Over 65 million emails have been sent using QuickMail. So, we decided it was time to share our learnings to help you write cold emails that get results.

You’ll learn everything you need to know about how to write a cold email, from the importance of your prospect list, to the correct length of your email templates, to the key ingredients in all high-performing cold emails.

  1. What is a Cold Email and Why Use It?

  2. Writing Cold Emails vs. Marketing Emails

  3. The Fundamentals: Understanding Your Recipients

  4. How Long Should a Cold Email Be?

  5. How to Write a Cold Email: 7 Step Process

  6. Writing Cold Follow Up Emails That Get Replies

  7. Automating Your Cold Email Outreach Using QuickMail


Let’s dive in.

What is a Cold Email and Why Use It?

Cold email is the process of sending an email to someone who doesn’t know you to introduce yourself and pitch something of value to them.

In most cases, you’ll see it used by sales reps to connect with decision-makers at target companies. But, you’ll also see it used by people to secure marketing collaborations, invite people to their podcast, or make introductions and grow their professional network.

If you write an excellent cold email and send it to the right people, you’ll see incredible results. 

Here’s what Rachel Haley, former CPO of Avadel and current COO of QuickMail says about the channel:

Cold email and sales development just belong together. At my agency, we booked over 11k meetings in 2 years for ourselves and clients from cold email alone. It was such a successful channel that we stopped all other lead generation efforts to focus entirely on cold email.


Yes – a series of well-written cold emails is more effective than spending thousands on paid ads, spending years optimizing your website for SEO, or running expensive PR campaigns.

Writing Cold Emails vs. Marketing Emails

You probably already have a marketing automation system in your business where you send email sequences to new email list subscribers, new customers, and sales leads.

These are email sequences sent to a warm audience that is already familiar with your company.

On the other hand, cold emails are sent to people who have never spoken to you before and may not even know what your company does.

That means you need to approach them differently. They need to be:

  • Personalized enough that they can’t be sent to anyone else

  • Simple enough that they look handwritten

  • Clear enough that your recipient knows exactly why you’re contacting them

If you keep reading, you’ll learn exactly how to guarantee that every cold email you send hits those three points.

The Fundamentals: Understanding Your Recipients

Before you write any cold email templates, it’s important to know something: the most important part of any cold email campaign is your prospect list.

The people you contact are busy decision-makers. They have a strict filter and will instantly recognize an email that isn’t a fit for them. If it’s irrelevant, it will be deleted or sent to the spam folder.

On the other hand, if a decision-maker can see you’ve spent time researching them before reaching out and your value proposition solves a real problem for them, they’ll be happy to reply.

To ensure your cold emails see the latter response rather than the former, you need to spend time prospecting for the most relevant prospects to contact.

Use tools like:

  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator to identify relevant prospects based on their company or job title

  • BuiltWith to source prospects based on the software their company uses

  • UpLead to filter through prospects based on demographic, technographic, and firmographic data

As long as you have a clear idea of your ideal customer profile, these tools make it simple to identify B2B decision-makers that match the criteria.

I’d recommend keeping your prospect list small and focused.

If you’re just launching a cold email campaign and haven’t tested the channel, start small. Identify 100-200 prospects and write out each email by hand.

See if your cold emailing efforts resonate with a small list. If so, you can start to slowly scale up your sending volume.

How Long Should a Cold Email Be?

There’s no set length for a cold email.

For example, this podcast outreach email template comes in at 65 words:

Example of a cold email

It’s brief but the recipient will immediately see why they’re being cold emailed and if they think it’s a good fit, they’ll respond.

On the other hand, this cold email template from Intercom comes in at 100 words, and is just as effective in conveying its message:

The recipient will see that it’s being sent specifically to them, as there’s a personalized video. They won’t mind that it takes slightly longer to read, because it’s relevant.

Don’t get caught up on the length of your emails. As long as every part is relevant to your recipient, you’ll see results.

How to Write a Cold Email: 7 Step Process

1. Set Up Your Inbox for Sending

People are used to receiving spam cold emails from suspicious-looking email addresses.

In fact, most cold emails look something like this:

The sender doesn’t have a profile picture, there’s no full name, and the email address isn’t a business address.

To differentiate your inbox from spam emails, do the basics such as:

  • Adding a profile picture to your inbox

  • Set your real name

  • Use a cold email domain that’s a close match to your company domain and add domain forwarding

When someone receives an email from you, it will look just like the emails they expect to receive from people in their network – not like a spam email they wish had never received.

