Webinar speaker

🎙️ [𝗟𝗜𝗩𝗘 𝗼𝗻 𝗗𝗲𝗰𝗲𝗺𝗯𝗲𝗿 𝟭𝟯𝘁𝗵] How To Scale Outbound & Get 2.5x More Clients For Your Agency - 🛑 𝟭𝟬𝟬 𝘀𝗲𝗮𝘁𝘀 𝗼𝗻𝗹𝘆 🛑

Cold Email: The Definitive Guide to Getting Results

Including The Best Cold Email Templates That Will Get You Replies

Cold Email: The Definitive Guide to Getting Results

Foreword

My name is Jeremy, founder of QuickMail.io

Cold email is how I launched my company and made multiple millions. It enabled me to reach out to people I would have otherwise not had the chance to connect with and get to know.

4 years ago, all you needed was an email address, a list, and a few follow-up emails to get an avalanche of replies.

Now? The game has changed. A lot more companies are using cold email, spam filters are getting smarter, and prospects are more critical of the cold emails they receive as they get more and more.

Today, you need to be better equipped to be successful at cold emails, and this cold email guide will help you with that. 

It’s a complete, but structured brain dump of all the things I’ve learned in the last 6 years of learning about cold email, running successful cold email campaigns, and building QuickMail.

Let’s do this!


Introduction to Cold Email
Chapter 1

Introduction to Cold Email

Discover why cold email is such an effective channel for connecting with prospects and decision-makers and the main reasons you need to consider using it in your business.

What is a cold email?

A cold email is an unsolicited email that is sent to someone without prior contact.

By opposition, a warm email is an unsolicited email sent to someone that already had prior contact with the sender.

It’s a proven outreach method that gives you a strong chance of starting a conversation with someone, even if you’ve never talked to them before.

What are the benefits of using cold email?

There are a variety of good reasons to use cold email in your business. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Direct line of communication to decision-makers

There’s no other outreach channel that lets you have a one-to-one conversation with a founder, CEO, or similar decision maker without any gatekeepers or complicated processes involved.

When you master the process of sending cold emails that get replies, you’ll be able to get in touch with anyone in the world and have real, mutually beneficial conversations.

2. It’s an affordable sales channel

Most sales channels require you to buy expensive tools, take time to learn how to do well, and have a long ROI period.

With cold email, anyone can get started. All you need is an email address and a value proposition that’s relevant to your recipient.

That’s not to say it’s easy to do well. Cold email takes time to perfect, and it’s not easy to stand out in the inbox. However, the barrier to entry is nearly non-existent.

3. You can see high reply rates

If you were running a targeted ad campaign on Google, you’d be thrilled if you had a 5% conversion rate.

With cold email, you can consistently see 15-20% reply rates to campaigns that are well-targeted. If the rest of your sales funnel is optimized, your overall conversion rates can rival that of any other sales channel available.

How do you send cold emails?

This is a big question and we’ll answer it in this cold email guide.

The simple answer is:

  • Source prospects that are a perfect fit for your product/service

  • Write compelling cold email templates that are designed to get replies

  • Use a cold email tool like QuickMail to reach out to prospects

  • Have real conversations with leads and turn those leads into potential customers and clients

As you’ll know, the real process has more intricate steps than that, and I’m going to show you all of the ingredients you need to send cold emails that get replies.

Does cold email still work?

Yes, cold email still works. We’ll discuss it more in the rest of this cold email guide, but I’m expecting cold email, in some form, to be effective for years to come.

We have users sending cold emails that get replies and lead to new meetings with potential clients every single day. If you can nail your cold email strategy there’s no reason you can’t do the same.

Is Cold Email Spam Or Even Legal?
Chapter 2

Is Cold Email Spam Or Even Legal?

Can you really afford to skip this chapter?

Learn about the two definitions of spam and which one you need to listen to when doing cold emails, how B2C can still benefit from sending cold emails, and reframe your mind about what cold email is really for.

Is cold email spam?

Spam has two definitions. 

If you ask the law, you’ll get a different answer based on the country the email is sent from/to and a list of hard rules. E.g., TheCAN-SPAM law stipulates that it’s not spam if you add your physical address, a means to unsubscribe and follow a bunch of other things.

But if you ask anyone else, you’ll get a very simple answer: spam is any unwanted email.

From my perspective, spam email is only spam if someone presses the SPAM button. 😉 

Cold emails vary and can’t all be called spam

Imagine that one day, you receive an email out of the blue from your favorite industry conference asking you if you would be interested to be their keynote speaker.

