Email Outreach Playbook: Master the Craft Of Sending Sales Emails That Convert

Email is a priceless cold sales tool

It’s less intrusive, more efficient, and, according to data from MarketingSherpa, more effective than a phone call.


of cold calls result in an appointment


higher ROI than cold call, networking or trade shows

Long story short: if you’re not using cold outreach emails to generate leads for your business, you probably should be. Of course, there’s knowing you need to send outreach emails, and there’s knowing how to send effective outreach emails that actually convert.

1 Best Practices

Each recipient you email is unique. That makes it impossible, without extensive research at least, to ascertain what style, tone, and content is going to resonate with each of them best.

Don’t second-guess what to send. Stick with what’s been proven to work and play it safe by following known best practices.

Find the Right Contact

The first step to sending a winning outreach email happens before you start typing. You won’t get very far if the person you reach out to:

  • 1 Works in the “wrong” department, or
  • 2 Lacks the authority to make decisions

Sure, if you email the wrong person, they might pass your email on to someone who can help – but how often do you do that when you’re on the receiving end of a sales email you can’t do anything about?

Don’t rely on your recipients passing your email on to the correct person. I receive a lot of emails that say something along the lines of “If you’re not the right person to speak to about this, could you please let me know who I should speak to?/pass this email onto someone who can help?”

It’s a nice try and I don’t doubt it works sometimes. I also don’t doubt that the salesperson would see a higher response rate if they took the time to find and email the right person in the first place.

Doing your homework might not feel like much fun at the time, but it pays off in the long run.

Know Who You’re Emailing

I’m going to talk a lot about personalization throughout this playbook, simply because it’s so important. In short, it pays to know who you’re emailing. It can be the difference between getting a reply, and getting ignored.

Before you start writing emails, do a bit of digging into your recipient. You can never know for sure (again, without extensive research) but try to gauge what sort of language is likely to resonate with them. Do they like a joke? Do they love a compliment? How busy are they?

This is all information you can use to help you write emails that are more accurately targeted at each of your recipients.

Interact With Recipients Before You Email Them

Most of us respond best to messages from people we know, or at least recognize the name of. That’s why it’s advisable to interact with your recipients in some way before you hit send.

That might mean meeting them in person – say, at a conference or networking event. It could in fact be as simple as interacting with them on social media – retweeting them a few times and @ replying to a couple of their tweets, for example.

I’ve had people reach out to me on Slack before – a site I use a lot – and it worked.

They essentially got me to “soft agree” to their pitch over Slack. That meant that when they emailed me, I was ready, and happy, to pay attention to what they had to say.

Use Templates That Don’t Sound Like Templates

If you’re sending more than a handful of emails, you’re going to want to save time by using a template. That’s okay. Don’t let outreach evangelists tell you that each and every email should be written from scratch. While we’d love to be able to send an entirely unique and completely personalized email to each recipient (and you’ll get to see an awesome example of one shortly), outreach is often, in part, a numbers game. So, that’s just not going to happen.

Back in reality, working with templates is fine. You just need to use templates that don’t sound like templates.

We’re going to look at templates in more detail later, and I’ll be providing you with some ready-made templates that have been proven to work. For now, just remember that there’s nothing wrong with basing your outreach on a template – just use ones that sound natural and you know work, either because of your own testing (crafting your own template is the ideal) or someone else’s.

Keep It Brief

You’re busy. You don’t have time to handcraft a unique email for each recipient. I get that. But do you know what? Your recipients are busy, too. They don’t want to read detailed sales pitches from strangers. They simply want to know:

  • 1 What you’re emailing them about, and
  • 2 How it will benefit them.

“Contrary to popular belief, providing unrequested information or pointers to such information is not adding value. Marketing emails should be one to three sentences, with no fluff, biz-blab, jargon, or ‘for more information, see…’ pointers. Remember: we live in a world of information overload; don't make it worse for your potential customers.”

Geoffrey James, writing for Inc

This is what I do when writing an outreach email or putting together a template:

I look at each sentence in isolation and ask myself if it’s absolutely integral to the email. If I can remove a sentence while retaining all key points and without changing the overall message, it’s gone.