2. Use a Value-Adding Email Signature

Your email signature is another part of your cold email foundations to get in place upfront.

When anyone receives your email, one of the first things they’ll do is move their eyes down to the signature to see who sent it.

If your signature is simple and professional, it’ll build trust from the get-go.

Include details such as:

  • Your full name

  • Your job title

  • A headshot (this isn’t necessary if your email inbox already has one)

  • Your company contact details

  • Links to any social proof you have, such as your YouTube, podcast, or blog 

Here’s a good example:

Source: 13 free email signature templates for Gmail (and how to install them) | Zapier

On top of the elements we mentioned above, you can even use your signature to add an extra call to action, such as a sentence saying: “Book a 15-minute personalized demo to learn about {{company.name}}”.

Your email signature won’t make or break a campaign. But, it’s still a key part of your foundations, so spend ten to fifteen minutes on getting it right. Once it’s in place, you won’t need to change it.

To add a signature in QuickMail, go to your inbox settings. 

When you create email templates you can include this using the {{inbox.signature}} attribute.

3. Craft a Subject Line That Catches Your Prospect’s Attention

Your cold email subject line frames the email for your recipient. There are hundreds of blog posts out there – even our own – that give subject line ideas. But, in truth, it’s not that important.

As Jeremy, Founder of QuickMail, said in our podcast episode here:

Your subject line is not the determinant of whether you get a high open rate or not – full stop. There are other factors that are far more powerful.

Jeremy Chatelaine Jeremy Chatelaine

Things like your email deliverability and your inbox setup (name and profile picture), and even the email body preview snipper are bigger determinants of whether your emails get opened.

However, it’s still important to avoid anything that’s:

  • Misleading

  • Clickbait or optimized for open rate

  • Looks impersonal

As long as you’re avoiding these things, your subject line will, in most cases, be fine – because most people open every email that lands in their primary inbox, even if it’s from a stranger – as long as it doesn’t look like obvious spam.

Check out this example from AppSumo’s email template:

It’s very simple, but it works. Before opening the email the recipient would already know why the sender is reaching out and be curious about how they can get their business in front of the potential customers the subject line mentions.

Other examples could include:

  • “Helping {{company.name}} with SEO”

  • “Question about {{company.name}}’s sales strategy for Q4”

  • “Help with podcast promotion?”

All of these subject line examples are simple but incite curiosity in the recipient.

You don’t need to overthink your subject line – as long as it’s relevant to the rest of the email, you’re set.

4. Write a Personalized Opening Line for Every Recipient

Your first impression is critical.

Decision-makers will skim your email and in under 10 seconds, will already have a good idea of whether they’ll reply or not.

That’s why you need to put in extra effort to differentiate your email template.

The best way to do that? Use a custom introduction in every email you send.

This is a fully unique and handwritten sentence that can only be sent to one person.

It’s so personalized that your potential customer receiving it will know that there’s no way it was automated.

For example, if your business had been testing social media marketing and you received an email with an opening line like this:

You’d instantly be curious about what the sender has to say.

They’ve clearly done their research, which increases the chances of the rest of the email template being relevant to you.

This process is usually best when done manually.

Take two minutes per prospect to run a basic background check and look for things like:

  • Recent company news like funding, new offices, or new hires

  • Personal news or stories they’ve shared on LinkedIn

  • Podcasts or media appearances they’ve done

All of these make excellent opportunities for opening lines.

Save each opening line in your prospect list, like this:

Then, as you write your email template in QuickMail’s cold email software, you can add a custom opening line attribute:

This automatically populates with your personalized opening line and shows each prospect you’ve spent time researching them or their business before reaching out.

However, it’s important to remember one thing. Founder and CEO of QuickMail, Jeremy Chatelaine, put it well in one of our recent podcast episodes:

Personalization isn’t a substitute for building a great prospect list.

Jeremy Chatelaine Jeremy Chatelaine

If your offer isn’t a fit for the recipient, they won’t reply. 

Only spend time personalizing your emails if you know the person on the receiving end is a perfect fit for your offer.

If they are, your personalization amplifies your offer and makes it even more of a home run.

Want more inspiration for adding unique personalization to your cold emails? Check out our recent video teardown of two really good cold emails here.

5. Convey Your Value Proposition Using Results

Your value proposition is the reason you’re contacting prospects.

Whether you offer lead generation services, run a recruitment agency, or run a SaaS business, it’s vital that your recipients understand the pain point you can solve for them.

