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What is a сold email?

A cold email is an unsolicited message sent in an attempt to sell a product or a service. Cold emailing is a term used in B2B sales engagement to denote one of the most effective marketing techniques. Referring to potential clients who are not yet interested in the product as cold leads, sales reps find their contacts and initiate a conversation via email.

Because each B2B company constantly needs new qualified leads, cold emailing is usually part of the omnichannel marketing strategy. The role of cold emails in lead generation is central due to the effectiveness, scalability, and affordability of this method.

Even though email outreach is a go-to lead generating and nurturing technique for marketing and sales teams, open rates and CTRs are typically low for cold emails. To make cold email campaigns work for you, your team needs to handle many issues, from email deliverability improvement to curiosity-inducing subject lines.

Let’s look at the difference between cold emailing and spamming, the pitfalls and benefits of email outreach, and some tips on how to write a cold email.

What is the difference between cold emailing and spam?

Some may argue that anything unsolicited in your Inbox is spam. In the cold email vs. spam battle, however, the former wins hand down.

  1. First, reps research their target audience and assume they potentially may get interested in the product.
  2. Also, for better results, SDRs avoid using manipulative phrases and far-fetched statements. Instead, they personalize their cold emails and try to provide relevant information.
  3. Finally, cold emails are hard to send in bulk because of personalization issues and spam filters.   

On Belkins Growth Podcast S2E4, Founder & CEO at EmailNinjas Mike Hillyer discussed email deliverability and shared his advice on how to prevent your cold emails from ending in your recipients’ spam folders.

“Many ESPs (mailbox providers) are starting to use AI as a way of doing spam filtering. Gmail, in particular, is very strong in such practices these days,” says Mike. Internet service providers look at thousands of data points to determine whether your message is desirable or undesirable and act accordingly. You need to know what you shouldn’t do to protect your cold emails from being recognized as spam by your leads’ ESPs.

  • Don’t use Outlook and GSuit for cold emailing. Mike recommends using third-party tools like SparkPosts, SendGrid, PepePost, MailGun (many companies even use Amazon SCS) for cold email outreach to prevent your messages from getting to spam and bouncing back.
  • Don’t try to be deceptive. An ESP knows when you send your first cold email to a new recipient. If the subject line starts with “Re:” or “Fwd:” The system will mark it as spam.
  • Don’t use link shorteners. “Link shorteners is the worst possible thing you can use when you are composing an email message,” says Mike. First of all, you have no reason to use a link shortener because, unlike text messages, emails have plenty of space, and users don’t need to type it by hand. Furthermore, AI systems identify link shorteners as something malicious. If a system can’t identify what hides behind, it assumes spam and blocks the sender. 

Why is cold email marketing important for B2B?

Is there just one reason for cold email marketing being an integral part of outbound sales strategies for multiple B2B companies? No. There are many reasons. To name just a few:

  • Relevance reason. The business world has learned that millennials make up the group of consumers with incredible spending power. The 2017 Adobe Email Consumer Survey reported that email is the preferred communication channel for millennials who check their messages first thing in the morning and multiple times during the day, even on vacation or while watching TV. At that, millennials hate to get irrelevant content. Thus, email is probably the primary channel to access people of this generation.
  • Lead generation reason. Because all businesses digitalize their operation, cold emails can access virtually any executive and sales leader. Once you have contacts of leads, they get into your sales funnel. You need some skill to get them moving through it, though.
  • Networking reason. Sometimes you find out that a lead is a poor fit or has no intention to buy your product right now. However, the conversation you started creates brand awareness in people who respond to your cold emails.

How to write a cold email: 5 steps

After ‘warming up’ your emailing tools like MailChimp or MailNinja and fixing your spam-related issues, take some crucial steps to ensure top email outreach performance. A thorough preparation stage and a rigorous strategy are required to bring your cold email marketing A-game.

Before you sit down to craft a cold email, follow this five-step plan to lay the groundwork first. 

Step 1: Build your contact base for cold emailing

To have successful email outreach campaigns, you would only want contacts of the right buyer personas that might have interest in your product or service. The better your cold email is targeted, the higher the odds of getting a response.

You can obviously buy lead lists from third parties, but you must be absolutely sure you get relevant, high-quality leads if you do. In most cases, however, purchased data is incomplete, outdated, and inaccurate. And SDRs waste their time trying to make the lists work.

That is why many outbound sales teams do manual prospecting. On the one hand, looking for leads on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook takes precious time. But on the other hand, you save your time and effort in the long run because you qualify leads and notice what bits of information can be used for personalization.  

Step 2: Research to Personalize

Taking some time to follow your leads on social media will help your personalization attempts. You examine your leads’ digital footprint and mention their comment or post in your message.

In S2E3 of Belkins Growth Podcast, Sarah Hicks, Senior SDR at Predictable Revenue Inc., explains how her approach to personalization helps her frame a conversation. “When I mention something relevant to leads’ pain, for example, ‘I saw you post that thing about outbound being hard, we do stuff with outbound,’ that creates true relevance and connection,” says Sarah.

By researching your leads on social media, you will better understand their context and tailor your message more effectively.

Some reps even nurture a connection before sending their first cold email. They add new leads on LinkedIn, comment on their posts, congratulate them on significant milestones, etc. This builds a shared context between a rep and a lead, increasing the probability of a cold email being responded to.

