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Cold Email Outreach: The Ultimate Guide

Updated: Nov 26, 2023

Knocking on someone’s door without being invited is always risky.

Even if you look good, dress well, stand at a respectable distance and practice your sales pitch, there’s every chance the door will be slammed in your face after you’ve barely cracked a smile.

That’s the peril of cold outreach — sending an email to contacts that haven’t subscribed.

We’d like to offer some cold email outreach guidance so you have the very best chance of success right off the bat.

What Is Cold Email Outreach?

Just like it sounds, cold email outreach is the process of contacting potential clients or partners via email without any prior relationship or interaction.

The problem with this? Knocking on someone’s door without being invited is always risky. Even if you look good, dress well, stand at a respectable distance, and practice your sales pitch, there’s every chance the door will be slammed in your face after you’ve barely cracked a smile.

That’s the peril of cold outreach — sending an email to contacts who haven’t subscribed.

You’ll often hear that messaging prospects out of the blue is irritating, useless, and can do more harm than good for your brand’s reputation.

Really, though, there is a case to be made for cold email outreach. You just have to be extremely aware of what to say and how to approach it.

On the surface, cold emailing sounds a lot like cold calling — a perpetual annoyance.

Since the prospect doesn’t know who you are, they may seem more likely to ignore you and do the equivalent of hanging up: deleting the email or flagging you as spam.

Both of these responses will harm your email sender score. It’s easy to spend a lot of time finding cold contacts and crafting a convincing message only to squander the opportunity accidentally.

However, cold emailing has plenty of advantages.

Take a healthy cold open rate, for instance. Sales execution platform Outreach suggests this might be as high as 27%, which is larger than the 21% average quoted in Campaign Monitor’s 2022 Email Benchmarking Report.

Provided that email doesn't look like spam, these numbers make sense.

Unexpected messages stoke our curiosity. We want to know why someone thinks we’re worth contacting, and since it’s not a cold call that demands a two-way interaction, we can read an email without any pressure to respond.

Even if recipients don’t reply right away, there’s a reason to keep trying. A Backlinko study reveals that following up with a prospect can double your cold email open rate.

Persistence, relevance, and personality might pay off. Just like nurturing a qualified email marketing contact, cold outreach has the potential to nudge someone toward a conversion over several weeks or months.

It doesn't have to be a direct sale, either. Cold email marketing can help build a partner network, offer invitations for networking or event speaker/sponsor slots, or simply ask people to share your content to other, more relevant readers.

It’s a huge win if you do manage to take a sales email further toward an actual conversation.


Because you’ve pulled off the incredible task of making someone interested in your business without them necessarily having much or even any awareness of what you do and how your offering can benefit them.

Hot leads might be very interested in a purchase, hire, subscription, or follow-up, more so than contacts you’ve spent a long time shepherding through the conversion funnel.

A bit unsure about how to get started? Keep reading!

How to Make Your Cold Email Outreach Work (Our 12 Steps)

Navigating the world of cold email outreach can often feel overwhelming.

But fear not! With the right strategies in place, you can turn those cold leads into warm conversations.

We'll guide you through a 12-step journey, meticulously crafted to elevate your cold email game and ensure you're not just sending messages into the void, but creating meaningful connections.

Step 1: Find your audience

The first step to cold email outreach is getting that all-important email list.

These belong to leads you haven’t interacted with before — they haven’t left any details in your web forms or contacted you personally.

That means you must find and verify email addresses another way.

Here are some useful tactics:

a) Buy an outreach email list

This is often the most popular method for filling up your contacts repository. Numerous B2B services sell email addresses in bulk, sourcing them from many verified databases.

You’ll get a rich list of prospects that you can top up whenever you have more cash to spare.

Be careful, though. You can never be quite sure whether the seller acquired these emails legitimately or merely grabbed them with bot crawlers.

There’s a fine line separating what’s legally permissible or not for unsolicited emails in the U.S., UK, Australia, Canada, the EU and other territories.

b) Comb LinkedIn and Twitter

Professional users sometimes leave their email addresses on social media. You might get lucky by connecting with these individuals online and finding it in their bio.

