9 Steps to Successful Email Outreach (With Templates)

Email outreach will be a critical part of your strategy no matter what kind of website you’re running. It’s vital for building links, leads, and everything else.

While email outreach may seem simple at first, there’s much more than meets the eye. What seems like a simple concept quickly develops into an advanced science; you could fill encyclopedias with everything written about email marketing.

Busy people get dozens, if not hundreds, of emails every day. Most of those emails never get any attention because nobody has time for them! If you want to stick out and earn a good response rate, you’ve got to be smart about your outreach strategies.

Fortunately for you, I’m highly experienced in this topic. Below, I’ll share everything I know about email outreach and provide you with actionable insight to fuel your success.

What is Email Outreach?

Email outreach (AKA cold emailing) is the process of emailing people who you’ve never spoken with before. These may be link-building targets or prospective clients; it ultimately doesn’t matter in terms of approach.

example of an outreach email

Source: Hunter

Many people see cold email outreach as spam, especially if the emailer tries to sell something. However, that’s not true; email outreach just gets a bad rap from all the bad actors spamming generic emails. Many of us are seeking to provide genuine value in our outreach emails.

If you’re serious about creating a successful email outreach campaign, you’ll need to learn how to convey value to the recipient as effectively as possible. If your recipients aren’t getting something out of your email outreach, they’re going to quickly delete it or worse — report it as spam.

Sniper Vs. Shotgun Methods

In email outreach talk, you’ll hear the terms “sniper” and “shotgun” thrown out a lot. This can sound confusing at first; what use do ranged weapons have to do with email outreach, anyway?

The answer is that we’re not talking about literal weapons; they’re analogies for the kind of tactics they use.

“Shotgun” Outreach

The shotgun approach to email outreach refers to the mass sending of template emails to a target audience. Most spam emails fall under this category since they’re defined by barely customized, low-effort messages hurled haphazardly at an unwitting email list.

Here’s an example of a shotgun email, as shared by Ahrefs:

tim from ahrefs receives a spam email

As you can see, this is an obviously templated email. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with using a template (I used them every day); the problem here is that it’s undeniable.

Everything from the formatting to the faked enthusiasm makes it fake and cringy, and the bad grammar doesn’t help either. Instant delete if you’re the person getting this!

That said, not all shotgun emails are like this. Much of my email outreach would be considered shotgun, and I’ve enjoyed enormous success with it (think 20%+ response rates). It has much more to do with the quality of the email used rather than the concept itself.

“Sniper” Outreach

The sniper approach refers to the practice of sending highly personalized emails to carefully selected targets. With this approach, each person is a living, breathing person with unique needs and wants. This philosophy affects every part of the email creation, from the subject line to the sign-off.

Sniper emails leverage information found from doing background research on the recipient. This approach aims to make the recipient immediately recognize that your email is hand-crafted, showing your serious intent to create real value.

example of a personalized emai

This particular example above led to me securing a writing contract with Appointlet, who’s the big cheese in online scheduling software. Suffice it to say, I’m glad I took the time to do this right!

Sniper emails result in much higher response rates than spammed-out “shotgun” emails, making it the preferred emailed outreach method for many industry professionals. After all, which would you rather respond to a love letter or a phone bill? I think we both know the answer.

With that in mind, I know what you’re thinking: “If sniper performs way better, then why would I ever do shotgun?” The answer is that sniper emails are labor-intensive and can quickly burn you out in a short time. It requires thorough research and lots of polishing while knowing that no matter what, you’ll never get responses from over half of all recipients.

I know a colleague that gets a stunning 40% response rate with their “personal touch” emails. I’m happy for them, but I’m not jealous of all the work it requires. If I can get a 15%+ response rate with easy shotgun emails, that’s the route I will pursue in most cases.

Sniper or Shotgun? It’s Not That Simple

Understand there is no correct answer when it comes to sniper vs. shotgun. A shotgun email isn’t always spam, and sniper emails generally follow a template as well (just more loosely).

