Optimize your cold email length for more replies (using data)

June 21, 2023

Tired of sending cold emails that go unanswered?

Perfect the length of your cold emails to get your prospects’ attention, prompt action, and get more meetings booked!

In this article, you’ll learn how long your cold emails should be, plus how to write them - based on an analysis of millions of cold outreach campaigns.

What is the perfect length of a cold email?

The best cold email length is about 120 words. This word count got the highest average booking rates of millions of campaigns, at around 50%.

But you can go a little over or a little under: the sweet spot is 75-125 words. This range gets 5-15% higher reply rates than longer or shorter emails.

A line graph showing the booking rate x number of words in emails. The highest average booking rates come from emails at 120 words.

It also matters how you write the message.

Your recipient is skimming their inbox. Sending long paragraphs makes it harder for them to read quickly, even if you've optimized the number of words.

And if they have to put work into reading your email, they won’t reply.

A good way to measure readability is by number of lines. According to another study, the best click-through rates come from emails with about 20 lines, including line breaks.

A graph showing the click through rates of emails with different numbers of lines of text. The highest click-through rate came from emails with 20 lines of text.

So what does this actually look like?

Here’s an example of a cold sales email that has not been optimized for readability:

A cold email with the title "congrats on your growth!" with the body text condensed into one long paragraph.

The text is clunky, long, and hard to read. The prospect has to sift through a block of text in order to understand.

In other words, the prospect will likely move this conversation to the trash.

Here’s that same email, optimized for length and formatting:

A cold email with readable line breaks in between the short paragraphs. The text reads "Hey Guillaume!  Congrats on the incredible growth in 2023. My team and I are huge superfans.  We've also been able to scale our agency's revenue 4x in the last 6 months thanks to your software and dope newsletters :)  We'd love to help with your mission to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses, so we've made this video to advance lemlist's brand through video and improve your YT presence.  I'm Adrian. I cofounded Dragonfruit Media; we're an agency that helps businesses scale on YouTube. We've worked with folks like Linktree, Ali Abdaal, and Scalable.co, and would love to help you out as well.  If you're interested, shoot me an email!   Thanks, Adrian"

Both of these emails have the same number of words. But the second is clearer, easier to read, and more likely to get a response.

Stay concise and break up the text of your emails to ensure your prospects actually respond to them.

How long is too long for a sales email?

When in doubt, aim for a cold email length of about 120 words.

But there’s no specific number that gets a 0% reply rate. In our analysis, even emails with 200+ words sometimes got replies - as long as they were valuable, readable, and targeted to the prospect.

Actually, some studies have shown that longer emails can be more successful, particularly with follow-ups:

A bar graphs showing booked meetings vs the length of a follow-up email. Follow-up emails with 4+ sentences got 15x higher booked meetings than shorter emails.

That’s because follow-up emails typically need more context, as your prospect may have forgotten your first message.

You may need to add some extra information so they understand what you’re asking for.

Here’s an example of a longer email that had a 85% open rate and 30% reply rate:

A cold email with this body text: Hi {{firstName}},  Just saw {{recentContent}} and thought it was super well made!  [content company] is looking for creators for their invite-only [creator program], and I think your content would crush it as its own show.  [Creator program] shows are 3-4 minute videos that get monetized with CPM’s similar to Youtube long-form, except it’s 10x easier to get views. It’s wild.  Our creators have been generating $10k+ per month completely hands off.  We handle everything for you-from getting the show approved to editing and even posting the episodes for you.  Here are a few of our shows making over $10k per month: [Example 1]: ($102k Revenue in 1 month) [Example 2]: ($27k Revenue in 1 month) [Example 3]: ($13k Revenue in 1 month)  Would you be interested in exploring this further?  Best,  {{signature}}"

Even though this email goes over the sweet spot of 120 words, it is:

✔️ skimmable - the paragraphs are short and well spaced

✔️ readable - the language is simple and easy to understand

✔️ targeted - it mentions the creator’s content and gives a specific offer

…which is why it was still successful!

How to write your cold emails

So you need to keep your cold emails around 120 words - but how should you actually write them?

Here are the components of a successful cold email:

  1. Clickable subject line
  2. Catchy greeting
  3. Intro line that hooks attention
  4. Compelling middle section or story
  5. Strong CTA
  6. Solid signature

Here's how to optimize each component of your cold email:

Write a clickable subject line

Keep your subject lines between 1-8 words, and make them short, sharp, and exciting.

