Cold email mistakes to avoid if you wanna get more replies

May 4, 2022

With the right cold email approach, you can easily get in touch with your prospects, book more meetings, and sign more deals.

But the problem is that many salespeople still use the same self-centred and sales-y outreach methods that make prospects run. No wonder why they don’t see any results...

So, how do you make your outreach stand out from the crowd and get more clients? We've analyzed hundreds of cold email campaigns during the past 3.5 years and, in this article, you'll find out what to avoid and what to focus on.

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

#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 want 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 personalisation which shows they used a very generic approach

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 this approach works?

  • 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-centred as it's clear they want to provide value and create a relationship, not to 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.

#2 Long paragraphs

Before deep-diving into why writing long paragraphs is a mistake, you should be aware of the fact that prospects will scan your cold email before actually reading it. That’s why you should keep it short and easy to read.

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 figure out 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 email app

Instead, follow structure practices from this example:

good example of short email paragraphs

What makes this structure good?

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

If you want your prospects to read the content of your email, you need to keep it clear and concise. Make sure to outline the core value in short and pointed out sentences without making your prospects take too much time to search for it.

#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 to get 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 this outreach approach works?

  • CTA is asking for a quick chat rather than asking for a free download or purchase
  • shows genuine interest to get 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 speciality 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 makes 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, but 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

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.

I’m sure 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.

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 unpersonal which makes prospects feel like it’s an automated email sent in a bulk

If you wanna boost your chances to get 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’s alignment
  • sounds personal and tailored to the prospect
  • it's easy to read and scan
  • looks like an email that you’d sent to a colleague, which increases the chances to get 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. Focusing on the message (rather than design) gives your prospects the feeling that they received an email from another human, not a business - which increases your chances to get a reply.

#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 different behaviour. 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 behaviour 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 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 loose purpose as there’s no action for prospects to fulfil.

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 cold email making it more difficult to read and looking spammy
  • prospects might feel confused because there’s no clear action to fulfil 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's clearly communicated 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. If you didn’t write the name of your prospects or their company correctly, it means 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 details that can make a difference

And to never repeat the same mistake again, 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 correctly prospects’ info should be the bare minimum. Yet, it seems that so many salespeople fail. 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 for getting replies and booking more meetings. Outreach personalization can help you connect with your prospects on a higher level and build trust more easily. Once your prospects feel like the message was carefully written especially just for them, the chances for a meeting get only higher.

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 is 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 attention) which will helps 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 level up your outreach game, 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 personalisation.

… 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.

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