The only catch is that you have two sentences – maximum – to convey that value. 

The best way to do that is by making your pitch results-based.

Let’s give an example.

AppSumo is a platform where companies can list their SaaS tool on and get buyers, usually with a lifetime deal.

In their cold email template, they don’t even mention this. Instead, they sell the benefits of getting promoted to their audience:

If they were selling the features of their platform, their cold email value proposition would be something like: “We are hand-selecting companies to showcase on our website that lists the best new SaaS tools.”

That might work for some recipients, but it’s nowhere near as compelling as getting featured in front of 850,000+ potential customers. 

Here are some examples of what this looks like for different business models:

  • If you run a lead generation agency: “We help marketing agencies book 15 meetings with qualified leads per month.”

  • If you run a SaaS company selling sales productivity software: “Our platform saves sales reps an average of 4 hours per week usually spent on manual tasks.”

  • If you run a recruitment agency, your value proposition is: “We help startups secure top talent 54% faster than the industry average time-to-hire”. 

Want to learn more about selling the benefits vs. the features of your offer? Watch our full podcast episode on YouTube here with actionable copywriting strategies on selling your benefits. 

6. Include Social Proof to Build Trust

One of the biggest reasons cold emailers fail to get results is that their prospects don’t trust them.

You can’t blame them, either. If you receive an email from a stranger, you’ll have reservations about trusting them immediately.

The best way around this problem is to add social proof to your templates.

Jack Reamer said this about social proof in our Cold Outreach Podcast:

You’re using social proof to show your prospects that you’re a legitimate company that has already been approved by companies similar to them.

Jack Reamer Jack Reamer

Social proof can be in the form of:

  • Name-dropping notable clients

  • Sharing statistics on the value you’ve created for clients

  • Showing accreditations or industry awards you’ve won

Here’s a good example from RepurposeHouse: 

Right after sharing their core value proposition (repurposing content for social media), they name-drop four notable clients.

Even if you don’t know the company, you’ll immediately feel that the email is more credible than if it was an unknown company reaching out. 

Other examples of this in practice would be sentences like:

  • “We recently helped [client name] boost landing page conversions by 242% with our A/B testing tools.”

  • “Our services helped [client name] close $8,550 in new monthly recurring revenue.“

  • “We’ve helped brands like [well-known client] and [well-known client] improve their paid ads strategy.”

A short sentence like this is all it takes.

Your prospects will instantly trust you more than other cold emailers who aren’t including social proof in their templates.

It also gives you an extra talking point for when you book a call with your prospect. You can use the meeting to share more details on the specific case study or result you mentioned in your email, which will further boost your credibility.

7. Use Your Call To Action to Encourage a Reply

Every cold email you send exists to get you on the phone or book a meeting with a potential client.

That’s why your Call to Action (CTA) is so important.

The right CTA makes it easy for a prospect to respond and take the next step.

As we’ve already talked about, your prospects are busy people. They don’t have time to wonder what you’re asking them.

The best CTAs have several factors in common:

  • They’re simple

  • They ask one thing of your prospect

  • They’re focused on a reply, not another action

Take this template from Salesflare as an example:

The CTA asks a simple question: “Are you the right person to talk to?”.

In most cases, the sender should already know the answer to this question if their prospecting process was effective.

However, if the recipient feels the offer is relevant, the CTA makes it very simple to respond.

Some other examples of effective cold email CTAs include:

  • Would you like more details on this?

  • Is this something you would be interested in?

  • Worth a conversation, or no?

  • What’s the best way to schedule 5 minutes to talk?

The best CTAs tend to be low commitment. High-commitment CTAs like “Can we schedule a 15-minute meeting on Friday?” are a big request. Before your prospect even knows you or has confirmed interest, you’re already trying to book a meeting and take time out of their day.

On the other hand, a lower commitment CTA like “Is this something you’d be interested in?” don’t require much mental energy from your recipient.

They can respond and if they’re ready to book a call, they’ll let you know.

Your main focus needs to be on starting a conversation. If you can do that on a regular basis, it won’t be long before your calendar is full of meetings with qualified prospects. 

Want to learn more about writing the perfect cold email CTA?

Check out our three podcast episodes on YouTube here:

Writing Cold Follow Up Emails That Get Replies

No matter how long you spend writing your cold emails, you won’t always get a response.

In fact, our data from 65+ million emails sent show that 55% of replies to cold email campaigns come from a follow-up.

