How to master cold e-mails – a structured approach

Published by Stefan Nordström on

cold e-mails

Cold e-mails may seem hopeless and like a lot of work for small end results. I used to think so. After trying it out in a larger approach, I changed my mind. It’s not about whether you do it or not, it’s how you do it.

A structured approach to cold e-mails can be one of the best ways to get new clients. I’ve written this from my experience as a digital marketing freelancer, but I can see this applying to many different business situations.

There are many scientific guides on how to write the best cold e-mails, such as this one from I won’t get quite as specific or scientific. My focus will be on how to find the right potential clients and reach out to them. Also, I’ll talk about how to apply a structured technique to it.

Stefan NordströmAbout Stefan Nordström

Digital marketing consultant
7 years of experience
Expertise: SEO, copywriting, newsletters, conversions, digital strategy

What is a cold e-mail?

Let’s start by going basic. A cold e-mail is an unsolicited e-mail that is sent without previous contact. In my case it’s reaching out to potential clients that might require my digital marketing expertise. I e-mail them offering my services, and why I might be the right person. Low quality cold e-mails might be regarded as spam, and often gets picked up by the spam filters in the e-mail client.

Good cold e-mails are personalized, targeted and unique. They should start a conversation and gain the attention of the receiver. Really good cold e-mails bring up problems and challenges for the unique business that you’re contacting, and presents you as the solution to said situations.

Misconceptions about cold e-mails

There are several misconceptions about cold e-mails. Some of them are:

  • Cold e-mails are ineffective
  • It’s time-consuming
  • It annoys the receiver of the e-mail
  • It’s spam

Cold e-mails aren’t really as cold as these statements make it seem. Actually, I believe all these concerns disappear when you do it the right way. Quality cold e-mails can be effective. Getting one single client can mean a very lucrative win. The other unanswered e-mails won’t matter much once you get that win.

It’s definitely still time-consuming. But the efforts will render results if you do it right. I’ve gotten quite a few clients through the approach described in this article. Keep reading all I’ll tell you how to do it.

Being annoying or seen as spam is just about the quality of your cold e-mails. It really helps to put yourself in the shoes of the person receiving the e-mail. What would make a good impression and truly gain attention?

Find the right type of potential clients to send cold e-mails to

You have to have specialties and niches. At least if you’re a freelancer in digital marketing like me. Having experience in certain niches is a big advantage when it comes to cold e-mails, at least if you do it in the right way.

Personally, I have a lot of experience with digital content in pharma, health, nutrition, loans and insurance. If you’re in a similar situation, it’s a great place to start. Find companies that look like big content producers in the niche fields and gather their contact e-mails.

Cold e-mails with a mix of generic and unique content

Creating great cold e-mails is a mix between efficiency and getting the unique details just right. I tend to have some parts ready for copy/pasting, such as the introduction and my contact details. Even this may change, depending on the potential client at hand.

It’s very important to tailor the parts about experience and skill set to the receiver. Find ways to make your skills fit their needs. Do the research when it comes to their website and social media presence. What does it look like they’re missing, and how can you be the best person to provide these things?

Many cold e-mails are generic. When you go the extra mile and match yourself as the solution to their problems, you’re already much closer to being hired. You might even be creating marketing needs that they didn’t know they had in the first place.

Quality over quantity

Gathering a massive amounts of e-mails may feel like a quantity over quality type job. It’s not. Make sure to make the e-mails appeal to every client. It can be time-consuming, but it’s also a more lucrative option in the end. Because sending out hundred low quality e-mails will likely not result in any new clients or leads.

When you do the research I previously talk about, there is usually always something unique and targeted to say. If a discussion starts based on it, you’re usually in a great position to sell your services. Suddenly, goals start aligning and ideas start being formed.

Keep track of prospects

One really good idea is to gather your prospects. Personally, I use an Excel document where I put company names, e-mail addresses, niches, when I last e-mailed them and if they responded.

This way your work finding the prospects will always be saved. It’s also a way to analyze your progress and see which type of e-mail prospects are the most valuable. Working with cold e-mails this way simply becomes much more structured and efficient.

Since it usually results in a very big document, make sure to fill in the details at the moment you’re sending the cold e-mails. Take note of the date and how far you got in the sales process. Did you get an answer? Did the answer apply that they would come back to you at a later point?4

Respect the potential clients, but also don’t be afraid to reach out and see if anything’s changed. It’s also a way to build a relationship with the prospects.

Contact clients again

The big advantage of saving all the e-mail addresses from previous cold e-mails is that you can reach out to them again. Very few people will remember that you e-mailed them a year ago. This is also a good opportunity to try a new approach in the e-mail.

Maybe you weren’t selling yourself well enough last time? Also, the companies’ situation might have changed since last time you were reaching out.

Final words on cold e-mails

I hope I convinced you why cold e-mails might be worth trying out to expand your business. No matter if you’re a potential client of mine, or a fellow freelancer, I invite you to connect with me on LinkedIn. If you’re interested in my digital marketing services, head over to this page to see what I can do for you.

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Stefan Nordström

Digital marketing freelancer and consultant originally from Stockholm, Sweden.


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