Conducting research on social platforms also illuminates the potential buyer’s identity, which business they work for, and what they might be interested in.

Just be wary of contacting a personal email (i.e., not a company domain) by mistake, unless you’re a B2C brand with a killer pitch.

c) Subscribe to other mailing lists

It’s a savvy way to build a verified list of potential customer addresses, especially those with a relevant, professional service that could use your help.

When that first email arrives, unsubscribe — their contact information is yours.

While this approach isn’t the best practice for generic inbound marketing addresses, it’s excellent for capturing information on a sales rep or VP: basically, anyone who communicates one-on-one. Also consider signing up for personal thought leader content to grow your cold email campaign database.

d) Check out WHOIS

Ever heard of WHOIS? It’s an information repository that sheds light on who registered a web domain. There are several mandatory fields for contact details, including a postcode, phone number, and email address.

You won’t find more than one or two prospects here, but they might be useful if you’re targeting small business owners or people who are basically a brand unto themselves, such as industry consultants who have their own websites.

Once you’ve got your cold email outreach prospects in a row, it’s worth double-checking those addresses for accuracy and validity.

After all, some lists might contain typos or expired accounts.

Warming up your inbox with deliverability verification is sure to weed out invalid contacts and prevent a high bounce rate from harming your digital marketing potential.

No matter what you’re doing to find your audience, you need to be able to understand what marketers call the 'buyer persona' as part of the process.

This isn't just a profile — it's a comprehensive look into the specific needs, motivations, challenges, and behavioral patterns of your ideal customer. It shows how they think, how they react, and what they truly need.

In a world saturated with generic outreach, a message tailored to a well-researched buyer persona is the touch of personalization that can distinguish you from the masses.

Step 2: Understand your audience

Want to know the age-old secret to almost everything in marketing? It’s simple. Know. Your. Audience.

Not knowing your audience is the reason why so many cold emails end up ignored or, even worse, in the trash. If you send an email that doesn’t understand the recipient's needs and interests, you’ll end up being ignored or, worse, marked as spam.

According to data from OptInMonster, “74% of people hate being shown irrelevant content, which makes personalization incredibly important to a great email marketing strategy.

Now, think about this: if you knew what your recipient wanted or was interested in, wouldn’t your emails stand a far better chance of being read?

By investing time in understanding your audience, you can tailor your messages in a way that they resonate, improving both open and response rates.

In fact, data shows that “personalized emails generate six times higher transaction rates than non-personalized ones.

So, where do you start?

  • The first step is to craft personalized profiles. Who are they? What's their role in the company? What are their pain points? Maybe they've shared insights on social media or have been featured in an interview. Use this information to write a personalized profile for each contact.

  • Next, take advantage of templates but customize them. Templates are a great starting point, but remember, one size doesn’t fit all. Use them as your foundation, then sprinkle in the personalized details you've gleaned from your research. It's the difference between saying, "Hey, [Name]! Loved your recent article on [Topic]" and the generic "Dear Sir/Madam."

  • Finally, don’t forget to segment your audience. Not everyone on your list will have the same interests or needs. Maybe some are C-level executives, while others are middle management. Segmenting your audience lets you tailor your outreach even more.

Step 3: Keep it short and simple

Once more, let’s put ourselves in your prospects’ shoes.

They aren’t expecting your email. They might be in the middle of a busy day.

Every second counts when it comes to snaring their attention and motivating them to learn about your skills, service, or advice.

What does this mean for you? Basically, shorter is better. “Data suggests the ideal length of an email is between 50 and 125 words,according to HubSpot.

Emails this length had a response rate above 50%. A similar study found emails with approximately 20 lines of text, or about 200 words, had the highest clickthrough rates.”

You might want to keep every message within this limit — certainly nothing greater than 200 words.

Cold outreach, in particular, should swoop in rapidly and leave an incredible impression before even attempting to prompt someone to reply or explore your website.

