The Ultimate Cold Email Outreach Guide You Need

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No, it isn’t just you. Cold email outreach is getting harder. According to a Hubspot customer acquisition study, it’s more difficult to get a response from prospects, connect via cold email, and close deals than it used to be a few years ago.

Take a look at these stats:

Source: Hubspot Research

No wonder only 24% of cold sales emails ever get opened when we know that an average email user receives 147 emails daily and deletes almost half of them in less than five minutes.


If done right, cold email outreach can still be a super powerful sales prospecting tactic. Not only can it help you increase revenue, achieve higher CTR, open and response rates, but build long-lasting lucrative professional relationships.

Eager to learn how? We bet you are. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll teach you all you need to know to help you stay on top of your cold email outreach game. You can use it as your reference for designing, creating, and implementing cold email campaigns that will help you generate new leads and boost sales. 

What Is Cold Email Outreach?

Cold email outreach is an effective and budget-friendly outbound sales prospecting technique for generating leads. In this approach, you will use a cold email, i.e. a personalized email message to initiate a conversation and kickstart a relationship with prospective customers you had no previous contact with. 

Once you’ve initiated this relationship, it’s a lot easier to nurture the prospects who respond to your cold emails, and gradually convert them into customers over time. That’s what cold email campaigns are meant to do! 

Is It Legal to Send Cold Emails?

YES, it is legal to send cold emails. Indeed.

Although it may be technically considered unsolicited, cold email is NOT SPAM as long as it is:

  • Personalized and has an appropriate subject line.
  • It contains the sender’s real name and valid contact details (job title, phone number, links to the website, and social media profiles).
  • Includes a clearly stated specific request accompanied by customized content that offers real value to the recipient.
  • It is crafted to start a conversation and build trust rather than push someone into direct sales aggressively.

The USA CAN-SPAM Act is undoubtedly the document you must be familiar with so that you know all the rules of using cold email in your business in compliance with the law. 

What Is a Good Open Rate for Cold Email Outreach?

25% or more is a good open rate for your cold email outreach campaign and if you hit over 37%, consider your campaign very successful. 

Your email open rates can help you set more precise and realistic goals for your future cold email outreach campaigns based on your particular industry average stats. However, email open rates can sometimes be misleading so it’s better to focus on real performance metrics such as the response rate for your cold emails. 

What Is a Good Cold Email Response Rate?

Since the average response rate for cold emails is around 1%, good cold email response rates can vary greatly from around 5% for some sales emails to 20% or even over 40%. The higher, the better, of course! 

For instance, if your response rate is around half of your open rate, then it can be considered good.

In short, there’s no single universal answer to what is a good response rate for cold emails. It primarily depends on your cold email outreach specific goals, audience, industry, and your skills and experience. 

But here’s the good news:

You’re about to learn how to create killer cold email copy step-by-step so that you maximize your cold email response rate.

When Should You Send a Cold Email?

According to some recent stats, the best time of the day to send a cold email is either between 5 and 6 am or between 7 and 9 pm. This is evident in the image below: 

On the other hand, GetResponse, a marketing software company, claims that the best time to email prospects is between 8 am and 3 pm. Clearly, every company will have its own unique suggestion on the best times to email cold prospects. 

Now, are you wondering what day is best to send cold emails? 

According to another study linked below, Monday and Wednesday turned out to be the best days of the week to send a cold email, since they showed the highest open rates. 

Source: Sales Email Secrets

However, there’s no universal rule which works for everyone. It all depends on what exactly you want to achieve, what your recipients are like, which time zone you’re operating in and many other relevant factors.  

Remember – no magic formula, hour or day will do unless you craft your cold email perfectly. 

The Perfect Cold Email Outreach Campaign: All The Necessary Steps

There are several essential steps you should never skip if you want to create and implement a cold email campaign that actually works!

  1. Set your cold email outreach campaign goals and make sure the results are measurable.
  2. Identify and research your target prospects, and gather the necessary data points about them.
  3. Create a personalized cold email copy that will spike the interest of your leads. 
  4. Double-check everything’s in place before you send your emails.
  5. Never underestimate the power of follow-up emails.
  6. Always perform split testing and monitor results to make sure what works.

