Ah, December. ‘Tis a joyous time of gratitude, holiday cheer, chilly weather, and absolute trash littering our inboxes. 

Welcome to “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Cold Emails” series, the December Edition.

The email elves left us both presents and coal this year in our inbox, so without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the best and worst cold emails to close out the year.

The Good

Whether you’re writing cold emails or receiving them, outbound messages always face an uphill battle — they’re coming in cold – with an audience than can be harsher than the frozen tundra. If you find your emails going ignored or losing your audience’s attention, chances are, you need to warm your recipients up with the copy equivalent to a roaring wood fire stove – a wonderful Hook!

Laughter is the best medicine and a welcome gift in anyone’s inbox, especially when it connects back to the value prop. And that is where we begin with this month’s Good cold email.

great cold email - example

At its core, every good cold email follows a clear 4-step path, as we’ve discussed before at CIENCE.

AIDA for Cold Email

  1. Attention
  2. Interest
  3. Desire
  4. Action

The well-traveled AIDA model shines through in the above email by clearly hooking the reader’s attention with humor. Like it or not, first impressions matter in an inbox (like it does anywhere else in life), and this is where humor can sometimes play an integral role in standing out and catching the eye immediately.

First of all, this email begins with a subject line and first sentence that mimic well-known song lyrics from pop culture (the timeless classic by Sir Mix a Lot). I’m also not sure if the video is NSFW so use your discretion. “I like Big Brands and I Cannot Lie” catches the reader’s attention and simultaneously compliments the recipient that they, too, have a “big brand.”

It’s a welcome challenge to read between the lines and unearth the actual purpose of the message. It instills curiosity and triggers the urge to keep reading, which is precisely what a good hook should do.

The 90s hip hop theme continues throughout, layered in between relevant, substantive content, to keep the reader entertained – guessing and searching for references while linking influencer marketing with viral #1 hits. It’s a great way to keep your reader on their toes and get them to continue reading attentively throughout, albeit a bit distracting at times. Having “too much of a good thing” can sometimes handicap your email’s actual purpose: to book meetings.

All in all, this email sender finds themselves on the “nice list” of this year’s cold email.

Example Clients Miss the Mark

Catching a reader’s attention is important, but, in line with the AIDA model, a great cold email must still generate interest and cultivate desire before leading to the call to action. This email doesn’t actually give us much more about what influencer marketing can do for the recipient; it simply “works.” Yes, judging from their example clients, the company’s done some amazing things— clients that would resonate more for a B2C brand.

Unfortunately for them, they used this message to try to set a meeting with a B2B company that has little overlap with their example client list. This message may resonate more profoundly for other companies, but their example client lists (aka their “proof of concept”) would suggest to a B2B cold email recipient that influencer marketing isn’t for them.

It’s a shame, too, because influencer marketing is actually one of the next marketing trends that will be the next hottest thing in B2B Marketing.

Too many jokes, references, etc. can detract from your ultimate goal. A good cold email might catch your attention, but unless it generates interest and desire, it’s only part of the way there.

The Bad

It’s far easier to end up on the “naughty list” of cold email, and one of the easier ways to be the cold email version of Bad Santa is to deliver the coal equivalent of cold email wrapped in a decent subject line.

While a great cold email pulls a reader along from attention to interest, then desire, and finally, action, a lazy cold email won’t move the needle enough to even warrant a read. If you’ve read this once, you’ve read it a thousand times.

bad cold email
example of a bad cold email

Hey. I wanna sell you stuff. Look at this stuff I’m selling. Isn’t it great? Here, let me bold it for you. Better yet, let me bold a list of stuff as if it’s a receipt or a fast-food menu.

Bold Type = Lazy Cold Emails

I think you get the picture. A lazy cold email doesn’t focus on the prospect, their concerns, or why they should care about what you’re saying. Self-centered messages like this come off as transactional, and it makes them feel even colder than they already are.

Even the follow-up wave is lazy and self-centered. Simply asking someone who’s never heard of you if they’ve seen your last email is a great way to get them to ignore it. Who are you and why are you asking me to read your list of random $%^& again?

Why me? Why now? And why should I care?

If you want to get reported as spam, end up in domain purgatory and leave business on the table, this is a great way to do it.

The Ugly Cold Email

Technically, the ugliest email for December is a LinkedIn message, but it’s written like a cold email (and let that be a lesson on what not to do when using LinkedIn).

example of a really bad cold email, sales email

Where do we even begin? This sender addressed our CEO (Mr. John Girard) as Mrs. Girard, then followed it up with such a catastrophic train wreck of grammar, unintelligible sentences and inadequate explanation of their services that there’s really no point in picking apart the details.

While there are tons of non-native English speakers writing great cold emails, they set create effective messaging because they leverage other resources, whether that’s the help of native speakers, a grammar tool (Grammarly), or both. A certain minimum level of competency in any language is necessary to communicate with that language’s native speakers. And unfortunately, English is hard to master (we’ve seen many native English speakers send nearly unreadable emails, too).

 At its core, a grammatically correct message is simply easier to read and doesn’t require interpretation of basic ideas on the part of the reader.

Intentional ambiguity can be great, as we saw with our first example, because it’s intentional. The first email is grammatically flawless, but semantically ambiguous on purpose – at least when lyrical references are present. This extra layer of ambiguity adds value to the Good cold email, yet this Ugly message is so warped at a basic technical level that layers of meaning are effectively reduced to nil. Nothing is communicated, except a quick trigger for the delete and spam buttons.  

Google Translate will not suffice.

New Year’s Resolutions for Cold Email Senders

  1. Remember the basics — Attention, Interest, Desire, Action
  2. A great hook should get you to a great Call to Action
  3. Don’t get lazy; personalize and focus your message on your prospect.
  4. Ensure basic English proficiency — the more natural you sound, the more likely a native speaker will respond to your message.

Cold email is a numbers game, sure. But quality matters, certainly more than quantity. The better your cold email, then the fewer people you’ll have to send it to, meaning less time spent sending and personalizing vast numbers of emails. The lower your conversion rates, then the greater the volume you’ll need at every sales stage after your top of funnel.

Best of luck and remember, it’s already cold this December; let your emails be warm!

Austin Quinn
Marketing Content Writer at CIENCE

Austin Quinn crafts outbound marketing strategies and messaging in his role as a Marketing Content Writer at CIENCE Technologies. In his time at CIENCE, he's written more emails than he's received – or so he thinks – for dozens of client accounts across a wide swathe of industries.