How Cold Email Works

Cold emails are not going anywhere. They are still as popular as ever and as effective as ever.

Cold emailing is one of the most effective sales outreach channels that exists. Its effectiveness has a lot to do with the fact that it's based on personal connections and relationships, meaning that even if the message isn't relevant to your target, they're more likely to find it interesting.

Cold emailing doesn't take much time or work, but it can turn your prospects into clients if you do it right.

There are some misconceptions about sending cold emails that have no basis in fact. This blog post will attempt to address those.

By the time you reach the end, you will know:

Let’s get down to it.

What is a cold email?

A cold email is a one-off, personalized email that you send to a prospective client who doesn’t have any connection to you.

Think of it as the start of a one-on-one conversation with your prospect. It’s very much like a cold phone call with the same objective of having the other person engage in a conversation, except that a cold email is much less intrusive and much more effective in sticking the landing.

A cold email is:

  • A request for an interview or meeting with someone who is not known to you.
  • Entirely text based.
  • Short and to the point.
  • Hyper-personalized and with content tailored for the person receiving the email.
  • Not a sales pitch.
  • Polite and friendly.
  • Has a signature and contact information.

How are cold emails different from newsletters?

People typically club cold emails and newsletters in the same bracket, believing they are the same. They are not. The only thing they have in common is that they land in their mailboxes. Here is how cold emails differ from newsletters:


Newsletters try to build a relationship with the people who read them by telling them about products and services or a certain topic. The purpose of newsletters is to subtly push the reader into buying a product or trying out a service.

Cold emails, on the other hand, are a way of reaching out to potential customers. Think of them as invitations to build a business or a working relationship.


Cold emails are hyper-personalized according to the recipients. The name of the person getting the email, as well as their business or work profile, is included in cold emails.

But the level of personalization in newsletters is minimal or non-existent. A newsletter to one person is the same as the next hundred in the mailing list.

Opting in

Newsletters go out to people who have opted in and agreed to be a part of a company’s mailing list, either during sign up or on their websites.

Cold emails go to people who haven’t agreed to be a part of your mailing list.


Cold emails are short bits of text that introduce the sender and offer to help the recipient by solving their biggest problem. There are no buttons or images.

Newsletters are image-heavy and may have plenty of buttons, along with a "call to action" button. The content could be about a new line of products or a service, or it could just be a knowledge-based topic.


Cold emails are different from newsletters in that they are more personal and less formal. Newsletters give less opportunity to the reader to reply and more to interact. With cold emails, things are a bit more personal, and the objective is to get a recipient to respond.


In cold emails, there are signatures and contact information of the senders. Newsletters do not have any.

How are cold emails different from spam?

Another common misconception is that cold emails are nothing but spam. This is also not true. The difference between cold emails and spam is like apples and oranges.

  • There is no contact information in spam. In cold emails, there is.
  • Spam mails typically have fake names. Cold emails use real names and information.
  • Spams sometimes push a product or service too aggressively—they have more in common with newsletters in this regard.
  • Spams can also have a fraudulent motive, intending to rope in recipients into something nefarious.
  • They are full of advertisements and, in some extreme cases, may include links to malware.

Is sending cold emails legal?

Sending cold emails is absolutely legal—so long as you check all the right boxes.

With the recent rise in email marketing and outreach, it's important to take note of all the legal guidelines that you should follow.

The first thing to remember is that every country has its own laws related to privacy, data protection, and electronic communications. The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) all have rules that cold emails must follow.

Let’s see what conditions cold emails must satisfy to qualify as legal.

No false or misleading information.

Cold emails must contain genuine information about the sender. This also applies to the “From” and “Reply To” fields. The originating domain must also be authentic.

No deceptive subject lines.

The subject lines of cold emails must relate to the email content.

It must include the sender’s information.

Cold emails must include the name and contact information of the sender. In some instances, senders must also include their current address.

It must be of legitimate interest to the recipient.

Cold emails should always have something to offer the recipient. This could mean offering a service or product that might be useful to the person for their work or other needs.

It must give recipients the option to opt-out.

For recipients that do not want to keep receiving emails, cold emails must include an option to opt-out. Furthermore, senders must honor these opt-out requests within the next 10 business days.

What are the different types of cold emails?