They should be unique and personalized to your prospects: mentioning their recent activity, addressing a pain point, bringing up a common interest, etc.

Here are a few examples of clickable subject lines:

  • Hey {{firstname}}, congrats on your funding round!
  • Build {{companyname}} like {{commoninterest}}
  • little surprise for you {{firstname}}!

For the data behind subject lines that convert, plus 10+ examples of subject lines with 80%+ open rates, read the complete guide to cold email subject lines.

Make your greeting catchy

Use the {{firstname}} tag to show you’ve put more effort in than a basic “hey,” or “hi there.”

A graphic comparing non-personalized greetings "Hey there, hey, hello" versus "Hi {{firstName}}, Yo {{firstName}}. There is a red X next to Hey there and a green check mark next to the personalized versions

Whether to use a more formal “Hello” versus a simple “Yo” will depend on your reader. Do your research to know what your prospects respond best to!

Turn your intro into a hook

The exact hook to use will vary based on your target audience, cold email strategy, and the type of industry you're in.

It determines the reader’s first impression, and whether they read the rest of the email.

Here are a few successful examples:

  • Make an irrisistible offer: “Mind if I bring you more customers, for free?”
  • Give value: “Here’s some feedback on {{companyname}}…”
  • Mention mutual connections: “While interviewing Timothy Yetch, he told me to…”

For a full breakdown of a cold email intro that converts, plus real examples, use our guide on how to start an email.

Craft a compelling middle

Come up with a quick storyline your prospects can relate to.

To accomplish this, you can turn to their pain points, identify their challenges, and try to convince them that you are part of the solution.

Remember to be specific, add as much relevant personalization as you can, and show understanding of your prospect. Communicate the benefits that only you can offer.

If you need help adding sales pitches to your emails, try these 10 sales pitch examples.

Finish with a strong CTA

Stick to these rules for CTAs:

  • Don't have more than one call-to-action
  • Keep it short and sweet
  • Remove friction: for example, use a scheduling link to book a time

Want all 7 tips to write email closers that book meetings? Use this guide to CTAs.

Sign off

Keep your signature simple, with just these details:

  • Your name
  • Your title and name of company
  • Links to your social media accounts, if relevant

Don’t add too much fancy formatting or GIFs, or it will distract from your call-to-action.

An example of a cold email that converts

To see how it all works together, use this breakdown of a successful cold email.

It’s a classic networking email, with the goal of connecting with other founders, sealing partnerships, and adding integrations.

A screenshot of a cold email with the subject line "Collaborate?" The body text says "Hi {firstName}}, Let me just say Im a big fan of {{companyName}}. Just so you know I genuinely think that {{Personalization}}. My name is [Your Name] btw, [Your Title] at [Your Company]. We're a [What you do]. I'm writing this email to discuss {companyName}} and [your company] potential integration. We are seeing a huuuge market demand in our data and I have no doubt this will end up being a maor success if we make it happen. I'd love it if we could get on a call and talk about establishing a win-win partnership between our two companies. You game?"

The subject line is 1 cheeky word that is short and grabs attention. Thanks to this and the audience targeting, this email had a 90% open rate.

The greeting is simple and personalized.

The intro line is personalized to the prospect and draws them in to the rest of the email. An example of the {{Personalization}} variable could be “your XYZ LinkedIn campaign completely changed the way I write cold emails!”

The middle is a short message that goes straight to integration and how it can benefit the prospect.

There is just 1 CTA, it’s clear, and it provides a clear value proposition to the prospect.

The signature is short, sweet, and doesn’t distract from the CTA.

And the email is right around 110 words, with 16 lines (including the line breaks).

Follow the same format to start getting more replies and a higher ctr on your cold email campaigns.

The key takeaways

Here’s what to do to craft short cold emails that get replies.

  1. Keep your cold email length around 120 words for higher reply rates.
  2. Format your emails with about 20 lines of text and spaces to improve click-through rates.
  3. Longer emails can still be effective for follow-ups, providing additional context to prospects.
  4. Craft attention-grabbing subject lines and personalized greetings to increase engagement.
  5. Use hooks, compelling storylines, and strong CTAs to create impactful and effective cold emails

P.S. All of the successful campaigns we analyzed were using lemlist, the AI-powered cold outreach tool that can get you meetings with 17% of your leads. Give it a try for free!

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