Each and every sentence of your email should serve a very specific and useful purpose. Anything extra is dead weight that you’ll be better off without.

Be Natural

We don’t respond to emails, we respond to people. But not just any people. We respond to people we like.

“In sales, you are never selling an object or something tangible. What you are really selling at the end of the day is: Opportunity. Confidence, Conviction and Charisma just allow you to take that opportunity and turn it into art.”

Gurbaksh Chahal, writing for Elite Daily

This is why it’s critical – whether you’re writing individual emails for each recipient or working with templates – that your emails sound natural and friendly. They – first and foremost – should sound like they’ve been written by an actual person; but they should also sound like they’ve been written by a person you would want to get to know.

This is why, while I’m going to be providing you with proven-to-work templates that can help kickstart your outreach, I’d still encourage you to inject a little of your own personality into the emails you send.

Try to get out of the “selling” mindset, and just be yourself.

Be Honest

A common strategy employed in outreach emails is to butter up the recipient by complimenting them. The sender usually does this by saying what a big fan of their work they are, how much they enjoy reading their blog, or how awesome they thought their latest post about XYZ was.

That’s all fine – if it’s the truth.

Unfortunately, when it’s not, it makes you look dishonest (not a great start when you want someone to do business with you). It’s also easier to spot than you might think.

“I get several cold outreach emails a day. By now, I’m pretty good at spotting an outright liar or even someone who is just stretching the truth. In a large portion of those emails, I see an opening line that sounds like:

I’m a huge fan of Quick Sprout…

Okay, cool.

Surely, a “huge fan” would at least be subscribed to my email list. Surprisingly, a fairly large percentage of these emailers are not. Right away, I feel lied to and usually delete the email.”

Neil Patel, QuickSprout

If you’re a genuine fan of the person you’re emailing and/or their work, then great. Let them know. If you’re not, don’t pretend to be. If your recipient’s anything like Neil, all that lie’s going to get you is deleted.

Keep It About the Recipient

What do you think your outreach emails are about? You? Your business? What makes your business great?


Outreach emails are about the recipient. They’re the ones you’re trying to engage, after all. There’s a reason How to Win Friends and Influence People states that to make people like you, you “need to become genuinely interested in them” rather than you “need to talk about yourself a lot.”

It’s because people who talk about themselves too much suck. Whether it’s online, in emails, or in real life, people that can’t shut up about themselves are tedious and boring.

“I never learn anything talking. I only learn things when I asked questions”

– Lou Holtz

If you want your outreach emails to influence people and win business, you need to make the focus of your email the recipient, and what’s in this email for them.

So you’ve just won an award? Secured your 10th blue-chip client? Just think you’re awesome in every single way?

Your recipients don’t care.

There’s a time and a place for bragging. Outreach isn’t it. Focus on why this email is going to help its recipient, and forget the rest.

Include a Call to Action

What do you want your prospect to do as a result of your email? Don’t assume recipients will figure this part out for themselves. You’ll make life easier for both of you if you state clearly what you’d like to happen next.

Always Proofread

Spelling or grammar mistakes make you look, at best, lazy.

Always, always proofread your emails. Small mistakes might seem insignificant to you but they could be the deciding factor in whether or not your recipient replies.

It’s also not uncommon for marketers to get the names of recipients wrong (I’ve been on both ends of this one) which makes names (of people and companies) another thing you should always double check when proofing.

Don’t Include Attachments

They have a habit of flagging spam filters and are massively untrustworthy when sent by strangers. Ask yourself: would you open an attachment from someone you didn’t know?

Don’t Ignore Bounced Emails

If an email bounces back, do you just move onto the next prospect? If so, don’t. There’s loads of reasons emails bounce back – very few of them mean that prospect should be struck off your list. For example…

  • The person you contacted doesn’t work there anymore (find a different contact).
  • The email address is wrong (double check for typos).
  • The recipient’s server is down (try again later).

In fact, there’s only one valid reason I can think of to give up on a contact after a bounced email, and that’s if:

  • The company doesn’t exist anymore.