Sometimes, the lines between the two philosophies get blurred too. For example, maybe your “shotgun” email is heavily customized, making it much more akin to a “sniper” personalized email approach. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that one template is straight-up bad and another is straight-up good.

Sure, maybe sniper emails tend to get a higher response rate. However, is that just because it happens to be customized, or because they tend to communicate ideas more effectively? In my experience, email outreach success tends to have much more to do with the email itself, no matter what “kind” it is.

Below, I’ll share the main ideas behind successful outreach emails, no matter what kind you want to call them.

What Makes a Good Outreach Campaign?

Let’s dispense with “sniper vs. shotgun” and talk about the process of making any email outreach campaign great.

1. Set Clear Goals

Before you even think about writing an email, you need to decide your outreach campaign’s goals.

There are no rules to this: it can be anything you want. When crafting your emails, you need to have a set intention in mind. Having a clearly-defined purpose will give purpose to each aspect of your outreach campaign and help you communicate your ideas more clearly and effectively.

Some examples of outreach campaign goals include (but are not limited to):

  • Link building/link outreach
  • Securing guest posts or offering a guest post exchange
  • Creating sales leads
  • Direct traffic from other sites
  • Content promotion
  • Outbound sales
  • Creating awareness for social media profiles
  • Product or service promotion
  • Building or maintaining valuable relationships

Whatever your idea is, just make sure that it’s clear and actionable. Otherwise, you won’t have any firm metrics to define your results with.

2. Warm Up Your Email

Every email address has a “reputation” assigned to it by email service providers (Google, Microsoft, etc.). ESLs use this reputation metric to figure out who’s using their service correctly and who’s spamming out garbage.

When your email is “born,” it’s a true neutral; ESLs don’t think it’s good or bad. If you send a regular email to a typical recipient, odds are it will land properly in their primary inbox. However, if you sent out 100 on your first day, ESLs might think it’s unnatural (rightly so) and deliver many of those messages to spam.

email deliverability

However, if you gradually trickle out more healthy emails each day, ESLs will learn to trust you and say, “Hey, this person probably has good intentions. We’ll send their emails to Primary.”

Warming Services

The best way to “warm-up” your email and convince ESLs that you’re a good actor is to use a specialized service, like Lemwarm. These services will automatically build a good rep with ESLs by sending out good emails to real recipients, who respond in kind.

If you send out cold emails regularly, some of your emails will be reported as spam, no matter how nice they are (some people are grumpy!). To counteract this effect, it’s critical to continue using warming services indefinitely. That way, you’ll always have more “happy” recipients than angry ones, which massively boosts your deliverability.

3. Target the Right People

In the vast majority of cases, your cold emails should be aimed at specific people. Rather than haphazardly messaging a company’s “contact” inbox, you should be finding the “decision-maker” involved in the reason you’re contacting that firm.

For example, let’s say you’re securing guest posts as part of your broader link-building efforts. Think about who you’d target for companies of the following sizes:

  • Small company (1-3 employees)
  • Medium company (4-15) employees
  • Large company (15+ employees)

Small Company

In a small firm, the company blog, the owner probably manages the blog themself (unless stated otherwise). It would be a good idea to contact them directly about guest posting with that in mind.

Medium Company

Since content marketing is an essential part of building organic traffic, a medium company will likely have a dedicated content manager or SEO executive developing its blog. In this case, you would contact them.

Large Company

A large company will likely have several content marketers working on its blog. In this case, you’ll need to find the seniormost editor to discuss a guest post. They usually go by names such as “Senior Content Manager,” “Senior Editor,” or “Executive Content Editor.”

At the end of the day, your goal is to find the person that’s most likely “the big cheese” in making the decision you’re trying to influence.

4. Craft Effective Subject Lines

Good subject lines are probably the most underrated aspect of email campaigns despite being an essential part of everyone’s message. Unfortunately, many people see the subject line as somewhat a formality and don’t pay close attention to it.

