Have you been getting a ton of emails lately from businesses talking about the Coronavirus? 

My inbox is bursting at the seams, and I’m sure yours is too. 

And 99% percent of the time, this is what the email sounds like: “Hey, I know you’ve never heard of me, but I’m reaching out because my business is doing bad and I want your money!”

That’s because most people do cold email completely wrong. 

But what if I told you that my team and I have been generating crazy results with cold email? 

In my business, and the businesses my team run (because a lot of them run their own agencies, just how we teach), we’ve been sending tons of cold emails and we’ve been surprising even ourselves with how many sales we’re making.

In this article, I’m going to walk you through exactly how to write a killer cold email. It’s not the only way to do it, but this is the formula that works for us. 

But first, a pep talk…

Before we get into the formula, I want to share an incredibly important lesson you need to internalize: 

Outflow equals inflow. 

The economy is in chaos right now, and if you want more customers you can’t wait for them to come to you. You have to take the initiative: go find prospects and put your offer in front of them. 

So many people buy into this pipe dream that the “internet gurus” like to sell: that you can run a few Facebook ads, or make a few social media posts that go viral, and suddenly money will come flooding in. 

Well if that didn’t work while the economy was great, what are the chances that sales will start streaming in now that the economy is in crisis? 

The truth is, online business is still… business. And all the same rules apply. 

So while the wantrepreneurs are frantically trying to figure out how to survive this storm, you can go on the offensive. And that’s where cold email comes in.

With that said, let’s jump into the formula…

Step 1: Explain why you’re reaching out

Most people think, “My ideal clients are veterinarians, so I’m going to get a list of all the vets in the country and email them.” 

Here’s the problem with that strategy. When a name someone has never seen before pops up in their inbox, their defenses are immediately going to go up. 

You have to be able to give them a good reason why you sent an email. And if that reason is, “I found a list of veterinarians and I want to sell you something…” that’s not a very good reason. It feels impersonal and insincere and they’re going to immediately hit delete. 

What I like to do is come up with a strategy that is a good excuse for reaching out. For example, I’ll find a podcast that interviews veterinarians. Then I’ll find the email address for all of the guests and I’ll reach out and say, “Hi, my name is Ben and I heard you on the XYZ podcast. I just wanted to say thank you because I learned _____ from you and it’s been so helpful!” 

Another example we’ve been having tons of success with is reaching out to businesses that are running social media ads. If we see an Instagram ad or a Facebook ad, that’s a great sign that they’re spending money to grow their business. So we’ll DM them and say, “Hi, I just saw one of your ads. I clicked through to your feed and I love your content! I especially like the post about _____.” 

I like to think about each of these “excuses” as a pond full of fish. Rather than just emailing all veterinarians, try to find a subset of vets that are connected by a podcast, or an advertising channel, or a piece of software, or an event they all attend. Now you can create a “hook” that works specifically for that pond, and you can target all of the fish without their defenses going up. 

Step 2: Show that you’re familiar with their business

I do step one in the very first sentence. In the next sentence, I try to say something that shows I’m familiar with their business. Like I mentioned above, I’ll tell them what I learned from their podcast. Or I’ll compliment them on something I saw that I liked. 

This gives the message that, “I’m not reaching out because I found your email address and I want to pitch you. I’m reaching out because I discovered you in an organic way, I’m familiar with you and your business, and I learned something about you specifically that made me think I can provide value.” 

It’s like the difference between someone coming up to you at a party and calling you by your first name, versus yelling, “Hey you!” 

And there’s one more important benefit too…

Imagine your subject line is: “Can I help you grow your business?” It’s an immediate red flag that you’re going to pitch them, and they’re going to delete the email before they even open it. 

But what if the subject line is: “Thanks for your podcast interview!” The person thinks: Is it a compliment? Is it feedback from a fan? 

They spent their time and energy sharing their knowledge on the podcast, so they can’t help but open the email. 

Or what if the subject line is: “One of your ads just popped up in my feed…”  They think: what could this possibly be? Did they see the ad and now they want to buy? Are they annoyed that they saw my ad? 

Once again they can’t help but open your email. 

Step 3: Briefly touch on the pain point, but quickly transition to the pain point. 

Next I like to introduce the problem. I usually say something like:

“I know how hard it is to do social media marketing, especially when it takes so much time and it’s almost impossible to track the ROI.” 

Or, “You’ve probably heard business gurus talk about how important an email list is, but you assume it doesn’t apply to you because you’re a brick and mortar business.” 

I write one sentence to show that I understand their industry and what they’re going through. But it also does something deeper: it touches that emotional trigger so they think, “You’re right, this is a big problem in my business. I need to solve this, and I want that pain to go away.” 

