Cold emails are still a powerful sales technique. When done right, it’s far more efficient than a cold call to initiate a conversation with your prospect.

While many successful startups have used cold email to obtain early traction for their products, most of us aren’t very good at writing cold emails that our prospects will respond to.

Scientist Bear Studying Emails

At Interseller, we crunched the numbers on over a million email messages to find out the crucial mistakes that we tend to make when composing and sending cold emails.

Avoid these 19 mistakes to ensure high open and response rates from your target prospects:

Email Subject Line Mistakes

Cold Email Mistake 1: Too Lengthy

Too many words in your subject line will render it useless.

Majority of emails are now read on mobile devices. In the U.S., around 66% of all email is now opened on smartphones or tablets.

If your subject line is too long, it won’t fit on the smaller screen size on mobile devices. For instance, while Gmail will show 70 characters in the subject line, the iPhone email client will accommodate only 41 characters (in portrait mode). On an Android phone, you can fit only 30 characters.

If people can’t read the entire subject line, it’s unlikely their curiosity will be sufficiently piqued to motivate them to open your email.

Interseller Analysis

Analyzing the emails sent through Interseller, we noticed a significant drop in open rates when the subject line was too lengthy.

Emails with less than 70 characters in the subject line have an open rate of 42%, while those that had more than 70 characters have an open rate of 30%.

Subject line length comparison

Wrong Example:

Need to scale your business? Time to change your financial management solution

Right Example:

Scale your business with the right financial management solution

Jonathan’s Take:

Get right to the point in 7-9 words. Keeping subject lines between 30-60 characters will allow it to appear completely and accurately in most browsers and smartphones.

Why is this important:

The subject line is the first sentence in your cold email that is read by the recipient. If she cannot read it completely, it is unlikely that she will open your email. When you have less than 5 seconds to get your message across, a short subject line is essential to do capture attention.

Cold Email Mistake 2: Subject line is not Personalized

Putting the name of your prospect in the subject line increases the probability of your email being opened. Even though this is not a game changer, it still has some impact. However, only 35% of marketers are leveraging the power of personalized subject lines.

Analyzing email sent through Interseller, we noticed a 6% increase in open rates when the name of the prospect was added to the subject line. While some people may have become resistant to this personalization tactic, it is still better than sending a generic subject line.

Wrong Example:

Want a free trial of the new Salesforce CRM?

Right Example:

John, want a free trial of the new Salesforce CRM?

Jonathan’s Take:

You can use Interseller to personalize the subject line with the name of the person, the company, a common connection on LinkedIn, etc. Another way to test this is to use personalization in your follow up emails and see if you get a better response. Keep testing and see what works best.

Using pronouns like ‘you’ and ‘your’ can also lift the open rates for your cold emails.

Why is this important:

A personalized subject line adds the element of one-on-one human interaction. By adding the name of your prospect, you grab their attention and make them curious enough to open your email.

Cold Email Mistake 3: Deceptive Subject line

Trickery is never a good way to start any relationship, especially when dealing with a prospective buyer.

A rookie mistake that salespeople make is to use “Re:” in the subject line when this is your first email and you have never interacted with the person.

Wrong Example:

Deceptive subject line

Jonathan’s Take:

Avoid gimmicks like ‘Re:’ and ‘Fwd:’ in your subject line, or deceptive ones like “your account status” or “the meeting you missed. Moreover, your body copy should match whatever promise you have made in the subject. Deceptive subject lines can increase your open rates, but they tend to damage your prospects’ trust in your brand. It also violates anti-spam laws and can send your emails to the junk folder, permanently!

Mistakes in the Email Body

Cold Email Mistake 4: No Recipient Name

This is personalization 101. If you are sending cold emails with a generic ‘Hi’ or ‘Hello,’ you can forget about getting any response.

You might not know the name of the right person to reach out to in a particular organization, but not addressing a specific person is hardly a cold email - it’s more like spam, and you will get blacklisted. And if a corporate email server marks you as spam, your domain might get into trouble.

Wrong Example:

Greetings! Hope you are doing good.

Right Example:

Hello George,

We’ve been hearing from several existing XYZ Co. customers that they’ve been experiencing significant application performance issues recently.

