How to Personalize Cold Emails with Customized First Lines

personalized first lines and cold emails

Here’s the deal:

If you’re struggling to book meetings and get clients with cold email due to low open rates and response rates, you’re in the right place.

Generic, spam emails won’t work - but personalized, custom cold emails are a powerful tool in any salesperson’s toolbox.

My name is Jacob Tuwiner and I’m with Experiment 27 - to date, we’ve sent several million cold emails, and know everything there is to know about the anatomy of a cold email that closes deals.

In fact, Experiment 27’s founders have used cold email to generate over $100MM for our clients in the last five or so years.

Personalization is one of our biggest tips for those looking to book meetings with cold email.

In this post, I’m going to teach you how to personalize your cold emails so you can increase your response rates by ten times or more, and close more deals with outbound marketing and sales.

Let’s dive in:

Is Cold Emailing Effective?

cold email

Despite all of the bots, spam, poorly written scripts and typos that plague the channel, cold email is the most effective way to reach your target audience in a B2B selling situation.

Huge, multi-million dollar companies and even billion dollar companies like Salesforce owe their success, at least in the beginning, to outbound sales via cold email and other means of outreach.

There’s no faster, cheaper way to reach someone - in fact, email is a bit of a miracle.


Think of how insane it is that you can send a message to ANYONE on planet earth with access to WiFi and an email address.

It’s insane - you could send Elon Musk an email, or better yet, Alex Berman, the cold email king!

That being said, cold email is not effective if you make any of the mistakes that noobs make in a cold email campaign.

I’ll make another post about the most common cold email mistakes most people make - but in this post, I’d like to cover one of the biggest mistakes possible:

No customization.

If you’re not customizing your cold emails whatsoever, you’ll never stand out among the crowd.

But even a custom field here and there isn’t going to cut it - your prospects can almost always tell you merged their first name and company name with a tool like MixMax.

Instead, you need to take it one step further, and write an entirely custom first line for every outreach email, all about your target.

When you personalize the first sentence of every email, your response rates will literally increase by 10x, not to mention meeting book rates.

It’s a no-brainer.

In this post, we’re going to talk more about personalizing your emails, specifically with first lines, but I’d like to touch on the basics of personalization as well.

How to Personalize Sales Emails

personalized email example

No matter what, never send a fully generic outreach message.

Yes, buying a massive email list of “hot leads” and blasting out 1,000 generic emails a day sounds nice, but it doesn’t work.

Any prospect worth reaching is also getting emailed by 100 other companies a day, mostly with poorly written, generic emails that are obviously mass emails.

Think about it this way:

When you get an email in your inbox, it’s either obviously spam and commercial, or obviously personalized and from someone you know.

Your emails must fall in the latter category if you want to not only reach your prospects, but get responses and meetings.

With proper personalization and a great first line, your prospects will thank you for reaching out, even if they aren’t interested in your specific service, because nobody else takes the time of day to actually research who they’re emailing.

What’s the bottom line here?

Personalizing your outreach emails is key for success.

Let’s talk about the basics of personalization:

Get The First Line Writing Cheat Sheet!

If you want to write first lines that book meetings quickly and easily, I'm giving away the exact training document that I made for my first line writers.

It walks you through, step-by-step, exactly how to write the perfect first line, every time, with Loom video tutorials and explainer videos.

It's free - all you have to do is click this link and subscribe to my email list, and I'll send the training document over to you immediately.

Happy cold emailing :)


personalized first name example

If you’re not at least addressing your prospects by name, you’re already making a huge mistake. Dale Carnegie’s all-time best seller, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” talks abou the importance of using people’s names when talking to them.

You’re trained to respond to your name since the day you were born. It’s an instinct. And according to Dale Carnegie, your name is the sweetest word in the English language.

Addressing your prospects by name automatically makes them like you more, because it shows you know who they are, at least on a basic level.

Furthermore, email providers like Gmail show not only your subject line in the inbox, but also a preview of the email itself.

When they see their name in the email, it’ll grab their attention more than a generic email, leading to higher open rates (which means more replies and meetings as well).

Rather than saying “Hi there”, say “Hi {first name}”.

