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Cold Email Copywriting 101: Write to Open

By: Annie Pasquinelli
Updated: March 11, 2024
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When it comes to cold email, copywriting skills are an absolute must. If a recipient sees your subject line and instantly thinks, “This is spam,” you’re not going to see much success from your campaign. On the other hand, if you’re able to entice your readers into opening your email and actually reading your message… then you’re in business.

In this blog, we’ll explore some of the most important pillars of cold email copywriting success. Learn what terminology to avoid as well as how to get the most out of your messaging. Plus, find even more tools for success, including tips for follow-up emails and how to continually improve.

So bundle up, Reader—it’s time to take a cold plunge into the deep end.

Copywriting: What Makes Cold Email So Powerful

In general, email marketing is a key component for the success of any modern business. However, cold email marketing is still a relatively new frontier—and much trickier to get right. So what is it? Cold email means you’re sending messages to people who haven’t previously had contact with you or your brand. That means these messages are even more susceptible to the perils of spam filters, both automatic and manual (readers dumping emails from unfamiliar senders into the trash).

Because cold emails don’t have the advantage of familiarity, the written portions that readers do see have to be as strong as possible in order to be effective. Essentially, your expectations for cold email copywriting have to be higher since there’s so little room for error. The first few characters of your subject line will be your battleground for a reader’s attention—not the bulk of your message or how flashy you can make your branding.

Even so, don’t let anxiety paralysis get the best of you. Just like with any other medium, there are plenty of best practices you can follow to ensure your cold email marketing is as successful as possible.

What to Avoid in Your Cold Email Copywriting

The first rule of cold email copywriting is simple: don’t write messages that sound like spam. It may seem like an obvious rule, but believe the experts—it’s easier than it seems to fall into spammy-sounding writing.

Here are a few key things to keep in mind when determining the spam level of your writing:

  1. If it sounds like an infomercial, it’s probably too spammy. Phrases like “Buy now!” or “Make money fast!” or “You won’t believe this!” can trigger both manual and automatic spam filters.
  2. Don’t lose touch with your readers by talking about yourself too much. Remember to keep your value proposition obvious. If readers are interested in what you have to offer, they’ll have time to learn about your business’s backstory.
  3. Make an effort to avoid known spam language. There are plenty of resources online to help you spot words and phrases that are overused in less-than-honorable advertisements. Check them out and stay abreast of the latest trends.

Lastly, think of cold email marketing as something akin to dating. Be cordial, but set expectations quickly—and steer clear of overhyping, or you’ll look like a poser.

Cold Email Copywriting 101

Now that you know what to avoid, let’s get into the depths of what your cold email copywriting process should actually include. Aside from basic good grammar, of course.

Know Your Audience

There are several types of cold email marketing and, therefore, several types of cold email copywriting. For some, a more generic approach will be a big benefit. If you’re sending to a long list of contacts with a wide variety of backgrounds, then it might be best to keep your copywriting simple. That way, it will feel relevant to more people at once.

On the flip side, the more personal your message appears, the more likely readers will be to engage. You can always use automated personalization tactics like merge tags and audience segmentation to make things individual and add a little extra targeting to your approach. Be very aware of the types of people you’re sending to.

Knowing your audience—or audiences—is especially important for cold email marketing. For example, imagine you’re recruiting participants for a research study. If your study focuses on people in a certain age range, you’ll want to better understand the email behaviors of people in that demographic. Readers aged 55 and above will have much different email habits than those 25 and below. Want to include participants from both ends of that spectrum in your study? Make your cold email marketing more effective by creating different messages for the major demographic segments of your audience.

Taking the time to understand who your potential readers are and what they like to read is a strategy that always pays off in the end.

Subject Lines

Subject lines are arguably the most important area of cold email copywriting, as this is the first thing your readers will see in their inboxes. They’ll likely determine whether or not to open your email based on the first few words.

So how can you get the most people to open your message?

