Cold email CTA (call to action) ideas worth stealing

Cold email CTA (call to action) ideas worth stealing

Everybody swears their latest cold email call to action is the best. So I did the only logical thing… stole the most intriguing ones I could find and broke down the strategic frameworks behind them. 

Now you too can steal and adapt these to create unique CTAs for your cold emails.

Soft CTAs by Marcus Chan

These are low-commitment calls to action that seek to lower the barrier to saying yes. They have gained increasing popularity as an alternative to the conventional, more assertive "let's talk, how is Tuesday 9 AM looking?" calls to action.

Are they effective? Well, so far, no one has released data to compare hard calls to action versus soft calls to action.

But the anecdotal evidence I've seen online suggests that it depends on the industry and how prospects are conditioned to behave towards cold emailers.

In the niches where the prospect sees too many cold emails, they are more resistant to hard calls to action. Hence, the move to soft CTAs like the ones Marcus shared above.

All in all, soft calls to action like "worth a chat?" aim to increase the chances of booking a meeting by making the prospect feel like they are just agreeing to explore an idea rather than committing to look into a product.

But from my own experiences, if the rest of the email has focused on the right pain point and created a gap between the prospect's current state (e.g., "it takes us nine months to launch financial products") and a desired state ("it takes us three weeks to launch services that rival a hundred-year-old bank"), the prospect will ask for a meeting/more info on their own, even when you use the softest of calls to actions like "thought you might find this interesting."

CTAs for investors

These call-to-actions by Prateek Sanjay are a modification of the soft call-to-actions we discussed earlier, only tailored for investor outreach campaigns. However, there is one particular aspect that stands out: (Pay attention to the second call to action in the screenshot above).

"Checking if I can get back to you again when the time is right?" is a great follow-up CTA for when prospects ghost you; replacing breakup emails.

 It brings up a common objection: "timing is not right right now" and entices the prospect to engage.

This approach provides a soft way to disengage from a non-responsive prospect while reducing the likelihood of being reported as spam out of frustration–which can occur when sending breakup emails with your nose up.

The last call-to-action, "do you see this worth exploring in Q1 2023?" employs a subtle copywriting technique that implies you are not actively seeking an immediate sale. It gives the impression that you are considering the prospect's priorities before being driven by your own goals.

I've used this technique in some of my emails within lines like? "Wondering if you've considered {{solving problem X}} this year?" Or "open to exploring this someday/sometime/this year/this quarter"

Hard calls to action—with a twist 

Jan van Musscher's calls to action are direct asks for meetings with subtle phrasing choices to increase his chances of success. 

These intrigued me because very few people are releasing internal data on call-to-action performance; Jan has given us insight into his best performing ones.

Instead of asking if the prospect is open to having a quick call to chat further, Jan anticipates the prospect's objection by including the line, "would you be opposed to…".

This technique is inspired by Chris Voss's book, Never Split the Difference, which advises negotiators to steer clear of seeking "yes" answers from people, as it can feel like a high-commitment trap.

 Instead, the approach involves reframing questions in the negative, where individuals only need to say "no" to agree. 

This is similar to walking up to a stranger and asking, "do you mind if I sit here?" or "Is this seat taken?" where a negative response implies yes, "yes, sit here darling…"

Also, worth a note is Jan's last call to action where he pre-qualifies the ask: "I'd love to learn more but it's hard via email, do you have time this {day} for a quick chat?"

By giving a reason why he wants to get the prospect on the phone rather than give info via email. This technique could be useful if you're talking to prospects who don't like getting on calls.

Education-based calls to action

While many of us design our calls to action around getting meetings. Jayant Kumar crafts his around getting his prospect's permission to send them information.

 This technique is useful in sales conversations where you want the prospect to educate themselves and convert on their own. Or to butter them up for a callback.

The email copy preceding this type of call to action needs to be focused on educating the prospect on a pain point and how your unique solution tackles that pain point—in a way that piques curiosity.

Otherwise, if you've not created curiosity, why would the prospect want to see that pdf or video?  

Here are additional call-to-action ideas that follow this style: (some of these would work better in follow-up emails rather than the initial one)

  • Would it be helpful if I shared a detailed whitepaper on {{relevant topic}} with you? {{Job title}}s at {{similar companies}} have been devouring it lately...
  • Could I send you a personalized demo video showcasing our solution's key features? It's 3 minutes only
  • Do you mind if I forward you an industry report that digs into {{challenges faced by companies like the prospect's}}?
  • I'd be happy to provide access to an internal webinar where our {{CTO/CEO/CMO/etc}} shows how to [topic of interest]. 
  • Could I share a video that demonstrates how {{company X}} resolved {{specific pain point}} using our solution?
  • There's a short podcast episode where our experts discuss innovative approaches to {{relevant industry challenge}}. Mind if I share?
  • There's a checklist outlining the essential steps to achieve [desired outcome]. Bad idea if I shared it?

The 3 CTA cold email 

Instead of the typical call to action (whether hard, e.g. "Let's talk on Tuesday?" Or soft, e.g. "Open to learning more?"), think of a CTA as any opportunity you give your prospect to engage you. 

That includes the phone number and the website url you stick in your email signature, the questions you ask — even those in the first paragraph… 

Everything that provides a way for prospects to engage you.

Remember, you’re just "calling them to action", that action doesn't have to be booking a meeting or replying to you. It can be as simple as checking out your website.

Alex Nghiem, shown in the reply below gives a real-life scenario of how giving multiple CTAs (in this case, giving his prospects multiple channels to reply to him) worked well to move along deals with high transaction sizes and long sales cycles.

Prompt your prospects to engage you throughout the email, and give them as many ways to act you as possible, you’ll never know what works for your prospect until you try.

The "let me tell you how X is doing Y" CTA

I came across this CTA in a comment thread where people were providing feedback on someone's cold email script (shown in the screenshot below).

Someone suggested changing the CTA above: "would it make sense to set up a call to see how this might benefit you?"  to “Do you have time on {{suggest days}} to set up a call and hear more about how they’re {existing client} doing this?”

The argument being, phrasing the purpose of the call around learning how another customer is solving a problem would make it sound more educational than salesy.

This type of call to action works well when you've already mentioned how a case study customer is achieving a certain result.

And instead of asking for time to have a conversation–as the seller in the screenshot above did–consider framing it to sound like you just want an opportunity to reveal how customer X is achieving Y without having to go through pain Z.

Examples:

"Open to learning how Google is launching financial products fast through us?"

"Worth a chat to learn how TheSurfBoard store is able to accept payments locally in 50 countries without having to deal with multiple local providers?"

"Open to learning how Jerry walked on water last week despite wearing yellow slippers? "

Why soft CTAs seem to be growing popular

I'll leave you with an explanation from Clari's VP of marketing, Kyle Coleman:

 "Fast forward to today – buyer expectations have changed in a major way. They want to self-serve their education. They want validation from peers that vendors can deliver value. They don’t want to have to speak to someone to be able to see the product.

So, make those things easy for them. You have to show that you have a POV on the problems they have and pique their interest in how you can solve them. You have to play more of a role in facilitating their education."

Conclusion

Hoping these examples gave you enough inspiration to tweak your CTAs and increase your cold email engagement. Should you need help with rewriting your cold email scripts, you know who to call email to action. [email protected] 

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Gabriel Onyango
Gabriel Onyango
[email protected]

About Me

A writer, in a marketer's skin, wearing a cold emailer's floppy socks. The unorthodox combination of these is what you've probably experienced in this blog. Freelance cold email manager; open to working with teams on cold email campaigns, copy, ICP research (snooping()and custom list building. Connect with me on LinkedIn

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