Jonathan’s Take:

Always add the person’s name in the salutation. You can’t get away with not doing this!

Why is this important:

Instead of drowning in a sea of emails, this is your chance to stand out. By addressing them with their name, they pay more attention to the rest of the content. It establishes a connection.

Cold Email Mistake 5: Wrong Recipient Name

Before clicking ‘send’, you should check that the recipient’s name matches the name in the email ID.

But that’s not all. You also need to address the cold email to that specific prospect in the company who will be interested in your proposal or find it relevant.

Wrong Example:

To: john@somecompany.com

Hey Adam,

I am Karen from ABC Consulting.

Right Example:

To: john@somecompany.com

Hi John,

I am Karen from ABC Consulting.

Jonathan’s Take:

Few things to keep in mind.

First, research the company and find the exact person who will find your pitch relevant.

Next, before sending your emails, double-check so that the name in the email address matches the one in your salutation. This is easy to do if you are using Interseller.

Why is this important:

Company executives get numerous emails on a daily basis. If your email is not addressed specifically to them or if the message is not pertinent to them, they’ll either ignore it or send it to junk.

Very few people will pass it along to the right person.

Cold Email Mistake 6: Long Body Copy

As with subject lines, keep the body copy of the email, short and sweet.

We found that email responses rates rose 42% when its length was kept under 200 words.

Interseller Analysis

Analyzing the email body copy in Interseller reveals a clear trend of reply rate declining as body length increases.

Body length analysis

Jonathan’s Take:

Get to the point quickly. The message should essentially include who you are, and what you can do for them. Highlight a pain point of your prospect and state how you can help them.

Check whether each sentence in the email serves a specific purpose.

Also, avoid using generic opening lines like ‘hope you are well’ or ‘how are you doing today’. They only add dead weight to the copy. If you can’t grab your reader’s attention in the first line, they won’t read beyond. Moreover, these expressions sound too superficial.

Use Interseller’s Mail Merge function to customize messages on an individual basis to provide more personalization.

Why is this important:

Since you’re not the only person vying for your prospects’ time and attention, you need to grab it fast.

As John Caples, trailblazer, author of several books including Tested Advertising Methods, and prolific copywriter, said: “Remember that the reader’s attention is yours for only a single instant. They will not use up their valuable time trying to figure out what you mean.”

A clear and concise email that outlines the core benefit, without taking too much of the readers time, makes for a compelling message.

Moreover, mentioning why you are writing to your prospect, right up front, gives context to the conversation and a reason for them to read the rest of your email.

Cold Email Mistake 7: Talking about product features, not benefits

A salesperson-centric email usually lists out various features of the product without mentioning any benefits relevant to the recipient’s company.

Such emails say nothing about why that particular prospect should be interested in what you have to offer.

In the following example, the sender increased his response rate by 1400% by sending a better email. Here are the two versions he sent.

Wrong Example:

Hi Tim,

We at PinkPanther have created an intelligent messaging platform by building more accurate audiences with location time and real-world behavior.

Our location and user profile analytics platform enables Ad-networks and DSPs to increase their eCPMs by up to 500%. By directly measuring locations through smartphones and leveraging big data principles, we are able to understand consumer behavior.

Right Example:

Hi Tim,

Would you be interested in a solution that notifies users about relevant products that they have recently searched for when they are within 50 feet of merchants that are carrying these products?

I believe this is an excellent way for your app to engage potential customers and drive sales.

Jonathan’s Take:

Highlight a specific problem that’s very important to your target audience and is consistent with the subject line.

The body of the email should inform your prospect what’s in it for them and encourages them to read more.

Emphasize how you can provide value by citing a specific use case relevant to their industry in simple, human language.

Why is this important:

Your prospects do not know you. They really have no interest in who you are as a company and what features your product has. Therefore, your email should be centered around what you can do to solve their challenges, and not your company or your product features.

Cold Email Mistake 8: Overly Affectionate Tone

Being polite is one thing but false friendliness in a cold email is sure to backfire.