Always Follow Up

I kind of get why some of us are reluctant to follow up. It’s easy to assume that no reply means “not interested” and that to follow up would make us that person who “just can’t take a hint”.

Unfortunately if you let that nagging voice win, you could be missing out on a lot of business.

Many studies have shown that it takes an average of five follow ups to close a sale and yet “70% of salespeople give up after they don’t get a reply to the first email!

Why you need to follow up

It takes an average of 5 follow ups to close a sale, yet…

70% of salespeople give up after they don’t get a reply to the first email.

(Sources: Yesware, data based on 500,000 sales emails users sent in Q1 2014)

Don’t be in that 70%. Be in the 8% of salespeople that get 80% of the sales.

I’ll be including some follow-up templates later.

Don’t Buy Lists

Emailing lists of prospects that you’ve purchased is a one-way ticket to being ignored. Purchased lists tend to be badly researched, out-of-date, and just plain wrong.

Using your own highly-targeted lists that you’ve built and qualified yourself will allow you to send more personalized emails and stop you from wasting time on emails to people that don’t have a chance in hell of converting.

2 When Outreach Goes Wrong

According to CBInsight’s CEO Anand Sanwal’s analysis of 147 cold emails, “93.9% of them are absolute and utter rubbish.”

138 (93.9%)




9 (6.1%)


That’s bad news for the people sending those emails, but it’s good news for us. It means there’s a lot we can learn from analyzing bad outreach emails, right?


Let’s take a look at some examples of bad outreach emails and what is so, so wrong about them.

This Is Why You Should Do Your Homework

This is an email sent to Digital Third Coast, which, as its name would suggest, is a digital agency. A quick look at its website tells you that it offers services including SEO and PPC.

That makes “Rachel’s” first mistake “not doing her homework.” Why is she pitching SEO and PPC services to a company that offers SEO and PPC?

It’s also missing any sort of personalization (understandable since “Rachel” doesn’t even know what the company she’s pitching to does – or – imagine this – the name of the actual recipient).

She even fails to personalize herself – she works for a “Chicago-based SEO consultant”... What are we supposed to conclude from that? Why not just say the company’s name?

Did she get anything right?

Rachel did state what the email was about and what she was offering (i.e. digital marketing services and a free site analysis) but even that could have been articulated more clearly. It’s somewhat hidden away among a list of services and a spammy blurb about the cost of advertising and the importance of online presence.

The email would have been better if Rachel touched on how this “Chicago-based SEO consultant” could help the recipient.

Just Keep It Short and Sweet

This email received by Cognitive SEO is (as you might have guessed from the spamtastic title), like the example above, completely void of any personalization.

That also means it’s completely generic (not to mention poorly-written).

“4 or 5 of your main keywords to the first page of Google in about 3-4 months.”

I don’t know where to start with what’s wrong here. “4 or 5 of your main keywords” – so what are these keywords? Who puts much emphasis on keyword growth nowadays anyway? And what makes you think you can get 4 or 5 of them onto the first page of Google (and in such a short time frame)?

The remainder of the email reads like a badly-written proposal. It’s far, far too long. I’m not against someone pitching SEO services describing how they’re going to get results, but do it briefly. Save the detail for when you’ve already piqued someone’s interest.

Did they get anything right?

They explain what they’re offering (SEO) and how they’re going to get results (albeit badly). They also get to the point quickly – they just take far too long to get to the end of it.

Save the HTML for Your Newsletter

Are you noticing a pattern? This email to Wilson Peng of Yes Insights is guilty of the same crime as the examples above: no personalization.

But that’s not the only rule this email’s breaking. It’s grey, which means it was designed using HTML. You can’t guarantee HTML will display properly, and poorly-coded HTML can flag spam filters. Play it safe and avoid it – period.

They also fail to include a clear call-to-action. “Reach out to us” is not sufficient – it hands all responsibility for the next step over to the recipient. That recipient would have to be really interested in what they’re offering to do anything about it.

Did they get anything right?