And here’s an alternative: sometimes I’ll also use the “appeal to authority” strategy. 

Here’s what I mean: let’s say there’s a famous veterinarian that writes books and gives speeches, teaching vets how to grow their practices. I’ll say something like, “You’ve probably heard So-And-So teach how to accomplish XYZ, but you realize it takes a ton of time and energy to implement his strategy.” 

So this touches on the pain point as well- they don’t have the time and resources to do all the things they should to grow their practice. But it does another powerful thing: it lets you piggyback off of a famous person’s expertise. 

Maybe they’ve never heard of you before, but they have heard of the person you’re referencing. So now you get to say, “I’m not selling you my knowledge and my expertise. I’m selling the expertise of someone you already respect.” 

Step 4: Tease the benefits of your service, but skip the details

After I use the problem to set up the need for my service, I give one sentence explaining what it does. 

And here’s the key: I don’t say anything about HOW my service does it. 

So for example, I’ll say something like: “I let you publish one post on Facebook every single day without you having to ever log into Facebook again.” 

Or, “I’ll turn your email list into a new income stream without you having to send a single email.” 

I like the “massive benefit minus painful objection” formula. You tease a result the client really wants, but add a surprising twist so they think, “How can they possibly do that?!” 

And that’s all you say about your service. Don’t tell them how it works, don’t say who it’s for, don’t tell them how much it costs… just leave them thinking, “Wow, that’s a bold claim. Could it possibly be true?” 

Step 5: Open the door…

Next I’ll simply ask, “Is that something that would help grow your business? If so, can I answer any questions for you or send any samples?” 

In most cases, if you’ve made your service intriguing enough, this makes it super easy for the prospect to say, “Sure, send me more.” 

Now the conversation is open and you can tell them more about your service. 

Step 6: The followup

Here’s the part that most people completely miss: don’t stop at just one email! 

Often the first email might slip through the cracks. You’ve already done the hard work of “find the pond” and finding the person’s email address, so don’t let your hard work go to waste. Send a follow up (or two or three). 

And here’s an important tip: even though you’re following up, don’t use the term “followup”! 

Saying “I’m just following up” sounds a lot like, “My first email wasn’t valuable enough for you to reply to, and now I’m asking you to go back and read it again.” 

Instead, I like to say, “A couple weeks ago I emailed you about XYZ. I wanted to tell you something else I think you’d love to know about…” 

Do it in a way where you’re providing fresh information, and if it all possible give value. Share a little piece of information that is useful to them. Maybe include links to work examples that will help them make their decision. Or give samples that they can start using for themself right away. 

We usually use a spreadsheet to track all of our outreach to make sure people don’t fall through the cracks. You can also try MailShake or GMass to automate the process. 

Putting it all together

We’ve covered a ton of information, but how does this translate to actually writing the email? 

A rule of thumb I like to follow is the 3×2 method: three paragraphs with two sentences each. 

So here’s how I would write an email: 


Hi [Name],

My name is Ben and I heard you on the XYZ podcast. I really love how you talked about XYZ. 

I know how hard it is to ____. I have a service that lets you accomplish ____ in only an hour a month. 

Would it be helpful for your business if you could that? If so I can send over some more details about how it works? 

Thanks [Name]!


That’s the entire email. 

You want it to be quick to skim. Your prospects are busy and you need to capture their attention in 30 seconds or less. And the goal of this email isn’t to give them all the information they need to make a buying decision. You just want to entice them with the benefit so they give you the opportunity to make a full pitch. 

How this applies to the Coronavirus crisis

We’ve used this formula for years, but it’s especially relevant right now during the Coronavirus shut-in. 

As you can tell, there is a ton of psychology packed into just a few sentences. So while your competition is sending “hail Mary” emails, desperately trying to drum up business, you can send cold emails that bypass defenses, builds rapport, creates intrigue, and opens conversations. 

And of course you can tailor some of these steps around the virus. In the “touch on the pain point” step, explain problems that Coronavirus has caused. “I know how hard it is to keep people walking through the front door when they’re scared of getting sick.” 

Or weave it into the “benefits without details section”: “I run a service that helps you sell to your current customers via Zoom, even if they can’t come into your office in person.” Right now people are looking for outside-the-box solutions, and your one-sentence description is a great way to tease the results you can provide. 

I hope you learned something from this article. Now I’d love to do something fun: if you want to start using cold email to grow your agency, please leave your 3×2 email in the comments below. 

Let’s give each other feedback and help each other write killer cold emails. 

And then when you start getting leads and sales, come back and share your results in the comments. 

Now let’s get to work!

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