However, that’s a big mistake. Despite its “small” role in the grand scheme of things, a good subject line makes a world of difference. It’s the thing that grabs your recipient’s attention and will be the single most significant factor in deciding whether they open it or not in the first place!

If your subject line is bland, people will ignore your emails, making all your effort go to waste!

Don’t Be Cheesy, Just Get to the Point

I invite you to remember that the average busy professional receives dozens of random emails a day. If I were a betting man (and I am, on occasion), I’d say that most of these emails’ subject lines are some variation of:

  • [Name], love your work!
  • [Name], how are you?
  • Let’s talk, [Name].

These are boring and cringy.

These subject lines scream, “I have nothing of value for you, I just need something from you,” and promptly find their way into the trash can. Sorry, nobody believes you’re actually excited to talk to every random stranger you email (even if you are).

The solution is to say what you’re contacting them about without beating around the bush. While it’s okay to say it outright, it’s better to frame it in an interesting way. For example:

  • Instead of saying, “I want to guest post for you,” say, “Let’s collab”
  • Instead of asking, “Do you like cars?” ask, “Vroom vroom?”

I think you know where I’m going with this: keep it straightforward, and don’t make it boring.

email subject lines

Credit: EngageBay

Take the time to craft an interesting subject line for the outreach targets you’ve painstakingly procured, or else you’re just wasting your time.

5. Keep it Brief

This principle in email outreach may be the single most important of all. Nothing makes more of a difference than communicating your main ideas in less than 125 characters (or even fewer, if possible).

That’s not a random number; it’s the figure Hubspot came up with after analyzing 40 million emails. The simple takeaway with this: if your emails are long-winded and unfocused, recipients will do a TLDR and instantly click away.

Just imagine receiving this horror, as shared by Verizon:

email that's way too long

Nobody in the world has time to read all that, especially if they have no idea who’s sending it. You may think you’re doing yourself a favor by including more details in your email, but you’re not.

Get to the Point

As recipients skim your outreach email, they should instantly understand what it is you’re writing about. Again, professionals receive dozens of emails a day; if they can’t figure out why you’re writing them, you’re going to promptly find the trash can.

Here’s an example of a short and sweet email from Josh Bean at Zendesk (via Hunter):

sales email that's quick and to the point

Josh wastes no time getting right to the point:

  • He immediately mentions his purpose
  • Moves quickly to the pain point (where the potential client has a problem Josh could solve)
  • He offers his assistance and says his goodbyes

It probably takes a prospective client a few seconds to read that, tops. Also, notice his easy, casual language, which helps to make him approachable.

No Time for Convincing

This might sound counterintuitive, but don’t spend much time trying to convince them why they need what you’re offering. When it comes to email outreach campaigns, it’s more about casting nets rather than baiting hooks.

What I mean is, ideally, you’re looking for people who already have some sort of potential interest in your pitch. So, for example, if you’re running a dairy delivery business, you probably shouldn’t spend time reaching out to plant-based milk websites.

You’re looking for people with an intrinsic interest in your service. A simple pain point will do all the convincing you have time for.

6. Focus on Value

In the field of email outreach, it’s easy to get fixated on all the tips and tricks that can help you boost the success of your email outreach. However, in the rush to master all those tips and tricks, many people forget the most important principle: providing value.

tim suolo outreach example

Example from Ahrefs, linked above

You see, any good cold outreach email isn’t about you; it’s about them. Before you write your salutation, think about what your recipient is getting out of your email, AKA the value. If your email isn’t making life better for the target, they’re not going to care about it (no matter how well-written or “optimized” it is).

7. Include Social Proof

What would you trust more between a product advertised to you and a similar product that your friend recommended to you? Obviously, you’re going to trust your friend’s referral.

If you’ve worked with a high-level company that your recipients recognize, you can leverage that for instant trust in your emails. Here’s another example provided by Tim Suolo:

tim suolo mentioning Moz referall

Above, Tim mentions how he was featured by Moz, the SEO giant. Since Moz trusts Tim, Jimmy (his recipient) instantly knows to trust him too.

