A cold email is an email that’s sent without prior permission from or contact with the recipient. In many respects, a cold email is the same as a cold phone call – it’s just much less intrusive. This means it’s almost unanimously favored by both the sender and sendee.

cold email with polar bear

Cold email shouldn’t be confused with spam emails, which are sent to countless addresses at once, without researching the relevancy of the recipient or confirming that the email address itself even exists.

In contrast, a cold email is generally sent to a qualified prospect, meaning that at least some research has been done on whether the recipient is a fit – and that email address has been confirmed.

But does cold email work? And is it worth it?

In short: yes.

89% of marketers say that email is their primary channel for lead generation, and for good reason. Cold email is an awesome tool for all businesses because it’s affordable, scalable, and effective. These benefits are even more apparent for small businesses.

Here’s how small businesses can start leveraging cold email to grow their business in five simple steps.

Step 1: Build Your Email Lists

Warning – obvious statement ahead: Before you can execute a cold outreach campaign, you need people to contact.

At this stage, make sure you target a focused customer persona. To define that, begin by summarizing the characteristics of your best customers. Customer personas will help increase the relevance of your cold emails and increase your odds of getting a response.

There are a number of methods you can use to prospect for leads. You might choose to use one, some, or all of them. The most common form of prospecting, however (and where most small businesses are likely to start), is manual prospecting.

Manual Prospecting

Manual prospecting is time-consuming. On the other hand (if we forget for a minute that time = money), it’s free.

It also generally results in the highest quality of lists, with the most qualified prospects. That’s purely because no tool can replace human intuition for who is and isn’t a fit.

You can prospect manually using a multitude of tools, from Google for a simple search to Twitter and LinkedIn for targeted queries, like in the example below.

cold email manual prospecting options in LinkedIn

Image Source

Tim Watson, email marketing consultant at Zettasphere, underscores the importance of diligent research in his own experience sending cold emails. “While permission-based emails need to be relevant, cold emails need to be personalized,” says Watson. “I often see open rates of over 40% on cold emails when I personalize my outreach with highly relevant information that I find in my prospect research.”

And a word to the wise: Don’t be tempted into buying data to quickly build your list of prospects. The data will be incomplete, inaccurate, and ineffective. You’ll also likely run into deliverability issues that can negatively affect your domain’s reputation, which will make it harder to reach inboxes in the future.

Bottom line: You need to put in good, quality time with this mode of prospecting. And you definitely need to capture it within your customer relationship management system. That spreadsheet titled “Cold Prospects 2018” may work for you. But siloed data becomes useless data very, very quickly.

Step 2: Learn How to Write a Great Email

Some articles make writing cold emails sound easy – as easy as adjusting a template someone used successfully five years ago and hitting send.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

For one, using someone else’s template doesn’t constitute writing your own email. There’s also a good chance that by recycling templates, you’re sending emails your recipients have already seen. In other words, your insincerity will be plainly obvious, and your email will instantly be deleted (or worse – labeled as spam).

cold email spam

In practice, writing a good – or great – cold email is a skill. It’s a skill that comes more naturally to some than others, but it can be learned.

To get started, you should to learn how to do the following.

Craft Enticing Subject Lines

The right subject line depends on the contents of your email, your goals for the email, and who you’re contacting.

However, as a general rule, this means that you should:

  • Be concise.
  • Invite curiosity.
  • Be honest (i.e. not tricking recipients into opening your emails by misleading them).

You can learn more about crafting effective cold email subject lines here.

Write an Interesting and Convincing Email Body

As with subject lines, the rules here depend on the goal of your email and who you’re emailing. The more qualified a lead, the easier it should be to capture and keep their attention. This means that when you’re sending cold emails to these prospects, you can get away with writing longer and more detailed emails.

You should still be keeping cold emails as concise as possible, but the more relevant your product is to your lead, the more leeway you have when writing your email.

But let’s take a step back.

Regardless of who you’re emailing, there are a few boxes all your messages should tick. Every email should:

  • Clearly explain the purpose of your email.
  • Answer “What’s in it for me?” by demonstrating why your recipient should care.
  • Avoid using first person pronouns like “I”, “we” or “our,” and use words like “you” and “yours” instead.

Tell Your Recipient What You Want to Happen Next

All emails should end with a closing statement that acts as a call to action and tells the recipient what you want to happen next.

The trick here is to avoid being pushy or presumptuous. This is a cold email. This person has never spoken to you and may well never have heard of you. Do you really think they’d like a “quick call” with you next Tuesday at 2:15?

Probably not.

They might, however, be open to receiving more information via email, especially if you can personalize that information with something like a custom demo video.

