We all know that a spammy approach to cold emails just doesn’t cut it.
We’ve received enough spam in the past to know this, and most of us have bowed, on occasions, to pressure from above, and tried in vain to send them, with only poor engagement and the occasional angry response to show for it.
So why are we writing this guide?
Because cold email campaigns CAN work, if they are done in the right way (Yippee!)
So, like the perfect cold email, let’s just get on with it and give you the goodies…
Before you start:
There is some very important groundwork for you to do before you even open your email builder! Your research and pre-planning skills are going to give you the ultimate foundation for a killer cold campaign!
Get your audience right.
Proper targeting is what separates the spammer from the true cold emailer; taking the time to research your target audience is how you can tailor your message and give yourself the best chance of securing engagement.
There are many trusted companies out there, such as Prospect.io, Cognism and Linkedin sales navigator, that you can source leads by industry, interest, position etc. These leads can be sourced in bulk (which leaves room for error in our opinion), or individually cherry picked and fed into your automation/email engine through a third party tool like Zapier (this is what we do and also our recommendation)
You can define a target audience from whatever is most relevant to your business requirement, for example, the stage in your buying cycle, the buyer’s job title, technology, employment status, stage in the financial year etc
Set up your lead scoring.
Scoring your client’s engagement quantifies their responses to your campaign and allows you to use that information to further personalise their journey with you… giving you a higher success rate. You are literally listening and responding (that’s called a conversation in common parlance). As an example, someone that opens three of your emails (3 points) and clicks a particular link (2 points) will qualify themselves as ready for a call from your business development rep, based on their hitting a 5 point threshold.
You will need to discuss your lead scoring model with your sales and marketing teams before applying it within your marketing automation solution. Cross team consensus on what qualifies a lead in (or out) ensures that when leads are fed across to sales, there’s no ambiguity about why they’re qualified and they get followed up.
Here is our handy guide to lead scoring!
Through a mixture of target research and lead scoring, you should segment your audience to enable content personalisation on mass.
You can of course research every single person on the list you have built up and give them the most fantastic one to one experience, but do you have time for that?
No? Well, in that case you need to prioritise them. Who are the easy wins? Base this on existing customers, company objectives, research completed previously etc.
Through your audience research, you can segment particular interests to send them hyper relevant information, and through lead scoring and marketing automation, you can then segment further by their reaction to your emails.
*Kulea tip: here at Kulea we use our marketing automation software to Persona-lise our audience.
Taking recruitment as an example,
In step 1 you have segmented your audience into medical, educational and financial recruiters. Now you will send the people who fall into those 3 categories a targeted cold email with some tasty free-content to click on and a link to your website, to entice them to engage with you!
(engagement not only means you gain interest and trust from this reader, but it also means that your marketing automation can drop its little cookie on the reader’s device and begin to track that engagement across your email and website, giving you the information about their interests to target your marketing even further)
Find out WTF is Marketing Automation in here
Using lead scoring, you can understand how each of those individuals responds to your ‘blanket’ opening email. Those that open and ignore your content can be sent your ‘warm follow up email’ those who open and click on your link can be sent the ‘hot follow-up email’
When you expand your lead scoring to web engagement (as well as email engagement) you can see if that person who opened and ignored your email, then visited your website and is actually engaged! For the sake of this story… person X visited your website and looked specifically at your Medical Intern section… now you know this, you have another subcategory email to send them, which you know they are specifically interested in!
The mighty email:
Now you have the foundations securely in place, let’s look at the all-important email(s)
This is where your audience research comes in handy, in order for your email to be read, it needs to be relevant to your reader. Now you have categories and sub-categories of the audience, how can you target your email?
Can you find a common topic? A common connection in the industry or some recent industry news to talk about?
It doesn’t need to be much, just something to take the edge off of being a stranger to the reader, you’re beginning to establish a trusted connection.
Here in the Kulea office, we can’t stop talking about value-added content, and for good reason!
Whether it be in your personal life or in business, asking for something and offering nothing in return doesn’t usually give us the best outcome.
Right now you are asking this reader for their time, their attention, their commitment to consider your business. What are you going to give them in return?
Use your researched knowledge on their interests/category/industry to provide them with valuable content to make their life easier.
(We have another handy blog on value-added marketing right here)
Yes, size does matter, the smaller the better… you are not emailing a friend or college with a funny anecdote or update of your week, you are emailing a possibly irritated stranger overwhelmed by many other cold emails.
“One of the best ways to keep things short and direct is to write the way you’d talk. If you met this person at a cocktail party, you wouldn’t just walk up and start pitching them. You’d introduce yourself, say something nice, connect with them over a shared friend or interest, and then make a request that makes sense.” (Tucker Max, HBR.org)
So, keep it snappy, relevant, interesting and you are far more likely to be looked at during a busy day than an essay on a company they have never heard of.