There’s a reasonable bit of information about the course on offer, but then again, it might be too much. A single, well-written sentence that summarizes what the recipient stands to gain from the course, along with a link to more information, would work much better.

Don’t be weird

This email is just… strange.

They don’t include the recipient’s name, but I think we’re used to that slip-up by now. They do state the reason for their email, but it’s such a generic, obvious statement that it’s not really worth mentioning. Your recipients know very well what their own companies do. They don’t need you to tell them.

The next section is all about the sender, and utterly irrelevant to the person they’re contacting. Why would anyone care that you receive numerous inquiries a day?!

After that things get even weirder.

I assume they’re going for the “social proof” angle, but they’ve got it so wrong.

“They have responded to our outreach within the last 48-72 hours, and are expecting to hear back from a consultant.”

Why-oh-why would anyone care about this? And why do they think the latter half of the sentence is so important it’s worth underlining?

Did they get anything right?

They say what they want, and when they’re available, which is a nice touch. It’s not enough to make up for the overall oddness and irrelevance of the rest of the email, though.

Appearances Matter, Too

I wanted to highlight this email – not because it’s an all-round bad email – but because for me it’s making one big mistake.

Despite the fact that Ken is clearly going for the “personalized” angle (i.e. “I would like to personally invite you”) the use of different fonts, sizes, and colors is a huge giveaway that this email is automated.

I don’t know of anyone who, when writing a genuine, personal email to someone, plays around with the type, size, and color of font they use – especially when including hyperlinks.

If you were actually writing a personalized email to invite someone to an event, you would probably say something like:

“If you want to come along, you’ll need to register. Here’s the link for you [URL OF REGISTRATION PAGE].”

Did they get anything right?

Definitely. Although the mix of fonts gives the game away, it does make the email look ultra-professional. I might be on to the fact that Ken’s not really reaching out to me personally, but the style and tone of the email instills confidence that makes me think “This is probably a quality seminar I’m being ‘invited’ to.”

It’s also short and succinct, yet manages to sell me the benefits of the seminar. I like the inclusion of the cost of the seminar, and the fact that it’s possible to get it for free – the high value cements the idea that it’s likely to be a valuable day.

3 When Outreach Goes Right

That’s enough negativity for now. It’s educational and dare I say, fun. But you can only learn so much from looking at what not to do. Let’s switch it up and take a look at a few examples of some stand-out outreach emails.

Highlight Common Ground

The email above was highlighted in a case study by the sender himself, Michael Pozdnev. The email isn’t selling anything, it’s promoting content – but I still think there’s a lot you can learn from it.

In the opening line, Michael’s email achieves three things. It:

  • 1 States who he (the sender) is.
  • 2 Personalizes the email to the recipient.
  • 3 Establishes common ground with the recipient.

The main body of the email ticks a lot of boxes, too. It adds further personalization to the email and details its purpose.

What I really like, however, is the final statement. Michael explains how he’s already done the recipient a favor – he shared one of their posts on Twitter. This follows the law of reciprocation, and leaves the recipient in Michael’s debt.

Very clever.

Did they do anything wrong?

This is undoubtedly an excellent email, and I’m clearly not the only one who thinks so. This was the reply:

But there are a few things I’d change.

I admit this might just be me, but the line “I offer you my friendship because we have similar interests and we love Robbie” feels forced and insincere. I also want to build friendships with people I reach out to, but I don’t come out and say it. It’s just kind of implied in the emails I send and the subsequent conversations I have with people.

There’s also a word missing. Did you spot it?

“Not long time ago” should (I’m assuming) be “not a long time ago.” Even then, it’s pretty poor English. “Not too long ago” reads better to me.

Lesson learned: proofread very, very carefully.

Michael also fails to state exactly what he wants from the email. Is he looking for a link or just a share? If it’s the former, he needs to make that clear. As someone who regularly receives outreach emails, I feel qualified to offer a little tip: if you’re looking for a link but don’t ask for it, you’re almost certainly not going to get it.

In a sales email, being crystal clear about your goals is even more important. Again, I don’t want to sound too critical. It’s a great email – it could just be even better with a little tweaking.