Cold emails are usually sent out with the goal of getting a response from the recipient, and they are most effective when they are personalized and tailored to the recipient. This means that you need to know the person’s name and their business, if they have a website or not, etc. It also means that you must know what their interests are so that your email is not too generic or boring.

When you use information about the recipient’s interests and preferences to make them more relevant and compelling. The more personalized your email is, the more likely that person will respond and act on what you're offering. Personalized cold emails have also been proven to be more effective than mass-produced cold emails. They are more likely to get a response and an increase in customers.

There are eight major types of cold emails.

Introductory emails

An introductory email is a short email that introduces your company or brand, explains who you are and what you do, and also provides an opportunity for the recipient to respond with their contact information. These types of emails are usually sent when you have no previous connection with the recipient or their organization. They are also ideal for breaking into new markets or reaching out to those who haven't heard from your company in a while.

Most of the time, an introductory email is just a greeting, but the best ones include questions that a potential client might need to answer to make a decision. This can help the recipient think about your company or brand more objectively and decide whether you and they are a good fit.

General purpose emails

A general purpose cold email does not mention anything about the recipient’s interests or preferences. It is mainly used for outreach purposes, like promoting a new service or product line. These also come in handy when you are looking for new opportunities. General purpose cold email can be sent to any company, even if they don't have an open position that you're interested in. The goal is usually to get your foot in the door and build rapport with the recipient of the email.

Specific purpose emails

This type of cold email is tailored to the recipient’s interests and preferences by using personal information or past interactions. This email would typically be one that the sender has personally written to a specific person and/or organization. These are more targeted towards people who work at specific companies, but they can also be sent out to people who don't work at those companies but would still like to meet with you.

Cold emails for specific purposes usually require some sort of introduction from someone else before they will respond and are best used when you are seeking an in-person meeting with someone that you don’t yet know well. This approach can increase your chances of getting a response from the person you are reaching out to.

Soft sell emails

A soft sell cold email is sent out with the intent of building rapport and establishing a connection with the recipient, so it will be more likely for them to want to talk to you.

The sender introduces themselves and their company in a way that makes them seem trustworthy or familiar to the reader. What sets soft sell emails apart from introductory emails is that the former attempts to strike a chord with the reader by subtly addressing their pain point, whereas the latter keeps it factual.

Hard sell emails

A hard sell cold email is all about selling a product or offering your services and is sent out with the intent of getting an immediate response from the recipient. These types of cold emails are an effective way of getting your product or service in front of a person who may not be aware of it. You can use this tactic to sell your own product and to find potential customers. Hard sell cold emails typically have a call-to-action at the end that asks for an action, such as signing up for something, checking out a portfolio, or visiting your website.

Call-to-discussion emails

Call-to-discussion cold emails to prospects can help you build relationships with them if your company regularly publishes and promotes content. Rather than introducing your product or your service, you highlight information with the intention of sparking a discussion with your prospects. By sending these cold emails, you can easily use the blogs that your company publishes as a tool to engage prospects in conversation.

Help emails

These cold emails offer help with a specific issue or problem. They give the recipient an answer or solution to a problem they are having, and you ask for more information about the problem before you can help them. This type of email is best used when there is a clear path for follow-up action from both parties and there isn't any risk involved for either party.

Advice emails

Advice emails are more like a form of support and feel like a conversation. The recipient is not looking for help solving their current problem, but rather for advice on how to best tackle the issue that they currently have. This type of email is best used when there is a risk involved or when the potential customer needs some encouragement or guidance before deciding. Advice emails can also talk about how the recipient can take their career or business in a particular direction.

What are the best cold email structures?

There is no 'one size fits all' solution when it comes to identifying the best cold email structure. The key here is to find the approach that works best for you.

The first step is to identify what your goals are. What are you trying to gain from this email? Do you want a response and a connection that sparks an idea? Or do you want someone on the other end of the cold email to be excited about your product or service?

Below are five of the best and time-tested structures for cold emails:

1. The 3S Cold Email

The 3S cold email structure is one of the most common structures used by salespeople and marketing executives. This structure helps you make an introduction, build rapport, and create a sense of urgency.

These cold emails are: Short. Simple. Straight to the point.

