cold emailing

Avoid these cold email mistakes if you wanna get more replies

Mihaela Cicvaric
Last Update
Feb 9, 2024
Reading Time
7 min.

Wondering why your prospects aren’t replying to your cold emails? Maybe you use the same self-centered or sales-y outreach methods that make your prospect run.

Drawing on our analysis of hundreds of cold email campaigns over the past 3.5 years, we're here to talk about what works and what doesn't.

Before diving into examples that will help you improve your campaigns, here's an overview of the most common outreach mistakes:

#1 Self-centered pitch
#2 Long paragraphs
#3 Selling from the start
#4 Not focusing on a specific pain point
#5 Wrong email design
#6 Using industry jargon
#7 Not A/B testing
#8 Having multiple CTAs
#9 Not proofreading
#10 No personalization

Common Cold Email Mistakes That Lower Reply Rates

#1 Self-centered pitch

The harsh truth is - your prospects don’t care about you or your latest features. They care about what you can do for them and how you can help them succeed. So there’s no need to do a praise talk about your company, products, or even worse, yourself.

Here’s what you want to avoid when reaching out to your prospects:

bad example of self-centered pitch

This email won’t generate many replies, and here’s why:

  • there's a lot of talk about a company and their achievements
  • no mention of the prospect’s pain point, as the only focus was to talk about their service
  • no personalization, which shows the email was sent in mass

So, how should you get in touch with your prospect instead? Let's break down this example:

good email example with prospect-focused pitch

Why does this approach work?

  • by mentioning the prospect’s achievements, they spark interest and show that this email is unique, which boosts reply chances
  • the focus is on the prospect’s struggles which catches their attention
  • the approach is prospect-centered as it's clear they want to provide value and create a relationship, not sell

Rather than making your prospects hear about your product and company, try to find out more about them. What are their struggles and pain points, and what do they need help with? Use the pitch to build a genuine connection.

Once you make them feel like you're there to help them, not to sell, they will feel more comfortable booking a meeting.

Talking too much about your company might be one of the most common email marketing mistakes. So make sure you stay away from it and write your emails like a pro

#2 Long paragraphs

Keep in mind that 1.7 billion people read their emails on their phones. This is why you should avoid long paragraphs in your cold email campaign.

Here’s an example of a cold email that doesn’t have lots of chances to get replies:

bad example of long email paragraph

Why should you avoid this style?

  • it's hard to scan what the email is about because of the one-paragraph structure
  • the message looks longer than it really is, and your prospects might find it too time-consuming
  • it’s not mobile-friendly as the format can look overwhelming for the reader on the mobile app

Instead, follow structure practices from this example:

good example of short email paragraphs

What makes this structure good?

  • no more than 15 words per sentence
  • the paragraphs are short, 3-5 sentences, which makes email easy to scan
  • the text looks clean and easy to read on the mobile email app

Data shows the perfect email length is around 120 words. So make sure you outline the core value in short and clear sentences without taking too much time from your prospects.

#3 Selling from the start

Instead of jumping right into your sales pitch, focus on building a relationship with your prospect first. This boosts your chances of actually getting replies and closing more deals.

Here’s what you want to avoid when getting in touch with your prospects:

bad example of selling a service instead of meeting

Why this approach will never give good results?

  • they talk only about themselves and the service they provide
  • there’s no clear interest in getting to know more about the prospect
  • CTA is not focused on scheduling a meeting but directly on buying a service

Instead, aim to build a relationship by following the good practices from this example:

good example of establishing relationship with prospect first

Why does this outreach approach work?

  • CTA is asking for a quick chat rather than asking for a free download or purchase
  • shows genuine interest in getting to know the person they're talking to
  • they mentioned common ground with the prospect as it can reveal potential topics for the meeting

To wrap up, cold outreach should never be about selling your product or service. Focusing on relationship building won’t only help you learn more about your target audience but also close a deal and grow your revenue.

#4 Not focusing on the specific pain point

Imagine opening an email containing a huge list of random services someone is offering. Even though one of them might solve your struggles, it will be hard to notice it between other irrelevant ones.

Focusing on your prospect’s specific pain point shows them you did your research, know how to help them, and you’re ready to do so. And therefore, they will be more likely to respond.