You can always send longer emails later once your contact has shown an interest in you.

With such crucial, limited space, make sure you get straight to the point.

Tap into the recipient’s fears, expectations or curiosity. You don’t have to present a solution to a problem right away, but at least demonstrate that you’re aware of their concerns or desires.

Finally, make sure you’re using a conversational tone to make your message more relatable and personable.

It feels less like a scripted sales pitch and more like a genuine conversation. On the flip side, inundating your message with jargon can alienate the reader, especially if they're unfamiliar with the terms.

Step 4: Optimize subject lines

At a time when inboxes are bombarded with emails every second, the competition to get your cold email opened is fierce.

And your subject line can determine whether that email gets opened, so you need to make sure you spend some time creating an effective one.

But how do you create such magnetic subject lines? Here are a few techniques to perfect your subject line game:

  • Keep it short: Brevity is your friend. With many people checking emails on mobile devices, shorter subject lines are more visible.

  • Show the purpose: Make sure your recipient knows what's in it for them. Why should they care about your email?

  • Personalize when necessary: Personalization can involve grabbing someone with the very first thing they see — your email subject line. For instance, MailChimp provides merge tags for names and locations. Calling someone out with their first name and city is a fantastic choice for raising your open rates. Just make sure there’s a reason for doing so — Mentioning Chicago, London, or other cities will seem extremely random unless you can tie it back to your messaging.

  • Address the recipient's needs: Are you providing a solution or answering a question? Make it evident in your subject line.

Step 5: Introduce yourself

A powerful introduction in a cold email is about more than just saying "Hello" and dropping your name.

An effective introduction goes beyond the generic, "I’m John from XYZ company." It makes things personal. It’s “I’m John from XYZ and I noticed we both recently attended ABC conference.

You can also start the email with something you read about them (maybe they were just promoted or recognized somewhere). Or maybe they attended a webinar or networking event that sounds interesting.

Mentioning a common interest, complimenting the recipient, or addressing their pain points creates a connection from the get-go. It sets the tone for the rest of the conversation and shows you’ve done your homework.

But why go the extra mile with these personal touches? It’s because personalization can significantly enhance engagement.

By tailoring your message to fit the specific recipient, you stand out from the many other generic, scripted emails the person might receive that week. Not sure where to get started?

Advanced AI software today can help you automate personalization, ensuring every outreach feels like a handcrafted letter while reaching hundreds or even thousands of potential leads.

Step 6: Personalize your emails (do NOT skip this)

Cold email outreach absolutely depends on making the most of every word, sentence, and invitation.

Although the comparison isn’t 100% fair, think about cold calling again. Are you more likely to stay on the phone if the caller says your name? Or mentions your job? Or talks about something you did or responded to recently? These touches set up a conversation rather than a blind bid for time and focus.

Simply, then, personalization will do you many favors for getting a foot in the door during cold outreach.

The more you know about potential buyers or partners, the easier you can justify sending them anything at all. They might even appreciate the effort you’ve made to contact them.

So, how do you personalize cold emailing? We have some quick tips:

  • Gather relevant information: Before hitting that 'send' button, do your homework. Start by collecting data about the person’s location, job title, interests, and recent accomplishments. Then weave a couple of these details into your email copy wisely, ensuring they blend with the rest of the message. This shows you’ve taken the time to know them, making your email more authentic and less generic.

  • Always use their first name:Hello” or “Hi there” won’t cut it. At the very least, refer to people by their actual names in an outreach campaign.

  • Experiment with a gif or image: Tread carefully here, because some spam filters will mark you down for stuffing an email with images. On the other hand, an eye-catching gif or static picture can make your message more memorable. If you’re managing cold outreach that isn’t 100% professional (i.e., for a sensitive, serious target audience or subject) then using humor isn’t out of the question, either.

  • Name drop their colleague: This only works for previous contact with another person at the same company. Have you emailed them and earned a response? Awesome — talk about what you discussed! It’s a preferred tactic among recruiters and consultants.