You need to spend time crafting a set of value-adding follow-up emails.

When writing a follow-up email, you can’t assume your prospect will go back and read your first email again. 

You need to:

  • Re-introduce the reason you’re reaching out

  • Share another example of social proof

  • Use a new CTA to make it even easier to reply

You can use your follow-ups to experiment with different email lengths, too.

Take this example podcast outreach email from The Top:

The first email shares all of the main details of the offer.

Then, the follow-up keeps it extremely brief. The sender only shares the basics: why they’re emailing (doing an interview), the benefits to the recipient (reach 5m CEOs), and the CTA.

The one thing to avoid is the classic “bump email”.

These are emails where people send something like “Bumping this to the top of your inbox”.

Jack Reamer, Chief Lead Generation Officer at Salesbread and Jeremy Chatelaine, CEO of QuickMail, both agree on this – if you’re using bump emails, you’re leaving results on the table.

Use your follow-up emails to test new hypotheses and remind your prospect that you have something of value to their business. Later on in this article, you’ll also learn how you can automatically send follow-up emails if your recipient doesn’t reply at first.

Automating Your Cold Email Outreach Using QuickMail

When you first start testing cold email marketing as a channel, you can afford the time to write them out one by one.

But, as you see results and start to scale, writing them manually won’t work. You need a way to automate the process.

Part of that involves creating email templates that can be applied to every prospect in your campaign.

Your templates need to include all of the key factors we’ve looked at, but also include personalization.

To do that at scale, you need to use a cold email platform like QuickMail.

QuickMail enables you to create email templates that are personalized for every recipient on your list.

1. Formatting Your Email List and Importing Prospects

As we’ve mentioned, one of the most important parts of any campaign is your prospect list.

This needs to be formatted into a spreadsheet with columns for all key details on your recipients, like:

  • Their first and last names

  • Their email address

  • Their company name

  • Their job title

  • The custom opening line to include

To make this process simple, you can download our free prospect list template, which will get you started with all of the main columns you need:

An organized spreadsheet with your prospects makes it easy to import, and, as we’ll see further on, easy to add personalization to every email you send.

When your list is ready, it’s time to import it into QuickMail.

During the import process, you’ll confirm that the attributes are being correctly mapped from the sheet into QuickMail.

As well as importing via a CSV file, you can also connect QuickMail with a Google Sheet and have prospects automatically imported into QuickMail.

The Google Sheet sync makes your process streamlined if you have a well-designed prospecting system, as you can have one team member build your prospect list, while another one manages campaigns in QuickMail, knowing that any prospect synced is ready to receive an email.

2. Verifying Email Addresses and Improving Deliverability

If you’ve spent all that time writing your cold emails, you need them to get delivered.

There are multiple steps you can take to improve email deliverability.

First, you’ll need to warm up your email with a tool like Mailflow. This connects to your inbox and automatically sends and receives emails from your inbox. Over time, the positive engagement will show email service providers (ESPs) like Gmail and Outlook that you’re a trustworthy sender.

You’ll see clear reports on your email deliverability in the tool, and get data on where your emails are landing.

The next step is to verify your prospect email addresses.

For this, you’ll need to use an email verification tool like NeverBounce or ZeroBounce.

These platforms run checks on the inboxes you’re sending to, ensuring they’re able to receive emails. This matters because ESPs treat senders with high bounce rates as untrustworthy. If more than 5% of your emails bounce, it’s likely that you’ll run into further deliverability problems.

The easiest way to do this is to connect your email verification tool with QuickMail. Once you’ve imported your prospects, you can select them and verify the email validity either individually, or in bulk.

If the email you’re planning to contact isn’t verified, it’ll be flagged and automatically removed from your campaign.

Keeping your bounce rate low ensures your campaigns don’t face unnecessary deliverability problems.

The third pillar of good email deliverability is your email template.

ESPs treat emails with links and images with more scrutiny, as people sending personal emails tend to rely on text-only templates. 

Some cold emailers add links to their calendar or their company in the first email, but we’d avoid that. Most cold prospects don’t want to click links from senders they don’t know so it’s unlikely they’ll engage.

Keep your focus on starting a conversation, rather than getting your recipient to click a link.

Once you know you’re clear from a deliverability standpoint, it’s time to set up your campaign and create your email templates.

3. Writing Personalized Email Templates at Scale

The best part about cold email software is that you can personalize your outreach at scale.

In QuickMail, it takes just a few minutes to set up a personalized email campaign.