Technically, that would be an unsolicited email and to some people, it would be spam. However, chances are, you would be happy to receive it.

What if they didn’t follow the law by omitting their physical address? Would you flag them as Spam? Of course not.

So, we can all agree that cold email doesn’t necessarily equate to spam.

Cold email is like a stranger saying hi to you in the street. It’s natural to be skeptical and treat it with more caution, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t good intentions behind it.

B2B vs. B2C Cold Email 

Going back to the legality of things, rules are much stricter with cold emailing consumers. Here’s a rundown of the laws you need to be aware of.

1. Sending cold email in Europe

GDPR is a European regulation and applies to every email sent to European citizens. It states that people who did not opt-in for communication should not receive an email – which would mean cold email is dead in the water.

But, it does leave the door open for companies contacting other companies if they believe the recipient will have a “legitimate interest” to hear from them. So, you need to be able to prove that you have a process to identify the likelihood of other companies being interested in what you have to offer.

Bear in mind, I’m no lawyer and this isn’t legal advice – but many lead generation companies rely on this exact clause to carry on their activities in Europe.

2. Sending cold email in the US

You don’t care about GDPR because you only reach out to the US market?

The U.S. state of California passed the California Consumer Privacy Act on 28 June 2018, which took effect on 1 January 2020. And there are chances that similar laws will be adopted for the rest of the US states.

There is no doubt that rules to protect consumers will only become stronger with time.

This makes it difficult for B2C companies to reach out cold to potential consumers. We’d recommend avoiding emailing B2C consumers directly. 

If you have a B2C business, you can still use cold email, but you will need to shift your focus to a group that can influence your target potential customer: e.g., cold emailing a celebrity in your niche, reaching out to retailers, or finding contacts for partnerships.

Now, B2B is not a guarantee for success with cold email. The “Mark as Spam” button doesn’t disappear from the email client if the recipient is a business, but it's a start.

So, no, cold emailing does not necessarily mean spam. My advice is to follow the law and make your unsolicited emails wanted.

It’s a fantastic way to make some new connections, open a dialogue, and start conversations.

I used to reach out to people I would never have been able to contact in any other form and even made some great friends in the process.

How do we do that? That’s what we’ll see in this guide! 😃

Choosing a Good Domain for Cold Email
Chapter 3

Choosing a Good Domain for Cold Email

Avoid the many pitfalls that come with buying a domain specifically for cold emailing, why you also ready this even if you already own a domain and plan on cold emailing from this domain, and what to consider when selecting the best ESP for cold emailing.

Why do I need a new domain for my cold email campaigns?

You don’t have to create a new domain for your cold email outreach.

In fact, many so-called experts will tell you to use your own domain, and that you will inbox better and get more replies.

They aren’t wrong per se, but not setting up a new domain for cold email is the same as not wearing a seatbelt when driving a car: it’s fine until you find yourself in an accident.

In cold email, this would translate to having your domain blacklisted.

A blacklisted domain makes it hard to have emails from this domain delivered to the inbox of your prospects, or even to your existing clients.

People recommending that you use your main email domain are betting that everything will go well. Experience taught me that people starting with cold email often make mistakes that get them in trouble.

Like with everything new, it’s better to have some safeguards, and a new cold email domain is something every cold emailer needs.

Unfortunately, getting a new domain has its challenges too. Since they are brand new, they will be more suspicious to email providers and we’ll need to warm them up (more on this later).

Cold email agencies often have no choice but to create a new domain, because their clients don’t want to give access to their main domains (and wisely so).

If you insist on using your main domain, consider creating an email on a subdomain to at least segment your traffic and have fewer chances of crashing the entire domain in case something goes wrong. E.g. jeremy@outreach.domain.com instead of just jeremy@domain.com.

Selecting your domain extension (TLD)

Ok, assuming I convinced you to create a new domain, you probably wonder what domain extension (TLD) you should use?

The standard option is to buy another .com. 

If your company domain is domain.com, you could get getdomain.com. 

They are cost-effective and have a standard deliverability rate. But, every new .com domains are automatically entered into minor spam lists referencing domains from less than 1 month. This doesn’t mean that your emails won’t be delivered for a month, just that the level of scrutiny will be higher for that first month.

Another popular choice is to get the .co version of the .com. This makes sense, but we recommend staying away from .co domains. They tend to have worse deliverability rates than other domains (maybe because they are offered for free to all https://startupweekend.org/teams and what’s the first thing a startup does to test their assumptions? They cold email… poorly).