When you don’t know your prospects that well, making detailed inquiries about their health or vacation will come across as phony. Moreover, while flattery does work in cold emails, it has to be done tactfully. High praise for trivial matters and too frequent use of the other person’s name come across as “too friendly” and leaves your prospect feeling a tad uncomfortable.

Wrong Example:

Dear John,

I hope you’re having a wonderful week!

How was your Easter break?

I noticed that PinkPanther released a new product last month. Excellent work! I hope it sells well.

John, the reason I’m writing is to find out if you’re the person responsible for purchasing software for PinkPanther.

Right Example:

Hi John,

Are you the person at PinkPanther responsible for software purchases?

Jonathan’s Take:

You are essentially a stranger to your prospect so keep your cold emails polite, professional and to the point. Avoid exclamations!

The message needs to be refined, direct and actionable, so write the way you talk.

Why it is important:

Trying to create a forced friendship will cause your prospects to raise their barriers. This will hamper any positive response that you could have received from them. A far better way to build rapport is to mention a common acquaintance, such as a common LinkedIn connection.

Cold Email Mistake 9: No Call-to-Action (CTA)

While a well-crafted subject line is bound to boost your open rates, a clear CTA is bound to increase your response rates.

The last impression your prospects have of you is through your CTA. If the CTA is missing or is not specific, how will your prospects respond? You need to give them a reason or a motive, through your CTA, to take some action.

Wrong Example:

Reach out to us.

Right Example:

When do you have 10 minutes so I can tell you about few warning signs [Company] can look for to prevent churn?

Jonathan’s Take:

Without a clear CTA, your cold email is a waste. Instead of asking ‘Yes/No’ questions such as “Are you interested in setting up a meeting?”, ask open-ended questions like “When do you have 10 minutes to discuss ABC?”. And the more specific the CTA, the better chances it has to engage your prospect.

Why it is important:

The main goal of a cold email is to encourage your prospects to engage and connect with your organization. A CTA is the ending part of the email that makes the recipient undertake some action – send us a reply, click the provided link, sign up for a trial. That makes it an essential part of any cold email campaign.

Cold Email Mistake 10: CTA Overload

While not including any CTA in your cold email undermines the entire purpose of sending them, using multiple call-to-actions only ends up confusing your prospect.

Salespeople may believe that including many varieties of CTAs will compel their prospects to choose at least one. However, that is a misconception.

Statistics show that emails with a single call-to-action increased clicks 371% and sales 1617%.

Wrong Example:

Increase your conversion rate within 30 days. Click here for product demo. Follow us on Facebook

Right Example:

Start your free trial.

Jonathan’s Take:

Narrow your focus in each email and put one or at the most two CTAs. One CTA should be very specific such as ‘What’s the best way to reach you for a quick demo?’ and the second one can be generic ‘Let’s connect on LinkedIn’, which is part of your signature.

Why is this important:

Too many links and call-to-actions can overwhelm your prospects. This can paralyze them and prevent them from taking any action. Moreover, a deluge of CTAs can clutter the body of your email, making it difficult to read.

Cold Email Mistake 11: Using HTML, images or bold fonts in email

Many salespeople believe that adding non-standard fonts, colorful images, and HTML text will enhance the attractiveness of a cold email and propel the receiver to read it.

You may be doing it with the intention of attracting the attention of highly qualified prospects. However, these gimmicks will draw the attention of spam filters, rather than your prospects!

Interseller Analysis

Diving into the bodies of messages sent through Interseller we noticed that email bodies that contain bolded words have a lower open rate and reply rate, most likely due to being caught by spam filters. Email bodies that contain images have an even lower reply rate. Taking the inverse we analyzed emails that do not contain bolded words or images and noticed that the reply rate was nearly double.

plain vs HTML analysis

Jonathan’s Take:

A cold email should read just like a normal email sent by a person, certainly not a company. Avoid decorating it or using fonts and styles that are common for newsletters and other spammy marketing material.

Keep it simple and make it feel personal.

If you think parts of your email should be in bold so that they stand out, then make the overall content shorter so that the core message is clear.

Why is this important:

Using HTML or images and color-coded texts can flag spam filters.

What’s worse? Your recipient may find such emails too salesy and suspicious. If they block your email address, none of your emails will ever have a chance of reaching that particular recipient’s inbox.