Now that you know the key ingredients, all you need to do is follow the steps in this guide. Let’s dive deeper into each step.

Step 1: Prepare For Cold Email Outreach by Setting Your Goals

First things first. The foundation of effective cold email outreach is that you first determine the desired results of your campaign so that you can plan it carefully. You must decide what your ideal outcome is before you start working on the nitty-gritty of your campaign. 

So, figure out what EXACTLY you want to achieve with your campaign and HOW you want to make your results measurable. This means you must decide the KPIs that will decide the level of success of your campaign.

Why are you sending that cold email? To sell your product or service? To schedule a meeting?

What is your desired goal? 

Answering the questions below will help you gain clarity over your goals: 

  • What product or service are you selling? (make your offering specific – go for a single goal)
  • Who would be interested in your offering? i.e. which company to approach, whom exactly to email there – define your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and Buyer Personas.
  • When is the perfect moment for reaching out to your prospects?
  • How many follow-up emails are you going to send them and in what sequence? 
  • Gather in-depth insights into your prospects’ current objectives, needs, and issues, how your product or service can help them to resolve their problem, what motivates them, etc. so that you can personalize your cold email pitch. 
  • Create a system to keep track of every prospect (which step each one is currently in and what your following steps with them involve) and the effectiveness of your campaign (open, response, click-through rates, etc.)?

Step 2: Identify Your Potential Customers

You don’t want to be seen as a nuance whose email ends up in the recipient’s spam folder, do you? That goes without saying. Never base your cold email outreach campaign on guesswork! 

Instead, do thorough research and leave no stone unturned when identifying your potential customers i.e. ideal prospects. The more you know about their fears, aspirations, dreams, and goals, the more you’ll be able to fine-tune your cold email campaign. 

First, find the right person in the right company department to speak to. 

You can identify your potential customers in different ways such as:

  • Performing research to build custom B2B lead lists.
  • Checking their LinkedIn profiles to find out more about their interests and careers.
  • Searching for Tweets where people are asking for help with a problem you may help them solve. 
  • Exploring relevant Facebook Fan Pages where people may ask for the help you can provide with your specific product or service. 
  • Asking your existing customers for referrals
  • Finding your competitors’ customers will help you understand who your customers could be. 
  • Review job descriptions of your ideal prospects if you’re targeting a B2B audience.

Mark’s advice: Checking job adverts and descriptions on a monthly basis is a great way to understand more about your prospects’ motivations, challenges, fears, and desires. You can save job alerts on LinkedIn to receive these in your inbox. 

Ensure you get to know your prospects better before you reach out to them. Figure out how your company’s product or service can provide value to them. 

In other words, understanding your potential customer’s needs so that you can address their pain points more precisely is key! 

It‘s also a good idea to interact with your target prospects and monitor their buying signals via social media or other channels BEFORE cold emailing them. Notice whether they:

  • Liked or followed your company page (or your competitors’ perhaps)
  • Viewed your profile
  • What content they shared
  • What post they liked and commented on
  • Asked a question relevant to your offering in a forum
  • Accepted connection request.

Mark’s advice: Follow the company and individuals on LinkedIn so you can see any updates from them on a regular basis.

Wondering why such extensive knowledge of your ideal customer is so critical? 

Because it helps you to better qualify leads.

When you’re sure they’re the perfect fit for your company’s offer, collect their names and contact details, validate and organize them neatly in a spreadsheet. 

Here’s how you can find your potential customer’s email address quickly:

  • Search Google for their name, business website or social media profiles as they may contain their email address. If you don’t know their names, you can search for their designation or their interests. For a B2B audience, it’s possible to use a tool LinkedIn offers it’s premium members by the name of “Sales Navigator” to generate lists of prospects as per your predefined criteria.
  • Try to figure out a standard format of the target company’s email addresses by doing a Google search for the company’s domain name plus “email” or “contact”. Many companies use [email protected] format or similar so it’s not impossible to guess it. Once you’ve nailed the correct email address, you can generate email addresses for specific companies you’re sending out your email campaign to.
  • Also, you can use Email Address Guesser or any other similar tool to help you generate accurate email addresses. Usually, such tools are available as plugins for your internet browser, so you can search for email addresses directly from someone’s social profile.
  • Use paid search services such as Spokeo which contains large searchable databases of email addresses. You can also buy custom lead lists from a reliable lead research service.

