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Cold Email - How to Build and Execute a Successful Cold Email Outreach Campaign

Updated: Feb 9

Cold email outreach can be a very effective way to generate new customers. We should know, a significant portion of our business comes from developing and running successful cold email outreach campaigns for our clients.


If you are looking to run your own cold email outreach, these are the key areas you need to focus on to make sure you run a successful campaign. This article is meant to be a solid overview of the process we use to develop and execute a cold email campaign but if you want some concrete examples, templates and more practical (pro) tips, download our Cold Email Outreach Playbook.



To keep this simple, we are focusing on cold email outreach campaigns for B2B companies in this article. If you sell directly to consumers, feel free to stop reading this and spend your time on something more valuable to you.


Our 7 key components of a successful cold email outreach campaign:

  1. Audience - Your List

  2. Fulfillment - Your Domain & Software

  3. Cadence - Your Frequency & Timing

  4. Subject Line - Your First Impression

  5. Opening - Your Second Impression

  6. Offer - Your Value

  7. Call-to-Action (CTA) - Your Instructions

Audience - Your List

A lot of marketers will say this is the most important step. I will not degrade the others by crowning this one the most important but it is very important not to skip this one entirely (which we have seen people do many times).


Like anything in marketing, you have to know your audience. The better you understand the needs of the people on your list, the better your campaigns will succeed. Put yourself in your prospects shoes, if you can speak their language and demonstrate you have the knowledge and authority to solve their problems, you will be taken seriously. If not, your cold email outreach efforts will struggle to bear fruit.


That being said, you are probably starting from 1 of 2 places: 1. You already have a list of targeted prospects 2. You need to build a list of targeted prospects


Let's start with those of you that do not have a list…


First, you need to know who you want to target. For B2B companies this usually comes down to answering these questions:

  • What job titles are you targeting?

  • What job functions are you targeting?

  • What seniority level are you targeting?

  • What location(s) are you targeting?

  • What industries are you targeting?

  • What size companies are you targeting?

  • Etc.

The important thing is you need to know who you are targeting. Once you have that information, it's time to start building your list.


You can build a list in a number of ways. Our favorites (in no particular order) are:

  • Purchase a list from a trade association

  • Trade associations are less likely to do this these days but the ones who do usually have great lists. They are often very up to date and are full of an audience interested in a specific topic. If you can get them at a good price, this is one of my favorite ways to build a list.

  • Pay a Virtual Assistant (VA) to scrape email addresses

  • Fiverr, Upwork, Freelancer.com, ect. are filled with VA’s that offer list building services. Some are better than others so make sure you do your research and choose one that you are confident in. It's helpful to ask for a sample list upfront to make sure you know what the final deliverable will look like.

  • Hire a list building agency

  • I have had great success hiring list building agencies. You will pay more per record with this option but the records are often higher quality and they can often get email addresses in niche’s that are tough to find otherwise. If you are struggling to grow a list in any other way, this is a reliable option.

Once you have a list (come on back folks who already have that done) it's helpful to know how good it is before you invest time and effort into it. Using an email verification tool like neverbounce, mailercheck, zerobounce, or kickbox (to name a few) is a great way to make sure your list is worth investing in.


You really don’t want to be sending emails to 1,000 addresses only to realize 30% of them are no longer valid. If you are serious about gaining new customers through cold email outreach, these services are worth the investment.


Pro Tip: How Many Records Do You Need?

This will largely depend on your market size but assuming you have over 5,000 potential customers in your market, 500 records is the smallest number to start with.


To be clear, 500 is the minimum size for an audience without niching. If you want to break that list down further, you will need more records. For more information, check out our blog “How to Niche Your Email List”


Pro Tip: What fields do you need?

Well, clearly you need a prospects email address. Past that, the key fields we like to have are:

  • First name

  • Last name

  • Company name

  • Website URL

  • Location (full address, state, zip code, etc.)

It's important to note that if you are segmenting your list at all you will probably need more fields. Job title, seniority, industry, company size, etc. are all great fields when trying to build very targeted campaigns. For more information, check out our blog “How to Niche You Email List”.


Fulfillment - Your Domain & Software


Your Domain

If you don’t know what a domain name is, it's the text between the “@” symbol and the “.com”, “.org”, “.net”, or “.io” in your email address. For example, our domain name is “roycebrookmedia” since my email address is jeremy@roycebrookmedia.com.


Your domain name is important for two reasons:

  1. Your domain name is one of the things your recipient's servers will check to see if your email should be delivered to their inbox. A domain that has been flagged for SPAM or malicious activity will have a hard time getting its emails to show up in their recipient’s inbox.