Don’t believe me?

Send 50 emails to the same market with, and without the first name included, changing nothing else about the email.

I guarantee your campaign with their first name included will perform better than the generic campaign.


company name example

Including their company name in the email is also a big one, though it’s not as important as the first name. Still, most effective sales emails mention their company name, either in the subject line or in the body of the email, or both.

However, I recommend against including things like Inc, LLC, etc. in your emails. Also, don’t spell their company name IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.

It looks unprofessional and obviously pulled from a mail merge database.

Think about it this way:

When you email a friend or colleague, the email is written with a conversational, friendly tone. Your outreach emails need to come across the same way if you want to stand out and reach your target.

For example, let’s say you work at Walmart. You wouldn’t email a colleague and say “Hey John, did you see WALMART, LLc’s earnings in Q1?” You’d just call the company by its regular name, Walmart.

Using the company name in the email is effective, especially if you use it in the subject line or the call to action of your email.

But spelling it improperly, with weird capitalization or odd extensions like LLC, is a surefire way to turn off your prospect.

Custom, Specific Compliment

first line sample

Your first line will make or break your entire outreach campaign.

Prospects are busy, and they don’t have time to read every single email that lands in their inbox. If the subject line isn’t intriguing enough, they’ll likely delete it without thinking twice.

And when you’re fortunate enough to have your email opened, if their attention isn’t captured in the first sentence, you’re done for.

So, how do you grab a prospect’s attention in the first sentence of your email?

With a custom, specific, and personalized compliment, of course!

Everyone loves to be complimented. Everyone loves to feel important. Everyone loves to know that you know who they are.

You don’t have to spend an hour researching each prospects - three minutes is more than enough to mention something specific and set yourself apart from the crowd.

All you need to do is mention something specific about them - it can be a podcast they were on, an article they wrote, something they shared on social media, an award their company won, a presentation they gave at an event, the list goes on.

The first line needs to be all about them, and not about you.

Like the first name, they’ll see the first line in their inbox, along with all of their other emails.

And while everyone else is starting their emails by saying “I do x y z, my company is amazing, we have a ton of case studies, we offer these services, etc.” you start off your email with a compliment.

“Hi John, loved your TED Talk last week, especially the part about building a strong team. Great presentation!”

Rather than falling in the obviously spam category, the custom compliment above lands you in the obviously personalized.

Which would you rather receive in your inbox?

Exactly. Write your custom first lines.

PS Line

ps line sample

PS Lines are a crafty way to add easy personalization to your emails. Not all niches love the PS line, so you need to test this for yourself, but when it works, it works VERY well.

For example, one of my cold email campaigns with a custom first line and a PS line performed twice as well as with only a custom first line (20% meeting book rate instead of 10%, both of which are insanely high.)

Calling out one of their portfolio items is one of the easiest ways to write a first line. You can use the script “PS, awesome work with {portfolio item}”, where {portfolio item} is substituted with one of their past clients or case studies.

You can look at their website to find the information, and call out one of their past clients. It’s a great way to sandwich your generic email script with personalization, between your first line and the PS line.

This is something to test with your campaigns, as every market responds differently to outreach (more on testing your email campaigns here).

But generally speaking, PS lines are another easy way to add personalization and improve your cold email campaigns.

How to Write Amazing First Lines

Get The First Line Writing Cheat Sheet!

If you want to write first lines that book meetings quickly and easily, I'm giving away the exact training document that I made for my first line writers.

It walks you through, step-by-step, exactly how to write the perfect first line, every time, with Loom video tutorials and explainer videos.

It's free - all you have to do is click this link and subscribe to my email list, and I'll send the training document over to you immediately.

Happy cold emailing :)

Writing amazing first lines is one of the keys to a successful cold email campaign, and yet most people skip this crucial step, and those who do implement first lines go about it all wrong.

In this section of the post, I’d like to explain everything you need to know about amazing first lines. And after writing thousands of them myself, it’s safe to say I know a thing or two about the framework of a great first line.

The first line of your email gets them to open your email, and shows them you did your research before reaching out. It also makes them like you, if you wrote it properly - because everyone likes compliments.

