Cold Email · · 11 min read

How To Win With Cold Email: Definition, Strategy, Guide

If you think it’s time to launch a cold email campaign, make sure you’re completely clear on how to succeed. Right here is the best place to start.

How To Win With Cold Email: Definition, Strategy, Guide

If you’re on the hunt for more potential clients and need a way to engage with them, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better solution than a cold email campaign. Cold email campaigns have been around for a long time now, but they aren’t going anywhere and regularly prove themselves to be some of the best ways to generate more connections, more prospects, and more revenue for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

In this article, we’ll be going in-depth on everything cold email, including:

  • What Is Cold Email?
  • What Actually Is The Difference Between Cold Email And Spam?
  • What Can You Use Cold Email For?
  • How Do You Start With Cold Email?
  • Writing Cold Emails That Get Responses
  • Advanced Cold Email Strategy

What Is Cold Email?

Let’s start right at the beginning with a definition. What is cold email? Cold emailing is where you (an individual or business) reach out to a prospect who has absolutely no established relationship with you or your business. People tend to hate receiving cold calls. Emails serve a similar purpose but without such a high level of intrusiveness. They’re also an opportunity to display some level of email personalization.

They are, you might be surprised to learn, an effective way to build up more leads and, therefore, grow your business. But only if you do cold email the right way. Do it the wrong way, and your email will just look like another spam email. The same as one of the other dozens of spam emails that the prospect received that day. Done correctly, it’s the start of a conversation that could lead to a sales conversion.

The key is to stand out apart from the crowd. Make your email attractive, enticing, and attention-grabbing. That is precisely what we’re going to explore in the remainder of this article.

Do People Even Open Cold Emails? Isn’t It Just Spam?

You certainly wouldn’t be alone if you thought this when you first considered using cold email as an outreach tactic. Chances are you ignore many cold emails yourself. Written the wrong way, cold emails are detected as spam automatically before a prospect even sets eyes on them. Avoiding these spam filters is one of the most important aspects of cold email strategy (see account warm-up in our advanced strategy section below).

What Actually Is The Difference Between Cold Email And Spam?

We’re glad that you asked, as there are quite a few differences that are best summarized in a comparison table:

Cold Email


Has a genuine offer that is honest

Often misleads and overpromises

Can be very personalized

Catch all, generic

Targeted to specific prospects

Sent to any email available

Uses professional, branded email

Uses any email possible

Offers recipients the chance to opt-out

Doesn’t offer opt-out

From an actual person

Most likely from a bot

As you can see, cold email serves a far better purpose than spam. The recipients of cold emails are receiving them because the sender genuinely thinks that they could benefit from their service. Recipients of spam are receiving it because the sender managed to get hold of their email address.

What Can You Use Cold Email For?

So, if the cold email isn’t spam, what can you actually use it for?

  • Job hunting: Cold emailing can be an effective way to land your dream job. Instead of submitting your resume to a sea of job postings, why not contact the hiring manager directly and establish a personal connection? Just make sure your email is professional and engaging, emphasizing your unique skills and experiences.
  • Networking: Do you want to broaden your professional network? Use cold email to connect with others in your field! A well-crafted cold email can help you make valuable connections, whether you're looking for mentorship or just some new contacts.
  • Sales: Cold emailing has long been used to generate leads and increase sales. Instead of sending out generic sales pitches, try tailoring your message to each individual. Demonstrate that you understand their business and their pain points, and then offer a solution to help them overcome their obstacles.
  • Fundraising: Trying to find those interested in supporting your cause is tough at the best of times. Cold email is a great way to spread awareness and eventually develop relationships with potential donors. Include a compelling story or explain why your cause is important and how their donation will help.
  • Collaboration: Cold emailing can also be used to find collaborators for a creative project or a business idea. This works best when you can get specific. Reach out to specific people with a specific request. You need to really believe that they might be interested in working with you for it to be a genuine request. Make sure to emphasize the distinct advantages of working together and demonstrate why your idea is worth pursuing.

How Do You Start With Cold Email?

Getting started is often the toughest part of any new marketing strategy and cold email is no different. The following list is a great place to start. Follow each step, and you’ll soon begin to hone your process. The actual writing of the emails is probably the most major source of anxiety for any new email marketer, but these other steps will help that go far smoother.

Create A List Of Prospects

The elusive and sought-after prospect list. It's the bedrock of any successful cold email campaign, but where do you begin? You must first identify your target audience. Who is your ideal recipient? Who is that person you want to read your email? It's time to start building your list once you've determined who your ideal customer or client is.

