Being wary of strangers is human nature, so striking up a conversation with someone you don't know can be imposing and awkward in literally any situation — especially when that conversation is a means to a financial end.
That's why any form of cold sales outreach can be exhausting and ineffective when you don't know what you're doing — and that's not specific to active communication like face-to-face meetings or phone calls. It applies to emails as well.
Sending cold emails that convert well and deliver results can be tough to pull off, so it serves you to have some understanding of the practice and how to do it right.
Here, we'll review what cold emailing is, discuss its effectiveness, go over some key tips to help you nail it, and compare the practice to its vocal equivalent — cold calling.
What is cold emailing?
Cold emailing is a subset of email marketing where a party — generally a sales rep — sends unsolicited emails to prospects without having previously contacted them. It's essentially the email equivalent of cold calling.
You, yourself, might very well have a few cold emails sitting in your inbox — some of which might unopened, gathering dust. It's a fairly common practice that several companies still employ, but just how effective is it?
Does cold emailing work?
Well, it definitely can — but it depends on how effectively you can structure your email content and broader campaign strategy.
Cold emailing works for a lot of companies. If it didn't, it wouldn't have a place in so businesses' sales processes. That said, it might not be a particularly efficient outreach method for you — cold emails often don't convert particularly well.
It's easy for a prospect to shrug off a random email from someone they've never spoken to. After all, cold emailing is the digital equivalent of cold calling — a practice where plenty of people are inclined to hang up before a rep can really get their message across.
If you want to get the most out of your cold email efforts, there are a few points you need to consider and elements you have to nail.
Cold Emailing Tips
Cold emails have to be carefully crafted and thoughtfully targeted if they're going to consistently deliver results. Here are some tips and tricks to help you get there.
Perfect your subject line.
Far too many sales reps send cold emails with subject lines that make prospects roll their eyes — and even more that get immediately tossed by the wayside. Prospects are constantly inundated with emails featuring generic headers like "The leading cloud-based software in hyper-local social media marketing."
Potential customers are looking for solutions that directly suit their personal needs, so the subject lines you use in your cold emails need to reflect that — meaning they have to be direct and personalized.
Boil what you're trying to say down to five to seven words. Make sure you're speaking to your recipients' interests, and clearly communicate what you want out of your email exchange. It can also help to include your prospect's name to add a personal edge to the introduction. Here's what all that might look like:
"Brandee — having you on HubSpot's podcast"
"Chris — source for your article on marketing trends"
Make it clear why you're reaching out to them specifically.
Again, you don't want your cold emails to feel generic — some degree of personalization can go a long way. You don't want your recipient to feel like another name on a contact list. You need to show that they, specifically, have something to contribute. It will help them feel some responsibility to help.
Don't just explain why you're reaching out — explain why you're reaching out to them. Highlight what drew you to them. Show them how you understand their value. Let them know you understand why they're important.
For instance, if you were writing someone to ask for them to appear on your podcast, add a sentence or two about how their work would resonate with your audience and why.
Cold emails are most effective when they're backed by research and crafted with a personal touch. Make sure you do your homework and convey that you did it compellingly.
Use social proof and point to results.
Some legitimate social proof behind your outreach can provide a major boost — having a trusted source vouch for you can give a cold email the extra oomph needed to get a reply. See if you can point to some of their industry peers or mutual connections that saw results with your solution.
Providing some hard figures in your email that point to your product or service's effectiveness can be a big-time asset as well. Your email copy can be charming and thoughtful, but some prospects are bound to be interested less in your writing skills and more in seeing definitive benefits.
Keep it short, simple, and written like a human.
I touched on it earlier, but personalization is central to a successful cold email — there's nothing personal about robotic, cookie-cutter, cut-and-paste copy. Keep things formal but conversational. You want to be able to say your email out loud without sounding too choppy or off-kilter.
Also, no one wants to read through a full essay, detailing every last spec, feature, and benefit your product or service has to offer. Again, you want to keep your copy organic and conversational — that generally means keeping things concise.
Make sure your email is written with clear intention.
You can't write a thoughtful, effective cold email if you have no idea why you're writing it in the first place. What are you hoping to accomplish with this message? What are your ideal next steps? How can your prospect act on what you have to say?
If you send a vague cold email just to say "hello" with no clear purpose or call to action, you'll wind up with a likely confused — and presumably uninterested — recipient. Write your emails with intention.
Maybe, you're trying to set up a demo. Maybe, you want them to put you in touch with someone with more decision-making authority. Or maybe, you just want 15 minutes of their time for a quick conversation to better understand their needs.
Pick a purpose, and write your email with it in mind. Cold emails are a means to an end — you can't do them right if you don't know what that end actually is.
Touch on a real pain point.
This point is a matter of doing your homework — understanding your prospect's circumstances, needs, business structure, industry, and other key factors that shape why they might need your solution.
You don't want a cold email to revolve around some sort of irrelevant straw man argument — a made-up issue that your product or service can solve that doesn't actually apply to your prospect's situation.
Have a feel for what they're dealing with. Try to draw similarities between them and any similar customers you have. From there, identify real issues they're likely running into and make those the focal point of your email.
Once again, personalization is crucial here — let them know you've taken the time to understand their business.
Cold Calling vs Cold Emailing
Cold calls and cold emails both have their own places in the context of sales outreach — offering different benefits and suiting different situations. Cold calls are generally more personal and dynamic. They allow reps to adjust to conversational elements like a prospect's tone and mood. They're also harder to ignore than cold emails.
That said, they come with their share of drawbacks. Cold calls can come off as obnoxious or intrusive — making some prospects less receptive and polite when responding to them. And dealing with explicit and often impolite rejection can take a toll on reps long-term.
Cold emails are more convenient than cold calls. They can be automated, tracked, and forwarded — in turn, they're generally more time-effective than making calls. The main risk you run with cold emailing is flat-out being ignored. It's easy for a prospect to let a cold email sit unread or unaddressed in their inbox which may require you to send a short follow-up email.
Ultimately, the decision of whether you should leverage cold calls or cold emails relies on a few factors, including timing, content, prospect's professional level and decision-making authority, the buyer persona in question, and a deal's momentum.
You can learn more about each method's benefits and drawbacks here.
Ultimately, how cold emailing is conducted will vary from company to company, but there are some constants that underscore every effective approach to it — namely, thought and effort.
The best cold emails take time, research, understanding, and personalization. If you're willing to put all that into your broader cold emailing strategy, you'll see the results you're looking for.