In today’s digital world, reaching out to strangers through email is the norm, rather than the exception.

Reaching out through email — or “cold emailing” — gives you the opportunity to craft the perfect message, without awkward silences, brain freezes and too many “likes” and “you knows.” Yet don’t think that the more conversational nature of email communication means that you can slack off. Making a good and lasting impression still remains as crucial as ever.

In fact, it might be even more challenging in the digital age when people are so inundated with communications — emails, texts, social media, etc. — that it’s even harder to make oneself memorable. Fortunately, there are steps you can take that will make important contacts sit up and take notice.

Get the scoop
Before sending your email, do some research on the person you’re about to contact. At a minimum, you should know the person’s full name, title and some background information. LinkedIn works well for this type of research. Also visit the employer’s or business associate’s company website so you will be able to gear your message appropriately. What can you learn about the present needs of the business? Armed with that kind of information, you can use your cold email to present yourself as the solution to the recipient’s problems.

Be direct
Respect the recipient’s time by getting right to the point of your email. Explain who you are, how you found them and what you want. Take a friendly, but not overly familiar tone. Don’t be afraid to namedrop here. If a mutual friend or colleague recommended you contact the recipient, say so. Most likely if you’re referred by someone whom the recipient knows and trusts, he will feel an obligation to pay attention to your email and will also take you more seriously. If it’s typical operating procedure in your industry, include a link to your portfolio or LinkedIn profile.

Spell check!
Once you have determined what message you want to send, take care to express it in clear, coherent language that’s free of spelling and grammatical errors. Although digital communication lends itself to informality, sending a cold email with run-on sentences and careless mistakes is no way to make a positive impression. If written communication isn’t a strong suit for you, ask a friend with good writing skills to proof read your email before hitting send. Pay special attention to the spelling of the recipient’s name as well as the name of the business!

Craft a clever, informative and brief subject line
You could spend hours crafting the perfect email to make a great impression on a prospective employer or important contact. But you’ve wasted your time if it gets deleted before it’s even opened. Improve the likelihood that your email will be opened and read by coming up with an intriguing subject line.

Timing is everything
During the week, most professionals are forced to wage an ongoing battle to keep up with the deluge of emails they get. Peter Sims writing for the Harvard Business Review notes that weekends tend to be less intense, making them a perfect time to send your email. While today’s executives and high-level professionals do business 24/7, many use the weekends, when they are slightly less harried, to read email and hopefully, to give some thought to the people who are sending it.

Always follow up
Cold emails do have a high failure rate on the first try. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear back. Follow up in reasonable increments of time (at least a week), contribute something new to the conversation (‘Here’s what I’ve been working on’), and use a friendly, but not desperate, tone.