What is Cold Emailing? A Comprehensive Guide to Modern-Day Prospecting

You’ve received thousands of them over the years, but you might still ask yourself, “What is cold emailing?”

what is cold emailing

Digital marketing has evolved rapidly over recent years. More and more channels are emerging. Business, and businesses have avenues of communication with their audience that were previously unheard of. There’s a lot to think about. There is, however, one channel that remains resolutely strong: email. Specifically,s have avenues of communication with their audience that were previously unheard of. There’s a lot to think about. There is, however, one channel that remains resolutely strong. Email. Specifically cold emailing. It has remained a stalwart part of both marketing and sales strategies since conception. 

Many people write off email nowadays. It has a reputation that makes it seem archaic, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Before you do the same, you need to ask yourself the question, what is cold emailing? By the time you have the answer, you can rest assured that you won’t see email as a bygone method.

In this article, we’ll share everything you’ll need to know about cold emailing. The nuances, definitions, where it all came from, and even some of the legalities. We’ll also share some of the best cold emailing strategies and the tools that you should be using to get the most out of it.

  • How did cold emailing start?
  • Is cold emailing the same as spam?
  • What are some of the best practices for sending cold emails effectively?

The Evolution of Cold Emailing

A lot has changed over the years in the world of cold emailing. From conception to the modern day, decades of evolution have created a digital communication tool that’s finely honed in the right hands.

Cold emailing started in some of the earliest days of the internet. The .com boom of the 1990s coincided with the rise of email. Businesses were realizing the potential that it had and began to use it for outreach. This was the birth of cold emailing. It was basic, people received mass-marketing emails, and personalization was fairly non-existent. It was, however, the foundation upon which cold emailing that we know today is built.

The internet continued to grow, and with it, the cold email marketing strategies that we recognize today. By the time we reached the early 2000s, businesses began to see the potential that cold emailing could hit. They understood that with segmented email lists and even tailored messaging, success could be achieved. The transition from bulk, mass-marketing emails had begun. Personalization was being realized and was here to stay.

It wasn’t just attitudes towards email outreach that had changed. The technology was evolving too. Impressive email marketing tools were beginning to appear. With them came sophisticated new ways of working with email. These tools allowed for personalization at scale with segmentation. Tracking and analytics suites began to provide insightful data that allowed for campaigns to increase in effectiveness. As automation tools began to arrive, campaigns' efficiency increased, and so did the scalability of outreach.

There were some who chose to use this technology unethically. This was the birth and rapid growth of spam. Internet service providers (ISPs) and email providers were compelled to act and look to regulation of the system. Businesses that were using email legitimately for marketing suffered too. Their campaigns sometimes ended in spam when they weren’t worthy of being deemed so. It meant that marketers and sales teams refined their techniques and sought compliance. The focus switched to providing value to the user, not just pushing for sales.

Cold emailing nowadays is a complex mixture of art and science. Those who use it as a method of outreach balance the data and analytics side with creative content that delivers genuine value. There’s more to email now. It’s a form of marketing that isn’t an interruption anymore. It seeks engagement. Where once it was generic, it’s now personalized. Quantity has been replaced by quality.

So, What is Cold Emailing?

We come to the crux of our article. What is cold emailing? Businesses use cold emailing to reach out to potential customers or partners they aren't connected to.

It’s important to note that cold emailing isn’t spam. Spam emails are unsolicited (and so are cold emails) but, more often than not, completely irrelevant to the recipient. Cold emails are sent with the understanding that the content is mutually beneficial to the recipient and the sender. This is achieved through careful recipient selection. Senders need to identify those who they think will genuinely benefit from the product or service that they have to offer.

Now that we know what cold emailing is, the immediate follow-up question is, why? Why do businesses send cold emails? The reasons vary considerably from business to business. Some send them with the aim of generating leads or sales. Others focus on networking or proposing collaborations. Some people use them to seek mentorship. The goals might be different, but the success criteria all hinge on relevance and value.

It’s all a delicate balance. Senders should research their recipients to a point where they can show interest and relevance, but not so much that it feels intrusive. Mentioning that you saw someone at a conference is one thing. Saying that you saw them eating at a restaurant could be a step too far. The aim is to build a conversation and nurture a relationship. Very few cold email campaigns will be successful if you push for a sale during the first contact. If you’re doing that, you’re just sending people intrusive ads.

Cold emails are about connection. They’re an attempt to foster a new relationship and grow your network. Yes, the underlying goal might be to convert the recipient to a customer, but that’s not the goal during the first email (or even the first few). Executed with diligence and respect, cold email has the power to open doors and grow connections previously undreamt of.

The Legalities of Cold Emailing

Cold emailing is not without some potential legal pitfalls. There are plenty of compliance policies that all senders need to be aware of. There are even a number of laws that regulate the sending of emails.