8. Follow-Up

Follow-up emails are a considerable debate in the email outreach industry. Some people think you should only send one, while others think three, four, or even more is appropriate.

While there are benefits to either approach, I think being conservative with a single follow-up is the best approach of all. Your industry is likely not as big as you think, and you don’t want to burn bridges. If you harass people unsolicited, you’re going to end up in spam boxes and on a block list.

The people receiving your cold emails may not respond to your first outreach, but who knows what will come down the line? Imagine if you wanted to talk to that person two years later, but you’re on their spam list. Talk about awkward!

Consistently being reported for spam is also terrible for your email reputation, as interpreted by email service providers.

Include an Unsubscribe Button

If you plan on emailing a cold contact more than once (such as initial contact + follow-up), you’ll need to include a one-click “don’t bother me anymore” button at the bottom of your email.

unsubcribe button at the bottom of email

Not only is this practical (dramatically reduces your chances of getting reported as spam), but it’s also the law in many places. Outreach tools like Hunter will include an unsub button automatically.

9. Track Performance

After you’ve begun your email outreach campaign, it’s time to monitor your performance to see what works and what doesn’t. This will allow you to create additional tweaks for maximum outreach success.

While monitoring your campaigns manually using Sheets or Excel is possible, I highly recommend using a specialized outreach tool like Hunter.

hunter outreach statistics

That sleek dashboard automatically fills itself with all the information I need. Trust me, that’s more fun than inputting it all into an Excel file manually.

9 Effective Email Templates

Email templates allow users to hit the ground running with a proven blueprint to design their campaigns. Because I love you, I’ve taken the time to gather some of my favorites from around the web and from my own experience.

Remember that no matter how good an email template is, it’s good practice to change it up a little with your own personalization. That keeps your emails from being the exact same as everyone else’s!

With that out of the way, let’s get started with my favorite cold outreach email templates:

Promoting a Product/Service

The world’s most fabulous product isn’t worth much if nobody knows about it! Cold outreach is the best way to reach potential clients in the most direct way possible.

You only have one chance at a good first impression, so let’s learn how to sell a product (and yourself) right:

James’ Sales Email Template:

Credit: CloserIQ

Subject line: Solve [[problem]]

Dear [[first_name]],

Do you struggle with [problem]? [[describe the problem in greater detail]

Here at [[your company]], we’ve helped many other businesses deal with this problem by [[short explanation of your product]]. Businesses we’ve worked with have seen [[evidence of tangible improvement]] as the result of [[product]].

Would you like to speak to me and learn more about how we can help? Let’s set up a phone call soon.

Warm regards,

[[your name]]

Mark’s Sales Email Template:

Credit: Hunter

Subject line: Solution for [[challenge]]

Hi [first_name],

In working with other [[industry or position]], one of the key issues they’re struggling with is [[key issue]].

This past year we helped numerous companies to [[business driver]], resulting in [[money saved, revenue added, productivity increases]].

If this is something you’re challenged with too, let’s set up a quick call. I have some ideas that might help.

All the best,

[[your name]]

Link Building

Cold emailing is almost synonymous with link building.

Acquiring links without doing any sort of outreach is a slow, years-long process that no company in the world has time for. To catalyze this process and acquire high-quality links faster, firms use cold emails to pitch their content directly to content managers.

The problem is that most people’s outreach is garbage and results in very little results — if any. This results in mass disillusionment, causing many would-be bloggers to think it’s impossible to build links and promptly shut down their websites.

This is tragic because link building and blogger outreach really aren’t that hard once you get the hang of it. So if you want to acquire links, take the time to do it right unless you want to end up like the quitters I mentioned above.