With precise personalization, you’re going to forge better relationships and bump up open rates in your cold email campaign strategy.

Step 7: State your goal

One of the best things you can do during cold outreach is to set a clear, concise goal. You need to tell the recipient WHY you're contacting them.

After all, nobody appreciates playing guessing games with their inbox.

Here are a few examples of how to let them know right away why they’re receiving an email:

  • If you're introducing a new product or service, you might start your email with: "I'm reaching out to offer an exclusive, limited-time free trial of our latest software designed specifically for businesses like yours."

  • If you've found a resource you think they would appreciate, you might want to say something like: "I recently came across this insightful report on market trends and immediately thought it could be of immense value to your team."

  • Or, if you're trying to entice them with an offer, you might say: "To show our appreciation for industry leaders like yourself, we're offering a special 20% discount for the next month."

Starting with the 'why' right out of the gate helps in establishing trust and setting the tone for a possible future relationship.

Step 8: Provide value

Cold email outreach is not just about sending out emails — it's about creating meaningful connections.

And the best way to create those connections is by providing value to your recipients.

The easiest way to do this is by offering something that matters to them. This could be invaluable advice, practical tips, or even a sneak peek into your product or service.

Do you think you can solve a common problem for them?

Then tell them that in one sentence. Use everything you know about the prospect to drill down an issue or anxiety into a single line.

  • I noticed that you’ve been sharing thoughts about X on LinkedIn recently,

  • With Y market in turmoil at the moment, I wondered whether you’ve considered how it might impact your hiring strategy,

  • Ever since Z, businesses like yours have been scrambling to adapt.

Whatever the reason you’re contacting them, it’s important that you share why they should listen to you.

Perhaps you’ve served many similar clients, attended an event on the topic, written a blog post or whitepaper, or retooled a service to meet an emerging demand.

Without diving deep into your role and professional qualifications, draw a connection between the problem and your unique, seasoned perspective on it.

When tailoring your value proposition, address the recipient's specific pain points or needs, making sure to focus on tangible outcomes and results. Use relevant industry language and highlight previous successes to enhance your credibility.

Always remember: it's essential to offer genuine value without expecting anything in return! This creates a foundation for potential partnerships or business relationships down the line.

Step 9: Back up what you are saying

It goes without saying, but when it comes to cold outreach, simply making statements isn't enough.

To really resonate with recipients, it's essential to back up claims with tangible evidence.

Let's say you highlight a 20% increase in sales due to your strategies in your link. In that case, including a link to the relevant performance graph or attaching a testimonial from a satisfied client could substantiate your claim.

Including such details from your past work experience, showcasing completed work, or sharing past positive feedback can significantly build trust and validate your skills. After all, when you provide proof, you don't just share what you can do — you show it.

Step 10: Create a template from all the information you’ve gathered

When you’re working on a large-scale outreach campaign, a personal touch is key, but so is efficiency.

While it may sound surprising, the best approach often blends a standard template with tailored content.

Begin by gathering and integrating all the steps and templates we've discussed in this article. Combine them into a logical and unified framework. Think of this as your base template or master draft.

But remember: Your template is merely the skeleton – it's the details and customization tailored to each recipient that breathe life into it. Your outreach should never feel mass-produced.

Even though you're working off a template, ensure each message feels individualized, addressing specific needs, interests, or pain points of the recipient.

While the broader structure remains consistent, the specific elements should adapt to every email you send. This ensures relevance and a greater chance of getting the response you want.

Step 11: Proofread everything

Alright, let's get real.

You could have the most brilliant sales pitch in the world, but a misplaced "you're" or a random typo can crumble your credibility in a heartbeat.

In the cold outreach arena, every word truly counts — and there’s no space for the wrong one.

First off, let's discuss the 'why.' Proofreading isn't just about playing grammar police — It's about ensuring clarity and professionalism. A poll conducted by Global Lingo which found that “74% of consumers pay attention to the correctness of the prose on company websites, and 59% of respondents said they would avoid doing business with a company that’s made obvious errors.