This brings us nicely to making your email as easy to navigate as possible. There is a good possibility (if you’d done your targeting right!) that your reader will be interested in your company, but just doesn’t have the time to reach out any further.
Make your value gift easy to see, make communicating back with you easy with your details clearly visible, make meeting you easy with your available times to talk this week and a link to your calendar… make is so your recipient doesn’t need to think.
This is a hard one to master, but it can go a really long way.
Remember that you are sending an email to a stranger asking them to do something for you, make sure your tone is grateful that they have bothered to open your email, but do not grovel.
This is something to carry across your whole campaign!
Better still – make them smile. A joke and a laugh can go a long way towards breaking the ice with your first email.
Sending your email and beyond:
Now you are ready to send your email, when do you do it and what do you do after?
Technical set up
Here is some great advice from our friends over at Feedough.com about the differences between Spam and Cold Emailing:
Spam, that bane of mailboxes, has some common features.
- It has a generic sales message.
- It uses a fake name.
- It has a misleading subject line.
- It doesn’t include the sender’s contact information.
- It always has a commercial motive.
These stand in direct contrast to the features of a cold email.
- It has a specific message tailored to the recipient.
- It uses a real name.
- The subject line is accurate.
- It always includes the sender’s contact information.
- It may not necessarily have a commercial motive.
Not only is this a great checklist to go by, it also shows the importance of showing your true contact colours (highlighted in blue) that goes as deep as the sender domains, SFP and DKIM validation…
Um? What? We hear you say?
A good cold email is more than just relevant, targeted content and delivery. There are technical elements too.
If you’re sending bulk emails out through Mailchimp, and you’re using your Hotmail address as your send from domain, believe us, it’s not going to go down well (it’s like going out on a first date and trying to get your prospective partner to pick up the bill – it’s just cheap!).
More to the point, you don’t own the @Hotmail.com domain, Microsoft does, and Microsoft ain’t going to vouch for your spammy emails!
To get around this issue, you’ll need to send from your own company registered domain (or sub-domain if you’re going to be bulk emailing and are unsure of your list hygiene), and you’ll need to vouch for your email platform, to say it’s okay for them to send emails on your company’s behalf. You can do this by adding SPF and DKIM records to your domain. Full instructions on how to add DNS records to your Kulea account are a available here.
Have you ever bought something, then a few days later received a marketing email with 20% off that thing you just bought? That is the epitome of a badly timed marketing email!
Timing is super important for your cold email campaign, so you reach your audience at the best time for them, to give you the best chance of engagement.
Email 1 can be based on industry-standard and your own company testing (unless you have a specific, timed-based offer such as a discount to a conference in your email that can dictate your sending schedule)
According to entrepreneur.com, the best time to send an email is Tuesday at 10am (this is also the view shared by the awesome Steve Kemish, who swears it started as a joke that snowballed out of control). The reality of email deliverability is a lot more nuanced than this though.
Are you sending B2B emails to entrepreneurs and CEO’s (in which case, 8am is generally a good time to send, before everyone else gets into the office) or average workers or B2C consumer emails? Is the goal of your email to gain opens, click-throughs or replies?
Its best to give it a good old Google search to get some ideas, but even more important to do a regular AB test to find out what works for you specifically.
Follow up emails can be based on engagement:
Unopened or opened but not clicked? Suggest gentle follow up email 3 or 4 days later.
Opened and clicked or browsed a particular part of your website? Give it 12 to 24 hours before you send your relevant follow up, whilst you are still on their mind, but don’t want to look like a stalker!
Filled out a form on your website or directly from the email? Here you need to respond immediately with the thing they have signed up for, however, give it a day or two before you then follow that email up so you don’t look too pushy.
Persistence and patience
According to emailanalytics.com
“4-7 emails in sequence can triple your reply rate. The same study found that sending 1 to 3 emails in sequence got a reply rate of 9 percent, while sending 4 to 7 got an average reply rate of 27 percent. It’s a major indication that persistence and consistency can be very rewarding in sales emails.”
Also, 5 emails is the ideal number. A separate study confirmed that multiple emails are almost universally better, with 5 being the magic number.
The key here is patience, you are starting a relationship here from scratch without the bonus of any verbal or one to one contact. It is highly unlikely that your first email will get you straight to your end goal, so maintain a patient level of persistence!
Listen to the responses
Finally, with all of this background work, targeting and marketing automation analytics, don’t forget to LISTEN and create your emails and content around what you hear (well, see)
The most important point of this whole process is to understand what your potential prospect wants. If they don’t want your product in the end then ok, move on.
But you want to make sure you’ve given the right amount of attention, value and information they require to make an informed decision, without scaring them off.
And if they don’t want what your offering now, the knowledge you have given to them (and the fact that you’re tracking their engagement in the future) will make sure your top of their list when they do!
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