How to Write a Winning First Email to a Potential Client

Woman typing an email on keyboard

In times long past, there were “cold calls”. Salespersons would sit on their phones, usually with a list of leads, and spend their days calling perfect strangers, trying to get that key appointment. The percentage of ROI has never been great.

Are they still doing this? Yes. But more often than not, some major companies are now using robocalls with instructions to tap 1 for more information. Are they effective? Not really. 

So, how do you go about getting new customers

Today, cold calling has been replaced with email by a lot of entrepreneurs and companies. Certainly, it is more cost-effective. But is it improving ROI at a better rate than the traditional cold calling? 

The answer is mixed. But, although it is mixed, there are a lot of statistics that point to the higher value of email – only if it’s done right though.

A Few Key Stats

  1. For every $1 spent on email marketing, companies can expect a $44 return
  2. Email marketing is 40X more effective than attempting to get new customers via social media
  3. 92% of adults who are online do have email

Doing it Right

Now that you know how powerful email marketing can be, how do you engage in “cold-calling” emails?

Remember, the goal is to get them to open that email, actually read it, and then take the action that you propose. 

According to a DMA Email benchmarking report in 2019, the click-through rate of marketing emails was 2.4%. You need to be part of that 2.4%.

Assuming you have your list of “cold potentials” and their email addresses, here are tips that will get you a decent response. 

1. Keep it Short and Simple

People are busy. Get to the point immediately and do not spend the kind of time you might spend in a phone call. You want a short introduction, a very short body that provides extreme value, and a closing that tells them what to do now

2. The Subject Line must be Amazing

It won’t be unless you know something about the needs of the target. Are your targets looking for a better deal on car insurance? Are the companies looking to automate their CRM through chatbots? Whatever you are selling, the subject line must address this need in an intriguing and compelling way

Let’s suppose you are selling a subscription service for infant diapers. Your subject line might be “Tired of running low on diapers?” This would appeal to new moms who are dealing with a lot of issues of having a new baby and running to the store to replenish their supply is a major inconvenience. Or, “Diapers delivered to your doorstep” is another possibility. You could use both and then A/B test to see which gets more opens. You can use a service like Mailbutler to give you the stats on opens and responses.

If you are a B2B company and selling a data science service, your subject line might say, “Take the guesswork out of customer behavior”.

You may have to try a few different subject lines. The point is, hit upon a pain point that your potential customers have, get it in that subject line, and be as compelling as you can. “We struggled with subject lines,” says Bill Connors, Marketing Director for Studyker, “and like the old fable, we had to kiss a lot of toads before we found our ‘prince.’ But now we know how to frame them, and open rates have really gone up”.

Above all, avoid terms like “sale,” “discount,” and such. Everyone else is using those, and receivers will delete them unless they know the company, have purchased from them before, and need to purchase something again. This is not you.

3. The Content of the Email – It’s About Them Not You

You should not start off by introducing yourself or your company. Begin with a sentence related to them and their needs. And make it brief.

“As a new mom, you have more important things to do than make a special trip to the store for diapers. We’ve got your solution.”

“For a small shipping fee, you can have those diapers delivered once a month, right to your doorstep, and pay no more than you do now at your retail store. You get your choice of all major brands, change the size as needed, and cancel at any time.”

B2B Example: “Do your customers seem fickle? Are you having a hard time figuring out what they really want? Data science can dig deep into their wants, needs, and behaviors and give you answers based on science, not hunches.”

“You can get rid of the guesswork and present products/services that they really want. You ask the questions – we supply the answers.”

Judy Castello, Marketing Director for Subjecto, says this: “Our big mistake, in the beginning, was making our email campaigns all about us and how great we were. Once we shifted our mindset to the customer need and focused on that first, and only then how we had a solution, did we see our open rates go up.”

4. Close with a Call to Action

Now is the time to let them know who you are and what their next step is to solve their problem

“We are (name of company) and have been delivering diapers to moms just like you for six years now. Check out our happy customers on Yelp (give specific URL) and then come on over to our site (URL) and place your order.”

“Oh, and as an added bonus? 10% of your first order with this coupon code (give code).”

“Let’s get one more thing off your plate!”

B2B Example: “We are (name of company) and have been supplying big data solutions to companies like yours for the past four years. Check out our profile on LinkedIn (give URL) and what others have to say about us.

“If you want to know how data science can give you the competitive edge you’ve been looking for, give me a call (name, phone number) so we can talk about it.”

Additional Thought – Get Help If You Need It

Composing engaging and compelling emails is not easy, and there’s an ocean of competition out there. In days gone by, there were scripts developed for cold calls which set a “foundation” for what was to be said. Those days are long gone, and canned scripts are just not effective anymore. 

There is lots of help out there – writing services and freelancers with plenty of experience in crafting emails from subject lines to closing. Check out Upwork, Write Scout, Freelancer, or Writing Judge for starters.


About the Author

Marques Coleman is an independent writer and blogger who is a frequent contributor to a number of writing services, including Top Essay Writing, Classy Essay and Be Graded. As well, he contributes to a number of blogs and forums on topics related to marketing in the 21st century. In his spare time, he is an avid diver and diving instructor – something that gives him the excuse to travel.


Do you want to boost your email productivity? Install Mailbutler for Apple Mail, Gmail or Outlook and see for yourself the advantages it provides!


Would you like to learn more about productivity? Read this interesting article “Tips to Foster Productivity across Your Organization” from our guest contributor Amanda Jerelyn.

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