8-Point Cold Email Checklist to Smash Your Numbers

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New business is tough. But know that your dream client is one effective cold email away from changing the trajectory of your agency. I’ve sent tens of thousands of emails over my career and have advised agencies on tens of thousands more. This is the cold email checklist that I use, and it’s led to millions of dollars in new business.

8-Point Cold Email Checklist:

1. Personalization

Effective cold emails do not sound like they’re written by a robot. Today’s buyers are weary of robotic copy and expect personalization. The prospect will delete your email if it looks like you’re mass emailing.

Show that you’ve taken time to handpick them. Begin by using their name and company name.

Spend time collecting relevant information about your prospect. Collect data about their industry, company, location, events they’ve attended, content that they’ve published, etc. Use this information to personalize your email by including a reference to something hyper-specific to them or their company.

But, don’t spend too much time personalizing. For most prospects, use the 5 x 5 rule. Spend no more than 5 minutes researching and 5 minutes writing.

2. Attention-Grabbing Cold Email

Don’t start your cold email stating your name; announce that you work at an agency they’ve never heard of and go on to introduce them to services that they didn’t ask about.

Example: “Hi Mr. Prospect. This is John Doe from ABC Agency. We provide strategy, media, digital, public relations, branding, marketing, advertising, experiential and market research services to companies like you.”

Unless you’re a famous CEO from a Fortune 50 company, like Jeff Bezos, your name and the agency you work for (which are in your sender field, email address and your signature) won’t grab your dream client’s attention.

Rather, each sentence needs to inspire the prospect to keep reading. Think of Seth Godin’s concept of the “Purple Cow.” To gain attention one must not only sell their services in a remarkable manner, but also have remarkable services. Do you offer something differentiating from other agencies? What is your Purple Cow that will make marketers stop in their tracks?

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3. Reason for Reaching Out

It must be clear why you’re reaching out in your cold email. And why are you reaching out now. Zero in on a pain point the industry, company or prospect is likely experiencing. Take this intel and connect it back to your services.

Suppose that you’re a market research firm that specializes in innovation. You uncover that your dream client is launching new products next year.

You might say, “I noticed that ABC Company is launching several new products soon. I’m reaching out because I thought that you would get value from this white paper about innovation that we published.”

4. Value Proposition

Your agency’s value proposition is arguably the most important element of your messaging. A value proposition tells prospects why clients do business with you and makes the value of your services crystal clear.

There are two main parts to a value proposition: business drivers and movement

Business drivers are what decision-makers really care about. They are the key performance indicators the prospect is expected to accomplish and how their performance is evaluated. As you customize your value proposition, pick out the business drivers that are most important to the prospect. Here are some examples:

  • Lead conversion rate
  • Share of wallet
  • Shelf space
  • Market share
  • Basket size

A strong value proposition always includes movement. Prospects won’t change unless your offering is significantly better than their status quo. Use words like these to help your prospects understand the difference you can make:

  • Increase
  • Accelerate
  • Grow
  • Eliminate
  • Minimize

Example: “Beverage brands like yours come to us to grow shelf space at key retailers.”

5. Benefit to Recipient

Stating that you believe your services can benefit them won’t cut it. Ask yourself, what’s in it for the prospect? Aim to add value to your prospect at every stage of the buyer’s journey, starting with the first cold email. After all, if your email doesn’t improve the prospect’s life, they have no reason to begin a conversation.

You’ll rarely ever convince a prospect to buy on the first email. You shouldn’t try to outright sell on the first touch and instead should try to build a relationship based on trust and credibility. Here’s how:

Case Studies

They’re an in-depth description of how a specific client overcame a challenge thanks to your services.


Share relevant and insightful content that demonstrates your agency’s unique point of view on a challenge your prospect is likely facing.

RELATED ARTICLE: Easy Test to Measure the Value of Your Thought Leadership


Ask customers to put in a good word for you. If they’re relevant to your prospect, it might resonate with them.

6. Readability

Senior level decision-makers are busy. They bounce from meeting to meeting and travel from city to city. Your cold emails need to be mobile friendly for the on-the-go prospect.

According to Boomerang, which analyzed 40 million emails, the sweet spot for email length is between 50-125 words.

Their study found a correlation between the reading grade level of emails and response rates. Emails written at a 3rd grade reading level provided a 36% greater responses rate over emails written at a college reading level and a 17% higher lift over emails written at a high school level.

Use simpler words (no industry jargon) and fewer words per sentences. You can check your email’s reading grade level and receive word suggestions with free platforms like Hemingway App.

A 3rd grade reading level is not an excuse for misspelled words, poor grammar or incorrect punctuation. Have every cold email template proofread by a colleague. Don’t forget to double check each of your personalized messages before pressing send.

7. Trust / Proof

At first contact, the prospect has no idea who you are. To gain your prospect’s trust and gain more credibility, include:

  • The names of widely recognizable clients
  • Extraordinary and tangible business results

If your agency has well known advisors or practitioners, try using the “power to power” rule.

Example: “My CEO, Gary Vaynerchuk, asked that I reach out because we felt that you would benefit from ABC.”

8. Call to Action

The goal of a cold email is to get a click or reply.

Clicks are used to identify engaged prospects. Sales reps can focus follow-up with prospects that have clicked on links within their emails. If the link directs prospects to content on your website, tracking software can be used to follow what pages the prospect viewed, which provides insight on their interests for future communications.

The best way to get a reply is to ask a question and say that you would like to hear back. Boomerang found that emails that asked 1-3 questions are 50% more likely to get a response than emails asking no questions.

Whether click or reply, include only one call-to-action and ask directly for what you want.

Cold Email Checklist Bonus: Subject Lines

There are two schools of thought when it comes to subject lines: short and specialized. It is usually recommended to write short subject lines, so it appears fully, especially on mobile devices.

That being said, a long headline that won’t appear fully on mobile might still raise interest if the copy is specialized enough to encourage the recipient to read further. According to Prospect.io’s Forster Perelsztejn, you have two choices:

  • Very short and to the point (3-25 characters)
  • Longer but specialized (86-111 characters)

Check your subject line against the following criteria:

  • Be direct and let them know what’s inside
  • Avoid all caps, exclamation points, and dollar signs (stay classy)
  • Avoid spam trigger words (but beware of context)

That’s All Folks

Ninety percent of business development reps won’t take the time to audit their emails with this cold email checklist. It’s easier to complain that the leads are no good, their agency’s services are not of interest or prospects aren’t reading cold emails anymore. But, follow this list, and you’ll find yourself among the ten percent who are getting in front of their dream clients and winning new business.

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8-Point Cold Email Checklist to Smash Your Numbers