The two biggest law-based regulations known internationally are the CAN-SPAM Act in the United States and the General Data Protection Regulation (better known as GDPR) in the EU and UK.

CAN-SPAM is a set of rules and guidelines that govern the sending of commercial emails. Fundamental aspects of it include giving recipients the opportunity to opt out of communication and a truthful head and subject line. Most businesses can remain compliant if they are transparent with their sending. Failure to adhere to CAN-SPAM law can lead to significant penalties (up to $50,120 per individual message).

GDPR applies to senders and recipients in the EU and EEA. It’s a stricter approach with significant implications for senders. Rather than an opt-out opportunity, senders must receive explicit consent before they can launch a campaign. The regulations also have strict methods of protecting individuals’ data privacy. 

The Art of Compelling Cold Emailing

Sending an effective cold email is an art form. It requires strategic planning, an understanding of the recipient, personalization, and well-crafted content. You need your emails to stand out in flooded inboxes, especially if you want to receive a response.

  1. Subject Lines Matter: You can’t overestimate how important cold email subject lines are. They need to clearly and concisely explain the content of the email. They need to do so in a way that grabs the recipient’s attention and makes them want to open the email and learn more. You don’t get another opportunity to make this first impression.
  2. Personalization: There’s more to personalization than just using their name. Look for commonalities that you can mention and help to build rapport. Personalization means customizing your emails to resonate with each person who receives them. Take time to understand what matters to them and address it.
  3. Clear, Concise Content: People are busy. Show that you understand that and you care about their time by delivering emails that are clear and to the point. Use short paragraphs for readability and formatting, such as bullet points, if appropriate.
  4. Always Include a Call to Action (CTA): A CTA guides the reader to the next part of their journey with you. It might be asking them to visit a particular page of a website. Perhaps you want them to sign up for a demo or webinar. You could just want a response. Whatever it is, make sure that you ask through a CTA.
  5. Timing and Frequency: There is a best time to send emails. Research what it is and send them appropriately for your audience. Following up is also an important part of cold email strategy but not in an overwhelming way.
  6. Following Up: Few people will respond to the first cold email that they receive. It might take a few emails before they feel it’s time to reply. Don’t be disheartened. Acknowledge that this is a follow-up email, and continue to offer value.
  7. Respect The Recipient: Remember that you’re not pushing for an immediate sale. You need to maintain respect and professionalism throughout the exchange (or initial emails). You’re looking to establish and then nurture a relationship.

Leveraging Tools for Cold Emailing Success

Theoretically, you could embark on cold email campaigns without any tools whatsoever. After all, all you need is someone’s email address and an idea of what to write. Will you be successful? Possibly. Will you be efficient? No, and certainly not at scale. Cold email tools serve a variety of different purposes and can help you deliver quality campaigns in the most efficient way possible.

  • Email Discovery and Verification Tools: Before you can send a campaign, you need addresses to send it to. There are lots of email searching tools that allow you to discover the email of the person that you’d like to contact. Examples include Instantly, Hunter, and Voila Norbert. You’ll also need email verification. Without it, you risk triggering spam filters through a high bounce rate, and you’ll be asking yourself why are my emails going to spam?
  • CRM Systems: Tracking the progress of your email campaign by updating contacts is a vital part of the process. Customer relationship management or CRM tools serve this purpose, especially with segmentation options. Look at options such as HubSpot or Pipedrive.
  • Email Automation Tools: Automation is what allows you to send cold email campaigns at scale. Tools such as Instantly allow you to create drip campaigns and set up sequencing so that your emails are sent automatically following certain triggers. You’ll also find that these tools come with a whole host of personalized cold email examples to inspire your outreach.
  • Analytics and Tracking Tools: Without these tools, you’ll have no idea how well your campaign is progressing. Many email marketing tools have dashboards built in, or you could leverage more general tools such as Google Analytics.
  • Lead Generation Software: If you’re looking for a system that is a step above a simple email finder, then lead generation software might be for you. This software gives you as much information on a prospect as possible so that you can confidently reach out to them.

Key Takeaways

You’d be forgiven for thinking that email was done as a marketing tactic. There’s so much more out there now. Now, however, you can see that you’d be wrong to do that. Cold emailing is one of the most precise, direct, and relevant methods of digital marketing. It allows you to create and nurture new relationships like no other channel. With the right balance of personalization and creativity, and with the right tools in your locker, you’ll find great success.

  • Remember, you’re looking for quality over quantity. Sending fewer highly relevant, insightful emails is better than sending thousands into the dark.
  • Sticking to compliance regulations won’t only save you fines but will build trust with your recipients.
  • Personalization is a non-negotiable if you want to maximize your chances of engagement.

Do you feel like you’re ready to begin a cold email campaign? You need a quality email tool by your side. That’s where Instantly can help. The best part? You can get started today.