The trick is making your first lines specific and genuine, not generic and full of shit.

Let’s talk about what to include in your first lines:

What to Say in a First Line

You need to mention something specific about the prospect in the first line.

Here are some common things you can mention in your first lines:

  • Podcast interviews
  • Articles or blog posts they wrote
  • Articles written about them
  • Presentations they gave at events
  • Posts on social media
  • Awards their company recently won
  • How long they’ve been working at the company (if it’s 20+ years, or they were recently hired or promoted)
  • The college they attended, if it’s close to yours (or you went there too)
  • Companies they’ve worked with in the past or past client results from case studies
  • Information from their about page on their company website
  • Information from their personal site
  • Anything else specific you can mention

Always use second-person pronouns in your first lines like “you” and “your” because that language makes your first line about the prospect.

Here’s a good framework you can follow for your first lines:

  • “Found you on {place} and loved your recent post about {mention something specific about their post}”
  • “Listened to your interview on the {podcast name} and loved your point about {something they mentioned}
  • “Read your bio on the site and it’s awesome that you {mention what they talked about in their bio}”
  • “Watched the presentation you gave at {event} and loved your point about {their point}”
  • “Saw you recently won the {award name} from {organization} - congrats on the win!”

As you can see, they’re short, specific, and mention something they’ll care about. It shows you did your research, and they’ll appreciate that.

Make sure to call out something specific that only applies to them - you don’t want a generic compliment that could apply to anyone, as that defeats the purpose of writing your first line. Avoid saying something like “great work on your blog” or something like that.

A great first line is all about the other person, not about you.

What to Avoid in a First Line

Never start a first line with anything about you, or your company. Avoid using first-person pronouns like I, me, my, our, we, etc. because it defeats the purpose of the first line.

Even if you start by saying “I love your interview with…” you’re still starting with I. Instead, remove the I and just say “Love your interview with…”

It’s a small change that makes a big difference.

You also don’t want to use generic language that is broad and applies to anyone. For example, don’t say “awesome work with your company over the last few years” or “Love all of the great articles on your blog” or “your website design is amazing”.

These generic compliments could be said to anyone without doing any research on them beforehand, which defeats the purpose of the first line and makes your email seem generic.

While a generic compliment in the beginning of your email is better than talking about yourself, it’s nowhere near a specific compliment.

These generic compliments, however, can become custom compliments quickly and easily by calling out something specific.

For example, instead of just saying “awesome work with your company over the last few years”, you can say instead “awesome work with your company over the last few years, especially the 31% growth year-over-year in 2019!”

The second part of the first line mentioning a specific growth metric they shared somewhere online turns your generic email into a custom compliment.

And instead of just saying “your website design is amazing”, you can instead say “your website design is amazing, especially how you used Walmart’s blue, spark yellow and white colors throughout.”

Again, the latter is nearly identical to the former, yet it adds a personalized touch.

After writing your first line, read it back to yourself out loud, and consider whether or not this first line could apply to anyone else.

If the answer is yes, your first line isn’t specific enough and you need to rewrite it.

Lying in your first line is a great way to blow your sale. If the prospect went to college in Florida, don’t say you went to the same college if you didn’t.

Lying is never a good idea - and even if the first line gets you on the phone with them, it’ll be quite awkward when they start asking you about your time in college, and you actually never went to their school.

Lastly, don’t give disingenuous compliments.

Don’t tell them they’re the best thing since sliced bread, they’re your idol, you love everything about them, they’re super inspiring etc.

Don’t tell them their blog post is inspiring, if it’s not actually inspiring.

Don’t tell them they’re a role model or something like that, if they’re not. Be genuine, and you’ll be good to go.

People can smell bull shit from a mile away. Give a compliment, but only something you genuinely appreciate, or think is awesome.

What’s the bottom line here?

Avoid being generic, robotic, and talking about yourself in your first lines. Make the first line sound like you’re emailing one of your friends, and you’re good to go.

How Long Should it Take to Write a Custom First Line?

Researching your prospects for a custom first line is pretty easy and shouldn’t take more than five minutes max, but the more you practice, the faster you’ll write.