Once you’ve gathered the emails you want to send your emails out to, always remember to verify the email addresses from your list. There are a bunch of verification tools you can use for this purpose like BriteVerify, Atomic Email Verifier or Kickbox

Verification is vital to the success of your cold email outreach because it greatly influences your email deliverability. The last thing you want is half your emails bouncing back to your inbox or being marked as spam by unverified email recipients.   

If your cold emails get marked as spam too many times, your email address can become blacklisted, which prevents your email message from getting accepted by other email addresses. 

That’s why it’s critical to ensure that no typos or fake accounts are found on your email list.

Verifying email addresses will confirm that you’ve collected adequate quality data, i.e. there’s a real person behind the data so that you’re not compromising the security of your cold email outreach goals.  

You’re done with this phase when you’ve compiled the email addresses of your prospective customers and made sure you have a relevant reason to contact them. 

Step 3: Craft Compelling Cold Email Copy

Your cold email recipient is a person, not a robot. So, your goal is to evoke a strong desire in them to do what you want them to do. 

Why? Because your chances to close sales deals increase when you trigger the right emotions and make people act based on them. That’s why you need a personalized and unique cold email copy. So, how do you write a cold email to get responses and drive conversions? 

#1 – Spark Curiosity With a Killer Subject Line, Preview Text and Opening Line for Better Opening Rates

Are you aware of the true power of outstanding cold email subject lines? According to Optinmoster, 47% of email recipients decide whether to open your email or not based on the subject line and over 69% of email recipients decide whether to mark an email as spam or not based on the subject line.  

The first impression greatly matters, right?

Now you see why you need to craft nothing but the best cold outreach email subject lines which will hook the reader’s eye instantly and not annoy them?

The key is in making your cold email subject lines:

  • Super clear
  • Brief (preferably under five words i.e. up to 60 characters) 
  • Informative 
  • Highly relevant to your prospect’s needs (presenting how your solution can help them without any fake promises or trying to oversell)
  • Compelling (be careful to avoid spammy language e.g. symbols like $$$, !!!!!, and words like free, discount and similar)
  • Original
  • Natural  
  • Personalized and
  • Evoke a sense of urgency.

Emails that include the first name of the recipient in their subject line had a higher clickthrough rate than those that don’t.

Source: Hubspot

There are plenty of other valuable expert tips and tricks on this topic, but some of them are contradictory, which means you need to try and test until you find out what works best for YOU. 

Still, we’ll share with you some general expert cold email subject line tips which can help you substantially increase your open rate.

The same tips above should be applied to your cold email opening line (the first sentence) and preview text or preheader because these components should all work together towards the same goal – getting your cold email opened, read, and responded to, instead of getting ignored. 

Thus, your introduction has to be clear, honest, to the point, and focused on what you can do for the recipient rather than on what you want from them.

Make sure your subject lines don’t have any embarrassing spelling mistakes! Preview your emails by sending a copy of your first email to yourself. That way you’ll know exactly how your leads will view your email, so you can prevent any blunders from happening.

Furthermore, bear in mind that many people nowadays open emails on mobile devices and your message will often be truncated. 

35% of business professionals check email on a mobile device.

Source: Convince&Convert, 2018

Since you want the recipients to see the full message, it’s necessary that your subject line, opening line, and preview text are perfectly optimized for mobile users unless you want the effect below (which we doubt). 

Source: Zurb

Zurb’s TestSubject is a handy free tool you can use to test how recipients will see your subject and opening lines before you hit the Send button. Craft a Personalized Cold Email

If the purpose of your subject and the opening line is to grab the recipient’s attention and get your cold email opened, your email body text is aimed at delivering on your promise(s) made in the first few lines and encouraging the desired action. 

