You can provide a special link for each person so you can track that person’s activity after opening the email.

Kajabi offers several great email analytics options inside the platform. You don’t have to go through (and pay!) a third party to track your cold emails.

You can also create email sequences for cold prospects. The first email might be an introduction, for example. The second asks whether the recipient received the first email. You can then ask if the person wants you to remove them from your list.

Track subscriptions, open rates, bounce rates, CTR, and more through Kajabi. The more data you have, the better.

Alternatively, you may also use cold email software. With it, you can personalize each email and set up automated follow-ups, even if you're sending it to multiple recipients at once.

And if you’re more comfortable with old-school tactics, keep a spreadsheet, too. You can use it to track email addresses, names, emails sent, and emails received. It’s a great way to build data on your cold email campaign.

Best Cold Email Formulas for Knowledge Commerce Professionals


Now that you’re familiar with sending cold emails, are there any formulas you can follow to increase success rates? Absolutely. In fact, we’ve uncovered several scientifically proven formulas to help you improve your cold emails.

Use Storytelling With the Before-After-Bridge (BAB) Formula 

Storytelling is a powerful way to connect with prospects. Our brains instinctively understand stories, so you’re already ahead of the game.

The before-after-bridge (BAB) formula relies on storytelling:

  1. Before: Paint a picture of your prospect’s current situation regarding your product. What does it look like? What are the pain points?
  2. After: Describe the “after” picture. What would life be like without the problem, pain point, or lack of knowledge?
  3. Bridge: Tell the prospect how to get from before to after via your product. You’ve created conflict with the before picture and provided an intriguing climax with the after. Now you just have to get the prospect there.

The BAB formula works well when you want to explain how a product successfully solves a specific problem.

Capitalize on Pain Points With the Problem-Agitate-Solve (PAS) Formula

There’s also an element of storytelling in the problem-agitate-solve (PAS) formula. It’s a tried-and-true copywriting tactic that has worked for decades.

  • Problem: Describe the prospect’s specific problem or pain point. What goal is he or she trying to achieve?
  • Agitate: Explain the outcomes or collateral damage of the pain point. Why is this such a pressing issue?
  • Solve: Relieve that pain by presenting your product. Tired of suffering? Here’s the solution.

Use the PAS formula when you need to drill down on a pain point to help your prospect make the logical step toward buying your product.

Leverage Free Will With the If-Or-Not Formula

We all have free will, right? You set your alarm clock in the morning, but you choose whether to hit the snooze button, turn it off and go back to sleep, or get up and start your day.

Free will creates lots of problems, but it’s also liberating. That’s why the If-Or-Not formula works so well with cold emails.

Essentially, you’re giving your prospect a choice. He or she already knows about the choice, but you’re putting it in black or white.

At the end of your cold email, you could say something like this:

“I’m excited to hear from you and answer your questions. Please feel free to email or call with any questions. Or not. If you’re not interested, please disregard this email.”

It sounds counterintuitive, right? You don’t want the prospect to disregard the email.

However, by showing that you recognize a person’s free will, you exert a little pressure. You’re saying, “I’d be happy to provide you with the answer to your problem, but if you’re not ready, that’s just fine.”

Put Data to Work With the Star-Chain-Hook Formula

You’ve heard the phrase “hitching your wagon to a star,” right? You can use that imagery to create compelling cold emails.

The star-chain-hook formula starts with something positive instead of a pain point. It talks about all the benefits of solving a problem or achieving a goal.

Then you create a chain of data points. Here’s why these benefits come to pass. You can use your own data or pull from other choices.

Then you set the hook. Does the prospect want to take advantage of the solution and all that juicy data? Here’s how: Your product.

It’s a compelling way to get your recipients’ attention and convince them that you’ve got something they need.

Follow Marketing Greats With the Attention-Interest-Desire-Action (AIDA) Formula

You might have heard of AIDA before. It’s a popular marketing acronym that stands for attention, interest, desire, and action. It works like this:

  • Attention: Grab your prospect’s attention with a startling fact or statistic.
  • Interest: Generate interest by suggesting that a better solution exists.
  • Desire: Provide data or information that sparks desire in the prospect.
  • Action: Show how the prospect can take action (via your product) to satiate that desire.

It sounds simple, and it is, but it’s also incredibly powerful.

Follow the Three B’s and the Three P’s

When you’re writing cold emails, start with the three B’s. If you can satisfy all three, you’ll get better open rates and better conversions:

  • Be Brief
  • Be Basic
  • Be Blunt

You should also remain mindful of the three P’s:

  • Praise
  • Picture
  • Push

What do these six words mean?

The three B’s are all about getting to the point. Don’t pull punches (be blunt), don’t talk over your prospects’ heads (be basic), and don’t take up too much time (be brief).

As far as the three P’s, you’re trying to tell a story and convey information in a digestible, attractive way.

Praise your prospect by complimenting him or her. Show the big picture by helping him or her see a better future through your product or service. And provide a push by setting the hook — explain exactly what benefits await at the other side of your online course.

Don’t Send Spam

Cold emails are a great way to reach out to people who might not find your online business otherwise. They’re also tricky to get right.

If you send mass emails, use BCC or CC, send the same email to everyone, and ignore copywriting formulas, you’ll wind up hurting your business more than helping it. Why? Because you’re sending spam.

Nobody likes spam. Think about the dozens or even hundreds of spam emails you might delete in a single day. It’s staggering, right?

So err on the side of caution. If your email sounds even slightly spammy, continue to rework it. Wait until it sounds personable. You want to come across as a friend offering a desired solution to a problem.

Use Kajabi to Turn Your Knowledge and Content Into Products You Can Sell

Kajabi offers lots of internal tools to help your business succeed. We’re passionate about Knowledge Commerce, so we want to set you up for success, whether that means providing internal analytics for your cold email campaigns or allowing you to design a beautiful website.

Many people assume that knowledge is something you learn in school. That’s not always the case. In our experience, everyone is great at something — and other people want to learn how to do that something.

That’s where Knowledge Commerce comes in. And it often starts with cold emails.


We’ve packed a lot of information into this article, but you can use it all to send better cold emails.

What is a cold email? It’s an email you send to someone who’s not yet brand-aware. They don’t know you exist, so you’re giving your best elevator pitch.

Is cold email spam? Not necessarily. At least, it shouldn’t be. If you’re personalizing your emails and choosing your prospects carefully, you can avoid the dreaded spam label.

But how do you write a great cold email?

Start by curating a list of prospects. Decide how best to get in touch with them.

Next, craft a compelling subject line. It has one job: getting people to click.

You’ll then explain why, specifically, you’re contacting each prospect. How can you help them achieve goals or solve problems?

Stick to the facts and leave the hard sale behind. Provide social proof and hard data to bolster your case. And avoid wasting your recipients’ time at all costs.

You should provide multiple ways to get in touch and offer several times to talk. Additionally, don’t send a single cold email that lacks something of value. People trust generosity.

Finally, track your email. You can do so through a third-party service or within Kajabi itself.

If you’re still struggling to send cold emails, use some of the cold email formulas we described. They can help you nail the wording every time.

Have you send cold emails in the past? What works? What doesn’t?

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What Is Cold Email & How to Write an Effective Cold Email
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