Here’s how not to do it:

bad example of not focusing on specific pain point

Why this cold email won't get many replies?

  • contains a bullet list of different business activities, which can be confusing for the prospects as they won’t be sure what the company's specialty is
  • there’s no clear value proposed, and the prospects might get lost in all the info searching for it
  • because there’s no clear, personalized pain point, the email might seem robotic

Instead, follow the good practices from this example:

good example of pointing out pain point in cold email

Why does it work?

  • underlines the exact pain point that the prospect is currently facing, which will make them relate more easily
  • makes the value very obvious so they have a reason to reply
  • includes numbers as social proof to build credibility

Everything you have to offer might be impressive for you. However, your prospects would care more about a specific service or product solving their specific pain point.

The more you show your prospects you understand their struggles, it’s easier to tease them with a solution, which will bring you more replies.

#5 Wrong email design

You don’t want your prospects reading your well-written outreach copy thinking, “I didn’t subscribe to this!”. Unfortunately, that happens very often due to poor design choices, which lead to a low reply rate.

Lots of people want their cold emails to look nice and appealing, almost like newsletters. But, cold email and inbound marketing email and two different things.

This is what your cold email shouldn't look like:

example of bad email design

What's bad about this email design?

  • it's hard to read because of the centralized copy and unusual font
  • the sales-y image catches the attention much more than the text itself
  • it feels and looks impersonal, which makes prospects feel like it’s an automated email sent in bulk

If you wanna boost your chances of getting replies to your cold emails, you might wanna pick this design instead:

good example of clean email design

Why it works?

  • includes simple font with "traditional" left text alignment
  • sounds personal and tailored to the prospect
  • it's easy to read and scan
  • looks like an email that you’d send to a colleague, which increases the chances of getting a reply

Many email designs might seem catchy, but with cold outreach, it’s not only about grabbing the attention. It’s about providing value.

Instead of focusing excessively on design that feels robotic, focus on the message that gives a human touch and boosts reply chances.

#6 Using industry jargon

A golden rule for succeeding in your outreach is to talk in your audience’s language. Knowing the ins and outs of your industry makes you assume that everyone understands what you’re talking about - which isn't always the case. That’s why you should always adjust your writing when reaching out to people.

Here’s what you don't want your email to sound like:

bad example of using industry jargon in emails

Here’s why this email is hard to understand:

  • it features industry words (such as DA, DR, and Ad-sense) that aren’t familiar to all prospects
  • because of the jargon, the message sounds very formal and cold
  • there’s no tailored value proposition which makes the email look generic
  • the social proof is directly related to jargon words, so it’s hard to understand the possible outcome and what the sender is trying to prove

Instead, follow good practices from this example:

good example of using prospect's language in emails

What makes this email get replies?

  • they used a language that the reader uses on a day-to-day basis, not exclusively at work
  • includes useful links that clarify to the prospect what they're talking about (leaving no room for self-interpreting context)
  • it sounds like they talk face-to-face to a prospect which makes it less generic and more personal

Using fancy words in your cold emails won’t make you look smarter. On the contrary, you’ll make yourself hard to understand, which lowers your chances of getting replies.

If you’re reaching out to your prospects because you wanna build a connection with them, make yourself clear first.

#7 Not A/B testing

A high-quality cold email is a result of strategically chosen email elements. One wrong CTA, or subject line can cost you a reply. So when in doubt - a/b test!

A/B testing is an experiment where you're split-testing two (or more) variations at random, to figure out which variation brings better results. When done right, it can help you determine what variation your audience prefers and optimize your future campaigns for higher reply rates.

But, in this example, you can see that not every A/B testing is executed correctly:

bad example of ab testing

What makes this testing example non-efficient?

The two variables were tested out simultaneously subject line and body copy). This makes it hard to understand which of them influenced a different behavior. Therefore, you don’t know which one to implement in the rest of your cold emails.

To avoid that, test out one variable at a time:

good example of ab testing

Here, you can clearly see which subject line caused. the prospect's different behavior and start implementing your new findings into sequences.

From the subject line, body, and CTA, it’s crucial to test out and measure your campaigns. Knowing what doesn’t work for your audience is as important as knowing what it does.

If you want to automate your A/B testing and track the real-time results, try the lemlist email automation tool for free.