  • First, be clear. Many copywriters get lost along the way when they try to make their subject lines clever or mysterious. However, readers prefer to know what they’re getting into when they open your message.
  • Make your reader the hero. Focus on sharing what the reader will get out of their efforts or how your offerings provide a solution for their problems and pain points.
  • Keep it short. Stay well within the limits of 50 characters, if you can. It can be a challenge to write something clear and compelling that’s also concise—but the less time it takes to read your message, the better.

Most of all, avoid spam language. This is the most critical area of your copywriting, but it’s also the one in which spam language is especially tempting. And don’t forget to write a preview line! This is an opportunity that many novice email marketers miss.

Body Copy

Congratulations! Now that you’ve gotten readers to open your message, what do you say? Basically, use the same cold email copywriting principles we’ve already examined, but expand on them (just a little).

As always, the most important thing is to be clear with the reader about what you’re offering. Now is not the time to be vague and mysterious. Neither should you tempt them with promises that sound too good to be true. Introduce yourself, your business, or your offering—but keep it simple.

Additionally, you’ll want to focus on sharing what your proposal means for them personally. Whether it’s a potential business partnership, involvement in a clinical trial, or a simple sale, they need to know what they’re getting out of it. They’ll also need instructions on the next steps they’ll take if they’re interested in your offering. (We’ll talk more about that in the next section.)

After you’ve put all that on the page, it’s time to get out your pruning knife. Although your recipients have taken the time to open your message, you can’t afford to waste their valuable time. Put in the effort to make your message as short as possible without leaving out any critical information. In fact, studies show that the best cold email copywriting is just 50-200 words in length. That’s only two to five sentences!


Your readers have now reached the end of the page… and they haven’t hit the delete button yet. It’s time to make your pitch! Before you run out of space, provide them with a call to action (CTA) so they can express interest in your offering. This could be a push to schedule a call with you, sign up for an event, or go to a landing page on your website. Don’t wait for them to get back to you—ask them to take action right now.

While you’re at it, make that next action step as simple as possible. You don’t want readers to have to jump through hoops to get what they’re interested in.

Cold Email Copywriting for Follow-Up Messages

It’s important to remember the power of automation when you’re working on your cold email campaign. After all, there are really only three tangible results when you send a cold email: the recipient will respond with either interest or disinterest, or they won’t respond at all.

If they respond with interest, that’s great news! Your cold email copywriting did its job. It’s a good idea to create some kind of automated response to make sure your new lead feels seen and heard. Tell them thanks for responding, and remind them what they can expect next.

On the other hand, if they respond with disinterest—meaning they marked your message as spam or asked you to stop contacting them—have a plan in place. Most likely, that plan will simply be to let your customer relationship management (CRM) software mark them as unsubscribed.

However, if a recipient doesn’t immediately unsubscribe or show interest, you now have the option to send another message. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to generate a few extra leads. Create a follow-up email (or two) that will gently remind readers of what they could get from you. Just follow the same cold email copywriting practices we’ve discussed so far.

Tools to Improve Your Cold Email Copywriting

In the end, cold email copywriting is a skill to be mastered—and there are several easy ways you can improve on those skills.

  • Use an online spam checker. There are plenty of free platforms out there to refine your copywriting and avoid the latest trends in spam language.
  • Leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to streamline your copywriting process. Programs like Grammarly and even ChatGPT can help you get over blank page-related writer’s blocks. (Just be sure to use AI writing software best practices.)
  • Perform split tests on your messages. The best way to tell what works best for your particular audiences is to put your strategies to the test—literally!

If you’re still struggling with your cold email copywriting, you can always ask the industry experts to make the most of your marketing efforts. An experienced email marketing agency like Email Broadcast can provide the skills you need to succeed.

Master Your Cold Email Copywriting

In conclusion, mastering a certain set of skills is essential for success in cold email copywriting. Crafting compelling subject lines and engaging content can make the difference between being marked as spam or capturing your recipient’s attention. Throughout this blog, we’ve delved into key strategies for effective cold email copywriting, from avoiding spam-triggering terminology to optimizing your messaging for maximum impact. Additionally, we’ve provided insights into crafting effective follow-up emails and strategies for ongoing improvement.

By implementing these pillars of success, you can enhance the effectiveness of your cold email campaigns and achieve your marketing goals.

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