Ideally, you should be writing them in roughly three to three and a half minutes each. You don’t need to listen to an entire podcast interview - instead, skip to the middle of the podcast so it seems like you listened to the entire thing, and mention something they said halfway through the conversation.

But if that person books a call with you, make sure you actually listen to the entire podcast, not only so you’re prepared (that’s another topic entirely) but also so you’re not lying in your email.

It’d be odd if you hopped on a sales call with someone after telling them you listened to their interview, when in reality you didn’t listen to more than a few minutes.

Where to Research Your Prospects for First Lines


Finding the information you need for your first lines is pretty easy in most niches, though some are definitely harder than others.

For example, digital agency owners typically have a ton of information about them online.

A quick Google search with their first, last, and company names will likely return a plethora of information to choose from.

You’ll likely see their LinkedIn profile, their website, interviews, and any articles about them.

You can pick any of the above and skim until you found something noteworthy to mention in your first line.

Other niches, however, like credit unions, are full of (sorry if you’re in the credit union space) boring people with not much online. I was selling to credit unions for a while, and writing first lines for them was quite hard.

Most of my prospects didn’t have much online about them, so I had to get creative. But this is rare, and if your niche has prospects that don’t have much to compliment them on, you may want to switch your niche. But in most cases, a simple Google search will suffice.

LinkedIn, their website, their social media, and any other article or interview with them featured are all great ways to find the information you need for a first line.

You can also search their company in Google News if it’s large enough and call out any good news that pops up, but this will only work for large companies, as the smaller ones likely won’t have much featured in Google News.

What to do When You Can’t Find Any Information on Their LinkedIn

When you can’t find any information on LinkedIn, or anywhere else for that matter, their website is typically the best place to look next.

When I was emailing the CEOs of credit unions, many of them had nothing on LinkedIn, so I went to their website and would read the credit union newsletter, or see what they were talking about on their site, and I’d talk about that.

Many of them volunteered hundreds of hours, gave scholarships to their community, etc. and in their newsletters, they’d usually address their members with a letter.

Most credit unions also had an annual report with a message from the CEO.

I’d look on the website, find something in one of their newsletters or annual reports, and mention that in my first line.

Interviews are better, as you can mention something specific and personal about them, but when there’s nothing about them online, something about their company is the next best thing.

Email Personalization Examples

Here are some examples of terrific first lines:

  • Love One Rockwell’s front-end designs - the Trish McEvoy site looks terrific, especially considering it boosted conversion by 62%! Great work.
  • The work you did for American Express is awesome, especially how you saved the Small Business Saturday program over $1.5MM year-over-year!
  • Impressed with your 35+ years experience leading companies - congrats on entering the University of Illinois Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame!
  • Read your interview with IT Firms and sounds like splitting your team into two separate business units was a great decision. Congrats on the growth since then!
  • Just saw your recent post on LinkedIn - congrats on being recognized by Clutch as a top Agency for B2B companies!
  • Read your interview with Jenny Rooney on Forbes - loved your point about CMOs inheriting expectations they’re mostly unequipped to meet. Great read!

Write first lines like these, and your prospects will actually thank you for reaching out, rather than telling you to f$ck off.

Personalized Sales Email Templates

Here’s the framework for the best personalized sales email template:

Hi {first name},

{custom first line}

{your one sentence case study mentioning a company like theirs, how you helped them and the result}

{call to action asking for a meeting}

If you stick to that framework in your outreach email, you’ll be good to go.

Get The First Line Writing Cheat Sheet!

If you want to write first lines that book meetings quickly and easily, I'm giving away the exact training document that I made for my first line writers.

It walks you through, step-by-step, exactly how to write the perfect first line, every time, with Loom video tutorials and explainer videos.

It's free - all you have to do is click this link and subscribe to my email list, and I'll send the training document over to you immediately.

Happy cold emailing :)


If you personalize your outreach emails, you’ll set yourself apart from the crowd.

Personalized first lines take more time and effort than a spray and pray mass email campaign, but the return on investment is well-worth it.

When you use proper first lines with your cold emails, you’ll have higher open rates and a 10x increase in responses and meetings.

How do I know?

Millions of cold emails and the data to prove it, courtesy of Experiment 27.