lessons from 1000 cold emails

What We Learned From 1000 Cold Emails

People often mistake cold emails for spam. As a result cold emails often get deleted or not even opened.

There is a difference between a cold email and spam

When done correctly cold emails can drive growth, make sales, and forge relationships.

“A successful cold email outreach plan uses personalized cold emails to make contact with those potential customers that you’ve had no prior relationship or connect with”, stated Justin McGill, founder of LeadFuze, in an article he wrote.

Here is what we’ve learned in our first year of sending cold emails.

Difference between Cold Emails and Spam

As I previously stated, there is a difference between cold emails and spam. The difference between the two is what you incorporate into them.

81% of bulk product emails that you receive in your inbox each day are considered to be SPAM, while the one-to-one emails to a targeted business audience is what we call COLD EMAILING.

Spam isn’t personalized and is misleading. They aren’t targeted to a specific person but to a mass of people. The subject lines are misleading and say things like,” Congrats you won an Amazon Gift Card”.  

Cold email on the other hand, aims to build a relationship with potential customers by sending them information that may be in their interest. It’s a personalized business introduction.

Here is what to incorporate into your cold emails to let people know it isn’t spam:

  • Keep your subject lines real and honest.
  • Give people the option to opt-out of your emails.
  • Accurately identify yourself.
  • Include your business address.
  • If you are sending out an ad in your email or coupon make sure to label it.

Cold Email Mistakes

Make Sure You Email the Right Person

A common mistake that people make when sending out a cold email is sending it to the wrong person.

The person you sent the message to might not be the decision maker. If that’s the case, since the email wasn’t pertaining to them, they will delete it. Your email will have zero chance of being forwarded to the right person.

Including this sentence gives you a reason to follow up. According to a post written in Hiver by Matt Goldman including the following sentence is important, “If you’re not the right person I should reach out to, could you point me in the right direction of who I should contact?”.

Remember, based on your industry, the chances of your cold email getting opened are just 14-28%. Make the best use of this window and don’t give it away by emailing the wrong person.

Less Content Can Increase Reply Rates by 300%

Don’t try to turn your email into a presentation. Avoid telling your whole life story. Remember that cold emails are unsolicited. The person on the receiving end does not know you.

In the first emails, you send out keep them short, sweet, and to the point. Don’t try to sell them on your product or service before they had a chance to find out who you are. Tell them about why you are reaching out to them, who you are, and about your company.

Your cold email should not take any longer than 15-20 seconds to read. If you include an introduction keep it short.

In a relatively unscientific and somewhat circumstantial instance, we used content that a client provided us for a campaign that was not achieving reply rates comparable to similar campaigns that we had previously run.  After altering subject lines and delivery date/times we saw no performance change.  

It wasn’t until we whacked much of the long-winded content the client provided us and significantly streamlined the message that we saw the campaign’s performance tick back up to our normal rates.

So, our data does in fact show that message brevity has a direct positive impact on reply rates.  In this instance decreasing the word count from more than 500 to approximately 100 increased the reply rate by 300%

Fully Customize the Email Templates

Email templates can save you a lot of time. Time is of the essence when sending out cold emails because you want to reach as many as people as you can quickly.

Avoid using templates that are only slightly customized. These types of emails are easy to spot and turn people off.  Don’t use templates that are long and use generic descriptions.

If you decide to use email templates, use ones that make your prospects feel like they are talking to a real person, rather than a pre-formatted, robotic message. If crafted correctly with appropriate amounts of personalization to the recipient and their industry, email templates can lead to better responses.

To emphasize this, Michael Lambourne says, “Focus on what your prospect is interested in, and invite her into a conversation around that specific topic”.

First Sentence Should be the Focal Point

If the first sentence they see is, “Hi, my name is Bill and I am with Company XYZ” your prospect will skip your email or delete it. They will know that you are just trying to sell them something.

Your prospects don’t want to know how you are doing or the history of your company.

What they want to know is how you are going to cater to their needs.

Are you going to save them time? Money? Your first sentence needs to focus on their needs and how are you going to help them. You can always introduce yourself later.

Try Again with a Follow-up Email

Even if you craft the perfect cold email, prospects can still fail to respond. This can be for a number of reasons not related to the email itself. It could be that you caught them at a bad time or they just simply forgot about the email.

If your first cold email wasn’t a success try again with a follow-up email. But don’t make the mistake of repeating your first pitch. Instead, ask them when it would be a good time to call. You can even just give them a free e-book in your follow-up as a way to build credibility.

The follow-up email or phone call needs to be well researched to ensure a favorable outcome. The follow-up email is just as important as the first one.

Cold Email Best Practices

Try a Good Persuasion Technique

There are a lot of persuasion techniques that can double your chances of converting a cold lead to a prospect through cold emailing.

1. But You Are Free

Extend a request and then tell your prospect “but you are free” to do whatever they would like. Backed by 42 psychological studies on over 22,000 people, it’s noted that if you offer someone a way to opt out, it doubles your chances of having them stay. This is why the tactic works quite effectively.


Not just for cold emailing, AIDA is a proven technique for social media marketing as well.

  • A – Attraction
  • I – Interest
  • D- Desire
  • A – Action

The idea behind AIDA is to attract the prospect, engage him, build a desire for what you are offering, and entice him to take an action. Your email should be planned on this technique.

When done correctly cold emailing can be a powerful tool. Put some personality into your emails, and make them clear and concise. Avoid the mistakes listed above in order to make your outreach successful.

Personalized Emails Increase Conversion Rates by 40%

Cold emails that are generic often go unread or deleted because they don’t directly appeal to prospects.

If you want to improve your lead nurturing campaigns, personalized emails can improve effectiveness. This was detailed by Elijah Masek-Kelly when he wrote, “Businesses that leverage personalization have higher conversion rates by an average of 40%”, in a post written in Business2Community.

Furthermore, our statistics show that when split testing identical subject lines, with the single difference being the inclusion of recipient’s first name in the subject line, open rates we approximately 20% higher.

In addition to including first name and company, another easy way to personalize your cold emails is to find common ground with your prospect. Reference their personal interests in the body of your email. Find a way to make your email unique and personalize what you can. This will help your email to stand out from the crowd.

Write Like You Talk

When writing your cold email don’t write like you are giving a presentation in front of thousands of people.

  • Write your message as if you are sending to a co-worker or friend.
  • Using big words will make you sound like a robot.
  • Throw generic marketing talk out the window. Your prospects won’t read it and tune you out.
  • Focus on one benefit at a time. You don’t want to ramble on and on because it will make your email too long.
  • Use your follow-up emails to talk about the other benefits of your offer. But don’t be too relaxed and not check for spelling mistakes. Prospects will think you are an amateur.

Include a Clear Call-To-Action

The goal of your cold email isn’t to build brand awareness. Remember why you are there, to begin with.

Whether it’s asking them for a call or downloading your white paper make the CTA clear. Don’t put too many CTAs in one email. Make it one CTA per email. If you ask for too many they won’t do anything.

When asking for a moment of their time make it short. Make the CTA short as well.

Matt Haag

Matt is the CEO of SimpleData, the comprehensive Sales and Marketing Automation and Services platform. He has more than 20 years in technology roles ranging from Programmer/Analyst, Sales Engineer, Business Development and Product Management across an array of products but working with those primarily in the Internet Marketing and Technology space