Dissecting a Terrible Cold Email

As I continually aim to master cold emails, I enjoy reviewing and dissecting those that come through to my inbox. While I have seen some stellar examples, there have also been some brutally awful ones crafted and distributed.

I decided I could learn a lot from dissecting one of the emails that I would normally delete without opening so I went ahead and poked through it, determining what went wrong and what—if anything—went right.

Before dissecting the content, I checked to see if the email was sent from a person or a robot. I was pleased to see the sender had a real name, instead of Info@ or Sales@, but they sent me this message at 7:02 on a Monday morning. Ick! Let’s be honest here—nobody is ready to analyze a vendor opportunity until probably Wednesday or Thursday, but definitely not first thing on a Monday morning! Terrible timing.

SUBJECT LINE: Appropriate Person?

While this cheesy and cliché title is within 7 words, I would immediately see this email in my unread inbox and delete. However, thanks to the subject of this post, I decided to give it a read and dissect the body as well. As I opened the email to poke through the body, I quickly became more disappointed.

First of all, I discovered the email is actually from a design company which was extremely surprising due to the bland voice and the lack of creativity. The voice was very formal at first with questions and smiley faces sprinkled in which was very inconsistent.


OPENING: "Chantel,

I am writing in hopes of finding the appropriate person who handles the ordering of apparel. If it makes sense to talk let me know how your calendar looks?”

No. No no no. Although I respect the attempt at personalizing the message, it looks like a word dump with very ineffective messaging. Without a greeting, the sender jumps straight into “I am writing”, which is a waste of space—all content creators know that attention spans are short—jump to the point! Come on, DTX! Next, there is a question positioned that isn’t a question at all… someone probably should have reviewed the email drafts before sending.


MIDDLE: “In the past year, DTX has helped companies all over the United States increase quality, delivery time, and lower their spending by an average of 12% on internal apparel. And, we offer the same shirts that your employees currently wear at Extract Systems. Our team is dedicated to delivering a high quality product, in a fast and affordable manner - we are fully prepared to work together, and we would love the opportunity to earn your business.”

Sorry, what? I started zoning out… this message is way too long. While I believe every email should have at least one winning statistic, the remainder of the body is practically wasted space. Next, it isn’t until the second sentence that we even discover what the company does… shirts. The sender also mentions that they have the same shirts we currently wear. Huh? We don’t have branded apparel here! The key takeaway here: only use personalization when it works.

I thought “enough is enough” so I jumped onto their website to see if they printed their shirts in the back of a van somewhere, but I was surprised to find a beautiful website promoting quality printing, design assistance and branded promotional items. That expertise could actually benefit my company!


CLOSING: “Chantel, do you have some time for a quick chat? I know you’ll find value in what we’re offering :) If you’re not the appropriate person, who do you suggest I speak with?”

Here’s where the messaging begins to close in a fun and friendly tone—which I expect from a design company. Hate the emoji, love the call-to-action.


Let me rewrite this to resemble what a quality cold email actually looks like:

Sent from NAME@COMPANY.com and 10:22am on Thursday.

SUBJECT LINE: Dare to Peek at These Dazzling Designs?

BODY: Good morning {{FIRST}}!

You have plenty of print vendors in your circle, am I right? I can guarantee a savings of 12% with the same stellar quality, plus you get to work with the best team in the business!

Let’s save {{COMPANY}}’s budget dollars for tradeshows and ads. Are you free next Tuesday for a quick call?

In the meantime, check out these designs to see how good we are!


Ta-da! And there you have a terrible email, dissected and crafted into a quick and sassy direct email piece. I hope you enjoyed taking this journey with me and that you may have learned a few things to avoid when crafting a successful cold email.