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Cold email meaning: Risks and rewards out of the blue

Updated: Nov 2, 2023

Looking to expand your email marketing strategy further?

Cold emailing is the perfect way to get more from this popular marketing channel. In fact, the average cold email open rate stands at 44%, per QuickMail’s 2023 report.

But 8% of cold email campaigns have been shown to achieve open rates of 80% or more.

This goes to show how cold emails can perform outstandingly when done right.

It’s important to master the art of cold emailing by understanding the dos and don’ts to execute it correctly and get the most out of your cold marketing initiatives.

In this article, we’ll explain what cold email marketing is, why it’s worth incorporating into your campaign and how to build a successful cold email strategy that generates leads effectively.

Let’s get started.

Cold email meaning: Risks and rewards out of the blue

What is a cold email?

Starting from the top, cold emails are defined as: An email that aims to gain sales benefits and opportunities from recipients who have no prior relationships or connections with the sender.

Basically, cold emails function as an excellent way to reach out to new potential customers and introduce them to your brand.

Here’s an example of what one could look like:

“Hi [Name],

Don’t let [subject] keep wasting your time.

[Company name] provide [industry] solutions for [target audience] who experience [common pain point]. Our product/service combats [common paint point] by [product function].

Want to see how [product] gives back an hour of your day every day? Sign up for our free demo to try it out for yourself!”

Cold email marketing vs. traditional email marketing

Cold emails are unlike regular forms of email marketing. They’re unsolicited and target unfamiliar prospects, as opposed to loyal customers.

Here are the key differences to take note of:

  1. The goal: Cold email marketing sets out to generate new leads and increase brand awareness by reaching out to unassociated recipients and introducing their company. On the other hand, traditional marketing emails are specifically sent to loyal customers who subscribe to the company’s emails to nurture established consumer relationships and drive sales.

  2. Email frequency: Traditional marketing emails are typically sent once or twice per month to prevent subscribers from opting out of campaigns. With cold emails, recipients usually receive a high frequency of follow-up emails to grab their attention. It’s important to note that the more emails you send a recipient, the more likely they are to feel disrespected by your company. Make sure to strategize your cold email frequency wisely.

  3. Personalization techniques: The best cold marketing is done on a 1-to-1 basis. Where traditional marketing targets segmented groups based on elements like age and location, cold marketing often involves highly personalized email copy to provide a bespoke sales pitch to the new prospect.

  4. Metrics and KPI targets: Both forms of marketing focus on key metrics such as deliverability, open rates and click-through rates, but cold email campaigns also measure response rates to evaluate the success of their interaction efforts.

  5. Purpose of tools: Traditional email marketing methods rely on tools to generate content and assess campaign performance, whereas cold emails require a selection of tools to find new recipients, build mailing lists, verify active email addresses and warm up emails.

Warming up your emails is an integral part of a successful cold marketing strategy.

As deliverability plays such a significant factor in how you reach new prospects, it’s essential to ensure your emails dodge the spam folder and end up in the right place to promote your brand in a reputable and effective way.

Cold emails and spam: What’s the difference?

Although these two email types are targeted toward unfamiliar recipients, they are completely separate entities.

Unlike cold emails, spam emails contain unprofessional, inappropriate or untimely content, and are often sent in mass quantities. They are considered a very bad practice.

There are various aspects of cold emails that differentiate them from spam. These include:

  • Audience: Spam emails don’t discriminate. They’re sent to pretty much anyone with an email address. However, cold emails are targeted toward specific audiences based on factors such as demographic and behavior.

  • Style: You can usually spot a spam email from a mile away. They have a generic, robotic tone that often contains off-putting messaging, like emoji overuse or all caps. Cold emails take on a personable, conversational tone to engage email recipients.

  • Focus: Spam emails are broad, misleading and often contain false promises, whereas cold emails are concise, honest and realistic in their messaging to new customers.

  • Choice: With spam, there’s no way to back out of their emails. On the other hand, cold emails offer compliant opt-out options, so recipients can choose to reject communications from businesses.

Benefits of cold emailing

Many companies don’t announce their products and services right off the bat.

Some promote their newsletter to introduce themselves as thought leaders and generate interest in the organization; the sales hook comes later.

Though unsolicited emails may appear a little forward, cold email marketing has proven to be an excellent strategy for many businesses to improve brand visibility.

Here are some benefits of a cold email marketing strategy:


The email channel is already a cost-effective way to communicate with consumers, but cold emails are even cheaper.

At its core, all you need is a variety of email addresses, powerful messaging and a strong call to action.

You can utilize tools to expand your cold outreach, boost email deliverability and leverage your initiatives further for the best results.


Cold email capabilities enable you to specifically connect with people or businesses that match your target demographic.