A more expensive alternative is to use .io domain (Indian Ocean). It has been used by a lot of startups over the years as a geeky reference to Input/Output (used for data API). Since it’s a more expensive domain, it’s not favored by spammers going for high volume email sending, so .io tends to see a good deliverability rate. They also don’t have the “new domain” stigma of their .com counterparts.

A final option to consider is to get a.net domain. It’s as established as .com, not expensive, and doesn’t enter a spam list at creation time. In fact, that’s how Sendgrid (https://sendgrid.com) does it. They use .com for official emails and .net for cold outreach. They provide a good alternative to .com

For my own product, QuickMail, I actually have it reverse, I use the .com for cold email and the .io for my website. I also have another .io as a backup.

Here’s an example of what that setup looks like.

If you’ve decided what domain to use, let’s move on to the next step.

Select your ESP (Email Service Provider) carefully

Once upon a time, selecting an ESP was easy. Open a GSuite account to use Gmail and move on.

Around February 2019 however, Google introduced TensorFlow (we’ll come back to it later) and for a month or so, it was a total mess (I guess that’s what machine learning is, it needs to learn first).

People’s accounts were getting blocked, even on the first email they sent. They contacted Google support, which didn’t work, and many people started looking for other options available.

That is when I started looking at Outlook. As it turned out, Outlook was enjoying much better deliverability than Gmail.

The landscape had changed and many lead generation agencies were running only on Outlook.

Today, Outlook still outperforms Gmail (can double even in some cases) although the gap has reduced since last year.

Outlook deliverability outperforms Gmail even when contacting another Gmail inbox! Gmail to Gmail deliverability is worse than Outlook to Gmail. Outlook contacting another Outlook inbox has amazing deliverability (as opposed to Gmail to Gmail).

So, if you are willing to put up with the horrendous setup, then Outlook is the way to go for cold emails hands down.

What’s the big deal with dealing with Microsoft? Some sneak peek.

That’s not to say you can’t use Gmail and GSuite - it’s still a trusted option. But, Outlook will give you the best shot at getting results.

Warming up Your Cold Email Domain & Inbox
Chapter 4

Warming up Your Cold Email Domain & Inbox

It’s like preheating the oven before cooking, it works better!

What does the email warming process do?

If you plan on performing some level of physical activity, you want to warm up your muscles first to reduce the risk of injury. 

It’s the same for warming up a cold email domain. By performing some regular email activities, you build up your Sender Reputation, which will in turn determine if you are worthy of having your cold email delivered to the inbox instead of the spam folder.

The worst thing you can do is buy a brand new domain for cold email and have it blacklisted as soon as you start your cold email marketing. Or, ruin your existing domain reputation by performing some unsafe activities. That happens.

Okay, but why is this needed, how does that work, and do I need to still do it if I have an existing domain?

I would recommend you try the tools mentioned at the end of this section first, instead of rushing headfirst with the assumption that this is all good.

The reason why you need to warm up your email

Originally, only IPs needed to be warmed up. That means, when a new unknown IP contacts a mail server to deliver the emails, the new IP is treated with suspicion, more prone to scrutiny. Trust has to be earned in the realm of email servers.

Over time, trust is gained and the IP is considered warm. We use the term Sender Reputation to simply indicate how trustworthy the IP is. The higher the Sender Reputation, the better the chances of inboxing (ending up in inbox rather than spam).

A great Sender Reputation will help you to inbox without much effort. 

With the ascent of modern cloud computing, however, this IP thingy meant very little unless you want to operate your own private mail server or send emails from your machine, which nobody in their right mind would do these days.

Note: It is still somehow relevant if you purchase a private IP to send emails using an existing sending provider like SendGrid. But even there, SendGrid will monitor your sender reputation and simply kick you out of their service if it drops too much.

If you are using G Suite (Gmail), you are using Google IPs without knowing it when sending emails. And if you are using Office365/Outlook, you are using Microsoft’s IPs. So who cares about warming up IPs, right?

Well, it turns out that for ESPs (Email Service Providers, like Gmail and Outlook to name the main ones), it is still very relevant because they are the ones managing server IPs to deliver your emails. The last thing they want is a user trashing their IPs by sending garbage messages.

And so each ESP started to put in place their own Sender Reputation system to protect their system from user abuses.

And since there is no standard for this, your Sender Reputation will depend on what ESP you are using.