You’ll use the learnings we’ve shared to create a base template that can apply to all prospects, including your value proposition, social proof, and call-to-action.

Then, you’ll use attributes to add in personalized elements to every campaign.

In the email example above, we’ve got multiple parts that are personalized, even though we’re only creating one template to send to the email list.

You can include any attribute you want from your prospect list.

When your email sends, the attributes will populate using the information from your spreadsheet.

Every email you send will be fully unique, giving you the highest chance of getting replies from cold prospects. 

4. Adding Custom Follow-Ups to Boost Response Rates

As we’ve seen, follow-up emails are critical.

In QuickMail, you can automate the process.

After your first email in a campaign, you’ll add a new ‘Wait’ step and choose the length of time you want to wait before sending a follow-up.

For most campaigns, three days is a good length of time. Your prospect may already recognize your name from your first email, and sending a follow-up proves that you have something worth their time.

After that, create a new Email step and write out your follow-up template.

Like with your main email, you’ll include attributes to personalize the template.

You can add as many follow-up steps as you want to a campaign.

However, while it’s tempting to continue the campaign until you get a reply, ESPs won’t like it if you’re sending hundreds of emails per week that aren’t generating responses. 

We prefer to keep campaigns shorter – three to six emails in length – and maximize the chances of a response.

When a prospect replies to your campaign they’re automatically removed and won’t receive any extra follow-ups. This avoids you sending unnecessary emails to prospects who are already in your pipeline.

Once your campaign and follow-up steps are ready, you can do a final review of each step in your campaign overview.

As soon as you’re ready, hit the ‘Go Live!’ button, and your campaign will automatically start sending emails.

If you spend time building a list and writing personalized cold emails, it won’t be long before you get replies.

5. Continuing the Conversation After a Response

When a prospect replies you need to continue the conversation.

Rather than monitoring your inbox for responses and potentially missing interested prospects, you can use QuickMail’s Opportunities inbox to track every interaction with your campaign.

In your dashboard, you’ll see:

  • The most recent responses

  • When each conversation was last responded to by you or a prospect

  • The members involved

  • The campaign it was part of

This makes it simple to stay on top of your replies.

Because QuickMail is made for teams, you’ll also be able to view the entire conversation thread with prospects, so anyone can jump in, get context on your email history with a prospect, and send the most relevant response.

QuickMail has native integrations with HubSpot, Pipedrive, and Zapier.

That means you can automatically sync replies to your cold emails with your CRM, and vice versa. When you make a note in Pipedrive, it will automatically be added to your prospect notes in QuickMail.

Thanks to the Zapier integration, you can build fully custom workflows to fit your business.

For example, you can automatically send a message to a Slack channel when you get a new response, or automatically create new Pipedrive records for prospects who click a link in your email.

The Zapier integration is a powerful way to automate important business processes without having to spend on custom development and ensures your cold email strategy fits in seamlessly with the rest of your business processes.

6. Tracking Your Cold Email Metrics

The best way to understand the effectiveness of your cold emails is with data.

QuickMail enables you to track every key metric in your campaign, including:

  • Open rate

  • Reply rates

  • Clickthrough rates

  • Unsubscribe rates

  • Bounce rates

From the moment your campaign begins, QuickMail is gathering actionable data to help you understand how well-written your cold emails are and how effective they are at hitting your business goals.

As well as tracking your overall campaign metrics, you can run A/B tests on your emails to find the best-performing templates.

In your campaign editor, you’ll select an email and choose ‘Add Variation’.

Then, you’ll create a new email template variation. QuickMail will send each email variation out to a percentage of your prospect list, and then show you data on which one is performing better.

It’s a powerful way to test different copywriting styles, value propositions, and CTAs to see what generates the best response rate.

By tracking your cold email metrics and running A/B tests, it ensures you’re focused on using data to drive your cold email decisions rather than intuition.

How to Write a Cold Email: In Summary

Writing cold emails is hard.

You have a few short paragraphs to prove to your cold prospect’s why your pitch is worth their time to respond to.

The steps we’ve laid out will pave the way for you to get the results you need.

Including the key elements we’ve outlined, such as your personalized introduction, a short value proposition, social proof, and a simple CTA, makes it simple for your prospect to understand the reason you’re reaching out.

As long as your pitch is relevant to their business, you’ll see good response rates and it won't be long before your calendar is filled with meetings.

When you’re ready to start sending personalized cold emails, start your 14-day free trial QuickMail to automate the process.