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Star Chain Hook Copywriting for Cold Email (Templates, Tips, More)

The Star Chain Hook method is a copywriting technique that can help you keep your cold emails tight, eye-catching, and focused around action.

It’s particularly useful if you’re writing short cold emails. You can go to an average length or longer with it — but it’s also helpful when you go shorter.

Because it’s succinct, it’s tricky; Star Chain Hook requires an economy of words even more pronounced than many other cold email writing techniques. (Like the AIDA formula, PAS formula, and BAB formula for cold emails.)

It’s also easy to forget about personalization inside its “bold claim” structure.

In this article, I’m going to walk through every step of the Star Chain Hook cold email copywriting method and give actionable tips and strategies for each one.

I’m also going to analyze a Star Chain Hook cold email I received and create a new, more effective template using the framework.

Star Chain Hook Method: Table of Contents

What Is the Star Chain Hook Copywriting Method?

Star Chain Hook is a copywriting technique that hooks the prospect with a big, enticing promise or claim, backs up that claim with evidence, then closes the deal.

  • The Star is the big, often audacious or borderline unbelievable, promise or claim. In a cold email, the Star can be the subject line, opening line of the email, or both.
  • The Chain is your proof of how you can make the Star promise come true. This could be a case study, notable statistic, or social proof.
  • The Hook is the call-to-action. Push the prospect toward taking a single action, generally replying or scheduling a meeting.

Star Chain Hook can be quite effective when done well — but doing it well isn’t easy. There’s a fine line between effective brevity and easy-to-ignore brevity.

Here’s how to make sure your Star Chain Hook cold emails are the former, not the latter.

1. Star: Making a Big, Eye-Catching Claim or Promise

The Star portion of your cold email needs to catch a prospect’s eye. You need them to have a visceral reaction to the Star.

If you include the Star in the subject line (which you generally will), it should motivate your prospect to open the email.

If the Star is the opening line/paragraph of the email (which it also should be in this method), it should drive the prospect to read on and get excited about what you’re offering.

Don’t forget personalization

One of the biggest pitfalls I see with the Star Chain Hook method is it makes it too easy to skip personalization.

This copywriting method naturally lends itself to less personalization than most others.

It’s instinctive to make a big claim or promise in the Star section that’s universal, not targeted.

That Star is then paired with an equally universal Chain of proof.

And the Hook is a call-to-action which isn’t a common spot for personalization (beyond, perhaps, mail merging in the name of the business).

I will encourage you to keep personalization in mind. That means: Making sure you’re offering a solution to a pain point or pressing need in each prospect’s specific world.

In the example I create throughout this article you’ll see this in action. I’m using a bit of personalization to make Star Chain Hook work even better — and to make sure each recipient feels like my solution is individually and specifically targeted at them and only them.

Putting together the Star portion of a cold email

Throughout this article I’m going to review a real Star Chain Hook cold email I received and point out areas where it’s missing the mark.

Then I’m going to write a new version of the email that better employs the Star Chain Hook method.

The Star in the original email I received

Subject: Creative + Impactful Videos for GMass

Message: Hi Sam,

I’m [redacted], and our production team here at [redacted] specializes in making exciting, impactful videos that will help you stand out from your competition.

Star Chain Hook: Sample email Star

This email uses a similar Star (or attempted Star) in the subject line and opening line.

The Stars are:

  • “Creative + Impactful Videos”
  • “Exciting, impactful videos that will help you stand out from your competition”

Unfortunately, neither of these Stars is “Star-y” enough.

Everything about these claims is lukewarm. That subject line wouldn’t have pushed me to open the email (if I weren’t hunting for cold emails to use as examples in articles). I get dozens of cold emails every day promising to help me stand out from my competition in various ways. You’ve got to give me more than that to grab me.

The email also makes the classic mistake of thinking basic mail merge data (my name and my company name) “counts” as personalization. Mail merge data should be a supplement to deeper personalization: Understanding my needs, pain points, and pressing problems.

My rewrite

Here’s how I’m going to rewrite this email to do a better job of catching my attention so I can’t resist opening the message and getting excited about it.

Subject: {CompanyName} is great. Why haven’t more people heard of it???

Message: It’s March 2023. I just found {CompanyName} while I was searching for a new {BusinessType}. Which is really disappointing. Because I should’ve heard of it years ago — and thousands of your potential customers should’ve heard of it too.

We’ve got to fix that.