Cold Email Mistake 12: No Grammar Check

If your email copy has faulty grammar, it’s a really bad way to try to begin a relationship. Spelling mistakes and typos imply that you are not serious about your message or the recipient.

Not a great first impression to make on a prospect, is it?

Wrong Example:

Hi Elizabth,

I wanted to reach out to share a useful ytool that might be of intrest to you.

Right Example:

Hi Elizabeth,

I wanted to reach out to share a useful tool that might be of interest to you.

Jonathan’s Take:

Read your email twice (and aloud if necessary) before clicking send. Use a spell checker or, better yet, set up a free Grammarly account.

Why is this important:

Checking for typos and grammatical mistakes could make all the difference between whether your email gets a response or not. A clumsy spelling mistake in the opening paragraph indicates that the sender doesn’t care.

Cold Email Mistake 13: No In-depth Personalization

Sending 50 to a few hundred emails a day makes sense when you are selling a low-ticket item. But what if your product/ service is worth thousands of dollars a month? It certainly makes a lot of sense to reach out to far fewer people a day, and invest substantial time to personalize your emails.

This is more needed when you’re doing account-based marketing and have a limited amount of prospects to reach out to.

Account-based marketing is a strategic approach where you communicate with individual prospects or accounts as markets of one. This is more of a one-on-one approach and needs high levels of personalization so that your campaign resonates with these target audiences.

Jonathan’s Take:

Just because you are sending fewer emails, doesn’t mean that you should manage with plain old Gmail or Outlook. Automating follow-ups and performance tracking can still save you several hours a week.

With Interseller you can customize messages as needed for a contact while still taking advantage of automatic follow-ups.

Interseller Analysis

For initial emails in Interseller that were sent without personalization, we see an average reply rate of 11%. For the emails that were customized for each contact, we see a dramatic jump to 34% reply rate.

In-depth personalization emails

Email Signature Mistakes

Cold Email Mistake 14: No Email Signature

Email signatures are essentially an electronic business card. It adds personality to your email. Lack of an email signature can reduce the credibility of your organization and make your email seem like an amateurish attempt.

Every basic email signature should have your name, title, company website link and phone number.

Wrong Example:

Hi Jon Kim,

We at PinkPanther can help you better implement your CRM systems.

Are you available for a short call at 9 am PST this week?

Warm Regards,

Uruba

Right Example:

Signature example

Jonathan’s Take:

A bare-boned email signature is a must have. This can be enhanced to add more impact by including your company logo, personal image, video or social media links.

Additional Tip:

While it’s great to have social links in your signature, sometimes too many links can trigger spam filters in certain companies. If you haven’t received a response, try sending a follow-up email with fewer links. You can use Interseller to send automated follow-ups.

Why is this important:

If your email doesn’t have a signature, the only way your recipients can contact you is through a reply email. An email signature gives your recipients more options to contact your organization. It also allows them to learn more about your company.

First Impressions Mistakes

Cold Email Mistake 15: No ‘From’ name or ‘From’ name is company email address

Getting an email from a real person, as opposed to from a generic company email, makes for a better impression and improves your open rates.

When Hubspot sent an email from a particular person in its marketing team, rather than from the company, the click-through rate jumped to 0.96% and generated 292 more clicks.

Wrong Example

From: business@business.com

Right Example:

From: Rachel McAdams Rachel@business.com

A similar mistake is when your email address is funny - like john341@yourcompanyname.com. This can also trigger spam filters in some organizations.

Jonathan’s Take:

In Interseller the ‘from’ section is generated by default using your name.

Create a personalized official email address that clearly states your name. Consider including your company name too. This can add value if your company is known in the recipient’s industry.

If your company does not provide you with such an address, inform them about the advantages of using it to get more leads.

If you are willing to spend hours perfecting your cold email message but do not pay attention to this aspect, you are wasting your time.

Why is this important:

Statistics show that 43% of email recipients click the Spam button based on the email ‘from’ name or email address.

It shows that a human sent the email and that it wasn’t part of any mass-email outreach. When you provide that human connection, response rates go up automatically.