  2. Outside of the subject line, your domain name is one of the key ways your recipient will understand who you are and if you are “legit”. If you are sending an email about accounting services but your domain is “paintballpalace” you will struggle to get interested buyers on the hook.


If you are new to cold email outreach, it's very important to warm up your domain. If you start trying to email hundreds of people right away, your domain will get flagged for malicious activity and that will basically be the end of that domain.


For that reason we recommend two things: 1. Run your campaign on a domain that is not the one you use for every day email communications. 2. Build a ramp period into your cold email outreach that slowly (but efficiently) gets your domain warmed up.


By doing both of those, you eliminate the risk of anything bad happening to your main domain name and lower the risk you will ruin the secondary domain you set up.


For specifics on how to setup a secondary domain or what a ramp period looks like, download our Cold Email Outreach Playbook. We share exactly how we register domains and how we set up our ramp periods to make sure our customers' emails are delivered.


Your Software

This is a place where many experts disagree but since you are reading my article, I’ll give you my opinion…


Email software (almost always) doesn’t matter.


Some have better features or fancier dashboards than others but they are largely the same. When choosing email fulfillment software here are the things I look for:


  • Reputation

  • This is not the time to experiment. There are too many great quality options at solid price points to try one that isn’t proven. Once you get used to a platform, it is not fun going through another learning curve to get up to speed on another. Just pick one you are confident will work for you and stick with it.

  • Integration

  • Do you need your email fulfillment software to integrate with a CRM or a dashboard solution? Make sure the software you choose works well with the systems you already have in place.

  • Ease of use

  • This may be the most important factor. Sign up for a few free trials while you are searching for the one you want. If you can’t figure out how to navigate the platform and build an email in the first 20 minutes, move on to the next option.

  • Price

  • Price is last on this list and for good reason. Most of the tools out there are priced similarly and usually people who pay a higher price, have a good reason to do so. But what kind of list would this be if price wasn’t included… a bad one.

Let’s take a quick step backwards. Remember before when I said, “email software (almost always) doesn’t matter”, this is why…


I am bound by an NDA to not tell you the email platform we use to fulfill our clients email campaigns. What I can tell you is they do something other providers do not. Our system sends emails one at a time, rather than in bulk. This has two main effects:

  • High deliverability - Servers can recognize if emails are sent in bulk vs not. Emails sent from one person to another have a VERY high chance of reaching their destination (your prospects’s inbox)

  • Importance characters - The two most popular email clients, Outlook and Gmail, try to help their users by using different email “characters”. These email characters judge the email’s importance to the user and add certain things to the email in the inbox to make the user pay more attention to them. Gmail, puts yellow flags next to emails that are only sent to you and have your email address in the “To:” line (instead of the “CC:” or “bcc:”). Almost all of our clients' emails show up in their prospect’s inbox like this so we have crazy high open, click and response rates.



One downside of the one to one emails is we have a hard time picking the perfect time to send bulk emails… more on timing below.


Cadence - Your Frequency & Timing


Frequency

Often referred to as your campaign’s “cadence”, the frequency of your emails is a key decision you will have to make. I am a big fan of, “not one size fits all” here.


Your frequency needs to match the goal of your cold email outreach campaign. If you are hoping to set meetings to sell your service you should have a frequency that lets you demonstrate your authority and expertise without being pushy or sound needy. If you want to sell your service before a deadline, sending very frequent emails could be just what you need to do.


Most of the campaigns we run are on a 1 or 2 emails per week cadence. We have also seen a lot of success using a tactic known as cadence “widening”. We start off with small spreads between emails (2 days between email #1 and email #2) and widen the time in between the emails from there.


Timing

Sending your emails on the right day at the right time is more important than I wish to admit. Sending emails on holidays and weekends are a big no no (if that wasn’t obvious). Fridays have also proven to be poor days to send emails.


Many articles online will tell you Tuesdays and Thursdays are the best days to send emails but I have found Wednesdays to be just as good and Monday’s are more than fine… they are certainly not to be avoided like Fridays.


In terms of timing, it's very important to stay between the hours of 9:00am and 4:00pm in your recipient's time zone (if you can). This is where information on your recipients location is helpful. This is also where you need to use good judgement. If you have a very large market and can sell to 50K+ people at any given time, you may not need to stick with these best practices. You can play the numbers game and just send emails until you get enough prospects on the hook. If you have a smaller market and need to be more strategic, leveraging every advantage you have will let you squeeze as much juice out of every email record you have.


Subject Line - Your First Impression

There are more articles written about subject lines in emails than anyone could read in a lifetime. I will do my best to help navigate these muddy waters as quickly as possible.