A grammatical error – especially in an email that’s less than 200 words long – could make a potential customer question the quality of your brand.

So, how do you become a pro at proofreading? Here's your mini-guide:

Zoom out, then in

Start by reading the entire email for flow. Then, comb through it word by word for any pesky typos or grammar slip-ups.

Feedback is gold

Get a colleague or friend to read it. Fresh eyes catch things you might have missed.

​Fact-check twice

​If you're dropping stats or making claims, ensure they're accurate. Nothing shatters credibility faster than incorrect data.

​Use tech tools

Grammarly, Hemingway, and other proofreading tools can be handy. While they won't catch everything, they're pretty good at flagging the basics.

Read aloud

It sounds quirky, but it’s effective. You'll catch awkward phrasing or repeated words.

Step 12: Follow up but have boundaries

You've sent out that cold email, and there’s this haunting silence on the other end. Do you wait indefinitely, or do you nudge?

The answer? A strategic nudge is often the way to go.

In fact, if you’re not following up, you're leaving potential opportunities on the table if you don't.

Just consider this: “A campaign with so many as one follow-up converts about 22% more prospects, than the one without any.

That’s right, almost a quarter of recipients might only get back to you after that second or third gentle push.

But here's the catch: follow-ups won’t work if you overstep your welcome.

To avoid that pitfall, it's important to always start your second email by referring back to your previous conversation or email.

It sets context and doesn’t leave the recipient wondering, “Who’s this again?

Next step? Personalize, personalize, personalize. Your follow-up should feel tailored.

Gone are the days when generic, one-size-fits-all messages were enough. Today, it's about making your recipient feel valued and unique.

An easy way to achieve this is by mentioning a recent article they wrote or an update from their company. Show them you're not just another automated message.

If possible, you should also consider Including social proof. This can be as easy as a quick line about how you've helped someone in their industry or a notable client can work wonders. It’s like saying, “Hey, I’m legit!

Last (but not least), recognize the importance of timing and persistence and know when to stop.

Three's a charm but more than that can be spammy. If someone hasn't replied after a couple of follow-ups, it might be time to move on.

Remember, cold outreach is all about creating genuine connections, and sometimes, all it takes is a nudge (or two) — and if it still doesn’t work, respect boundaries and move on.

How to choose the right cold email platform

Before you start firing off those emails, you first need to choose the right tools to streamline your outreach efforts and make the process more efficient and effective. Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing the right cold email platform:

  • Ease of use: You don't want to waste hours navigating a complicated interface. Go for platforms with a user-friendly design, drag-and-drop editors, or intuitive dashboards.

  • Essential features: At a minimum, your platform should allow for personalized emails (because who likes a generic pitch?), automated follow-ups (because persistence is key in cold outreach), and A/B testing (to see what resonates best with your audience).

  • Top-notch customer support: Whether you’re a newbie or have been working on cold outreach for a while, having a reliable support team at your fingertips can be invaluable.

  • Pricing & scalability: Does it fit your budget now, and can it grow with you? The platform should be cost-effective now but also affordable as your business grows and your outreach efforts increase.

If you don’t know where to start, check out Campaigns. It not only offers custom sending schedules and advanced personalization but also keeps you in the loop with features like email tracking and detailed reports.

Email Outreach Templates That Work

Cold emailing templates can save your team the time and effort necessary to craft a new, personalized introduction for dozens or hundreds of prospects.

You can still modify them with one-of-a-kind information such as a first name, topic, problem and solution, but the copy surrounding those variables is ripe for repetition.

After all, why reinvent the wheel for every email when you can have a reliable starting point?

Let’s say, for example, that you're aiming to collaborate on a guest post. In that case, your template might look something like this:

"Hi [First Name],

I recently read your article on [topic], and it really struck a chord with me. Given our similar interests, I'm interested in discussing a guest post opportunity revolving around [specific topic/problem]. It could bring a fresh perspective to your readers and add value.