Factors influencing your Sender Reputation

Unfortunately for us cold emailers, the factors used to determine sender reputation are not shared publicly, but finding the most important ones are not that difficult through trial and error.

Here are 3 strong factors you can’t afford to screw up:

  1. Your bounce rate – An elevated bounce rate (sending emails to addresses that don’t exist) is a sign of mass mailing.

  2. Your spam complaint rate – This is an indicator that you are sending unwanted emails.

  3. Your engagement rate – The more people interact with your email, the better your Sender Reputation.

Here is the catch, your reputation is rarely shared with you (certainly not on G Suite or Outlook), so you don’t really know where you stand until it’s too late. 

Plus, if you change inbox provider, you won’t get to keep your good reputation (you will however keep your bad reputation as big ESPs exchange information on abusers with each other).

You’ll need a tool to at least monitor the number of spam complaints an account receives. Two options include:

PostMaster Tools for Gmail and Outlook are supposed to help you figure out if people are flagging your messages as spam. The problem is that it’s only available for accounts that send a very large volume of emails, so chances are it won’t be you, even if you send regular cold email campaigns. 

So, if you haven’t guessed it by now, the fact is that you’ll always be operating with minimum information.

It’s like Google giving you the advice to “just focus on writing great content!” for your website to rank well. Well, if that was the case there wouldn’t be such a thing as a massive SEO industry.

In summary, the best you can do is to make sure you’re sticking to the best practices and not directly breaking the ESPs guidelines.

And if you are serious about staying out of trouble, you can follow this cold email checklist.

The danger of using existing domains

If you’ve managed to read everything until here, you’ll know that there is no easy way to evaluate your sender reputation. 

That’s why using an existing domain in your cold email marketing is a problem. You won’t have a good starting point. Your domain might already have a poor Sender Reputation without you knowing it, and it’ll be hard to ever get off the ground if it’s the case.

So, having another domain will come handy as you can compare results.

We know that the age of a domain is a factor to determine the reputation, but don’t get fooled by it, the email activity of the domain is also an important factor. Reusing a domain that was parked a long time will not necessarily lead to better results than buying a new one. 

Resuming email activity after a long time is considered risky because ESPs may consider it a hacked account, so you need to treat it as a new domain and start warming it up.

Regardless, you will want to look at what can be done to warm up a domain.

Four steps to warming up a domain for cold email like a pro

Alright, but concretely, how do I warm up my domain?

What you need is to generate maximum engagement while avoiding bounces and spam flags.

Engagement can be boiled down to people interacting with your email (in other ways than trashing and flagging as spam). This means opening, clicking on links, and replying.

This will signal to your ESP that you’re a trusted sender and should be allowed to send more emails.

The easiest way to generate engagement is to contact people who know you already.

It’s obviously much easier when using your existing domain as you are most likely already generating engagement through your daily email activities.

If you start fresh, this phase is critically important to your success and you will want to nail this down. Lucky for you, I’ve got your back – this is the definitive guide after all.

1. Contact your existing network

Send an email to a list of existing contacts, saying you just created a new inbox and wonder if they received your email properly.

This works great if you started working at a new company. Send a friendly email to your contact, say you started working at [company] (add a hyperlink to generate clicks) and ask if they could let you know they received the email properly.

You can use your colleagues for this too. In some cases, reaching out to existing clients even works. You could say: “Thought I would send you our most important resource on [topic] – just reply with [something] and I’ll enable a discount on your account…”

2. Use email warm up tools

QuickMail has an auto warmer feature that will automate the inbox to contact other random people in the group. 

Messages are automatically sent, and the ones received are automatically archived, removed from spam (useful if your deliverability has dropped) and replied to randomly to generate engagement. Over time, you’ll see improved deliverability and have more messages landing in the primary inbox.

This could be the difference between a 40% open rate and an 80% open rate on brand new email addresses, so this is something you want to take advantage of.

Using an email warm up tool is the most effective way to warm up your email address today.

3. Black hat email warm up tactics

Of course no guide on warming up inboxes will be complete without mentioning some black hat techniques.

Find an industry that will reply to your emails by nature. E.g. ask for prices and quotes to agents from the service industry.

I personally frown upon this technique as it’s basically asking other people to spend time warming up your inbox and you can use technology (auto warmup tools) to do that instead.

4. Instantly increasing your Sender Reputation on G Suite

As mentioned already, each ESP has its own way of calculating the Sender Reputation of their users.

And if you follow this guide until the end, you’ll see how we naturally tackle each major factor at each step (cleaning your list, making sure you gain engagement with your copy…).

