What’s Killing Some of the Best Cold Emails?

February 28, 2016

If you’re searching for a “silver bullet” to magically solve all your problems, you’re probably going to fail.


Even if you’ve found an effective tactic that can give you a strong advantage, that advantage won’t last long once a million other people have learned of that tactic. This is why even the best tactics and sales or “growth hacks” are always only temporary.


This is true for just about everything in life, but especially sales prospecting emails.


I get emails, comments, tweets and Linkedin messages every week from people asking the same thing: “Can you post some of your actual cold email templates online?


Although I regularly critique cold emails to educate people on what mistakes they should avoid, I intentionally try to avoid posting simplistic examples of “what you should do/write” because people tend to misuse and abuse these examples.


About a year ago I was helping Aaron Ross and Jason Lemkin edit and wrap up the sequel to Aaron’s best-seller, “Predictable Revenue.” One of the things Aaron asked me to add was a section on cold email copy, in which I supplied one of my client’s real email templates that actually got them at least 16 customers.


Here’s the “winning email template” I wrote:


the winning email template that got 16 new customers


Please note that this template was designed for a very specific use case: It was written for a B2B company with sales acceleration software who was targeting VP Sales and Directors of Inside Sales.


My company, Salesfolk, designs email templates as part of campaigns that our clients send to their prospective customers in order to start conversations. All of the templates we create for clients are 100% original and unique. We don’t reuse templates or generic formulas for anyone, but rather rely on a variety of carefully tested and proven copywriting principles that aim to evoke our clients’ prospects’ emotions and build rapport so that they will engage in a thoughtful conversation.


Part of why our emails are so effective and beat the industry standard by 3-10x, consistently getting response rates around 16-35%, is because none of them are ever generic.


Ironically, this means that when people try to rip them off and reuse them, it will backfire and fail, unless they are used by a close competitor targeting the same buyer personas.


Why Cheap Copycats Will Always Fail At Sales and Marketing in The Long-Run


Aaron later republished the section I wrote for the book on Hubspot to drive additional traction to his pre-launch. I didn’t mind this because I had already given it to him to use as he liked, and it did generate qualified leads for me. However, since then I have seen that same exact email template copy and pasted dozens if not hundreds of times.


It became rampantly overused, like Aaron’s “who’s the right person” email.


Not only did almost every direct and indirect competitor of my client start using that email, companies who weren’t even in that space started using it too.


I know this because not only did I personally receive that same email from ZoomInfo and a dozen of their competitors in the lead space, but so did my clients and everyone else.


At first, I didn’t mind this, and found the whole thing kind of amusing and flattering.


But eventually, I started to get a bit annoyed.


I wasn’t annoyed because people were ripping off our templates without paying us, but because people were being so lazy and foolish to try to just “copy-paste” an email template that clearly wasn’t relevant to their business model or their audience.


Not only will these people not be effective with cold email, and will not get many responses to their cold emails, their spam is irritating the market of prospective customers and teaching them to hate sales prospecting emails.


And all this really pisses me off.


I don’t want to see my own email templates going up on our Hall of Shame, but if people keep spamming and abusing them, they will.


Please Don’t Be A Sheep: Stop Copy-Pasting Generic Emails And Spamming Them. Instead, Be A Goat And Adopt An “Original Approach”


I have a big orange goat on the back of my business card. It looks like this:


Why Some of My Best Cold Emails Are Dead


Sure, it’s memorable and makes a good conversation starter, but it’s more than that to me.


There are two things I fiercely believe in and live by. They are that:



  1. Cold email is a powerful tool that can change your life and business, if used correctly and thoughtfully to start intelligent conversations with the right people who you can add value to.
  2. You cannot get far in life by being a “sheep” and blindly following people and copying other people’s work and tactics. Instead, I believe people should always be “goats,” and strive to think critically for themselves and come up with creative and original ideas. (Sheep follow blindly, and goats lead independently.)

So how does this apply to cold email, sales and marketing?


The only real “winning sales strategy” is by continually seeking out effective tactics and strategies that others have not yet realized.


The way to find them is to have a mindset where you are constantly testing new strategies to find out what works and what doesn’t, and then iterating upon them once you’ve found the winners.


Anything less, such as blindly copying basic tips and tactics from some mainstream source, such as a blog post or book, won’t ever be nearly as effective.


There’s a lot of great content out there, and you absolutely should read it and think about it, but the key is to think critically and skeptically about any information you absorb, and test it out for yourself to see if it works for you or not.

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