Cold Email Etiquette 101 for the 2018 Growth Hacker

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Cold email etiquette 101 for the 2018 growth hacker

The lack of cold email etiquette really astonishes me these days. There is so much good information out there on how to cold-email someone, which means I should see some really amazing emails. However, with the introduction of AI automation and the dream of the laptop lifestyle, it seems the art of cold emailing for business development is getting worse every year.

This article is dedicated to establishing baseline email etiquette practices for all businesses. It won’t get into too much depth, but I hope to highlight the do’s and don’ts so you don’t shred your reputation to pieces if you’re looking into cold email as a business practice.

Research Minimums

No one is saying you need to go to your client’s house and find out what color his bed sheets are. There’s no need for heavy stalking. You do need to know a little bit about your client before you reach out. Even if you don’t get into personal stuff with him or her, you need to know what makes your prospect tick.

That means your client’s needs must come first when you reach out. Sending some blatantly “templated” email is a great way to burn your reputation and get your email marked as spam.

Modern-day cold-email campaign management programs allow you to personalize email templates with some light coding, like {first_name} or {company_name}. These are great things to put in a template, but people are very wise to these emails these days.

What I use is a combination of templates and personalization. This means my initial emails are templates with the above personalization features. After I get a response and know they are interested in what I sell, I like to create individual emails for each person. It is time-consuming, but I make my target audiences so specific, that I know they are interested if they respond.

Affiliate marketers or e-commerce experts use automated templates exclusively. They don’t want to communicate with their clients, which is fine if your product is solid. It all depends on your goals and your industry.

The Balancing Act of Cold Email Etiquette

Cold Email Etiquette Collage

Everyone wants a silver-bullet for their cold email, but it’s different for everyone and the cold email etiquette varies from industry to industry. If you read the book, Influence by Robert Cialdini, you’ll gain a massive desire to stand out in virtually every way you can.

Legendary marketers are always using publicity stunts to get the attention of their clients, but is that for every industry? Of course not. In fact, many industries severely frown upon outlandish stunts to simply get everyone looking in your direction.

I hope you see a balancing act here. What you should look for is the point where you’re getting the response you want. Obviously, every sales attempt will be met with people severely opposed to an attractive offer. What you’re looking for is your sweet spot.

To be persuasive you need to first grab the attention of your audience and then get them to consume your message. After consumption comes the close, or call-to-action. Those three steps will signify how effective you are at generating business opportunities, which is the whole point of cold email.

How Much Follow-Up is Ok?

Cold Email Etiquette Follow-Up

Depending on how solid your offer is, it’s relevance to your target audience, and the temperature of the trend you’re riding determines how quickly your prospects will respond. If your offer is very compelling, you might not need to follow-up at all. However, in most cases, you will undoubtedly have to follow-up multiple times to get a response.

How often you follow up depends on the industry’s cold email etiquette standards. Some industries require a daily follow-up while some could be once a week or more. What your trying to do is hit the spot where you’re not that annoying.

That means you’re keeping your offer in the front of your client’s minds and getting them to respond to you. If you’re seeing a decrease in responses and an increase in unsubscribes, you should start decreasing the follow-ups.

This isn’t cold-calling like you see in the movies, where the stockbrokers swear at the prospects because they’re afraid to part with their money. Cold-emailing is a game of longevity and that requires etiquette. This means you have to continuously follow up in a non-confrontational way, but still, sell your product with varying degrees of aggressiveness.

Concentrate on being insightful and intelligent. Provide value and follow up a few times a month. Work on making your offer irresistible and your audience very specific.

Subjects Tricks: Yes or No?

This is a pretty controversial issue in the world of cold email etiquette. One school of thought says, just get the guy to read the email, and the other says that you don’t need to trick your prospects and that actually destroys your credibility. I actually agree partially with both of them.

Your subject line should have one goal and that is to get your reader to read the email. If it doesn’t do that, then you’re dead in the water, so figuring out what will get him or her to read it is all that matters.

You should make it targeted, which means when the reader sees your email in their inbox, they should immediately want to open it and find out what it’s all about. If your subject line doesn’t elicit an immediate “knee-jerk” response to open the email you’ve failed. The reason being, that readers look at the subject headings in their inbox with their mouse over the delete button.

All email readers first scan their email inboxes for spam. They delete those and then read what interests them. Choosing a bland or “salesy” type of subject line will surely eliminate you from the running, so make sure the subject is targeted for them.

Using keywords like their city, their name, or industry works well. However, if you know what pain points your prospects have and you answer that question in your email, you could use the question in the subject to get them to open it. Even using the answer is a good idea.

Once again it comes down to research and knowing the conversation inside your prospect’s head. Check out this article for more information on relevance metrics.

Your Goals and Call-to-Action

If I’m cold-emailing for my agency, I’m always making the call-to-action to a phone or Skype call. I find that it’s much easier to build a relationship with someone over-the-phone rather than just email.

If an on-going relationship is not a must, and you’re selling hot products feel free to sell with email. In this situation, many marketers still elect to use email as a means to a landing page, sales letter, or webinar. Either way, staying within the cold email etiquette your industry requires is a must.

Email Signatures

Cold Email Etiquette Email Signature

Depending on the type of customer you’re looking to work with, you should include an email signature that leaves the right impression. It doesn’t take much to alienate a customer away from you, so use caution when deciding to call yourself some kind of a “ninja.”

Cold email etiquette extends to all parts of your email. The signature is where you state who you are. Many clients these days want to know besides your competency level if you’re ok to work with. They might look for someone that is easy going or could look for someone that is professional. Who knows?

Whoever they are, their experience will vary, so pick something that you’re comfortable with, but know that your customers judge how you describe yourself. They might be looking for an outgoing and outlandish “ninja.” If they are great, you’re the right fit for them.


Do you really need a P.S. in a business email? Is that part of good cold email etiquette?

Yes and yes.

I know that it may seem trivial, but it’s very important, especially if you’re trying to make a good first impression.

A P.S. is a great place to let people know of something they are concerned about like a money back guarantee or revising your work.

Crafting that Perfect Email

Cold Email Etiquette Email

The best thing you can do is start with a generic email and start adding more flair as time goes on. If you start with something aggressive, dialing it back to fit your audience could become a problem. I’m not saying you should wait too long to get aggressive, but I am saying you should at least figure out a where your audience stands.

Remember, your audience could significantly vary from city to city. In my experience, marketers from the east coast are very different from west coast marketers. Granted they are usually targeting different audiences, but there seem to be differences based on locations.

It could be because they hang out in different social circles, have different nuances in speech patterns, and appreciate different things. When you compare audiences internationally, you run into completely different sets of traits. You have to keep all this in mind.

My best suggestion is to start with what you know and build from there. Use tools that you’re comfortable with to figure out who your audience is too. Tools like Facebook Audience Insights and Google Trends are great places to start online, but participating in your local community is far better.

For more information on cold email check out this article to get started.


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Anthony Catullo