Writing good email drip sequences is hard work. It takes a lot of testing to nail down the right subject and value proposition, and even then the results may be not apply to your other lists. Each time you build a prospecting list, you may need to start testing your subject lines all over again. It gets tedious pretty fast.

There are some good general rules to follow though, and I’m not breaking any new ground here. They are:

cold emails

– Don’t describe your product. Describe your customer’s pain and how you solve it. Focus on benefits, not features.

– Keep it short and to the point. Long-winded cold emails are more likely to be deleted than read.

– Test, test, test. Especially the subject line and first sentence. Pretend you’re the prospect and you just saw a new message pop up on your iPhone. Would you read it?

In this post I’m going to critique two three-drip sequences from two different companies. These are actual drips I received on my Toofr email finder account.

Since I’m in the email marketing industry, I read every cold email I receive. It’s a great way to get ideas for my own email drips.


This company is a public relations agency that specializes in thought leadership article placements. This person whose title was not specified, sent three messages, each about two weeks apart. Here are the drips with my notes in bold.


Subject: Building Toofr into a Thought Leader

My notes: Not a good subject. Capital case makes it feel commercial, so I’m already assuming this is a cold email. It’s too formal. Assuming this is a good, tested angle, I’d prefer, “Need help building Toofr into a thought leader?” Questions are great subject lines.

Hey Ryan,

I know you’re busy and I don’t want to waste your time so I’ll get straight to the point.

Okay… but you could have stopped at “I know you’re busy.” and then included the next sentence.

We’re a results-only marketing company that helps fast-growing companies become thought leaders by securing top tier media coverage in places like CNBC, FastCo and WSJ (to name a few).

Good one-sentence description. I understand enough of what she does.

We work with you to establish exactly what you want to be known for and where you want to be seen and from there, our team comes up with ideas and angles we can pitch out to the media to get you featured.

We don’t charge retainers, we don’t charge upfront, we only charge when we deliver results. Over 80 other clients have leveraged our service and we’ve helped them secure coverage in over 1,000 outlets.

This is too much. It’s features, not benefits. What are the results? Placements? Leads? What pain is this solving? I’m not sure!

Want to chat about how we can do the same for you?

No, of course I don’t want to chat. Nobody wants to be sold to. Instead, ask me something you know I’ll say yes to: “Does Toofr need more leads?” or “Would Toofr benefit if you were written up in CNBC or Fast Company?” Yep, you got me!

If you would like to understand our process more, here is a blog post we wrote that shows you the step by step process that will build you into a thought leader: <links to blog post>

Links are good, but since she sent this, she didn’t need to write so much above.

Talk to you soon!

Casual is good here.

<her name>
<her company>
a: <her address>
w: <her website>
p: <her phone number>

Signature is too formal. Really reeks of a template / software. Also, she didn’t include a title. Am I being emailed by the founder/CEO or an account executive? It should be clear.

If you don’t want to hear from me again, please let me know <links to be removed>

Iron in the coffin on the point above. I prefer when people ask for a reply to be removed. Now I know this was just a standard email template.


Subject: ROI of Thought Leadership..

Hmm, new subject. Still not good because there’s nothing enticing here. Also, I don’t like ellipses in subject lines.

Hey Ryan,

Just touching base on my email last week.

Is it just me or is “touching base” way too jargony? Who says that, much less writes it?

As a reminder, we do results-only PR. No retainers, nothing upfront, and you only pay us when we deliver results.

This is good. I wish she just started with this.

Our expertise is in helping companies become industry thought leaders and we work with you to develop a strategy then execute it.

Also a good, concise description, but redundant to the sentence prior. Pick one or the other (A/B test them!)

If we weren’t great at what we do, we wouldn’t offer our services results based.

I still don’t know what the results are. And it’s “results-based.”

If you are still deciding if now is the time to invest in PR, we’ve created a blog post to help determine the ROI of public relations, a common question we heard from many of our other clients.

You can check it out here: <links to blog>

Same critique as before. This email adds nothing new.

Want to jump on a call this week and see if we can help you?

Nope, sorry!

<her name>
<her company>
a: <her address>
w: <her website>
p: <her phone number>

If you don’t want to hear from me again, please let me know <links to be removed>


Subject: Not Interested

This subject line is a complete, utter flop. Why would I open this? Don’t put a negative in your subject unless it’s followed by a question mark, and even then it’s risky. It needs to be tested.

Ryan —

Got formal all of a sudden? What happened to “Hey”?

I’ve tried a few times and it seems you aren’t interested in our results-only PR service.

Right, because you never told me what problem you’re solving for me.

Your inbox is full enough so I will stop emailing you for now. Assuming you are doing this on your own, highly advise following along with this proven process we’ve outlined in our Thought Leadership Machine Planning framework.

Okay, that might actually be useful.

If you follow this, that should help position you and begin the process of building yourself into a Thought Leader!

If you decide you want to have a chat, feel free to reach out at anytime and we can get something set up.

This is actually better. Now she’s trying to be helpful and teach me something I may not have been aware of. Finally, on the email with the worst subject line, she offers some good content.