The ‘from’ section of your email is the first impression that your prospect will get from you and your company. Make it work to your advantage.

Cold Email Mistake 16: Opening Line is About You

A common mistake is to start the email copy with your name, your company’s name and what is it that you do.

While your prospect may be interested in those details, the primary reason he will read your email is if he sees that there is some value that you will provide to him.

Wrong Example:

Hi John,

My name is Amy from PinkPather from SEO123, a leading SEO company. We are an award winning company with several reputed clients…

Right Example:

Hi John,

I noticed that your website is not ranking for several keywords that could bring you substantial leads.

Jonathan’s Take:

The first line of your email has to be powerful enough to catch the recipient’s attention. To do this, you need to do sufficient background research about the company so that your email is super-relevant.

Personalize the first paragraph to assure the recipient that you’re not just a random stranger shooting in the dark, but someone who has taken the trouble to get to know about them.

Try to build a connection to break the ice and make prospects want to read the rest of your mail.

Why is this important:

Your recipients will be able to see a preview of your email - which will include the first line of your email.

If your email begins with who you are, it becomes evident that it’s a sales email and falls flat. Your open rates will be miserable.

Email Deliverability Mistakes

Cold Email Mistake 17: Sending Attachments

Attaching documents to your cold email seems like a good idea in theory. It can be a way to provide additional information to the recipients so they could make a well-informed decision.

In reality, attaching documents to your email means a quick trip to the spam folder.

Jonathan’s Take:

Add hyperlinks to your email instead of attachments. These are more effective in sending prospects to specific pages where they can find additional information about your products and services.

Why is this important:

In 2016 a total of 22.6 million spam emails with unsolicited attachments were detected by virus scanners.

Even if the email reaches the inbox, your recipients will not risk opening your attached files and will delete your emails just to be safe. They might even block as an extra precaution. Most companies have strict IT security policies about opening attachments from external sources, for fear of malware attacks.

Cold Email Mistake 18: Using ‘no-reply’ email addresses

Emails are a two-way communication channel. But by using a ‘no-reply’ address you leave no room for interaction. It also makes the message impersonal, dissuading recipient from taking any action.

Wrong Example:

From: noreply@domain.com

Right Example:

From: Jonathan@domain.com

Jonathan’s Take:

Use only a business email addresses for your cold emails with the correct full name of the sender.

Why is this important:

Using a ‘no-reply’ seems to allude that you don’t want to hear back from your prospect. Which is really weird!

But more importantly, this can trigger spam filters.

Many email clients rely on email engagement metrics of the sender’s domain to decide whether the email is spam or not. No-reply emails provide no means for your recipients to respond the email, so there is high chance that the email will be automatically thrown into the spam bin.

Other Cold Email Mistakes

Cold Email Mistake 19: No Follow-ups

Many salespeople give up after sending just a single email to their prospects.

Remember, your prospects receive an average of 84 emails a day and it’s quite possible that your email was not opened, or even noticed.

That’s not the only barrier. Let’s say you get a 20% open rate, it is likely that a sizable percentage of these people would read your email and be somewhat interested to know more. However, they might be busy at the time and plan to respond later, but they forget.

Therefore, you should always send follow up emails to remind your recipients of your previous email.

Interseller Analysis

Analyzing the open rate and reply rate of each campaign in Interseller reveals that increasing the number of follow-ups ( indicated by the ‘Steps’ in the below graph) dramatically improves open and reply rate. By simply adding a second step to your campaign you can increase reply rates by 105%. Having more than 3 follow-ups will boost your reply rates by 377% when compared to a single email.

Open and Reply Rates Across Steps

Jonathan’s Take:

Try scheduling follow-up emails at a different time of the day, or a different day of the week. In this way, you stand a chance of catching that person’s attention at a time when they are relatively less busy, and more likely to respond.

Don’t have time to track your responses and send follow up emails?

Interseller’s sequences can help you schedule a customized sequence of emails which are sent regularly. These follow up emails stop sending automatically once the contact replies.

Conclusion

Cold emailing is still a powerful sales technique. Avoiding these mistakes and using the right automation tool like Interseller will give you a huge jump in your open and reply rates. Get in touch with us to improve your cold email success rates.

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