The 3S cold email structure is an introductory cold email and consists of three parts:

  • Introduction, which includes your name, position, and company.
  • Body of the email, which has a clear message that you want to convey and why you are reaching out to this person.
  • Finally, the closing, which should be brief and formal. The mail can also include a call to action, such as a request for a meeting or a link to your LinkedIn profile.

2. The AIDA Cold Email

Attention. Interest. Desire. Action

An AIDA cold email is a form of hard sell where you go all out on pitching your product or service to your potential client. It’s particularly effective for two reasons:

It is the quickest, most efficient way to get a meeting with a decision maker, and you are more likely to get a response because you are offering solutions to solve a prospect’s problems.

The AIDA cold email should do all these things:

  • Grabs a prospect’s attention using clear and compelling language.
  • Interest them in learning more about your offer.
  • Get them to desire what you have to offer.
  • Invite them to take action by booking a consultation or meeting with you.

However, before you start sending out AIDA cold emails, make sure you’ve done some research on who you are contacting and are certain about their needs.

3. The Star-Chain-Hook Cold Email

The Star-Chain-Hook cold email is a great example of how to write a cold email that will get you a response.

  • It starts with a headline, which is the star of the email.
  • Then comes the chain of content, which is the body of the email.
  • Finally comes the hook, which is a call to action that asks for feedback or invites a response.

These emails introduce you in an engaging manner and then go on to create a chain of supporting facts, sources, and advantages to establish credibility and generate interest. The chain is the central component of the cold email marketing strategy. If you back up your argument with proof, you have a better chance of getting someone to do something.

4. The PAS Cold Email

The Problem-Agitate-Solve email structure can be used when you need to get a point across in a clear and concise manner.

  • Problem: The email points out the major pain points that the prospect is facing.
  • Agitate: It then "agitates" them by talking about how the pain points affect them.
  • Solve: In the last part, the email offers a practical solution.

PAS cold emails are effective because they strike an instant connection with the prospect. Because you know exactly how they are feeling, you make an instant connection, and your prospect is more likely to respond.

5. The BAB Cold Email

The last and most effective cold email structure is the Before-After Bridge model. This structure helps the sender to create a sense of urgency and build trust with the recipient. It also helps with the focus on what to do next.

  • You start with the problems your prospect is facing now—the before.
  • You show them how their life would be if these problems didn’t exist—the after.
  • Introduce the product and explain how it will bridge the gap between their ‘before’ and their ‘after’.

The Before-After Bridge model works because it provides a prospect with a tangible solution to their problems as well as a clear action plan.

Who sends cold emails and to whom?

Any form of digital or email marketing begins with cold emails. It is a low-cost, high-impact way to reach out to people and create a connection. Companies, big or small, across every industry use cold emailing as a way to build relationships, generate leads, and gather feedback on their products and services.

  • Digital marketing agencies target e-commerce businesses.
  • SaaS (Software as a Service) companies typically send cold emails to entrepreneurs and small-to-medium businesses.
  • PR agencies target influencers, artists, and politically exposed individuals.
  • Fulfillment centers target online retailers.
  • Web developers send cold emails to businesses wishing to take their presence online.
  • Cold emails are sent by companies and professionals in various industries such as hospitality, retail, technology, publishing, law firms, and more.

How do you send cold emails?

Before you begin sending cold emails, make sure that you know three things about your prospect:

  • Who they are
  • Where they work
  • What they do

This will help you hyper-personalize your cold emails to create a connection with your prospect. It also shows your recipient that you have done your research. It would help if you had a handful of sentences that provide value proposition to them.

Once you get ready to fire off your cold emails, you have two ways to do that:

Using a simple email service

Think Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Outlook. These email services are free, and you can use them to send out cold emails. But on the downside, they don’t allow for automation and personalization, so you will have to do it all yourself, one email at a time.

Using a sophisticated platform

A sophisticated email outreach platform like Mailstand offers several tangible benefits:

  • The ability to drag and drop Excel sheets and to create campaigns and mapping of variables.
  • Running multiple A/B tests under a unified view.
  • Merging multiple mailboxes and defining sending patterns and limitations on ‘mailbox level’.
  • Advanced metrics that give a complete picture of opens, clicks, replies, and unsubscribes.
  • Mailstand automatically removes names from your mailing list and adds them to ‘Do Not Contact’ when someone clicks to unsubscribe.

If you want to find out more about Mailstand, you can do it here.

Try Mailstand for free.

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