#8 Having multiple CTAs

When doing cold outreach, all your emails should end with a clear Call-To-Action. If you use more than one CTA, you might get your prospects not knowing what to do next.

On the other hand, if you don’t use any, your cold email might lose purpose as there’s no action for prospects to fulfill.

Here’s what you want to avoid:

bad example of using multiple CTAs

What's wrong with this example?

  • multiple CTAs clutter the body of a cold email, making it more difficult to read and looking spammy
  • prospects might feel confused because there’s no clear action to fulfill to get the communicated value
  • it’s left to the reader to decide what’s best for them as the next step, which takes too much of their time and efforts

Instead, follow the good practices from this example:

good example of focusing on one CTA

Why use this approach in your cold emails?

  • there's only one CTA that isn’t asking for too much commitment
  • it clearly communicates the action that the prospect needs to take to get the value
  • CTA is specific (“video link” rather than just “link”), which immediately answers what to expect when clicking

If they aren’t interested in a meeting with you, sending additional links to booking a meeting won’t change their mind. The key is to make it simple. If you want them to accept the value proposal, you need to make their next step clear.

#9 Not proofreading

It’s okay to ignore some grammar rules to make your message sound more natural, but there’s no excuse for bad spelling. Writing your prospect's name or their company incorrectly is an email marketing mistake they will not overlook.

It shows only that you didn’t bother enough to double-check it.

Here’s what you want to avoid:

bad example of not proofreading your email

Let's see why this cold email won't bring good results:

  • the lemlist name is misspelled, which makes it look sloppy and like the person sending this was too lazy to double-check
  • the mistake makes the email feel generic like they didn’t care about personalizing it
  • it shows unprofessionalism and a lack of attention to detail that can make a difference

And to never repeat the same mistake, try using lemlist custom variables:

good example of using custom variables

So, what's in it for you?

  • it saves you time on double-checking by automatically applying the correct naming
  • gives a personal touch, making it easier to build a genuine relationship with the prospect
  • builds credibility, and positions you as someone who made an effort to do the proper research

Writing prospects’ info correctly should be the bare minimum. Yet, it seems that so many salespeople fail and wonder why they are not getting any replies to the cold emails.

When done correctly, it’s a good way to capture a prospect’s attention. The first email you send will leave the first impression, and based on that, the prospect will decide whether they will or won't reply.

#10 No personalization

The bigger the personalization, the bigger the chances of getting replies and booking more meetings.

Outreach personalization can help you connect with your prospects on a higher level and build trust more easily. If your prospects feel the message was carefully written for them, your chances of getting a meeting will go up.

Here’s an example of how not to do it:

Why cold email like this won't get replies?

  • it feels like someone used a general template for all their prospects
  • the focus is on selling and not building a relationship
  • no point resonates with the prospect, making it hard for them to relate

To avoid that, check out the good practices from this example:

good example of email personalization

Why is this approach good?

  • they used a customized opening line as an indicator that the message was specially written for a prospect which helps to build trust and make them keep reading
  • they mentioned something they found out about the prospect (e.g., the activities that caught their attention), which will help to connect on a personal level and uniquely provide value
  • it's written in a friendly tone, without sounding too serious, to show they don't care only about sales (they're here to build a relationship)

Email personalization is one of the things that will make or break your cold outreach. No one likes to receive generic emails that only aim to sell.

Instead, focus on email quality over quantity and really research who you’re talking to. And whoever you talk to, talk as you would talk with a friend.

Key takeaways

If you want to get more replies from your leads and increase your sales, you should always:

  1. Offer a specific solution for a specific pain point using a unique CTA.
  2. Keep it simple with short paragraphs, a clean design, and day-to-day language.
  3. Don’t talk about yourself and your service. Focus on building a relationship using personalization.

… and don’t forget to test it out!

Following these steps should help you boost response rates and book more meetings, but most importantly, build meaningful relationships with your target audience.

The more relationships you make, the more potential customers you have, which will eventually lead to higher sales numbers. 💸

P.S. If you wanna get the best results from our cold emails, here's a list of additional mistakes to avoid.

Mihaela Cicvaric
Content Marketing Manager @ lempire | Sharing everything you need to get replies to your cold emails

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