<her name>
<her company>
a: <her address>
w: <her website>
p: <her phone number>

If you don’t want to hear from me again, please let me know <links to be removed>


First of all, the two weeks in between drips is too long. They shouldn’t be more than a week apart or I’ll completely lose the reference.

Another big no-no, the blog post link she sent in the first drip is gone. The click leads to a 404 error page. Ouch! I understand if blog post links change, but you have to create redirects from links that went out in your emails. It’s a wasted opportunity otherwise.

There was nothing, nada, zilch, offered in customization for my business. Nothing specific to me being CEO, and nothing specific to my company being in the email finding market. A slight nod to my industry or my title would go a long way.

But honestly, the biggest email marketing mistake in this sequence is the number one mistake that sales reps make: selling features rather than benefits. Sales reps want to sell features because they’re safe, memorizable, and definitive. My product definitely does X, Y, and Z.

Prospects want to hear about benefits. If I buy your product, I’ll get A, B, and C in return. I don’t really care about X, Y, and Z features, especially if I’m the CEO. I want benefits.


This second company is a B2C service in the food / restaurant market. They’ll reserve your table and order your meal for you so you can be served immediately upon being seated. She sent me three emails spaced four days apart.


Subject: I thought you’d be interested

I actually like this subject line. It’s vague, but that’s okay. It’ll get me to open it, albeit cautiously, because my spam radar will be up. But I’ll probably open a vague subject line, and in this case I actually did.

Hi Ryan,

I hope all is well. I just wanted to elaborate more on how we help working professionals in SF dine out with more confidence and no wait time:

  • With <her company>, you can simply walk into the restaurant knowing that everything is ready for you.
  • Feedback shows people are impressed with how fast restaurants bring in the food and ability to leave without waiting for the check. (Even the tip is taken care of.)
  • You’re in-and-out in under 30 minutes, with plenty of time left to focus on what really matters.

Cool, so sort of an Uber for restaurants? I like that she focused on the benefit to me, which is less hassle and more time saved. Good pitch.

It’s easy to give us a try here: <her website> (available on web and app). Feel free to use the $50 code VIPTRY50 for a $10 off the first five orders.

I love offers in cold emails. The only way she could have made it stronger is if she linked to a landing page with the code and more benefits specific to me (again, my title, my business, or maybe in this case, my geography) with that coupon code.


<her name>

PS: If you don’t want to hear from me anymore, just let me know

As stated earlier, I prefer this opt-out technique.


Subject: Quick question

Another decent, vague subject line. I like the first one better, though, and she could have threaded this (made this email a reply to the first one).

Hi Ryan,

This is <her name>, I just wanted to follow up on my previous emails about <her company>. As a reminder, we connect working professionals with local restaurants for a wait-free dining experience.

I like this first sentence. It’s respectful, gets to the point, and accomplishes her goal which is simply to keep my attention.

Would you be interested in trying us out as the way to dine out with more confidence and no wait time?

Good, she asked a question that I’m pretty like to say “yes” to.

There is a code for first time diners: VIPTRY50 ($10 off your first five orders).

I also appreciate the near-verbatim repeat of the call to action. It’s very clear now what she wants me to do if I’m to proceed. Good that she keeps it simple.

Let me know, thanks!

<her name>

PS: If you don’t want to hear from me anymore, just let me know


Subject: Your code: VIPTRY50

I’ve actually never seen a coupon code in the subject line before. I will add this to my own stockpile of tricks!

Hi Ryan,

This is <her name>, apologies for sending another follow-up. I just wanted to make sure that you’re receiving my emails.

Fine, obviously she knows I’m receiving them since it’s not bouncing. What she meant is am I reading her emails… and yes, I am.

We offer a code VIPTRY50 ($10 off your first five orders) to try out <her company> as the way to dine out with more confidence and no wait time. You’ll love the experience.

You can give us a try here: <her website> (available on web and app).

It’s a similar call to action as before, but I like that. Repetition works great in cold emails but most people are afraid of it because they don’t want to appear lazy.


<her name>

PS: If you don’t want to hear from me anymore, just let me know


This is a good drip sequence. It’s much better than the first one, and the product is, arguably, more complex. I know that the next step is for me to try this coupon code. She didn’t ask for my time like the other drip did, and I have a clear understanding of the benefits of her product. This is a good sequence.


I chose these two drip sequences because they demonstrate two very different approaches. One sold features, the other sold benefits. One asked for my time, the other asked me to save time and gave me a coupon to do it. The second sequence has much stronger fundamentals.

When you write your own drip sequences, the best way to avoid the pitfalls is to put yourself in the recipients’ shoes. Your job is to sell, sure, but the best sales people view themselves as teachers too. When you lose sight of that, you lose your customers too. In order to be more of a teacher than a seller, you need to do some amount of customization to your emails. Both sequences fell short on that.

Finally, keep your call to action simple. Send me to a landing page rather than a home page, and don’t let your links go bad!

About the author

Ryan Buckley is the founder and CEO of Toofr, a bulk email finder for lead generation. He is formerly the co-founder and CEO of Scripted, a marketplace to hire and manage writers. Ryan is now enjoying a bootstrapped approach to entrepreneurship and runs two other websites as well, eNPS for employee NPS surveys and Thinbox for user email monitoring.

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