Cold emails fail. Because their foundation is on an old-fashioned strategy of {first_name} personalization.

That's why cold emails get an often-touted open rate of 2%. But they're so much more awesome than that.

When deployed right, cold emails are like Ironman's powerful mini-guns that blow up an armored tank 100 meters away.

When I launched my copywriting business, I just used cold emails. No ads, network, guest posts, referrals. In roughly 4 mos, my business grew 14x. One cold email brought in $20,000 in revenue.

And my cold email reply -- not open -- rate was a stellar 9%. Meaning: I connected with almost 1 out 10 readers.

Why personalization is failing you

Perhaps you've heard that personalization is "critical" to success, according to 94% of businesses in one survey.

And you're right -- personalization is a good place to start in your cold email. But your email has the potential to be more powerful. You need to take personalization a step further... into being relevant to your cold email reader.

Here's why: Business professionals -- like the ones you're planning to cold email -- get an average of 84 emails per day.

In fact, the #2 reason for someone to unsubscribe from a business email subscription is "the content is no longer relevant," according to ChadwickMartinBailey.

You want your cold email to stand out and grab attention in your reader's crowded inbox, right?

Being ultra-personalized (i.e. relevant) is how you do that. Because it shows your reader that you get them. And by understanding them, you're a partner aligned towards their success.

You just might solve their problems. You just might make them more money.

Think of relevance like this: you're taking personalization to a new level.

You're linking your offer to your email reader's goals (like solving a specific pain).

This is exactly what your email reader wants as segmented campaigns brought in an increase of 760% in email revenue. Segmenting your list is a more advanced method of personalization. Meaning: you're being more relevant to your reader.

When you're relevant, you answer your cold email reader's question: "What's in it for me?"

It's a universal human question. You wonder it when someone asks you to do something. I wonder it, too.

So, when you answer that question for your reader and put your message into context of what your reader gets out of performing X action, you eliminate friction.

You make their decision easy.

When you're not relevant -- like this bad cold email that I got at my side-hustle ecommerce business -- it's difficult to say yes. In fact, I want to click "delete."


Not a lot of relevance to my goals and desires. For instance, why would I want a better SEO ranking? For increased sales, visibility, traffic...? As the reader, I'm forced to figure out why I should care. Especially on a cold email when the sender hasn't even bothered to find out my name and include it in the email.

You don't want your cold email reader doing that much work.

Compare to this cold email that I wrote for Citygreen. This cold email got them a 33% uplift in reply rates (aka the only rate that makes a difference to your bank account).

I underlined in red all the spots where this email is relevant to Citygreen's reader:


That's a lot of relevance. That's a lot of persuasiveness and reasons to say "yes."

Use The "OMG, Gotta Hit Reply" Strategy to Persuade Without Selling

1.Research your reader

So, how do you find all those juicy details to add in your cold email?

Research, my friend. Ramit Sethi, founder of I Will Teach You To Be Rich, recommends doing your homework first before sending.

"You need to find out the problems they’re having that you can solve. This means deeply understanding their hopes, fears, and dreams before you pitch them. For example, say you notice they’re doing more video and you know a way they can improve them to get more subscribers. Tell them. In fact, go ahead and do it for them."

Just like Dave did when he wrote a cold email to Noah Kagan, founder of AppSumo and Sumo.

Noah's thoughts are in italics. I underlined in red every spot where Dave answered Noah's unconscious question, "What's in it for me?"


Dave, this cold email writer, did his homework on Noah. He knew what words to say, what Noah's desires were, and why it matters to him. All those elements add up to a compelling case for Noah to meet with him. (Which he did.)

Dig deep and figure out exactly who you're emailing. Only then can you write a cold email that a) feels natural and non-salesy and b) gets your reader to convert + hit reply.

For this Citygreen project, I researched their cold email reader by:

  • Reading unedited, raw customer interviews
  • Reviewing their reader's business websites
  • Conducting competitor assessments
  • Hunting down a theme that ties peeps in similar jobs together (like what led them to pick that job)

Research is the only way you'll know what to say and how to say it. To get your cold email reader dying to hit reply.

