Cold Email: Process, Effectiveness & How to Do It

Check out this guide on writing cold emails to generate leads, which includes detail on how cold emailing works and how to do it successfully.

Cold emailing is the act of sending prospecting emails to leads who have not yet engaged with your business. It’s one of the easiest and most common ways to contact your leads and move them along your sales pipeline. Before you send cold emails, confirm that it’s right for your business, learn how to find email addresses, discover how to write cold emails and follow-ups that elicit a positive response from your leads, and plan to track your success along the way.

How Cold Emailing Works

Cold emailing is a sales prospecting strategy in which you email a cold lead in an effort to generate interest in your product or service, then book a needs assessment or discovery call to qualify them as a prospect. The standard process to send cold emails is to find email addresses for your target customers, research them and then send the email and follow-ups as needed, book a call or meeting to qualify the lead, and track and improve your results.

Cold email process
Cold email process

Taking the time to write a quality, personalized cold email to each lead can increase the likelihood that they’ll respond positively. A quality cold email includes the following components:

  • Short, intriguing “from” and “subject” lines
  • Brief introduction that leads into an elevator pitch
  • Strong call-to-action and signature that help the recipient contact you

Depending on your business, your sales process, and what you’re selling, you might be able to qualify some leads via email. However, most cold emails will prompt the lead to respond so you can plan a phone call. Either way, the ultimate goal of cold emailing is to source and reach out to as many quality outbound leads as possible, then qualify them in the way that works for your business so you can move them forward in the sales process through lead nurturing.

Is Cold Emailing Effective?

Cold emailing can be time-consuming, but it’s one of the most effective prospecting strategies. You can email many leads in a row, who can then read the email when they’re available or forward it to the decision maker(s) if you've emailed the wrong person. When a lead responds, you can book a meeting at a time that works for both of you.

However, cold emailing doesn’t come without downsides, the most significant of which is the possibility that your leads will view your email as spam. When you send an email, you run the risk of your lead being agitated when they read it or ignoring it altogether, or of the email not reaching your lead at all. Because so many other businesses use cold emailing, you’re also competing for your lead’s attention whenever you add to their inbox.

Still, cold emails are two times more effective than cold calls, so it’s worth your time to learn the process, steps, and cold email tips that will help you become a better cold emailer. Before you decide to start cold emailing, though, be sure it’s right for your particular business — we’ll look at this next.

Who Should Use Cold Emailing?

Many businesses can benefit from sending cold emails, but there are certain situations that make cold emailing more appropriate for certain businesses than others. Generally, cold emailing works well for B2B businesses, or B2C companies that sell higher-priced items or services. In some cases, cold emailing is a better option for these businesses than any other type of sales prospecting (e.g., cold calling, cold canvassing, social selling). 

Below are some of the businesses that should consider prospecting through cold emails: 

  • Those Needing to Reach Many Leads Quickly: Cold emailing allows you to swiftly cast a wide net and dedicate time only to leads who respond.
  • Businesses With Marketing Material: You can send links, images, demo videos, or other resources via cold emails to help your leads visualize and understand what you’re selling.
  • Companies That Sell to Busy Customers: This is especially true in B2B sales, as many decision makers are strapped for time. By sending a cold email, you can provide initial information and plan a time to talk rather than calling at a bad time.
  • Sellers That Need to Build Relationships: If you have long sales cycles, sell big-ticket items, or sell a product or service requiring a post-sale relationship, an initial cold email is often a good way to start building that relationship and keep track of conversations.
  • Salespeople Wanting Time to Respond: When you receive a question or objection from a lead, you can take a moment to think through a response so you can give the answer that you believe will best generate the lead’s interest.

If any of these criteria sound like you and you’d like to try cold emailing, the next step is to find the email addresses of the leads you’d like to contact.

How to Find Email Addresses

Knowing how to write a good cold email won’t do much good if you’re not sending it to the right contact. This means that knowing how to find email addresses is just as important as knowing how to write the emails themselves. The top four ways to find email addresses are checking out your target customer’s social media, scanning their website, using an email lookup service, and hiring a lead generation company, which we’ll expand upon below:

  • Social Media: Check leads’ Facebook, Twitter, and/or LinkedIn profiles to see whether they list their email address. If not, use tools like Twitter Advanced Search, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, or ContactOut with LinkedIn. Or, message them to request their email.
  • Website: View the “about” or “contact us” page on leads’ websites in case they list their personal or company contact information, and check the footer for a general email address. 
  • Email Finder Service: Automate your search for emails through an email finder service, such as a tool that helps you find valid email addresses directly on someone’s website or a searchable database of email addresses with additional lead details.
  • Lead Generation Company: Task a lead gen company with finding customer emails for you and qualifying the leads themselves. Some will even nurture those leads, make cold calls, and deliver them to you when they’re warm.