Here are several tips on what to take into special consideration at this phase:

  • Ensure your message sounds genuine and natural which will enable you to make real human connections with your prospects.
  • Keep the text crystal clear and focused on your value proposition i.e. briefly say who you are, how you can solve your prospect’s problem and why they should care about the benefits you can provide for them. Your pitch could include specific numbers related to free trial, demo, tools, webinars, resources or anything similar offers.
  • Show them that you respect their time by writing a concise and to-the-point message (ideally 50 to 125 words, i.e. 2-3 short paragraphs) containing only the necessary information that is easily scannable. 
  • Always remember to personalize every single bit of your cold email. 
  • Tell the recipient exactly what you want from them by including a precise Call-to-Action 
  • Don’t forget to edit and proofread your copy before sending it as well as to double-check its quality, length, and how it will be displayed on various devices.
  • Stay away from ALL CAPS, excessive punctuation (exclamation marks in particular), poor grammar, and attachments because they often flag spam filters. However, using emojis sparingly especially in your subject lines can increase your open rates. 
  • Make good use of power words (those evoking encouragement, fear, lust, greed, safety, e.g. agony, life-changing, annoying, money-saving, risk-free, embarrassing, forbidden, etc.) 
  • Don’t hesitate to employ some psychological tricks such as offering an immediate reward, showing the success of others, or FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) e.g. by creating a special offer with a deadline or focusing on what the recipients can lose if they don’t accept your offer.

#2 – Include a Precise CTA

The sole purpose of your Call-to-Action is to convince your cold email recipient to do what you want i.e. to trigger conversion through your CTA. 

So, what EXACTLY do you want them to do after reading your email? 

  • Do you want them to realize they need your service and pay you for it? 
  • Buy your product? 
  • Become your affiliate?
  • Sign up for your software?
  • Arrange a demo or meeting with you?

Of course, you want them to buy your product or service eventually, but it’s important that you don’t push them into purchase immediately before you build a steady relationship.

The key is in creating a succinct and ultra-specific CTA so that you don’t make your potential prospects guess. NEVER ever assume they’ll figure out for themselves what next steps you actually want them to take. 

It’s also important to point out that you’ll maximize your chances for success if you use one CTA per email making one specific offer. 

One study found that cold emails with just one CTA saw a 42% boost in click-through rate compared to the original email that had four CTAs. Another study discovered that displaying the CTA as a button compared to plain text improved the click-through rate by 28%.

Source: TaskDrive

#3 – Personalize Your Cold Email Messages the Right Way

Did you know that spicing up your cold email copy with a unique personal touch can do wonders for your open, click-through, and response rates?

Although it may sound like a tedious process to personalize every message when emailing hundreds of potential prospects, you must NOT overlook the proper personalization of your copy, and here’s why according to ZoomInfo stats:

Email personalization can increase your reply rate by 100%.

Source: Propeller

If you customize your messages when doing cold email outreach, you’re more likely to get a response and develop trust with the prospect, according to the latest Hubspot stats.

Screenshot source: Hubspot 

How to personalize your email messages the right way?

The first step of creating a well-personalized cold email is collecting data about your recipients’ needs and wants and including them into a neatly organized database and using that information to benefit and engage them. 

As a foundation for your highly tailored messages, besides names, it’s helpful to discover more details such as your recipients’: 

  • Location
  • Job title
  • Interests and hobbies
  • Favorites (animals, colors, sports, etc.)
  • School/university they went to
  • Common connections 
  • Club memberships
  • Recent challenges
  • Accomplishments 
  • Mentions on websites, videos, podcasts, or webinars

Weave a couple of these details into your email copy wisely so that they perfectly blend with the rest of the message and don’t make it obvious that you’re using a template. It’s advisable to use NO more than three pieces of your recipient’s personal information in one email.

The point is to learn something about your potential customers, go beyond writing only “Hey, [First Name]” and create messages connected with your prospects’ behavior and preferences they’ll find truly valuable and trustworthy. 