Next, let’s read an email that I can only find one word to describe…


This email is from Grav CEO David Daily to Ok Dork’s Noah Kagan. It breaks a number of the best practices I went through earlier. It’s long and David talks about himself and his credentials a lot.

But it works. Really well. So well in fact, that Noah…

So what was it that made the email so effective?

It’s funny, charming, and makes David’s intentions clear.

But do you know what really makes it stand out?

The fact that it’s completely personalized.

It’s obvious this email isn’t templated in the least. David wanted to meet with Noah so wrote an email just for him.

When the pair met up, David confirmed this – he stated that the email took him an hour to write.

Now, you’re not going to be able to write emails like this for every prospect. That’s why we use templates and follow best practices. But, if there’s someone you really want to work with, going above and beyond to write a truly awesome email that’s just for them might well prove to be worth the effort.

When you’re putting so much personalization and personality into an email, it’s okay to break a few rules and talk about yourself, or talk for a little longer than you would normally.

Especially when the results look like that.

Slick, Succinct, and Specific

This email from Yesware ticks a lot of boxes. The bold opening features a solid, genuine-sounding compliment for the recipient (Jen). What follows is a clear-yet-succinct explanation of why Jen in particular is being contacted, and a short description that highlights why Yesware could benefit her.

The email wraps up with a CTA that tells Jen exactly what they would like her to do.

We’re Real People, Honest

Uberflip’s Adam Brophy sent this one. I like how he begins by confirming that it’s a human, not an automated sales-robot on the other end of the email. It’s such an unusual touch that it’s pretty tough not to believe him.

Next up he cites some common ground – the fact that he and his recipient have met before. If you have links like this to prospects you email, leverage them!

My favorite bit of this email, however, is the bullet-point list of reasons why this recipient, specifically, would benefit from Uberflip.

It’s this sort of personalization that can really get results. You’re not just saying “This is why our product helps people like you.” You’re giving precise reasons why your product will solve the recipient’s personal pain points.

4 How to Boost Open Rates

You could write the best outreach emails in the world, but if no one’s opening them, it’s not going to make a bit of difference. People need to read your emails for you to get results.

According to data from Constant Contact and MailChimp, average open rates for business emails fall between 14% and 23%.

Is it just me, or does that seem very low?

An experiment carried out by Contently co-founder Shane Snow made it look that way. Out of 707 emails, he saw an open rate of 45.5%.

Clearly, outreach campaigns can and do lead to decent open rates. Let’s have a look at what it takes to ensure that as many of your emails get opened and read as possible.

Subject Lines

If your email successfully arrives in your recipient’s inbox (i.e. it didn’t bounce), the single most important factor in whether or not that email gets opened is its subject line.

So what does a great subject line do?

  • 1 What you’re emailing them about, and
  • 2 How it will benefit them.

It Creates Curiosity

Don’t give away everything in your subject line. Your goal is to make your recipient want to learn more. Provide too much information at this point, and your recipient will be able to decide whether or not they want to read your email, without even opening it.

Try a subject line like…

It’s Personalized

I know, I know – you’re probably sick of hearing it, but personalization in outreach is that important.

We already know it’s critical to personalize the body of an email, but did you know personalizing a subject line has been shown to boost open rates?

Data from MarketingSherpa showed that subject line personalization increased open rates by 29.3% – although the actual impact varied widely across industries.

In Q1 2015, personalized subject lines provided a lift in open rates compared to the Q1 benchmarks for most industries.

Only one industry (publishers) did not see an increase in open rates when email subject lines were personalized.

The impact doesn’t end when the email’s opened, either. In emails with a personalized subject line, transaction rates increased by 49% (0.09% compared to 0.06%) and revenue increased by 73% ($0.15 compared to $0.08).

Let’s take the subject lines suggested above, and personalize them.

Personalization doesn’t have to mean including the name of your recipient, though. If you have a mutual connection, try including their name, instead. For example…

It’s Brief (But Not Too Brief)

It’s not just the body of your email that needs to be brief – brevity works in subject lines, too.

