You only have a few seconds to capture your cold lead’s interest. And if they clicked through because of your snazzy subject line, you’ll need to seal the deal with a strong hook in the first line of your email.

So today, I’ll walk you through the best cold email icebreakers. Ditch “I hope this email finds you well” and start writing introductions that stop your ideal leads in their tracks!

1. Play into FOMO with Your Email Icebreaker

Your subject and first lines need to match. If you leveraged the psychology behind the fear of missing out in your subject line, reinforce it with your icebreaker:

  • [NAME], while you’re reading this email, [COMPETITOR] is growing!
  • [NAME], what are you doing about [INDUSTRY CHANGE]?
  • Have you heard about [NEWS]?
  • Is your strategy missing [TACTIC or TOOL]?

Assemble a targeted list of prospects with all the critical data points, including their competitors and recent industry and company news. No one likes coming in last, so play into their fear of missing out to increase interest in your products or services.

FOMO is powerful!

2. Leverage Prospects’ Challenges and Pain Points

Prove you understand the prospect's struggle by creating a cold email icebreaker that references their pain points. Yes, you’ll first have to do your research, but it’ll be more than worth it when you see higher response rates.

  • [NAME], I know [RECENT INDUSTRY CHANGE] sucks.
  • I visited your website and noticed you [ACTION THAT’S HURTING THEIR BUSINESS].
  • How’s your road to [GOAL] going? I bet [OBSTACLE] is giving you a headache.

The more specific you are, the better.

For example, increasing revenue is an obvious goal for sales teams, so skip it when targeting sales professionals. Instead, target them with a more specific goal like increasing SQLs or boosting their closed won rates.

Always end your cold email with a CTA like asking for meeting availability.

Bonus points if you use the PAS (Problem-Agitate-Solution) copywriting formula in your email!

3. Break the Ice in Cold Email Convos by Referencing Your Track Record

Cold Email Icebreakers

Use the customer success stories and logos you’ve collected over the years to prove you’re worth listening to. Social proof is at its most powerful when used as an email icebreaker, especially if you can leverage metrics:

  • Does [PROSPECT’S COMPANY] want to experience [OUTCOME] like our customers, [EXISTING CUSTOMER]?
  • Clients like [CUSTOMER] grew their [METRICS] by [EXPLAIN HOW YOU HELP]. Is [GOAL] on your agenda, too?
  • [CUSTOMER] used [LEAD’S STRATEGY/TOOL], too. Then, we increased their [METRIC] with [EXPLANATION].

For example, let’s say you’re a digital marketing agency and you’ve worked with Starbucks. Right now, you want to land Dunkin’ Donuts. You could mention how you helped Starbucks achieve significant results. Use it as social proof that convinces Dunkin’ to get in touch.

4. Compliment Your Leads

Everyone likes compliments, but be careful: leads will see straight through them if they’re not warranted.

Instead, keep this email icebreaker for the most important accounts you turned on your notifications for, and get in touch when they experience a significant milestone. Collaborate with your marketing team on finding the right leads through smarketing.

  • Great job with [NEWS]! I loved your approach to [GOAL], kudos to you and the team!
  • I loved your [POST/CASE STUDY] and how you approached [GOAL]. Are you interested in doubling your success this year?
  • I came across your [POST/CASE STUDY] - well said! I was impressed to hear [SOMETHING FROM THEIR POST].
  • Congratulations on your promotion to [NEW ROLE]! I bet [BOSS’ NAME] is impressed!

Feel free to make the compliment personal (but professional). For example, the prospect may have recently received a promotion or an award for their work. If your email is timely, you’ll show them you took the time to personalize it and generate more interest than you would with a generic opener.

Awesome example from Lemlist!

You can automate (and randomize) these intros, but you must get the right data first. I typically use Sales Navigator notifications. When the time is right and a significant milestone like funding, hiring, or revenue increase happens, I reach out with a personalized image or gif.

5. Email Icebreakers Should Still Offer Valuable Information

We open emails to learn something new, so instead of asking for something from the lead - give them something first.

It’s best to reference new customer research for the prospect’s industry, a significant market shift, or a competitor’s big move.

  • Did you know that [%] of your customers in [SEGMENT] want to [GOAL/TREND]?
  • [COMPETITOR] is [ACTION]; what are you doing about it?
  • [NAME], it’s time to respond to [MARKET CHANGE].

If you can follow up on that email with a valuable resource breaking things down for the lead and showing them how to put your advice into practice, congrats! You get bonus points.

Can you offer something for free to prove your value?

6. Boost Your Response Rate with Advanced Email Icebreaker Personalization

Finally, one of my favorite tricks in the cold email book is kickstarting a conversation with so much personalization that the lead feels like they’ve met you at some point.

Yes, you’ll need data (and lots of it), but you’ll also see higher response rates:

  • Great work at [PREVIOUS COMPANY]! How are you dealing with [BOSS’ NAME] expectations at [CURRENT COMPANY]?
  • What if [BOSS’ NAME] learned you increased [SPECIFIC GOAL]? My team and I can help!
  • I know [GOAL] is top of mind for you, but are you getting enough support from [BOSS/STAKEHOLDER’s NAME]? I’ve got a tip!
  • I noticed you [REFERENCE SHARED CONNECTION], just like me. I’m currently [HOW YOU’RE HELPING CUSTOMERS ACHIEVE THE SAME GOAL], and [OBSTACLE] has been a huge problem. We’re helping our customers by [EXPLANATION].

Reference shared connections whenever possible. For example, you could be on LinkedIn trying to find alumni, visiting the same event, or hanging out in the same online social circles.

Mawla created a hyper-personalized cold email template

Lucky Icebreaker Number #7: Show Your Personality (and How It Matches Your Lead’s Company)

There’s nothing wrong with showing your personality (and humor) in a cold email, especially if it matches your lead’s business or ethos.

For example, Lemlist shared an awesome example of a coffee-driven marketer reaching out to a coffee shop about SEO services:

You can do the same with a targeted prospect list. Use an inside joke for each prospect segment to establish rapport.

Suppose you’re targeting SMB coffee shop owners. You might emulate the example above, adding humor to explain coffee's importance to you.

Targeting startup growth marketing managers? You just know they’re exhausted, surviving on coffee and spite alone, and if they hear the words “growth hack” one more time, they might hurl rocks at the moon.

Empathize with every segment, and let that show in your email introduction.  

Next Steps: Warming up the Broken Ice

Once you come up with a great combination of icebreakers, find the right leads. Use Findymail to get their verified email addresses (even from LinkedIn and Apollo).

Then - fire away!

And remember: the more specific you are, the higher response rates you’ll see!