But I want to give you a quick one right here that is specific to G Suite when starting from scratch.

G Suite is very suspicious of new accounts until… they pay at least $30.

So an easy way to bump up your Sender Reputation with G Suite is to pay at least 6 months of service in advance.

This is how you do it. Got to the G Suite admin panel: https://admin.google.com and select billing

Then head to ‘access billing account’

Click on ‘Pay Early’

Enter the amount (must be at least $30 per inbox) and click on ‘Make a Payment’.

And voila, an instant boost in sender reputation.

This doesn’t give you permission to send spam, but it will give you the benefit of the doubt with your first automated emails.

A final note on email volume activity

ESP will also monitor your daily activity with email, so make sure you don’t blast 300 contacts in one go (this will raise flags especially in the beginning when your inbox history is short).

An easy way to do that is to prepare all your contacts ahead of time and contact only a small number of predefined contacts each day.

If you don’t want to keep track of your volume and do that manually, use cold email software like QuickMail to take care of that (see how).

As you get more replies, you can slowly ramp up your email volume without worrying about having your address blacklisted by ESPs.

Researching Your Prospects and Market
Chapter 5

Researching Your Prospects and Market

Find who needs to be on your ideal list of prospects and what will delight them.

Research vs. Prospecting

Research is not the same as prospecting.

Prospecting is the act of building a prospect list, whereas research helps you to identify who should actually be on that list in the first place.

It’s also the foundation for crafting really effective cold emails and email templates.

To make it clear, research helps you determine who is on your list and what to tell them to make them tick.

This is valid whether you are selling a product, looking to increase your network, or getting some speakers for a conference.

At the end of the research section, you should know exactly who you are going after and what to tell them.

Sounds fair enough? Okay, but where do we start?

Chances are you already have some customers, this is the easiest place to start from. Look at all your accounts and check for commonalities.

The idea is to use data to guide us at this stage.

How important is it to have a good list?

Marketers say that the money is in the list.

If you are bleeding in the street and a stranger comes to you with something you need to survive, you’ll buy what they sell, no matter how bad that person’s sales pitch is.

But if a stranger tries to sell the best hamburger in the world to a vegan. The battle is lost already.

If you contact the right person, you can make a lot of mistakes and get away with it.

And yet, surprisingly, everyone is trying to hone their pitch/cold email as if this was the most important thing. Sure, it’s important – but the most important thing will always be making sure you talk to the right people.

One last thing. The success or failure of a cold email campaign can often be traced back to this chapter, so don’t take it lightly.

Where do you start with research?

If you don’t have any clients yet, you’ll need to do some guessing and/or experiments to find out who may be interested in your service or product.

But, if you have some clients already, a simple way to help focus and narrow research is to actually analyze your existing client base.

You could go through each client record and add some information in a spreadsheet.

I like to use Clearbit batch. It’s free and will give you a quick overview of your audience.

Here is an example of the type of output you can expect when putting your customer list in:

So, if I wanted to get quick results, I’ll target the United States in my search.

Then, I’ll focus on companies using SalesForce because I know those customers are generally a good fit for our business.

I’ll ignore all industries and only focus on Internet Software & Services, because it’s the largest segment.

Next, narrowing down the customer type by their job title, and I’ll focus on CTO, CIO, and technical leaders.

And finally, I’ll limit my search to companies with less than 250 employees as they make half of my clients.

This gives you the best chances of success when going after prospects.

You’ll know exactly what kind of prospect you’re searching for.

Example: What good prospect research looks like

Here is a “Behind the scenes” video of a QuickMail user showing us his cold email outreach strategy in great detail. 

Nailing down research looks like this:

Prospecting and List Building
Chapter 6

Prospecting and List Building

Prospecting is nothing more than taking your research and building the list of companies/employees to go after.

Where to Identify Prospects

1. LinkedIn

LinkedIn (and LinkedIn Sales Navigator) is the goto place for B2B prospecting.

Finding people there is not that hard, but not everyone is on LinkedIn (usually, if the clients of your prospects are not on LinkedIn, chances are they won’t have a huge presence here or none at all).

We wrote an in-depth guide to prospecting on LinkedIn – click here to check it out.

But there may be other more interesting places depending on your unique business.

2. Scraping the web

When I was going after Financial Planners in Australia, building a list was easy. There was a national association that listed them all at the time. Then I could cross their email/profile with a LinkedIn profile and determine if they were a good fit for what I wanted to contact them for.