Star Chain Hook: Revised email Star

My Star here is bold, eye-catching, and actually pretty aggressive. I’m taking aim at an insecurity and problem for most businesses out there: Lack of market penetration, especially amongst potential customers.

That’s my Star: The big claim that they’re missing name recognition and it’s costing them business.

Compare that to the original email. My Star is packed with benefits. Their Star was packed with features (or, more accurately, tepid adjectives).

My Star is also personalized —  and not just because I put {CompanyName} in there. It’s personalized because I’ve accurately recognized the pressing pain point for my potential customer that I can solve with my offer.

2. Chain: Social Proof, Case Studies, and Other Justifications for You to Be the Problem Solver

You’ve caught a prospect’s eye with the Star section. You did it with a bold claim, a big promise, a surprising stat, or another high-quality attention grabber.

It’s now time to quickly justify why you are the one to solve your prospect’s problem and make your promise come true.

The Chain is where you share your best piece of evidence to support you being the problem solver.

Maybe it’s a case study. Maybe it’s a testimonial or other social proof. Maybe it’s a stat about your business’s success. Maybe it’s your unique approach that’s different from everyone else in your industry.

Whatever you choose, make sure it and it alone is convincing enough to push your prospect to the verge of taking action.

Putting together the Chain portion of a cold email

Here’s the chain in the email I received and my revised Chain.

The Chain in the original email I received

Message: Unlike other production companies, our team handles everything from the ground up — from developing concepts all the way through putting the final touches on your video.

Are you open to letting us pitch some ideas?

Here’s some of our newest and best work:

[redacted] Video


[redacted] Spot

[redacted] Ad

Full Portfolio

Star Chain Hook: Sample email Chain

There’s a lot going on in the Chain section here. Too much, in fact. There’s some good stuff in here, but it’s lost in the clutter.

The first sentence of the Chain is a statement of their business’s differentiator. It’s not bad — even though I don’t know if I believe it. With a differentiator that sounds unbelievable, it’s best to call attention to potential skepticism. I might even add something like “No, really!” at the end, making it clear I recognize what a prospect might be thinking.

Then the second sentence of the Chain is a call-to-action. It feels lost up here (especially, as you’ll see, because they have a different question-style CTA in the correct spot later in the email).

The third part of the Chain is a list of five links. I don’t like that. I don’t want to see their work, I want to see the results of their work. That’s why a link to a case study about the success of one of these videos would be so much better than this list of videos.

In my rewrite, I’m now going to distill the Chain section into something much tighter.

My rewrite

At [Company], we create unique, memorable videos to hook your target customers. Here’s a case study on how our video for [Brand] received 550k+ organic viral impressions (driving a 20% YoY increase in paying subscribers).

Star Chain Hook: Revised email Star

My Chain is two sentences here.

In the first sentence, I explain what our company does. I didn’t go too long with it because, while I felt it was a necessary bridge from the Star in this email, it’s not going to really move the needle. Anyone can make these claims — they don’t mean anything until I back them up.

So that’s what I did with the second sentence. I gave a link to my best available case study. It creates a direct link between the video my (fictitious) company produced and a result that any business would want.

I wanted to make sure my Chain aligned with the big idea from my Star — in this case, that was spreading the word about the business to potential customers. But… I also know that brand exposure isn’t the endgame for a business. The goal is to then turn that exposure into paying customers.

That’s why I structured my description of the case study first to cover exposure (550k+ organic viral impressions) and then transition into talking about the outcome of that exposure (20% YoY increase).

What if you don’t have a case study?

Case studies are gold — in fact, I’ve been seeing an increasing number of cold emailers using case studies in their campaigns.

Case studies make your claims and promises tangible, serve as credibility boosters and social proof, and help potential customers envision what they’ll get from working with you.

But what if you don’t have a case study? Or you have a case study, but it’s not relevant to the offer you’re making?

In those situations, it’s great if you can use one killer stat from a past client or an aggregate stat across your clients.

For instance, in my rewritten example above, let’s say I didn’t have a case study. I could instead make my Chain something like:

  • “Our video for [Brand] received 550k+ organic viral impressions (driving a 20% YoY increase in paying subscribers).”
  • “Last year we created videos for 36 different brands who saw an average of 55k organic viral impressions and an average of 10% YoY increase in paying customers.”
  • “The three most recent brands we worked with saw an average increase in ROAS of 216%.”
  • “Nine out of 10 brands who work with us once hire us a second time because they’re so happy with the results.”