A common topic will help you to bond with your prospects more easily.

#4 – Include a Professional Email Signature

Many people often overlook the last chance to make a good impression – an interesting, creative and memorable sign-off accompanied by a professional email signature that should contain your:

  • Name 
  • Current position within the company
  • Physical address
  • Phone number
  • Company website link

What do you achieve by including your full name and other contact details in your email signature? 

You simply show the recipient that you’re a real human. 

Not only are you showing them how human and professional you are, but your email signature, which functions as your electronic business card, is compliant with the CAN-SPAM act previously mentioned in this guide. 

You can also take it a step further and add a short and sweet CTA (e.g. a calendar link to schedule a meeting with you) in your email signature to help you reiterate what you want from the recipient and drive more conversions. 

For instance, it may look like this: 

Also, you can add an original quote, tagline, or an important accomplishment to the signature to showcase your value, build trust and make your cold email more memorable.

What’s more, AVOID including too many redundant links and information such as several phone numbers or your email address into your cold email signature. 

Also, make sure you check the HTML footer of the signature. It must be neat because messy unorganized HTML which takes more space than the text of your message typically triggers the spam filters. 

Step 4: Perform a Sanity Check Before Hitting the Send Button

When you want to create an exceptionally effective cold email, you need to make sure that: 

  • You know what you want to achieve with your cold email and it’s clearly stated to the recipient too
  • You’re emailing the right person in the right company department and position and that they’re your ideal target prospect
  • Your cold email copy (including all its elements such as e.g. subject line, CTA or signature) is highly relevant to the recipient, attention-grabbing, properly personalized, straightforward, ultra-specific and persuasive
  • You never forget to proofread your cold email copy thoroughly and perform a sanity check before you send it 
  • Your email doesn’t contain any spammy elements
  • The timing for sending your cold email is perfect
  • You remember to follow up
  • You split test every bit of your cold email and measure the results until you find the magic formula that drives conversions for you.

However, once your cold email copy is ready, you’d also enormously benefit from asking yourself the following questions and answering them honestly. 

  • Does this email look like a real human or a robot sent it? Is it spammy? Does it sound like anyone could have sent it to anyone?
  • Am I trying to build a positive relationship or am I impatient, trying to push my prospects into sales too early and too hard?
  • Is my email body too wordy or am I respecting the recipient’s time and getting to the point quickly?
  • Is it crystal clear what exactly I want the recipient to do upon reading my email?
  • Is my email message properly displayed and easily consumable across all devices the recipients may use? (Have I used a tool to test it and make sure everything looks good?)
  • If I were in their shoes and received this email message from an unknown sender, would I consider it spam or would I open, read and act on it?
  • Am I expecting too much from the recipient? Am I asking them to make a huge commitment straightaway?

If everything looks good after this detailed check-up, your cold email outreach should probably work well. So, go ahead and good luck!

And remember that your job is NOT done after sending the first email. You’ve just started the magic journey.

Therefore, keep reading to find out why it matters to follow up and how to do it right.

Step 5: Remember to Send Follow-Up Emails

You shouldn’t be overly salesy or pushy when initiating the first contact with your potential customers in your first cold email, remember?

That’s why it’s not a good idea to try to close a deal immediately, but rather to warm them up, so that they notice you, reply to your first message and that you start building a trustworthy relationship. 

In other words, don’t give up after the first message but always send them follow-up emails

Not following up is one of the most common mistakes marketers and salespeople make. 

Did you know that sending more follow-up emails can triple your reply rate? Exactly! 

Now you may wonder how many follow-ups are acceptable to send. You certainly do NOT want to annoy or overwhelm your recipients.

Some experts advise that the ideal number of follow-up emails is around 8. Also, Propeller and many other studies have shown that most sales take up to 5 follow-ups to close. 

Source: Propeller

You need to follow up consistently but be careful not to drive your prospects crazy. Tend to do it after an event that might serve you as a trigger so that it looks more natural.

Another critical question that arises is how long you should wait before following up. 