Below, I’ll share some proven email templates crafted by industry professionals. I included four types of link-building outreach emails:

  1. Broken-link fix: When someone has a broken link on their site, you can convince them to link back to a blog post (or any other page) of yours instead
  2. Guest post request: Guest posts are the single most effective way for a new website to get high-quality links. It’s still just as effective even if you’re a more mature website. When writing a post, include your website’s content with hyperlinks on the relevant keywords (AKA anchor text)
  3. Link reclamation: As your business grows, you’ll find websites mentioning yours without linking back to you. When that happens, reach out to them with a “thank you” and ask them to add a link
  4. Link exchange: Everyone wants new links to their website. Setting up partnerships with other link-builders is a great way to triple the speed of your link acquisitions

These tried-and-true emails will act as a shortcut between you and more links. I used these same kinds of templates to take my Domain Rating from 1 to 41 in my first two months of outreach.

Irina’s Broken Link Fix Template:

Credit: Hunter

Subject line: Broken link

Hi [[first_name]],

I noticed a broken link in your article [[title]].

[[Describe the broken link, in what part of the article]]

Actually, I work at Hunter and I was reading your article because we are working on exactly the same thematics. To be fair, I think our article about [[topic]] would be a great replacement to the broken link 🙂

Either way, I hope this helped you out!


[[your name]]

Hanson’s Guest Post Template:

Credit: Freedom to Ascend

Subject line: [[first_name]], loved your post on [[topic]]

Hi [[first_name]],

My name is Hanson Cheng. I’m the founder of Freedom To Ascend where I help online entrepreneurs and business owners 10x their business.

Loved your post on follow-up emails. How many follow-ups to send is always a big question, and your article does complete justice to answering it. Great point on the importance of not being passive aggressive.

The Hunter blog provides actionable advice and I was wondering if we could talk about collaborating together by contributing content to the Hunter blog.

Let me know what you think.

Talk soon,


P.S. My work has been featured on Thrive Global, Forbes, and HuffPost among others.

Matt’s Link Reclamation Template:

Credit: Diggity Marketing

Subject line: Awesome article

Hi [[first_name]],

Hope all’s well 🙂

I noticed that you mentioned [[company name]] in one of your recent articles. Thanks for referencing us. [[explain why you liked the article]].

Small request; can you add a link to the mention?

I’d appreciate that. If there’s anything I can do for you, please let me know.



Joran’s Link Exchange Template:

Credit: Hunter

Subject line: Collaboration or link sharing options?

Hi [[first_name]],

I noticed we are both writing on topics related to B2B Lead generation and why not work together?

Yes, it means we both target the same keywords but as would say in Dutch, “Alone you will go fast, together you will get further.”

That is our philosophy when we started the site, working together with other professionals like yourself to provide high-quality content to marketing and salespeople.

Would you be open to collaboration? We are open to the following:

– Backlink exchange

– Guest blogs (both ways)

– Any other possibilities

Let me know what you think!

Kevin’s Link Insertion Template:

Credit: Wishpond

Subject line: Additional resource for [[content]]

Hey {{first_name}},

I loved your recent article on [[article name]] and I noticed that you mentioned [[similar article]]. [[insert unique observation about the article]].

My name is [[insert name]] and I’m a [[position]] at [[company name]].

I recently produced a similar piece of content and was hoping that, if you find it useful, you could link to it as a resource for your audience.

I’ve linked to it [[here]] for you. If you find it helpful at all I’d really appreciate a share and a comment on the piece.

Thank you for your time.

Take care,



No matter what business you’re running, your ability to network will be one of the main contributors to success. Here’s a related story:

A while ago, I had a girlfriend who had been accepted to two different schools for her health admin major: an Ivy League school and a non-Ivy League school with a similar but better ranking for the major.

My advice was to go to the Ivy League school because that would produce the best networking opportunities for her. Maybe that other college had rankings that were a little better, but when it comes to getting the best jobs, it’s about who you know more than what you know.

The moral of the story is that networking is everything when it comes to success. Having friends in the right places can make a giant, incalculable difference in your life. It could mean landing your dream job or securing a contract with a multi-million dollar company.