I look at subject lines as having two primary goals (the latter is more important):

  1. Create interest or curiosity

  2. Get your email opened

For better or worse, the only way I have seen real success when writing email subject lines is through good old fashioned trial and error. In the email marketing world we call this A/B testing or split testing. This is the key to winning the subject line game.


There are best practices of course (which we will share) but if you are committed to a cold email outreach campaign, you need to be committed to A/B testing your subject lines.


Since cold email subject lines are the most important factor in open rates, it's one of the first things you should test when sending out your emails. If you have never run a split test, there is no black magic here. You take a subset of your list (often 30%) and split that portion into two equal groups (both 15% of your total list). You email one group the message with subject line A and the other group the same message with subject line B. The email with the higher open rate wins and you move on to email the rest of the list (the final 70%) with the email you know performs better.


There are some complex strategies for A/B testing out there but they all aim to do the same thing... ensure you send your highest performing emails to the most people.


Pro Tip: What do good subject lines have in common?

If there is one thing that all good subject lines have in common, it’s they are short. Yes, yes, yes, I know there is an exception to every rule and you may have had success getting emails opened that have very long subject lines but most people do not. I’m happy to be proven wrong here but in my experience, shorter is better.


I like to go for the 8 to 15 character range and no more than 3 words if possible. It makes fitting your thoughts into a 260 character tweet seem quite easy :)


Cold Email Opening - Your Hook

This is where your hard work pays off.

  • You created a list of great potential customers - check!

  • You registered your subdomain and warmed it up - check!

  • You got your email to your recipient's inbox - check!

  • Your prospect saw who it was from, read the subject line and opened the email - check!

Now’s your chance! Let's grab their attention and not let go.


The most important thing about your opening line is it must not be about you! In fact, it would be great if the first word in your opening line is “you”. If it's not your first word, it needs to be in there somewhere.


The more you focus on a problem your prospect has or destination they are looking to get to, the better off you will be. Here are some examples (this is easier to show, rather than tell):

  • Imagine if your sales reps had their calendars full of qualified appointments every week, can you picture it?

  • Do you have great business development? Are you continuously signing new clients and scaling the growth of your business?

  • As a [BUSINESS TYPE] you know you need to consistently generate new business to beat your competition, but how should you do it?

Offer - Your Value

This step is probably the one people miss the most. You need to bring some kind of value to the table that is strong enough to justify interrupting your prospects day.


It can be a link to an article you think would be valuable, a tip on how they can do their job better, an uplifting quote to help them through their day, even a joke to entertain them… the point is, you cannot expect something in return without offering something first.


Traditional offers center around something “free”... free trial, free sample, free demo, free X if you buy Y... you get the point.


Although these free offerings work, they are not necessary. In my humble opinion, they are a cheap value proposition since your prospect will associate you with getting things for free which is not ideal.


No matter what your offer is, you need to have one.


For instance, the offer I am putting forth right now is access to our Cold Email Outreach Playbook. My hope is I have given you enough information (a.k.a. value) to justify you spending more time listening to more of my advice. You need to do the same thing.


If you are going to ask for someone to schedule an introduction call with you, you have better demonstrated some value to them already.


Call-to-Action (CTA) - Your Instructions

You have come so far to get to this point. Don’t let all your hard work go to waste!


Now that you have demonstrated value, you need to guide your prospect onto the next step. Be specific, tell people exactly what you want them to do: “reply to this email”, “click here to schedule a call”, “call this number to get started”.


Don’t expect your prospect to know what to do next, tell them. Make it obvious and as simple as possible.


A point of clarification, not every cold email you send needs to have a CTA. In fact, I don’t like having a CTA in every email. When you get more sophisticated in your email outreach you can have CTA emails go out after your prospects take certain actions, like clicking on a link in an email, visiting your website, or watching a video. These responsive campaigns are very effective but there is no need to overcomplicate things if you are just starting out. Just know there is room to grow here.


One thing to note here; technology users are more educated than ever. With the rampant number of phishing attacks, companies have invested in education programs that make people very fearful of clicking on links they do not recognize. This is where a tool like Calendly helps a lot.


Calendly is a well known company with a domain that clearly looks safe. If you want to get people to schedule meetings with you from your cold email outreach campaign, using Calendly is a must.


Conclusion

Well, there you have it… our process for building and executing a successful cold email outreach campaign. In my experience, it takes 10 to 15 hours of effort to get your initial campaign started and another 5 to 7 hours per week to keep it running well.


If you are looking for more details including examples, templates and more practical (pro) tips, download our Cold Email Outreach Playbook.


If you are saying to yourself, “wow this sounds great but there is no chance I have the time to do this on my own.” That's when hiring someone like us makes sense. If you want to learn what that looks like, feel free to reach out to me directly (jeremy@roycebrookmedia.com) or by filling out the form below.


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