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How to write a winning first email to a potential client

Learn how to write the first email that stands out. From intriguing subject lines to value-driven content, find out how to captivate your potential clients.

First published

04.03.2020

Last edited

07.06.2024

Read time

8 minutes


    By Tiffany

    Tiffany studied Language and Economics, and now likes to write about business topics and conduct interviews with interesting people. She spends her free time looking after her plants and with her dog.

    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 strangers, trying to get that key appointment.

    Needless to say, the ROI was never great.

    Are they still doing this? Yes. But more often than not, some major companies are now using robocalls with instructions to 'press one' for more information.

    Are they effective? No, not really, much the same as a cold calling was. 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 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 – but only if it’s done right.

    Here are some stats to illustrate the point:

    write a winning first email

    How to cold email effectively

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

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

     Assuming you have your list of “cold potentials” and their email addresses, here are the 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 on a phone call.

    You want a short introduction, a very short body that provides a lot of value, and a closing line that tells them what to do now.

    Your Inbox, Smarter

    Designed for business owners and freelancers using Outlook, Gmail and Apple Mail.

    2. The subject line has to be amazing

    How do you write an amazing subject line? You need to know something about the needs of the target.

    Are your leads looking for a better deal on car insurance? Are they 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 the A/B test to see which gets more opens.

    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 the 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 the like.

    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 when you're cold-emailing.

    3. The content of the email is 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.”

    For a B2B example of a company that sells its data science services: “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."

    “Get rid of the guesswork and present products/services your customers 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's need and focused on that first, and only then how we had a solution, 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 the next step is to solve their problem. 

    “We (name of company) 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? You can get 10% of your first order with this coupon code (give code). One more thing off your plate!”

    Recommended reading: Email Follow-up Tasks

    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.

    5. Get help if you need it

    Composing engaging and compelling emails is not easy, and there’s an ocean of competition out there. In bygone times, 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, freelancers and email assistants powered by AI with plenty of experience in creating emails from subject lines to closing. 

    Mailbutler's Smart Assistant could be your secret weapon in this competitive landscape. With its AI-powered email composition capabilities, it can help you craft compelling, personalized emails that captivate your cold prospects right from the subject line.

    AI-powered email compose

    Smart Compose by Mailbutler's Smart Assistant

    It saves you precious time and effort by automating many mundane tasks, allowing you to focus on the strategic aspects of your outreach. With Mailbutler's Smart Assistant by your side, creating winning emails is no longer a challenge, but a seamless part of your daily operations.

    Leverage personalization and customization for engagement

    Creating an email that resonates begins with understanding the recipient. Use the recipient's name in the subject line and the opening lines to create an immediate connection, as it draws their attention and makes the email feel more personal and less like a generic mass message.

    Additionally, customizing the first few lines based on the recipient’s interests or needs can significantly increase the chances of the email being read, as it demonstrates value and relevance from the onset. This is crucial as 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions, and 76% get frustrated when this doesn’t happen. McKinsey's research reveals that companies excelling in personalization generate 40% more revenue from those activities than average players, emphasizing the substantial impact of personalization on consumer engagement and business growth.

    Balance conciseness with a value proposition

    In an era where inboxes are cluttered, maintaining brevity without compromising the message's value is crucial. Construct your email with concise, value-laden sentences, focusing on delivering clear and specific benefits or solutions to the recipient's needs or problems. Avoid lengthy paragraphs; instead, use short, clear, and compelling phrases that recap major ideas and engage the recipient by addressing their pain points and offering solutions, making the content easily digestible and the call to action unmistakable.

    Employ strategic follow-ups and clear calls to action

    A well-structured email should guide the recipient towards a desired action, whether it’s a response, a click, or a subscription. Clearly state the next steps you want the recipient to take and create a sense of urgency when appropriate to prompt immediate action. Additionally, promising to follow up by phone or another email if there’s no response can increase engagement rates, as it shows persistence and a genuine interest in addressing the recipient’s needs or concerns. Always ensure that your calls-to-action are clear, direct, and easy to follow, eliminating any ambiguity about what the recipient should do next.

    How to write a winning first email questions

    How do you welcome a new client in an email?

    One of the simplest and most powerful ways to welcome new clients in an email and make them feel accepted is to thank them for choosing your product or service.

    Expressing your gratitude to your new customers can encourage them to make another purchase, help you build a strong relationship, and nurture long-term loyalty.

    Another great option is to offer your new client a gift in the form of a discount code or a valuable content piece you haven’t published yet.

    How do you write a winning email?

    To write a winning first email to a potential client, consider following these five steps:

    • Develop a readable format. Make sure to structure the body of the email in a logical and attention-grabbing format. You should also choose an easy-to-read and accessible font. When it comes to the design of the email, it’s smart to use your brand color palette for consistency purposes.
    • Come up with an intriguing subject line. The subject line of your first email needs to be short yet informative. You can use warm, welcoming language and include the potential client’s name to personalize the message. If you’re part of the tech industry or your brand image allows it, you might want to add a fun emoji, too.
    • Keep the email short and to-the-point. Show your potential client you value their time by writing a short introduction, getting to the point quickly, providing value, and creating a call to action that informs them exactly what you would like them to do next.
    • Focus on the potential client’s pain points and needs. Instead of sharing your company’s birth story, explain to the prospective client how you can help them solve a persistent or recurring problem.
    • Craft an irresistible CTA. End your email with a simple yet hard-to-ignore call to action so your recipient knows what their next step should be.

    How do I make the first contact with a potential client?

    You can approach a potential client by asking a common contact to introduce you by email or sending them a cold email yourself.

    If you opt for the latter, make sure to mention the relationship(s) you and your prospective client have in common, make them an offer and explain how they can benefit from it, and end the message with a specific question/request/option rather than leaving it open-ended.

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