You want to know how to land those connections, even without going to an elite college or working at a giant firm?

Cold emailing.

My cold emails continue to allow me to punch way above my weight when making friends in the right places. Below, I’ll share some templates that will help you build life-changing connections with ease:

Kristen’s Networking Template:

Credit: WordStream

Subject line: Reaching out to you via [[name]]

Hi [[first_name]],

My name is [[your name]], I was given your name by [[name]]. I run a [i[ndustry]] business and it sounds like we could benefit from knowing one another! I browsed through your site—love [[something about their site, products, services, etc.]]

If you ever want to meet up for coffee or have a phone/video chat to exchange ideas, let me know! You can also call or text me at [[number]].

Have a great rest of your week,

[[your name]]

Jack’s Networking Template:

Credit: Vyper

Subject line: Ideas on [[topic]]

Hey {{first_name}},

I’m [[name]] from [[company]]. I see you’re going to be attending the [[event]] this [[time]]. I have a few interesting ideas to share with you about [[topic]]. Would you be interested in a chat?Hey {{first_name}},

I’m [[name]] from [[company]]. I see you’re going to be attending the [[event]] this [[time]]. I have a few interesting ideas to share with you about [[topic]]. Would you be interested in a chat?

Recommended Outreach Email Tools

In all my time doing outreach, there are a few tools that have made my job that much easier. I’ll share them with you below:

1. Hunter

Hunter is a comprehensive email campaign tool. It allows you to find email addresses, add them to a list of leads, and move them to an automated email campaign. Think of tools similar to Hunter like they’re search engines for outreach targets.

hunter.io dashboard

Hunter makes it easy to send customized messages on a massive scale, complete with automatic follow-up emails. You can easily track your results and find out how you can improve further.

PS: If you don’t like Hunter, check out my list of Hunter alternatives.

2. Lemwarm

Lemwarm from Lemlist allows new and old emails to massively boost their deliverability, thanks to an automated, AI-powered network that sends emails to and from real people.

lemwarm reports

The above email illustrates how Lemwarm will move your emails directly into recipients’ primary inboxes over time. It’s essential for keeping your cold emails out of the promotional and spam folders.

3. Grammarly

Many people don’t realize that Grammarly has specialized functions for writing emails.

grammarly email tools

In addition to its grammar-checking tools (essential for professionalism), Grammarly will help you communicate your main ideas more succinctly.

4. LinkedIn Premium

LinkedIn is hands-down the easiest way to find prospects to send emails to. For example, let’s say you’re looking for link prospects. Find their company profile, navigate to “People,” and search for the seniormost content manager via job title.

Ahrefs LinkedIn profile

You need Premium because LinkedIn will quickly cap the number of leads you can find with their system (they know how invaluable it is). It’s annoying, but it’s necessary; I don’t know how I would build any outreach list without LinkedIn!

Pro tip: Send them a connection request whenever you’re about to email a contact you found. LinkedIn will give them more context as to who you are and make you more accessible for future collaboration opportunities

Last Thoughts

This could easily be a 10,000-word article. Enough has been written on email marketing to fill two-dozen libraries, if not more. It’s a subject with many nuances, opinions, and outlooks.

This article’s goal was to boil down the whole process into a few simple steps, with some outreach templates to get you started. After spending days sweating over this piece, I’m confident you have everything you need to get started with excellent results.

Here’s all you need to do now: lose the fear of rejection. Especially if you’re just getting started, you’re going to get rejected way more often than not. However, you will succeed, and those select victories will add up to life-changing results over time.

The only thing you need to be afraid of is giving up. Sales outreach and link building are hard work, especially when starting out. Of course, this filters out the vast majority of people whose blogs just end up in the domain graveyard. But that’s not you!

Anyway, I hope this guide has been of use to you. I worked pretty hard on it, so I have a sneaking suspicion it has. Good luck and happy outreach!

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