Think about it – imagine you’ve just gotten back from vacation/lunch/the bathroom (delete as appropriate) to find a hundred (or more) new emails in your inbox.

Do you carefully read each subject line? Or do you scan through them as fast as possible to pick out the ones that seem important, and delete the rest?

Most of us, I think, do the latter.

Keep subject lines short enough that they can be scanned and understood, but long enough to include information that piques interest.

How long is that, exactly?

Research by Madhu Gulati of Show Me Leads analyzed 260 million emails. Those that saw the highest open rate (21% to be exact) were between six and ten words.

Subject lines with fewer than five words were opened 16% of the time, and longer subject lines – those with 11 to 15 words – were opened just 14% of the time.

Key takeaway:

Aim to write subject lines that are between six and ten words.


It should go without saying that timing plays a big part in email open rates. Ideally, you want your email to arrive in your recipient’s inbox when they have access to their email and time to read it.

Sound simple?

Maybe if you have a crystal ball.

For the rest of us, our best bet lies in looking at research and data produced by other kind marketers.

Yesware analyzed 500,000 sales emails and found that open and reply rates were highest on the weekend.

Email Reply Rates are highest on the weekends

Email Sent % Open % Reply % Reply Same Day
Week Day 525,742 66.3% 39.1% 33.1%
Weekend 5,278 73.6% 45.8% 32.6%

That makes sense. Fewer emails are being sent, so competition is lower, and it’s safe to assume recipients have more time to read their emails when they’re at home and away from their desks.

Yesware also found that emails sent early in the morning (between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m.) and in the evening (around 8 p.m.) saw the highest response rate.

That makes sense, too. A lot of entrepreneurs and decision makers start their day early and begin by sorting through their inbox (I certainly do).

8 p.m., on the other hand, is the time when most of us have eaten dinner and settled down for the evening. We’re generally in a relaxed, receptive mood – not to mention the fact that fewer emails come through at this time, so competition for our attention is low.

Of course, the trouble with this data is that we all behave differently.

Yesware found email open and reply rates to be highest on the weekend, but data from MailChimp showed otherwise.


It seems cliche to say “figure out what works best for you,” especially with something as variable as an outreach sales campaign – but it’s the best advice I can give.

Look at the data available to you, and make your own decisions based on that, plus what you know about your prospects.

And don’t forget to consider the timing of your follow-up emails.

Aim to send them out at a different time and on a different day than your original email (and any other emails you might have already sent). You can never be sure what time’s best to contact someone (unless, of course, they’ve told you) but by varying when you send your emails, you can boost your odds of reaching people at the right time.

AND A Final TIp

Pay close attention to the subject lines of cold emails that arrive in your inbox. Note the ones that entice you to click “open” (and those that don’t) and what it is about those subject lines that influenced you either way.

5 How to Boost Replies

Contently co-founder Shane Snow’s email experiment resulted in a pretty decent open rate of 45.5%.

But what do you think their reply rate was?

Out of 707 emails (they originally sent 1000 but 293 bounced), they got 12 replies.

That equates to a reply rate of just 1.7%.

This was the email they sent:

What do you think went wrong?

Three things stand out to me.

  • 1 Lack of personalization

    This is an obvious slip-up (although Shane admits personalization was lacking on account of the high send rate).

  • 2 Phrasing

    For me, the biggest failure in this email is the way the “ask” is phrased.

    “Share some thoughts” is very non-specific. It offers very little guidance for the recipient. More importantly it makes responding sound like a lot of effort.

  • 3 Lack of incentive

    The email doesn’t mention what’s in it for the recipient if they do reply. This might not be a sales email, but the same rule applies: be crystal clear about what’s in it for them if they get back to you.

    Let’s have a look at how approaching this email differently – and outreach emails in general – could have boosted replies.


Yes, I said it again. It’s best practice to personalize your outreach emails. But why?

Because it boosts replies.

Why does it do that?

Primarily because, when we receive an email that appears to have been written just for us, it feels almost rude not to reply.