Unfortunately, there’s no universal magic formula. Still, at least three or four days between follow-up emails is considered to be a reasonable time frame.

It’s also important to know that each follow-up message in your email sequence should NOT be repetitive or too salesy. And never assume that the recipient has read your previous email(s).

Instead, make sure you add some more value and gradually build trust with each follow-up email. Apply everything you’ve learned so far (engaging subject line, adequate personalization, CTA asking a question to give them a reason to respond, etc.) to create your follow-up copy, as well.

If you haven’t received a single response after a sequence of four to eight follow-up emails, it’s time for your last effort to grab their attention and kickstart a conversation – a breakup email. That’s when you’ll inform the recipient that you won’t be emailing them anymore if they don’t reply. 

Never end any communication abruptly.

Actually, it’s possible that they’ve been super busy to respond to you or that they forgot it, so make sure you don’t judge them or sound angry. Just make it clear that you are not going to email them anymore and that they can reach out to you anytime in the future, should they change their mind.

Finally, you’ve reached the last step of creating an effective and successful cold email outreach campaign. It’s only left to test everything you’ve done to see what works or not.

Step 6: Split Test Your Emails and Keep Track of the Results to Discover Top Performers

To determine the success of your cold email message, it’s necessary to track:

  1. Open rate – to see whether your subject line is working
  2. Response rate – to figure out whether your message is hitting the bull’s eye
  3. Conversion rate – if your message is aligned with your sale, higher open and response rates should naturally lead to increased sales.

You need to tweak your cold emails and then test different messages to realize which variations drive more clicks and sales. 

The more components you split test, the more valuable in-depth insights you’ll get, which will reveal your best-performing pieces. So, you could test your email: 

  • Subject lines
  • Opening lines 
  • Body copy 
  • CTAs
  • Timing 
  • Personalization 
  • The wording of your value proposition

until you come up with the winner. 

You must know which component(s) exactly you’re testing, how they affect your results, i.e. email success and then make it clear which two versions of the component you’re testing you’re going to compare so that you find out which one performs better.

Of course, after testing, you’ll need to tweak, optimize and test your cold emails again and again until you reach the desired result.

This process takes time, patience and tenacity, and includes the following steps:

  1. Pick one variable/component you’ll split test.
  2. Create two slightly different versions of that component.
  3. Determine clear criteria for your winning variant.
  4. Decide how long you’ll perform A/B testing.
  5. Split your target audience into two equally large groups.
  6. Present one group with variant A and the other group with variant B.
  7. Compare the two variants to find significant differences.
  8. Based on your test results, keep the version that worked better.

Mind you – it’s NOT wise to test many variables simultaneously because it’s almost impossible to isolate the effects of one variable in such a case. 

However, it’s advisable to start testing both variables at the same time so that the time difference doesn’t affect the results.

Now you’ve discovered the winning step-by-step formula for perfecting your cold email outreach strategy from the very beginning. 

Ready to implement it?

Let’s Wrap It All Up

With no proper planning and preparation, your cold email outreach is bound to fail. 

Fortunately, our guide makes it a breeze to take a proactive approach to your cold emails. 

Make sure your cold email copy is as good as possible and you’ll be favored with jacked up open, click-through, and response rates. Even better – you’ll be able to build long-term reliable business relationships.

To recap:

  1. Set clear goals, plan and prepare for your cold email outreach because planning is half of the hard work done.
  2. Identify your potential customers, do extensive research to get to know them better and gather their contact and other relevant details.
  3. Compose a compelling personalized cold email copy which is upfront, succinct, brings real value, and includes:
    1. Enticing preview text, subject, and opening lines
    2. Persuasive body
    3. Precise call-to-action
    4. Professional signature
  4. Always double-check and triple-check your cold email before you send it. 
  5. Don’t forget to follow up. 
  6. Do split or A/B testing and track results to find out what works best for you.

Now that you know all this, you can tell that cold email outreach isn’t rocket science, right? Still, if you have any questions or would rather we do lead research and generation for you, feel free to schedule a call and we’ll be happy to help you.

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