This does depend on the exact nature of the “cold” email, though. Someone who’s been on your site, consumed your content, and voluntarily added themselves to your email list might actually appreciate a phone call at this stage of the sales cycle.

Decide on an appropriate CTA by putting yourself in the recipient’s shoes. How would you respond if you were in their position and received this email? What would you want to happen next?

Step 3: Let Your Email Signature Do the Rest of the Talking

Your email signature is an essential yet often overlooked marketing tool that can transform a good email into a terrific one.

Email signatures are especially relevant when it comes to cold emails because it’s an unobtrusive way to direct the recipient to more of your content. How? Dynamic email signatures can easily embed media (like a YouTube video) or link to your social media channels, blog, website, and more.

When your team is sending out cold emails, make sure to use an email signature management tool so that your entire team is sending a unified message. Your signature can promote your upcoming event, webinar, ebook, whitepaper, or any content you choose.

See the signature examples below for inspiration.

cold email signature example

cold email signature example two

Step 4: Scale Your Cold Email Strategy

Scaling cold email is a given for most businesses, but it’s even more important for small businesses that can’t afford to squander cash on campaigns that are unnecessarily labor-intensive.

If your outreach efforts currently involve sending emails directly from an inbox and tracking progress in a spreadsheet, I can guarantee you’re not being as efficient or effective with your outreach as you could be.

Invest in a tool like Mailshake or Mailchimp so you can create segmented campaigns, make effective use of templates (and personalize them with ease), and schedule follow-up emails:

cold email segmented lists

Example of segmented campaigns in Mailshake (courtesy of eClincher)

By using an email marketing tool, you’ll also be able to track open rates, responses, and link clicks. You can even see at a glance which subject lines and templates are getting the best (and worst) results.

Score Your Leads

It’s no secret that personalization has a big impact on how recipients respond to emails. It’s also not news to most that you can’t write a completely bespoke email to every contact, at least when you’re trying to scale.

But we need to be putting some effort into personalizing emails, so what’s the answer?

Lead scoring.

Scoring leads helps you determine how much you should personalize an email. The higher the score, the more effort you should put into personalization.

Typical metrics for scoring leads include things like:

  • Industry, job role, and seniority.
  • Whether they currently use a competitor’s product.
  • Whether or not you’ve had contact with them before.

You can then assign scores to leads in an outreach tool and use that score to determine whether you’ll:

  • Use simple merge fields to personalize according to name and company.

cold email mail merge

Step 5: Follow Up with Your Prospects

Don’t assume that someone isn’t interested if they don’t reply to your first email. You don’t need to wipe them from your contacts list yet. Getting the cold shoulder on your first message is not the exception; it’s the norm.

In fact, one study found that while 18% of recipients responded to the first email they were sent, 27% replied to the sixth email.

Of course, there’s a knack to sending effective follow-up emails.

Don’t Spam

Leave a bigger gap between each email you send. It’s fine to send your first follow-up two or three days after your initial email. You should probably be waiting a few weeks between sending emails five and six.

Avoid Generic Templates

You know the type I mean:

cold email template

Image Source

Most recipients will have seen it all before and are going to pay no attention to your plea for a reply.

Keep it simple, human, and, where possible, personalized.

Use Sequences

Don’t send follow-up emails by hand (except, perhaps, to those few, super-highly-qualified leads). It’s a huge waste of time when most outreach tools make it really easy to create follow-up sequences.

Cold Emails Can Grow Your Business – If They’re Linked to Your Other Sales Channels

cold email as a part of your sales funnel

Image Source

Your initial email is just step one in successfully closing a sale with a cold contact. You are still responsible for moving the lead through the sales funnel.

While I’ve touched on the fact that your first email shouldn’t necessarily be followed by a phone call, that escalation will need to happen at some point in order for the sale to progress. That’s because while email is great for opening doors, it’s often impersonal and unsuitable for closing high-level deals.

Unfortunately, a common mistake is separating email from all other stages of the sales process.

In only the very smallest companies will the same person be sending that initial outreach email and shaking on the final deal in the boardroom. Unless you’re in one of those companies, you simply cannot get away with allowing sales channels to exist in isolation.

Use email as your first touch point, and then nurture leads through your sales pipeline using other channels (namely the phone, and in-person meetings) – just don’t depend on different members of your team to communicate effectively with each other during any hand-offs. It’s a poor use of their time, and it’s incredibly unreliable. The odds that all relevant information will get passed on are pretty much zilch.

So what’s the answer?

While I’d love to offer you up a choice of solutions, there’s only one that really works: a CRM.

Now, over to you – do you use cold emails in your sales process? If not, why not?