It’s that reciprocation rule again. Someone has gone out of their way to contact us so we feel obligated to repay them by replying – even if it’s only to say “Thank you, but I’m not interested.”

Does that mean personalization will work every time?

Of course not.

But there’s no doubt it helps.


Just above we saw how a vague call-to-action that simultaneously asks a lot of your recipients can slaughter your reply rates.

Want more replies?

Make it as pain-free as possible for your recipients to respond.

How do you do that?

By asking a direct question that’s easy to answer.

Don’t say “I’d love to hear your thoughts” or “I’d value your feedback on this proposal.” Say “Could this help you?” or “Is this something you would like to hear more about?”

If your goal is to arrange a meeting, either face-to-face or over the phone, don’t let your recipient choose the date and time. That takes effort on their part – effort that they might not be willing to put in.

If you suggest a date and time, all your prospect has to do is say “yes” or “no.”

If you’re worried about killing a lead by suggesting the wrong date and time, don’t be. If your prospect is actually interested, but unavailable at the time you suggest, they’ll say so.

Incentivize a Reply

No, I don’t mean promising to send your prospect sweets or chocolates if they reply – just make sure they know what’s in it for them if they do.

Maybe your service has saved a company similar to theirs X dollars a month. Perhaps your product cuts the legwork involved in a key task that your prospect’s business performs in half.

In the example above, all Shane needed to do to incentivize replies was to promise to link to anyone who replied with information he used in the resulting study.

If you’re emailing prospects with something of value, adding incentive should be simple. You just need to outline specifically what’s in it for them.

Use Power Words

All words are not created equal – far from it. Some words have been shown to be far more powerful, i.e. far more effective than others at persuading people to convert (which in this case, is replying to your email).

According to Buffer, the five most persuasive words in the English language are:

  • You
  • Free
  • Because
  • Instantly
  • New

...while “The Father of Advertising,” David Ogilvy, proclaimed the 20 most persuasive words to be:

  • Suddenly
  • Now
  • Announcing
  • Introducing
  • Improvement
  • Amazing
  • Sensational
  • Remarkable
  • Revolutionary
  • Startling
  • Miracle
  • Magic
  • Offer
  • Quick
  • Easy
  • Wanted
  • Challenge
  • Compare
  • Bargain
  • Hurry

Yesware also wrote an interesting post about power words and how small changes to your phrasing can make a big difference.

Instead of saying:

Let me tell you what you could accomplish with our product.”

...spark your recipient’s imagination by saying:

Imagine what you could accomplish with our product.”

Don't say:

“Does that make sense?”

It implies you think your recipient isn’t smart enough to understand your email or that you lack confidence in your ability to explain yourself. Instead say:

“How does that sound to you?”

And instead of talking about “price” talk about “value.”

You can read the full post here.


Research by Buffer found that tweets with images saw clicks increase by 18% and retweets by 150%.

Could including an image have a similar impact on outreach emails?

I think there’s a strong possibility it could.

Use them to illustrate a point or provide evidence of a claim, but limit it to one. Too many images could serve as a distraction or create an unnecessarily long email (don’t make your recipients scroll more than necessary!)

6 Anatomy of a Great Outreach Email

As we saw at the start of this playbook, there are a number of best practices that when followed, will help you send better emails that get more responses.

That means there’s a formula to writing a great outreach email. Let’s see what it is.

The above example is from Yesware. I’ve picked it because it’s a pretty standard, formulaic email that ticks all the boxes, which are:

  • 1Address recipients by name.
  • 2Highlight a pain point of the recipient and at the same time, personalize the email to their situation.
  • 3State the reason for the email.
  • 4Provide evidence that the sender can help the recipient.
  • 5Wrap up with a clear call to action that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”

7 Templates

I’d encourage everyone to write their own templates from scratch, using a formula like the one above.

If you’d rather use templates others have tried and know work, take your pick from the following (just be sure to edit them appropriately to fit your own campaign and reflect your personality).


Follow Up to a Conversation

Follow Up to No Response


ensure the recipient can view the chain of previous emails by replying to your last email.

