Skip to content

How To Write Cold Emails That Get Opened

The latest bro marketing trend, which you will recognize from your spam folder, is offering business owners a “chance to be featured” in a bogus media outlet for the low low price of $2,500.

That pitch isn’t the problem. It’s not my cup of tea, but I’m willing to bet there is a market for paying for accolades that aren’t earned (plus most accolades are a racket anyway…here’s looking at you Allure magazine).

The problem is the approach, which is apparently to do this:

(a) pretend you recently emailed me (b) become defensive about my nonresponse (c) act entitled to my time and attention.

Bros, if you are here, please please explain this strategic approach.

Who, in the history of humanity, has responded positively to being accused of a crime they didn’t commit, for an opportunity they are not interested in, in a manner that is defensive and passive-aggressive?

I can see the guilt angle maybe working, but it’s a long shot for a cold email. Guilt is more effective if you already have a relationship (or you’re peddling a cause). I’m unconvinced it’s an effective strategy for follow-through (prove me wrong though, send me your numbers. Does anyone have numbers on this?).

The thing about email spammers, historically, is they were good at what they did.

This is lazy.

Worse, it produces reactance in the reader.

Reactance is why when you tell a teenager she can’t wear that outfit she now wants to wear that outfit. You might be familiar with as the motivation behind anti-maskers (“You can’t tell me what to do!”). Same thing.

If you make me feel like this isn’t my choice, then $%@# you. <— That’s basically reactance.

It literally causes the opposite intended reaction. Which is why I’m so confused by the defensive presumptuousness that’s popping into my inbox with staggering consistency.

Let’s take a look at some examples.

“Requesting you to please go through the below invitation e-mail regards to “30 Most Inspiring Leaders to Watch 2021″ and let me know your thoughts for moving forward.”

Bro, I don’t know you. And now you’re giving me an assignment? To review your deck AND give you feedback. No.

That’s problem one. Problem two is it’s inconsistent – if you’re reaching out to “inspiring leaders,” it’s weird to presume they have time and desire to review their own media placements.

Problem three is it’s inappropriately familiar. Again: I don’t know you. The phrase “moving forward” is presumptuous and arrogant and that’s the part that causes reactance.

“I am not sure whether you have received my previous e-mail or not, which I have sent you from my corporate id ([NAME]@[Fake company].com). So, I am re-sending you this exciting proposal once again from my Gmail id to ensure that this e-mail hits your inbox and you will not miss this excellent opportunity.”

A full paragraph accusing me of missing your email – which I did not – but if I did and didn’t respond, how does this approach help? Sincerely, how?

The most expensive real estate in copy is your headline, followed by your opener. This is squandering it with excuses AND more presumptuousness (to assume I will find this opportunity to spend $3k with you “EXCITING!” and “EXCELLENT!” is illogical).

Please send me an e-mail confirmation for your participation, and we will go ahead with further procedures like paperwork, editorials, and designing.
I am sure you will agree as this is an excellent branding exercise for your company.


We do not agree.

I cannot emphasize this enough: I don’t know you. This opportunity is not exciting. And you asking me to do work and give you money on your FIRST EMAIL further reinforces why I would never do business with you.

Smart marketers know better than this.

Cold emails are unavoidable in life. I’ve written hundreds and here’s the “secret sauce” to writing ones that get opened and replied to.

Get ready.

It will blow your head open.

There is a HUMAN BEING on the other side of the exchange.

Not a corporation, not a checkbook, not a robot. A person.

Spend 5 minutes asking yourself what the person on the other end of the exchange wants – what is their day like? How can you be helpful?

You wanna get your emails opened, here’s what you need to know: It’s not about YOU.

Effective copy is other-centric. These emails are me-centric.

If you want to write better, raise more money, get more cold emails opened, sell more, and get noticed – internalize this one thing.

It’s not about YOU.

It’s about the person you seek to serve.

What do they want? What do they need to hear?

Start there.