The method(s) you choose will depend mainly on the time, money, and effort you want to dedicate to finding email addresses.

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Additional Reading:

For a comprehensive look at sourcing quality prospect emails, check out our extensive guide on finding email addresses, where you’ll read detailed explanations on the best ways to find them.

How to Write the Perfect Cold Email

Now that you know how to find email addresses, let’s talk about crafting the emails. There are several key steps to writing a great cold email — be sure you accomplish each of them in order every time you write a cold email:

  1. Find Lead Email Addresses: Search leads’ social media and/or website, use an email finder service, or enlist a lead generation company to find lead contact information.
  2. Research Your Lead: Scan each lead’s LinkedIn page, company website, and other online sources to discover as much about them as possible so you can personalize your email. Learn about their role so you can also address potential pain points.
  3. Start With a Template: Use cold email templates as a guide, taking the key elements from the template you choose and weaving in your own expertise and unique voice. This will ensure that you cover your bases but still write a personalized email.
  4. Use Attractive “From” and “Subject” Lines: Write an intriguing subject line that has a hook but isn’t too long, and edit the “from” line according to how you want to portray yourself to the recipient. 
  5. Introduce Yourself and Deliver Your Pitch: Take a sentence or two to tell the lead who you are, then give a 2- to 3-sentence pitch that demonstrates the value of your product or service and how it can specifically help them.
  6. Finish With a Call-to-Action and Signature: Type a one-sentence, direct call-to-action that tells how to contact you. Rather than posing this as a question, give a direct offer like “Give me a call at {your phone number} to get things started.”
  7. Follow Up 2–3 Times: After sending the first email, follow up at least weekly and use increasingly conversational language. If the lead does not respond after the third email, make a note to follow up again in a few months.
  8. Track and Improve Your Emails: In your CRM software, keep track of metrics related to the actions your recipients take when they receive your email. Use this information to experiment with other strategies to improve your cold emailing success.

Writing the perfect cold email often involves trial and error. Testing various templates, following all key steps, and tracking your results can help expedite this process and increase your success.

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Additional Reading:

For more depth on these steps, check out our article on writing a cold email. There, you’ll find specific details on how to create your own high-value cold email.

Track & Improve Your Cold Email Efforts

As you find lead contact information and send the emails you believe will best pique their interest in your product or service, remember to track your results. Doing so will allow you to figure out what’s working and what you can do to raise your conversion rate. The best way to see how your emails perform is by tracking email-specific metrics in a general or email marketing CRM software.

Track the metrics below at a minimum, and add more as necessary:

  • Open Rate: The percentage of recipients who open your email.
  • Click-Through Rate: The percentage of recipients who click on a link within your email, such as a demo link or a Calendly link to book a call with you.
  • Response Rate: The percentage of recipients who reply to your email.
  • Bounce Rate: The percentage of emails that do not make it to the recipient’s inbox; keeping this percentage low will help you avoid being flagged as spam.

Track these metrics on each type of email you send, then pull reports to compare their effectiveness. As you become more used to measuring your emails, add any other metrics you believe would be helpful to your cold emailing efforts, and continue to adjust your messaging accordingly.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is a Cold Email Considered Spam?

No, cold emails are not always considered spam, although there are some regulations with which you must comply. The Federal Trade Commission has classified spam as an Unsolicited Commercial Email, and they have specific criteria for what falls under that classification. 

The goal of the CAN SPAM regulations is to ensure that customers aren’t harassed or lied to by businesses. So, the regulations mostly cover transparency and giving the lead a way to opt out of hearing from you again. The guidelines you need to abide by are as follows:

  • Avoid false or misleading header information
  • Be honest in your subject lines
  • Clearly identify the message as an advertisement
  • Display your physical mailing address
  • Have a clear opt-out option
  • Honor opt-out requests promptly
  • Always monitor third party companies that communicate on your behalf

Any emails that can be considered commercial by either the sender or recipient have to abide by these regulations. Another way to ensure you comply with spam regulations is to personalize the email by using the recipient’s first name and demonstrating value to them. All of these strategies will ensure that you aren’t sending spam, and they also make your cold email better.

Should You Buy Email Lists?

Overall, we do not recommend the practice of buying email lists. Not only can they get expensive, but they are also illegal in some places, and can get your email marked as spam in others. We dive more deeply into the pros, cons, and alternatives in our guide to buying email lists, but all-in-all, it’s a route we would caution against taking.

Bottom Line

After reading this article, you should have a pretty good handle on the cold email process. Cold emailing is a vital aspect of lead generation and conversion, so don’t be afraid to go over this article a few times. Also be sure to visit the articles we link to, as the in-depth information will help you better understand the concepts and take action. Good luck out there!

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