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How to write cold emails that convert to conversations

Written by

Daniela Seitz

How do you send a cold email campaign to potential leads without sounding like a spammy marketer? Where do you start? How do you write friendly, ‘non-salesy’ emails en masse that get responses?

This post looks at how to optimise outreach emails to increase the chances of a response from leads (+ some follow-up email templates you can use here).

Define your email campaign goal

First things first - define your goal. Is the email campaign goal response rates, open rates or click-through rates?

For this post, we’re going to assume the main goal is to drive sales so our recommendation is to concentrate on increasing response rates to start building 1-to-1 relationships with leads. All the tips in this post focus on crafting email campaigns to increase response rates.

Recommendation: Focus on increasing response rates if the end goal is driving leads.

Get an email outreach tool

The last thing you want to do when sending hundreds of emails is to manually send each email and adjust the first name/email fields!

Mail merges and email tools are your friends here to help you send personalised, plain text emails on mass. These tools will auto-fill personalised information from lists such as name, email, address or event info.

*Sidenote - do make sure you’re following GDPR compliance rules for any email lists that you’re contacting*

Below are a couple of tools you can you utilise for cold outreach campaigns:

Not Another Mail Merge - a Gmail add-on that has a freemium model of 50 emails a day. Ideal for small, one-off outreach campaigns. 

Yesware - Gmail integrated software that allows you to save templates, send auto-follow-up emails and send a personalised message to lots of recipients.

Recommendation: Mailshake. Mailshake’s cold outreach tool is SO easy to use, particularly for automating your follow up emails. Perfect for sending plain text messages.

Choose one Call to Action (CTA) for your first email

In your initial outreach email, you should give the reader one easy next step. Your email should focus on one CTA. What do you want the person to do? Do you want them to reply to find out more about your solution? To book a free consultation? To attend an event you’re hosting? Pick just the one!

“The more options you present, the less likelier your prospect is to take even one -- a psychological phenomenon known as the paradox of choice.” Irina Nica, HubSpot https://blog.hubspot.com/sales/bad-email-ctas

If you include more than one CTA, this will confuse the reader and feel impersonal. It may make them feel like you do not know much about them, hence you do not know what to ask them to do. This doesn’t mean you cannot include links in your email to support the person carrying out that CTA but you should minimise disruption to the flow as much as possible.

You should not be worried about losing people who are not ready to buy or talk to you now as your goal is to find the people that are ready. In reality, those that are interested but not ready to buy yet will probably indicate this if they find your proposition interesting.

Recommendation: Have one CTA around booking a ‘free consultation’. The individual should be invited to reply to the email which is the easiest action for them.

Decide between HTML or plain text emails

Let’s be honest, if you receive a HTML-heavy email with tonnes of images, you’re going to assume it’s a generic marketing email sent on mass and not by a real person.

Plain text emails on the other hand, with the right copy, will appear to come from an individual. You want to build 1-to-1 relationships with prospective clients.

Difference between plain text emails and HTML emails.


In an experiment conducted by HubSpot, it was found that plain text emails led to higher click rates and open rates vs HTML emails. For the plain-text vs HTML template with images test, the HTML email version had a 21% lower click-through rate. When David Gerhandt, VP of Marketing at Drift, starting sending plain text marketing emails, he found 30% of people who got his emails were responding back.

It may be tempting to add fancy images and logos to seem professional but plain text is king if you want to increase email response rates and build relationships.

Recommendation: Plain text emails to increase response rates.

Prepare your follow-up emails (you need more than you think!)

People are constantly connected to their emails. This means they often open them at times they cannot action the email. Someone may open an email, be interested in the service but be too busy at that moment to reply. That moment is then lost and the email will be forgotten! It is therefore important you keep the front of mind by following up regularly.

Sending around 7 emails per outreach campaign is recommended.

Remember, you are emailing them for a reason and trying to add value so don’t be afraid to follow up as much is needed!

Value is an important thing to consider. The replies should add value with every follow up so it doesn’t feel like a spammy chase up.

Each follow up gives you an opportunity to send some of your 'adding value' content. For example, one of the follow ups could direct them to a genuinely valuable blog post. Avoid sending sales-pitchy product materials as you want to build trust.

Follow-up emails can take a while to craft well. Hopefully, these ‘7 follow up email templates for small business owners’ we’ve written at Twigdoo will give you a headstart!

See more tips around email follow up frequency in this Quora discussion and via this post from Yesware.

Recommendation: Create 5-7 follow up emails and schedule them using a tool like Mailshake.

Use a human tone of voice

The copy should be as unpolished (no ‘marketing speak’ but still grammatically correct) as possible and include character so prospective leads feel they are personally being reached out to by an individual. Don’t be afraid of being informal (or of the odd emoji 😉).

Drift have lots of content around tone of voice and the idea of ‘conversational marketing’; crafting campaigns that encourage 2-way conversations with leads. This post in particular dives into the art of writing a sales and marketing email. Dave Gerhart writes “as if he were talking to a friend. Not overly casual, but never, ever stiff and formal. He writes how he speaks. And it works”.

Recommendation: Keep the tone HUMAN. Friendly, short emails are easier for readers to digest and take action 📩🙂

Choose who the emails should come from

You are trying to encourage responses so the emails should be signed off by a real person. Receiving an email from “info@yourcompany.com”, signed off from ‘[company name]’ screams ‘mass marketing email’. If the email received is tim@yourcompany.com, signed off from Tim, perhaps with a photo of him in the email avatar, this suddenly feels much more personal.

One tactic could be to send the outreach emails from the business owner, even if another employee then gets in touch once responses come through. Prospective leads are often going to be receptive if the message is sent from a business owner/CEO due to perceived credibility.

Recommendation: Send outreach emails from a person, not a general company email. Business owners are usually a key selling point for a company, so have your outreach emails come from a business owner where possible.

Write engaging subject lines

The subject line needs to encourage the individual to open the email but must also be relevant to the content in the email.

Recommendation: As the email will be coming from an individual try having every word uncapitalised (even the first one) as it will stand out and look like it has come from an individual.

Use email templates (or use our free ones!)

To get you started with your first email campaign, we’ve created a bunch of sample templates you can use. They’ve been written with the goal of responses in mind and include an initial outreach email plus an additional 6 follow-up emails.

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Twigdoo is a lead qualification platform that integrates with your current sales pipeline. We know how difficult it is to maintain the simple things that make a huge difference in lead management such as rapid response time.

If you’d like to chat about how Twigdoo could take out the pain of lead qualification in your business and begin to delight your leads just leave your details and we’ll get back to you in a flash :)

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