Cold Emails Don’t Have to Suck: How to Consistently Get an Open Rate Over 50%

Yes, you can get more than half of your cold-email recipients to open your emails. That is if you write emails that don’t suck. 

Frankly, many cold emails do suck. But those are coming from companies and people who don’t know what they’re doing. 

When done well, cold emails can be one of the most effective outreach methods available to startups.

Here are some clear benefits of a cold email campaign:

  • You can directly contact people.
  • It raises brand awareness, even if you don’t get a response.
  • You can personalize each cold email, increasing your chances of them opening it.
  • Cold email stats are easy to measure.
  • Cold emailing is cost effective compared to other channels. 
  • Cold emailing is easily scalable and can grow with your business.
  • It’s very effective for converting leads into customers.

We’ll talk more about how to find and contact leads below. But first, let’s cover some things you should not do when cold emailing.

Avoid These Cold Email Mistakes 

To avoid writing cold emails that go right to the trash folder, let’s go over some common mistakes startups make in this regard. 

When it comes to writing emails that get opened, the most common problems I’ve seen are:

  • The subject line is irrelevant or boring: your subject line should be catchy and clearly related to the recipient. Usually, it’s best to keep it short and make it a question.
  • There are links included: don’t include links in your email. Spam filters often flag these, meaning the recipient doesn’t even see it.
  • The leads are bad: if you don’t do the appropriate research before you start sending emails, you’ve killed your chances already. To ensure the best possible open rate, you need to email people who actually may want to hear from you.

If you make these mistakes, your open rate will be way below what you want.

How To Increase Your Cold Email Open Rate

Now that you know what not to do, there are some clear steps to improve your open rate. 

Use LinkedIn Sales Navigator

Sales Navigator is a premium account from LinkedIn that gives you tools to make sure you are contacting solid, relevant leads. 

You can create a list of leads within LinkedIn to which you can save peoples’ profiles. So let’s say you find someone who, judging by the info on their profile, probably could use what you offer. You can save them to your leads list. 

But how do you find the right people?

Sales Navigator has an Advanced Search feature which lets you find people based on their location, industry, professional history, and many other filters. This ensures you find leads that will actually be interested in your emails.

Write a catchy subject line

People often use the subject line to decide if they’ll open an email, whether subconsciously or not. So I’d suggest spending more time on the email subject than on the actual email. 

Make sure the title is relevant to your lead or sounds like it could be coming from their colleague. Don’t focus on you and your company. Focus on what they’d want to see when they open their email.

Here are a few subject lines that typically work:

  • Quick question for you
  • What are your goals for this quarter?
  • How do you ______?

You could even try personalizing the subject line by including the person’s name or company name. 

Jon Youshaei of EveryVowel and Shane Snow of Contently ran a cold emailing test, including A/B testing for subject lines. 

Here were their open rates for both subject lines they tested:

  • “Quick Question” = 51.2% opens
  • “15 Second Question for Research on Annoying Emails” = 48.8% opens

Both are at about 50%. Not bad.

But it seems the subject line did more than get people to open the emails. The subject lines warmed up the leads enough that they responded:

  • “Quick Question” = 66.7% of openers replied
  • “15 Second Question for Research on Annoying Emails” = 33.3% of openers replied

Make the preview compelling

When you check your email, you’ll notice there’s a “preview” line below the subject title. If you’re cold-emailing someone, the preview line will show the first line of your email.

This preview is almost as important as the subject title.

That’s why the opening line of your email should be personalized and compelling. It shouldn’t sound like you’re about to sell them something (because you shouldn’t be selling in the first email). And it’s best not to mention your company name or position right away. 

Instead, make the opening line about them, as you did with the title. After your personalized greeting, you can say something like:

  • “I noticed you were interested in…”
  • “Congrats on the new job!”
  • “I heard you were looking for…”

If you follow these tips for writing cold emails, you can consistently get open rates of 50% or more. What other ideas do you have?