Begin by looking into industry directories, online communities, and social media groups where your target audience is likely to congregate. Why not get a little experimental? Consider attending networking events or reaching out to existing contacts to see if they can make introductions. You should always be deliberate and strategic about who you add to your list. Always prioritize quality over quantity.

Source and Validate Their Email Addresses

You've compiled a list of prospects; congratulations! Now the real work can begin! You need to make certain that you have their correct email addresses. Nothing is more frustrating than writing the perfect cold email only to have it bounce back due to an incorrect address. This is where validation becomes a mandatory part of the process.

One method is to use tools such as Instantly, which can automatically validate email addresses and flag any that are invalid or inactive. You can also check email addresses for your prospects manually by using social media platforms or company websites.

Validation will help you avoid getting marked as spam or damaging your sender's reputation. More invalid addresses mean a higher bounce rate and a higher bounce rate dramatically increases the chances that automatic spam filters will flag your email as spam.

Find A Template, Then Edit To Your Needs

Cold email copywriting isn't easy, especially if you're starting at a blank screen. That is why finding a good template can be game-changing. Don't have to reinvent the wheel for each email. Find a template that is a close match to your needs and then customize it.

But where do you look for templates? A quick Google search will yield numerous results, but avoid the cookie-cutter templates that everyone else is using. Simply copying and pasting a template isn't going to yield great results. Edit it to match your own style. Think about your brand voice. If the email doesn't sound like you, edit until it does. There's a huge bank of unique and proven templates in Instantly's extensive library.

Add Personalization

Cold emails don't have to be cold. In fact, they shouldn't. But how do you avoid sounding impersonal when you're sending it to multiple people? Personalization. Personalization can mean the difference between receiving a response and being ignored. Using the recipient's name in the subject line or body of the email is one way to personalize your cold emails. But don't stop there; you can also include specific details from the recipient's website, social media, or recent news articles to demonstrate your diligence.

Of course, manually personalizing each email takes time. This is where tools like Instantly come in. Tags, such as the recipient's name, company, or industry, can be used to automatically merge personalization into your emails. This will save you time while also making your emails feel more genuine.

Remember that personalizing your cold emails is all about connecting with your recipient. You want to demonstrate that you understand their requirements and are providing a solution that is tailored to them. If the recipient feels like they're having a real conversation with a real person, they're far more likely to bother to reply.

Use A Powerful Cold Email Tool

If you're serious about cold emailing, you'll need a powerful email tool. The amount of time and energy that you'll save will pay back any investment you make. Plus, these tools naturally will make your outreach more effective. There's no shortage of tools on the market. It might be overwhelming trying to pick the best-suited one for you and your business. These must-have features should be part of your list.

First and foremost, look for a tool that provides email warm-ups. Warm-up works by gradually increasing the volume of emails sent from your inbox over time. The whole process makes the account look more natural and helps you to avoid triggering spam filters or having your domain flagged as a spammer. Warming up your email account will improve deliverability and increase the likelihood that your emails will be read.

Audience segmentation is another important feature to look for. Audience segmentation allows you to categorize your prospects by job title, industry, location, and other demographics. By segmenting your audience, you can send more targeted and relevant emails that your recipients are more likely to respond to.

You should also ensure that your email tool includes advanced analytics. Put simply, without analytics, you have no idea how well your campaign is going. Open rates, click-through rates, reply rates, you need all of these email marketing metrics. Armed with this information, you can get optimizing and improve your campaigns.

There are, of course, many more features that you should look out for too, but these three are a great start. Also on the list to look out for:

  • Multiple account sending
  • Generous email-sending rates
  • Advanced Sequences
  • Reputation and Bounce Protection
  • Support

Writing Cold Emails That Get Responses

It’s going to take a while to nail your cold email structure, but at a minimum, these are the elements of the email you should be looking to perfect.

Don’t Underestimate Subject Line Importance (and pre-header)

If you want your cold emails to get noticed, you need to pay attention to your subject lines and preheaders. These little lines of text can make or break your response rate, so take them seriously and test them until you get them right.

Always try to keep subject lines short and sweet. You've got about 5 seconds to grab someone's attention, so make sure your subject line clearly communicates what your email is about and makes them want to know more.

And don't forget about your pre-header! This little snippet of text can actually be a game-changer for your open rates. Think of it as a subheader for your subject line - it should support and expand on what you've already written. Don't waste this opportunity to give your readers a little extra incentive to open your email.