Cheers, [Your Name]"

Now let’s say you're trying to just connect with somebody, perhaps for potential partnerships or collaborations in the future:

"Hey [First Name],

Hope this finds you well! I've been following your work at [their company], especially your recent project on [specific detail/project]. It aligns seamlessly with what we do at [your company]. Fancy a quick chat to explore potential synergies?

Best, [Your Name]"

Key elements to keep in mind when personalizing a cold email:

  • Personal touch: Start with something specific about the recipient — an article they wrote, a project they worked on, or a mutual connection.

  • Clarity: Be clear about your intention right from the beginning.

  • Value proposition: Highlight what’s in it for them. Is it a potential solution, a business opportunity, or simply a chance to expand their network?

  • Call to action: Always close with a clear next step, whether it's a call, meeting, or simply a reply.

What about cold calling?

Cold calling often gets a bad rap. Some see it as an outdated strategy, with images of aggressive telemarketers ringing in their heads.

When done right, however, cold calling is still a powerful tool. A study from sales experts Resourceful Selling found that 69% of buyers accepted cold calls from new providers in the past 12 months, while another study from Rain Group showed that 82% of buyers accepted meetings with salespeople after a series of contacts beginning with cold calls.

The real magic of cold calling lies in making it personal. You're not just another email in an overcrowded inbox; you're a voice and potentially a solution to a problem.

This real-time interaction allows for immediate feedback and the chance to answer questions as they come up.

But here's the key: blind dialing won't get you far. Successful cold calling requires precision.

Platforms like LinkedIn can provide insights into your prospect's professional challenges and needs. Knowing your potential client's pain points, recent company news, or even their latest LinkedIn post can offer a conversation starter and show them you've done your homework.

Social media outreach and does it work?

Cold outreach isn't just for emails anymore. Today, social media platforms are just as valuable as a way to connect with potential leads. But well well does it work?

Let’s take a closer look.

According to a 2023 HubSpot report, 47% of social media marketers say their brand sells directly within social media apps. Even more impressive, “24% of consumers 18-54 already search for brands on social media more often than through a search engine - and this jumps up to 36% among Gen Z.

Platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter are not just for updates and networking; they've become outreach goldmines.

Just keep in mind that a random approach won't work here either. Successful social media outreach, much like cold emailing, is all about research and personalization.

For example, if you’re reaching out to a potential lead on LinkedIn, referencing a recent post they shared or an achievement they announced can make your message stand.

The bottom line? Social media outreach, when done right, can be a very effective tool — but only if you take the time to refine your approach.

Can you go wrong with your cold outreach?

The truth is that even experienced professionals can slip up when it comes to cold outreach. Let's take a closer look at how you can fine-tune your outreach strategy to spark some real connections!

Turning cold outreach into warm outreach

Transitioning from cold to warm outreach is all about cultivating genuine relationships and fostering trust. It’s also about:

✔️Building and nurturing relationships: Effective outreach is all about genuine relationship-building. Instead of leading with a pitch, begin with genuine interest and curiosity about your prospect's needs. This creates a solid foundation you can build on.

✔️Personalized engagement: Regular, personalized follow-ups can make all the difference. For example, after an initial contact, sending a tailored article or a case study that aligns with their industry challenges can show them that you're attuned to their specific needs. It's about offering real value, not just making a sale.

✔️Leveraging valuable content: Referrals or introductions through mutual connections can instantly warm up a cold lead. It's an age-old strategy that still works. In addition, consistently offering valuable content—like webinars, industry reports, or whitepapers—positions you as a thought leader in your domain.

✔️Professionalism and authenticity: While it's essential to be persistent, it's equally crucial to be respectful. No one wants to feel like just another number on a call list. Approach each prospect as a potential partner, and strive for a balance between professionalism and genuine human connection.

Although challenging, cold outreach offers an invaluable opportunity to expand your network and discover new avenues for growth. By researching your prospects and doing your homework in advance, you can significantly increase your chances of making real connections and meeting your goals.

Remember, in outreach, building true relationships is as important as the pitch itself.


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