Not only that, you can tailor messages to include individual consumer details, which helps to attract and engage recipients.


You can send as many emails as you wish with cold email marketing. It’s possible to contact thousands of email addresses with one singular motion.

Automation allows you to maintain email personalization while reaching substantial numbers of recipients.

3 reasons to try this marketing metric

1. Brand recognition

It doesn’t take a lot of work to increase brand visibility with cold emails, especially if you send follow-up messages.

Effectively communicating your message supports the journey from new prospect to potential customer, which is enough to generate interest in your brand and convert sales further down the line.

2. Networking opportunities

Cold emailing lets you establish partnerships with other businesses for B2B opportunities.

Following corporate events, such as conferences, fundraisers and summits, you can connect with high-ranking employees to nurture new relationships.

It’s also possible to touch base with potential recruitment candidates who may be the perfect fit for your company.

3. Boosted traffic and sales

Sharing events, webinars and whitepapers via cold email is a great way to establish your brand as a thought leader.

This contributes to the number of attendees and boosts website engagement for your corporate material.

Tips to effectively execute cold email marketing

Identify your ideal customer profile (ICP)

To construct compelling emails for better open rates, it’s important to know exactly who to target.

If you send cold emails to recipients who won’t benefit from your products or services, it’s unlikely your emails will perform well.

Make sure to conduct thorough research to identify your ICP. Create a list of ideal characteristics for your audience, such as:

  • Industry.

  • Department.

  • Location.

  • Revenue.

Build your lead list

Once you’ve built an ICP for your cold email campaign, it’s time to start working on your lead list.

Consider purchasing email lists to fill your contact repository. Various B2B services sell email addresses to provide a rich collection of prospects.

Be wary of how sellers acquired these emails though, and do what you can to ensure legitimacy.

Develop a subject strategy

Cold emails rely on strong subjects for great open rates.

According to a Backlinko study, subject lines between 36-50 characters get the best response rate, with 51-70 coming in a very close second.

This provides a helpful guideline to work toward for better engagement.

Dos and don’ts for unsolicited email success

For a successful cold email marketing campaign, it’s important to understand what you should and shouldn’t do. Let’s break these down.


  • Sound generic In the early days of cold emails, marketers used to adopt a one-size-fits-all philosophy, but that simply won’t work anymore. Emails with a generic tone may get missed or skipped as there’s nothing in the message that grabs the receiver’s attention — especially in an inbox full of up-to-date, automated marketing emails. To get better results from your cold email outreach, make sure your emails are as personalized as possible to catch the eye of your audience.

  • Drabble on The last thing email recipients want from a cold email is to read lengthy paragraphs. Remember, these communications are unsolicited, so keep them brief for the best results. To refrain from saying too much, break down your copy into three key sections: problem, product and purpose.

  • Breach compliance Email compliance is one of the key elements that differentiate cold emails from spam. There are various regulations in place to protect email users from unwanted offensive or inappropriate content through marketing channels — the main being the CAN-SPAM Act. To learn about its privacy measures, you can find more information here.


  • Check your mailing list A common issue among email marketers is unhygienic mailing lists. This means the addresses on your email list aren't valid or correctly inputted, which has a major knock-on effect on deliverability. The more unsuccessful deliveries from your campaign, the worse your sender score becomes. Email service providers (ESPs) are then more likely to flag your business email as spam, so your cold marketing initiatives never see the light of day. Be sure to check your email lists to clean up your data hygiene.

  • Stick to a structure Don’t wing your cold email strategy. Ensure your email copy has a clear, concise structure to get to the point, avoid repetition and make an impact. Your structure should go as follows: address the issue, construct a value proposition and have a strong finisher. Make sure to use power and trigger words to boost your emails’ potential.

  • Warm up your IP address If your IP address isn’t achieving good email delivery, you’ll need to do a warm-up to build your sender reputation. There are various ways to go about email warm-ups, such as contacting your most responsive customers to support your campaign engagement. This task is essential to a successful email campaign, but it’s not one that’s easily done alone.

Key Takeaway: Warm up your cold emails

Warm emails enable you to gain the trust of ESPs and boost deliverability.

Warming up your emails can help you build a healthy brand reputation and increase your sender score. With the help of a consistent warm-up service, you can elevate your brand to a stronger position and get verified as a legitimate sender.

Warmup Inbox are the perfect people for the job. We’ll send your cold emails to over 20,000 real inboxes, manually open and respond to them to build your brand’s reputation and remove all spam-triggered emails from your campaign.

At WarmUp Inbox, we strive to bring your email campaign to good health. That’s why we also report technical details, such as DMARC, DKN and SPF settings, to take you a step further. As time passes, you’ll begin to see your cold outreach campaign succeed and grow.

Find out more about how our platform works, or sign up today for free!

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