How to write an email that reaches out to a client or customer who’s never met you

Taking the time to reach out via a marketing email can be a fantastic way to drive engagement with your business and get you on the radar of potential clients and collaborators - but we’ve all had the not-so-welcome attentions of spammy and half-hearted mail. And we’ve all relegated it swiftly to the bin.

Here’s how to for keep your messaging out of the bin, and get it into the hearts of the people you want.

From cold-call to targeted email

The equivalent of a cold-call, outreach emails are probably the trickiest. Sent to prospective customers or clients, they essentially are a pitch for your business to get you on their radar. But how can you write one that won’t be just deleted immediately?

Example 1:

Subject: <Business name>

Dear Insert First Name,

I’m writing to tell about my business, <Business Name>. We <a bit about what the business does, that’s too long and goes on for several paragraphs>.

Would you like to work with us?

Yours sincerely,


You won’t be surprised to discover that this is an example of what not to do. Here are the things that Example 1 is doing wrong:

A bad subject line. Subject lines are vital – in fact some studies have found that as much as 66% of people opening the email do so because of a compelling subject line. A subject line that is just your business doesn’t tell the reader anything about why they should take the time to open the email.

Careless addressing. ‘Insert first name’ is an embarrassing mistake that shows a lack of care – or caring. Even if you are sending a mass email, ensure that it doesn’t feel like it. Either use a neutral term to address the reader, or if using a platform such as Mailchimp use tags.

No explanation. So you want to tell the reader about your business – but why should they care? How can your business provide value to the reader?

Too long. Waffling on about your business and how great it is is interesting to nobody. In fact, the reader has probably deleted it already.

Not making it easy to get in touch. No mobile number, no website, no Twitter handle, no LinkedIn address, and if you’ve sent the email from Mailchimp or another platform there might not be an appropriate email address either. Ensure you sign off with contact details – you basically want to make it as easy as possible for them to follow up with you.

Example 2:

Subject: Great opportunity

Dear Sir/Madam,

I’m getting in touch with a great opportunity from my business, <Business Name>. I wanted to know if our services would be of interest, as you work in <insert general industry here, such as food and drink>.

<A bit about the business that’s pretty concise>

Let me know if you’re interested in working with us.

Best wishes,



Example 2 is better than Example 1, but still not ideal. Here are the things that Example 2 is doing wrong:

Still a bad subject line. ‘A great opportunity’ is a bit more compelling, but still tells you absolutely nothing – and is a classic spam title.

Mediocre addressing. While Sir/Madam is ostensibly a safe option, it’s also a bit stuffy and shows that you still don’t know who you’re addressing.

Not emphasising the value you can bring. So you tell the reader about your business, but you still don’t explicitly make that connect between them and the value you can provide them with.

Passive ending. Rather than ‘Let me know…’ try a question, such as “Does this sound like something you’d be interested in?”

But it’s not all bad! Here are the things that Example 2 is doing right:

Showing knowledge of the company. Even though it’s a basic knowledge, the sender at least knows the correct industry for the business. Yay.

Not keeping it too long. Concise and snappy is the way to go.

Example 3:

Subject: <First name>, are you ready to be excited?

Dear <First name>,

My name is <Name> and I work for <Business Name>, a company which <Super quick description of what you do>.

I noticed that your business recently <An achievement here, such as appeared in the press, expanded, etc>, and I wanted to see if our services could be of interest to you, as we’re highly experienced at working in the <Insert specific industry here, such as street food>. We’d really love to see what our company could do for you.

For example, <Example of how we could help their company, and/or how we have helped a similar one in the past>. Does this sound like something you’d be interested in?

Please feel free to give me a call if you have any questions or you’d like to chat about this further – my number is <Phone number>, or you can always drop me an email.

Best wishes,



<Phone number again, to make sure!>

Example 3 is an example of a good outreach email. Here’s why it’s better than the other two:

An intriguing subject line. Subject lines are vitally important; they can be the difference between a hasty delete, and actually deciding to open the email and see what’s inside, aka half the battle. Personalise them if possible and if appropriate – if you overuse this technique it can look spammy, but for an initial email it’s likely to pique the reader’s interest. Quirky subject lines can also work, if appropriate. But beware the ire of the person who feels that they’ve been duped into opening an email they didn’t want to read…

The personal touch. While sending out the same email to one thousand recipients at the touch of a button might seem tempting, there are plenty of studies that show that the scattergun approach doesn’t really work. Personalising your emails can be time-consuming, but the results will almost certainly be better. Find out the name of the person you’re contacting, check out their LinkedIn, read up on their business, read a guest blog they’ve written. Find out what their business has done lately. And then use this information to target your email.

Telling them what you do – and what you can do. Obviously you need to provide information about what your business does – but position it in a way that will make the reader think “Hey, I need these guys!” Emphasise that you work in the relevant industry, talk about previous campaigns if you can, show that you have a knowledge of the problems they face and the ability to solve them.

Being inviting. Giving them the option to pick up the phone and chat to you if they’re intrigued is useful. Emails can get pushed to the side to be dealt with later (or never), but a phone call might just take a couple of minutes, and remind the reader that behind the email there’s a genuine person.

Making it easy. As above, you want to make it as easy as possible for someone who’s interested to reach out to you. Give them a variety of ways to contact you, rather than making them Google your name in a fit of increasing frustration.

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