Find one killer stat or other tangible piece of social proof for your Chain. Don’t make it a list of features or adjectives. Anyone can promise features and recite adjectives. The Chain is where you show results.

3. Hook: The Call-to-Action to Close the Deal

Your Star section made a big claim or promise and your Chain section gave hard proof that you’re the one to fulfill it.

Now, in the Hook section, you give your prospect the final push to take action. That may come in the form of replying, clicking to book a meeting, or clicking for a free trial.

Whatever it is, the goal is that it’s a no-brainer for the prospect to do it — and your call-to-action makes it easy and frictionless.

Putting together the Hook portion of a cold email

Here’s the Hook from our sample email as well as my rewritten Hook section.

The Hook in the original email I received

Are you open to letting us pitch some ideas?

Would it make sense to discuss a project?

Star Chain Hook: Sample email Hook

This email has two calls-to-action and, as I mentioned earlier, one appears in the middle of the Chain section. The other appears at the end of the email, where a Hook section should go.

I don’t love either of these calls-to-action. I get what they’re going for with “yes/no” questions that are relatively non-committal. But both employ weak language. Neither gets me excited to reply.

“Are you open to letting us pitch some ideas?” devalues the offer. It makes it seem like the potential customer is doing this business a favor.

In a good cold email, the mutual benefit of the transaction will feel obvious; neither party should seem like they’re benevolently allowing the other to work with them.

A stronger approach would be, “Interested in hearing our ideas for {CompanyName}?” But, of course, it should come at the end and not in the middle.

For the other call-to-action, “Would it make sense to discuss a project?” is too non-committal for my liking.

There’s a school of thought amongst some cold emails that your initial message should be a fluffy soft pitch to start a dialogue and not make the prospect feel like they’re committing beyond that. (I don’t prescribe to that school, though many people do.)

But this particular line is calling on a recipient to answer the question “Would it make sense?” If someone’s interested enough to be on the verge of responding, they want a more exciting prompt than that.

My rewrite

Here’s my new approach to the Hook.

Interested in hearing our ideas for {CompanyName}? Shoot me a reply and we’ll talk.

Star Chain Hook: Revised email Star

I took the elements I liked from the first call-to-action but made it feel less needy and subordinate. Then I took a casual, conversational approach to soliciting a reply.

I’m still maintaining a relatively low-committal ask here — I’m not directing the person to schedule a meeting or asking if they have 30 minutes.

But I’m being more direct, using more powerful language, and trying to get the recipient excited about connecting with me.

Star Chain Hook Copywriting for Cold Email: Takeaways and Next Steps

Star Chain Hook is a compact but effective copywriting strategy for cold emails.

In this framework, you present:

  • A Star, which is an attention-grabbing subject line and/or first sentence that makes a big claim or promise.
  • A Chain, which is a case study, stat, or other piece of social proof that demonstrates why you are the right person to fulfill the claim or promise in the Star.
  • And a Hook, which is a call-to-action that prompts a prospect to take the next step.

Star Chain Hook benefits tremendously from a good case study and from strategic personalization. If you can incorporate both of those elements into your Star Chain Hook campaign it should be highly successful for you.

And now, as is my tradition in these articles where I break down copywriting strategies, I’ll use Star Chain Hook (albeit a longer version of Star Chain Hook) to show you why GMass is the best cold email platform for sending these campaigns.

Face it: Your current cold email platform isn’t getting the job done. You keep going to spam. It’s missing key features you need for better campaigns. It’s so quirky that it takes new employees forever to get up to speed. And it’s really expensive.

GMass is one of the most popular cold email platforms (and possibly the most popular) for a reason — with more than 300,000 active users who’ve given us an untouchable 4.8-star average across 7,500+ reviews.

  • 99% of GMass users report the best deliverability they’ve ever had.
  • GMass has a more robust set of features than any other cold email platform on the market — from automated follow-ups to A/B testing and everything in between.
  • GMass works inside Gmail, making it easy to learn — you can go from rookie to expert in about five minutes flat.
  • And GMass is somehow still the most affordable cold email platform on the market.

You can get started with a free trial of GMass — no credit card required, and there’s not even a sign-up form required! — by downloading the Chrome extension.

And you’ll be able to send 50 emails a day during the trial until you’re ready to upgrade to a paid plan with higher sending limits.

See why GMass has 300k+ users and 7,500+ 5-star reviews

Email marketing. Cold email. Mail merge. Avoid the spam folder. Easy to learn and use. All inside Gmail.


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