Step 3: Write copy

Creating an effective cold email campaign has certain rules. Before learning specific writing tips, let’s understand the overall rationale of a cold email.

Remember about purpose. The purpose of an initial cold email is not selling. Rather, it establishes a connection and gets a lead interested in reading, and probably starts responding. Every part of a cold email has a purpose, too. The purpose of the subject line is to get an email open. The purpose of the opening is to hook the lead’s attention. The body paragraph is to keep the lead interested. And the call to action has to give a clear direction. After the lead has responded, the rep can be more specific about what they ask and suggest scheduling a call in subsequent emails.

Use structure. It is recommended to keep cold emails short. But it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t follow the structure. Quite the contrary, knowing a cold email structure will help you keep it brief and not leave anything important out.

  • Why you’re emailing
  • What you can offer, and why the lead should care
  • Proof it works (optional)
  • Call-to-action
  • Next steps

This structure has no introduction because we believe it wastes your leads’ time and patience. In some instances, it is possible to keep it to the minimum and use only the reason for emailing, the offer, and CTA. Check out the metrics and run A/B testing.

Give before you sell. No one sells in the first cold email. You won’t get your leads to click through your longreads, not to mention to buy something when they don’t know who you are and what you sell. However, people universally get along well with those who give them something useful. That is why cold emailing is gradual connection building when one party provides something relevant and valuable to the other party.

Step 4: Follow up without missing a beat

Response rates on cold emails are notoriously low. Statistics can vary from industry to industry, but overall, cold emails have an open rate of 22% and a CTR of 3% across the board.

It means that you shouldn’t get disheartened when your first cold emails have a minuscule open rate. If your name is not blacklisted, keep pestering your leads but with correctly designed email outreach.

Your leads might have been too busy to respond or failed to notice your message. So, following up has been a common practice for outbound sales teams at all times. It is up to you to figure out how many touches create engagement from your leads. Sending from 3 to 10 emails per sequence is normal in cold emailing. Furthermore, statistically, a 7-email sequence will get more engagement and response than a 3-email sequence, right?

Step 5: Test

A/B testing is a golden standard of outbound and inbound marketing in general.

Always test what works for you. Online recommendations can be contradictory. You will figure out what subject lines, opening with and without the introduction, the length of the body paragraph, calls-to-action, etc., to use after you check out metrics and analytical data. Use whatever gets the most traction from leads. 

Top 5 cold email tips: Do’s & don’ts of email outreach

Out of the vast pool of tips for cold email writing, we picked our Top Five.

  1. Don’t waste your leads’ time. Get rid of the fluff and empty phrases like “You must be busy, but…,” “Hope you’re doing well,” or “Can I get 5 minutes of your time?” Leads get bored and delete your email. Your CTR plummets. Similarly, don’t open with “Hi, my name is…” and “I’m a sales rep for Company X…” Cold leads couldn’t care less about you, your name, and your role. Hook them with something that can catch their interest.
  2. Don’t sound as if you’re begging. Any phrases that show your need put you in a disadvantaged position. “I was hoping to…,” “It would be great if…,” “Sorry for my persistence…,” “Not sure if you saw my last email…,” “Can you do me a favor?” First, you sound pathetic. Second, you are in no position to ask yet. Third, by presenting yourself as a needy person, you win nothing from cold leads at all. Instead, the leads get annoyed at you for being so inept and useless.
  3. Use one idea per email. Remembering that cold emails should be relevant and engaging, some reps cram them chock-full with links and helpful information. What, in your opinion, will a lead take out of such a message? A lead has 7 to 10 seconds to decide whether to open an email or not, to click through it, or to delete it. However, if you send short messages with one idea per email, your leads will get used to relevant content from you, and open rates will get higher. For example, email 1 establishes a connection; email 2 sends a case study on a shared interest; email 3 forwards a link to relevant stats; email 4 includes a testimonial on how your company helped with the lead’s issue; email 5 offers to chat on Zoom.
  4. Be creative. How creative can you get? This largely depends not only on the industry but on your personality, too. With a background in sport management, Oliver Kaczor increases his response rates by doing short videos (Belkins Growth Podcast S2E7). He says that mid-sequence, he prefers to reach out through a quick video note. In a 30-second video, Oliver explains why he reaches out, what problems he solves, and adds a call to action, “I’d love to chat with you, let me know what works best for you.” Just by changing the background and recording your video in unusual places – like a New York Yankees game – you can catch a lead’s attention and – boom! – they respond!
  5. Call to action. Again, you need to test what will work for you. Sarah says that she often prefers a soft ask, “Instead of asking for their time, I’d rather ask whether it’s their priority.”  Kathryn Aragon, Head of Content for SalesHacker, says, “My goal was not to come with a better call to action; it’s being more personal, more engaging” (Belkins Growth Podcast S1E2). As a result, her CTRs were skyrocketing because recipients loved her emails and would respond, even if they were not the perfect fit.

How to cold email effectively in 2022?

Cold email marketing is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, email outreach has become the primary lead generation channel for many B2B companies. Email is a gorgeous tool to build rapport with leads and nurture relationships with them into loyal customership. If you have any obstacles on the way to create top-notch cold email outreach, let us know, and we will see how to help you.

At Belkins, we have experienced SDRs who know how to tweak every element in your email sequences to make them work for you.