Cold emails are literally the online equivalent of cold calling, initiating contact with prospects in an attempt to establish a business relationship, often including a sale.

Yes, it’s true that cold sales emails are a long shot, and you might not see a lot of conversions from them. That’s not the point, or it shouldn’t be anymore. Your goal at this point is brand familiarity.

Think of a cold email as a very alluring Match.com message. The reader has no idea who you are, and you only have a few lines of text to make an amazing first impression. If you play your cards right, you’ll end up with a pleasant first date sales call after a few chats back and forth developing a business relationship and guiding your prospect further down the funnel.

But like your future online dates, sales emails aren’t all the same. Sometimes they’re simple introductions, other times they’re chock full of useful information.

To help you understand the possibilities, we’ve narrowed down cold emails into four distinct types. And because we like you so much, we’ve designed some great cold email templates for you to use, which you can download below.

Happy messaging! May you have an amazing response rate and never need to send a follow-up email.

Type No. 1: Introductory emails

This is the business card of email marketing: basic, but such a blank slate that you have total freedom to jazz it up.

Here, your primary focus is establishing brand familiarity. You’re introducing yourself to readers who likely receive a ton of business emails already, so you need to make it count. Save your hard sales pitches for later; instead, strike up a conversation that familiarizes the reader to your brand and yourself.

Here are four tips to keep in mind when writing your introductory emails.

  1. Introduce yourself, not just your business. This adds a bit of personalization that makes readers feel more favorable toward you. To create an even greater connection, go beyond just stating your name and title. Give readers an idea of what working with you will be like.
  2. Avoid salesy subject lines. You want people to open your email believing you’re going to help them, not that they’re expected to help you.
  3. Include your logo somewhere other than your email signature. Otherwise, you’re hoping someone scrolls all the way down to read everything you have to say. Let’s face it: that doesn’t always happen.
  4. Use a human-like email address, not noreply@yourcompany.com.

Also, show a bit of the actual product. It could be a screenshot of a software application or a .gif of your manufacturing equipment in action. Or, you can take a page out of Ramp’s book and photoshop your recipient’s company logo onto your product.

Ramp’s example was widely circulated as the best cold email ever, and we can’t really dispute that claim. It’s funny, relatable and, because of the custom logo, personalized.

In fact, that personal connection is arguably the best part of the email. Even though the copy is probably the same for every recipient, personalizing something beyond the individual’s name shows effort. Readers like to see effort; it shows your email is worth their time.

Got all that? Here, we’ll make it easy for you with a cold email template:

Hello [recipient],

[Casual introduction that includes your name, title and detail on what you do.]

[Short paragraph explaining why you think the prospect could benefit from a relationship between your two companies.]

[Ways to get in contact.]

Closing and signature

Type No. 2: Emails that give away free content

“Free” is pretty much everyone’s favorite word, and giving away content at no cost is a great way to establish a connection with a prospect. After all, you’ve got an opening subject right there: this amazing blog post/infographic/eBook that will help the recipient achieve whatever KPIs they’re looking for.

Now, by no cost, I also mean no effort — no form fills, no newsletter signups, no nothing. A call to action is maybe pushing it (not really, but you want to make your content as accessible as possible).

That said, you don’t want to offer a throwaway piece that’ll get your email sent straight to the trash. It still needs to be relevant to your potential clients, addressing pain points or showing them a more efficient method of achieving KPIs. Otherwise, why would they open it?

I get it: Giving away your well-researched content for free isn’t easy. Grit your teeth and realize the end result will be worth it.

So, how do you decide what to include? By using the following list, of course. Emails that receive high open rates tend to contain at least one of the following:

  • Shareable tidbits. Content easily shared on social media has the potential to get your brand in front of a greater number of prospects.
  • Thoughts and experiences about your industry. People love this kind of stuff. Not only is it relatable (“I’ve been in that same situation! Classic!” they’ll say), but it also has the potential to provide new insights.
  • Something that shows your uniqueness. What makes you stand apart from other businesses? You want to put this information in front of prospects as soon as possible so they have more reason to return to your brand as they continue their sales journey.
  • Something that rewards people for reading. After a prospect finishes your email, what are they supposed to do? Close it and ignore you forever? Hopefully not, and you’ll stick in their memory if you provide something useful for them to do later on. Provide advice they can apply to their job or include a CTA linking to the rest of your blog.

Often, the free content is a simple link to a blog article, but it doesn’t have to be. You can share images, PDFs, even templates.

And speaking of …

Hi [recipient name]!

I wanted to direct your attention to [piece of content]. It’s done [small list of benefits] for me, and I think you may find it useful. What do you think?

[Link to/embed content here]

If you want to connect, [contact information].

Thanks!

Type No. 3: Sharing gated content

Looking to get more information to segment your marketing lists? Create cold email campaigns with gated content.

This will be a bit of a harder sell, as you have to convince a practical stranger to hand over their contact information with no prior contact. That’s why these emails must be absolutely perfect in order to get the return on investment you’re looking for. You’ll need to:

  • Send the right subject line.
  • Keep your message brief.
  • Provide truly valuable content.
  • Optimize your form fills.

The latter point is particularly important. After reading an email from a stranger, the last thing a person wants to do while they’re on the clock is spend valuable time putting their information into a text field. Include just enough to categorize your readers into relevant segments in order to make the most of short attention spans.

Hi [name],

I’ve got something that you might be interested in! [Introduce gated content]

[Brief list of highlights, including an impressive stat or interesting insight).

I thought this was [interesting/amazing/mind blowing] and wanted to share. If you’re curious about the rest, [call to action linking to the content’s landing page].

Enjoy!

Type No. 4: Hard pitch

This is going to be the most difficult type of sales email to pull off. You’re essentially saying, “Hey, you don’t know me, but I really think you should buy my product.” You’ve got to be really persuasive in order to convert the reader.

It’ll be difficult, but not impossible. Your best bet is to include a little bit of everything we’ve talked about so far, such as:

  • Personalization.
  • Free, useful content.
  • A perfectly crafted email.

Still, you’ll need a little bit more to prove your case. Let’s look at this helpful example from HubSpot to see what I mean:

As writer Ginny Mineo noted, what seems like a basic pitch is surprisingly personal, informative and useful. Bryan, our sender, had already established contact with HubSpot by commenting on their blog and otherwise engaging with the brand. Even if your reader isn’t familiar with you specifically, they might hold your email in higher regard knowing that you didn’t approach their brand out of nowhere.

As for personalization, Bryan adopted the HubSpot tone without using buzzwords or being overly sales-like. In fact, he gave it a little extra  — okay, a lot extra — by creating a customized demo. Now, you may not be able to do the same for every cold email you send, but as part of a small business trying to hook one of the biggest names in marketing services, Bryan probably knew that doing a ton of work would surely make him stand out from the crowd. He also identified a relevant HubSpot need and adopted their marketing tone.

And emailing ain’t easy, so here’s a template for you:

Hello [name],

[Open with a compliment about their business or content. Explain how the company helped your work or life.]

I’m part of a company that [describe your product in a casual, engaging way]. We recently completed a project that made me think of your brand. You can check it out here [include link to project that somewhat matches their branding].

If this is something you’re interested in, feel free to get in touch!

Thank you,

[Your name]

Gotten a cold email that you think knocked it out of the park? Share it in the comments below!

Autumn Green is a Brafton writer living in Chicago. She thought she wanted to be an artist growing up, but her time in college taught her that writing is much more fun. On the weekends, you can find her browsing museums or buying cookbooks.