2. Link your offer to [your best guess] on their business goals

Chances are their goal is one of the following:

  • Make more money
  • Get more clients
  • Reduce expenses (or taxes)
  • Grow their business via reach, market share, network
  • Look awesome to their boss or client
  • Get more time

Steal a page from the best-in-class B2B content marketers' playbook: 71% of 'em tailor their content to their reader. In other words, you're taking personalization to a whole new level beyond the simple insertion of name and job title. You're plugging in unique variables into your cold email.

Kathy Sierra, the author of Badass: Making Users Awesome, says it best:

“Find out what they do, need, and want, and map what you offer [that is, what you’re selling] into something meaningfully relevant for that person.”

In your email, you should be relevant in:

  • Subject line
  • Use their name in salutation
  • In opening line, use a compliment on recent win/accomplishment
  • OR in opening line, create a connection of likeminded activities
  • Examples tying their business goal to your offer
  • CTA

But what does "examples tying their business goal to your offer" really mean?

In Citygreen's cold email campaign, their offer was to help landscape architects save 20-30% on their next project. Because of my research, I knew budget was a huge concern for their cold email readers.

So, this email hits that point hard in two places: the subject line and lead-up to the CTA.


When you tie your offer into your cold email reader's business goals, you create motivation to fuel their action. Suddenly, your inbox overflows with replies, like the 33% uplift that Citygreen saw with this campaign.

3. Frame your message

Think of framing as helping your cold email reader put into context what you can do for them.

For example, check out Van Gogh's Starry Night in a yellow frame. Suddenly, all you see are bright yellow stars and moon -- NOT the blue night and fields, right?


That's framing. You're helping your reader see what you need them to see.

As Noam Shpancer, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Otterbein College, writes,

"Framing is a feature of our brain's architecture. Our minds react to the context in which something is embedded, not just to the thing itself... Framing is one way the brain finds patterns in chaos (its primary survival function) and creates meaning out of meaninglessness."

So how do you actually frame your message? Ask yourself one question.

As Stuart Diamond wrote in Getting More: How to Negotiate to Achieve Your Goals in the Real World:

"Figuring out how to frame things comes from asking yourself the question, 'What's really going on here?' Studies have shown that one person will be much more persuasive than another with the exact same facts because of framing. The more successful negotiator packages the information in a way that creates a different picture in the other person's head."

Connect the dots for your cold email reader on how you can solve their problem. Here's how I framed my message in my "Launch My Biz" cold email campaign:


Do the heavy lifting and put your message into context for your reader. Don't expect them to do it for you. They won't.

4. Compliment them

Your mission: warm up your cold email from a stone-cold stranger, so it feels like it's a colleague of a colleague who is sending it.

A compliment is how you accomplish that.

As a recent study shows, a compliment receiver was more likely to choose a coupon from a store that complimented them vs one that hadn't. Even when they knew that compliment was false. The positive feeling from the compliment still lingered and influenced their behavior.

Talk about sticking power. Talk about persuasion.

Be genuine with your compliment. If it's not common knowledge, reference where you unearthed that info nugget.

Your CTA is more than a quick question

When you write your call to action (or CTA), think about what you need your reader to do next.

Break down the tiniest next step that someone needs to take towards your end goal (i.e. becoming your client, signing up for your SaaS trial, getting on a quick call with your sales rep), and ask your reader to take that step.

What's the tiniest next step your cold email reader needs to take?

That's what your CTA should ask them to do.

When you make that ask, do 2 things:

  1. Assume your reader will say "yes"
  2. Make that "yes" easy to take

Skip over the friction of asking them to check their calendar, decide which day works for them, schedule through Calendly -- or heaven forbid -- even think.

Back to Noah, CEO and founder of AppSumo and Sumo. He says, "How can you make it easy for your customer to want to use your product? ... How can you make someone WANT to respond to your cold email?"

Answer that question and use that info to inform your CTA. Then, assume they'll say yes and phrase your CTA that way, like:

"Would you be open next Tuesday or Wednesday for a quick 15-min call to [insert their business goal]?"

How you put it together

Use a software -- like lemlist -- to make your cold emails relevant (aka ultra-personalized) with the ease of automation. So you're not spending tons of time in inserting them manually.

Now that you know the secrets for a winning cold email, pick 2-5 companies or influencers you want to cold email, and start researching.

Laura Lopuch is an storytelling email conversion engineer. She helps startups and SaaS companies use their most under-leveraged marketing channel: emails. Get your free $20k Cold Email Template.