Always Personalize

Personalization is an important aspect of any email. As briefly mentioned above, it adds a human element to the email exchange and gives recipients the impression that they are talking with a real person. Personalization should be included throughout emails, from subject lines to content. There's no hiding from the fact that personalization can be a time-consuming task at scale, but when combined with tools like Instantly's mail merge tag system, you can complete it in record time.

Bring Something Of Value

Wherever possible, always offer value. You’ll have a far higher engagement rate when people think that they’re getting something of value from you. That means you’ll need to communicate the benefits that your products or services offer rather than selling the features that it has. It might also mean sharing something that you might otherwise charge for, an eBook, a demo, or a free trial. Include examples of how you’ve helped people in the past through case studies wherever possible, as this demonstrates.

If you really want to seal the deal, offer an exclusive discount or promotion. This type of incentive will entice those who are on the verge of responding.

Include An Easy Call To Action

Every cold email should include a call to action. This should be a small, easy-to-complete task at the bottom of every email. This could be as simple as asking them to visit a specific page on your website, or you might ask them to sign up for a free trial or demo of your product/service. Whatever you choose, be sure that it is easily achievable. People will ignore complex or lengthy requests, especially early on in the conversation. Remember, this is your opportunity to continue the conversation.

Set Yourself Targets And Goals

Keep your goals simple and achievable but be sure that you set them at the start of a campaign. This will help you to keep focused and gauge an understanding of how the campaign is progressing. Paired with an analytics suite, you’ll be able to make informed and justified decisions.

Be Sure To Follow Up

Follow-up is often missed in cold email marketing. Too many people feel that just by sending one email, they should receive a response. The truth, however, is that some people will take many emails before they’ll even consider sending a response. The follow-up can be really simple (asking if they received your email) or could be more complex and depend on if they completed an action previously.

Advanced Cold Email Strategy

Once you’ve got your standard processes in place, you can begin to think about more advanced cold email strategies. Many of these require a cold email tool, especially automated tasks, but if you’re thinking about an advanced strategy, chances are you’ve already selected a tool to work with.

cold email strategy

Automated Scheduling

Emails are received with varying degrees of acceptance and amiability based on when they are received. There are definitely specific times when you’re more likely to receive a response than others. That time isn’t a hard and fast rule, and you’ll likely have to research your own audience specifically, but it’s worth it when you do.

The issue with this is that you might find yourself having to be ready to send at a specific point. This isn’t particularly convenient but can be completely avoided by using an automated schedule where your email is sent at a specific point in time by your cold email software.

Account Warm-Up

Account warm-up is so often overlooked and then panicked about that cold email tools have begun to automate the process. Warming up an account manually isn’t realistic. Sending literally thousands of emails manually at a growing rate over a relatively short period of time isn’t a task anyone wants to do. That’s why it’s worth investing in a tool that has automated, ai-powered email warm-up.

Automated Follow-Up

Similarly to automated scheduling, automated follow-up allows you to send follow-up emails automatically. You can set rules where an email is automatically sent. These rules are often set to parameters such as:

  • No reply was received after X days.
  • After X days.
  • If there is no link, click.
  • If no appointment is scheduled.

There are no real limitations on the parameters, and depending on your tracking ability, you could automate follow-up on any number of specifications.

Segment Your Audience

Personalization is great, but it’s at another level when combined with audience segmentation. Breaking your audience into smaller segments where you can tailor the message within your emails to them specifically is a great way to boost engagement. This could be by industry, by connection type, or by demographic. It’s entirely up to you.

A/B Test

Sometimes you just can’t decide between some options, and you might end up taking a shot in the dark. That’s not a very scientific approach and one which can lead you down the wrong road. Instead, look for a way to carry out some A/B testing. Many cold email tools offer this, where you can trial different parts of the email (subject lines are often A/B tested) to see which is best received. Once you’ve got your results, you can pick the better-performing variation and embed it into your campaign.

Key Takeaways

This whole article will serve as a great introduction to cold email, as well as offer some excellent cold email tips. Once you’ve mastered the standard strategies and processes, be sure to graduate to the more advanced stages. The best cold email campaigns will always evolve so that they are specific and personalized to the business sending the emails and the recipients receiving them.

  • The dramatic improvement in effectiveness and efficiency when using a cold email tool shouldn’t be overlooked.
  • Personalization is one of the largest factors in cold email success.
  • Advanced tools such as AI-powered account warm-ups can be game changers.

Feel ready to tackle cold email with one of the best pieces of email software on the market? Get started with Instantly for free today,

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