Inbound Lead from Content

Following Repeat Visits to Site


CHECKLIST And Takeaways

Best Practices

  • Find the best person to contact

    You won’t get far if the people you email don’t have the authority to act on it.

  • Know who you’re emailing

    Do a little bit of digging to find out what sort of language your recipient is likely to respond to best. Pay extra attention to how busy they tend to be, and consequently, how much time they’re likely to have to respond to your email.

  • Reach out to your recipients before you email them

    You want to be in a position where they recognize your name when they receive your message.

  • Use templates (that don’t sound like templates)

    You’re busy; it’s fine to use templates – just choose templates that sound as natural as possible. Ideally, write your own. If you use an existing template, make sure to inject some of your own personality into it.

  • Keep it brief

    Great outreach emails are short and succinct. Only include information that is absolutely necessary for the recipient to know.

  • Be natural

    Write like yourself. Just because you’re writing a sales email doesn’t mean you need to fall into the trap of sounding like a sales robot.

  • Be honest

    Compliment your recipient, but only if it’s genuine. People that receive a lot of email pitches will be able to see through the fakery (and they won’t appreciate it).

  • Keep it about the recipient

    the people you’re emailing don’t care about your company’s achievements; they only care about what you do can help them.

  • Include a call-to-action

    Wrap up your emails by telling your prospect exactly what you’d like to happen next.

  • Always proofread

    Small mistakes can make a big difference in how a recipient perceives you. Always double check for names, spelling, and grammar.

  • Don’t include attachments

    They can make emails bounce, and are unlikely to be opened anyway.

  • Don’t ignore bounced emails

    Double check that the email address is correct, find someone else to contact, or try again later, instead.

  • Always follow up

    It takes an average of five follow ups to close a sale. Enough said.

  • Don’t buy email lists

    they’re a waste of time. Make your own.

Outreach Gone Wrong

  • Research your recipient

    You should at an absolute minimum know their name, the name of their company, and what their company does. Use this information to personalize all emails (again, this is the minimum amount of personalization you should aim for).

  • Don’t blabber

    State how you can help your recipient, but do it quickly. Save the detail for proposals.

  • Stay relevant

    Ask yourself whether all the information in your emails is something your recipient will actually care about. Be honest with yourself. If the answer’s no, get rid of it.

  • Keep it simple

    Don’t mess around with fancy fonts and layouts – it’s a dead giveaway that your emails are templated.

Outreach Gone Right

  • Establish common ground with the recipient

    and do it quickly. It’s a great ice-breaker and encourages your prospect to trust you.

  • Leverage the law of reciprocation

    Highlight how you’ve already done your prospect a favor and they should feel compelled to return it.

  • If you really want to work with someone, go above and beyond

    Craft an email that is completely personalized to them and shows why you would work together so well.

  • Personalize by stating how your product can help your recipient

    Great personalization goes way beyond names. Don’t explain how your product or service helps businesses generally – explain how it helps solve each prospect’s unique pain points.

How to Boost Open Rates

  • Write subject lines that:
    • Create curiosity
    • Are personalized
    • Are between six and ten words
  • Time your emails carefully

    weekends have been shown to result in higher open and response rates, as have early mornings (between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m.) and evenings (around 8 p.m.). That said, conflicting studies exist, so take the time to work out what gets the best results for you.

How to Boost Replies

  • Personalize

    If your recipient thinks you’ve gone out of your way to contact them, they’re more likely to feel obligated to reply.

  • Make replying feel effortless

    Your call-to-action should be a direct question that’s easy to answer.

  • Incentivize replies

    Ensure your prospects know what’s in it for them if they get back to you.

  • Use power words

    such as:

    • You
    • Free
    • Because
    • Instantly
    • New
  • Include images

    but a maximum of one per email. Use them to illustrate a point or provide evidence of a claim.

Anatomy Of a Great Outreach Email

  • Address recipients by name
  • Highlight a pain point that you know troubles the recipient (and that you can help solve)
  • State the reason for your email
  • Provide evidence you’re able to help your recipient
  • Wrap up with a clear CTA