If you are lucky, you’ll be able to scrape public websites for information (check their terms and conditions). Those websites can be directories of your target prospects.

Word of caution: those prospects could have been hammered by cold emails already, or the data may be out of date, so always verify the addresses before using them.

A great free tool to scrape websites is Data-Miner. It requires a bit of getting used to, but it’s powerful and can get the job done (even on LinkedIn where it’s notoriously difficult).

3. Google Maps & Yelp

For bricks and mortar businesses, the geographical position may make sense for your cold email campaigns. 

You can build a list of businesses matching your location criteria, then use virtual assistants to help you out with the tedious tasks of email finding and data entry.

4. Prospecting tools and email finders

A popular way to find prospects today is with dedicated prospecting tools. These let you quickly identify prospects based on any criteria you want to focus on, such as:

  • Company size

  • Location

  • Job title

  • The software they use on their website

  • And almost any criteria you want to filter by

Some popular prospecting tools include:

They all offer a similar service, and can speed up your prospecting process. BuiltWith in particular is useful because you can find prospect’s based on the technology they use on their website.

Want to target Shopify website owners in London? You can quickly run a search, and BuiltWith will show you a list of companies matching those exact criteria.

Protecting Your Sender Reputation
Chapter 7

Protecting Your Sender Reputation

Never assume your list is current. ESPs hate bounces as it signals that you are reckless with your cold email activity.

Checking whether your prospect emails are valid

Having an email list doesn’t guarantee that the email addresses on it are actually valid.

A list of 10,000 people may in fact only contain 4,000 valid emails.

Consider this, the average tenure of a job in corporate America is about 2 to 4 years depending on the age of the worker and the industry.

That means that your list is basically useless after 4 years, and assuming a 4 years tenure, about 25% of your list will be rendered invalid each year!

On top of that, spam lists will monitor old email addresses to monitor who contacts them to signal spamming activity (those email addresses are called spam traps).

This shows the importance of carefully crafting the list yourself and verifying the email validity regularly.

Tools to verify your prospect list contains accurate emails

Fortunately for us cold emailers, we can rely on a few tools to help us determine if the email will bounce or not. This will prevent you from bounces that could easily have been avoided.

There are many tools around that more or less provide the same benefit.

I personally use NeverBounce for 2 reasons:

  1. It gives 1,000 free verifications per month when using an API key. Which is cool, as I can just plug it into my own tool.

  2. It’s the most accurate one for my industry, based on my recent stats, but this could be different for your industry.

You can try other email verification tools like ZeroBounce (which gives you 100 free verifications), BriteVerify, Hunter or Dropcontact.

My tool for cold email (QuickMail) integrates with all and if you don’t want to bother with opening another account or having to monitor which one performs best. You can simply purchase email verification credits directly from within the tool. 

When your prospects are in, you can verify their emails one by one, or in bulk.

Limitations of email verification tools

No matter how good those tools are, you won’t be able to reach 100% accuracy. That’s why none of them claim more than 95% accuracy (meaning, they guarantee you no more than 5% bounce rate).

Although a 5% bounce rate may not seem like much, having more than 5% will put you on the radar with your ESP and your sender reputation will be at risk. 

If you have a 10% bounce rate, stop your outreach, and try to solve the problem (review how you are prospecting or the tool you use to verify emails).

What are valid, risky and invalid emails?

We already know that email verification software has no way to determine if an email is a spam trap or not, but there is more.

In order to determine if an email is valid or not, email verification tools will primarily rely on a technique involving email servers.

For example, if you try to query for misterx@domain.com, the email verification tool will query the email server of domain.com and conversation will go something like that:

“Hey domain.com, I got an email for misterx, we are cool?” – The email verification tool

At this point, the email verification tool has no intention of actually sending an email, it just queries the email server.

The email server then can respond in 3 different ways:

1 – “Who is that?” – The email server of domain.com

At that point, the email verification tool knows that misterx@domain.com is invalid and will close the conversation with the equivalent of “… forget it, bye”.

2 – “Sure, what do you got for mister x?” – The email server of domain.com

At that point, the email verification tool knows that misterx@domain.com is a valid address and will close the conversation with the equivalent of “… got to go, bye”.

Life will be good if that was the only 2 replies possible, but there is a 3rd one:

3 – “Whatever, give me the mail and I’ll see if someone named misterx is around” – The email server of domain.com

At that point, the email verification tool can’t know for sure if the email exists or not. The email server just won’t tell unless you try to send an email. That’s why they usually mark those ones as risky emails (or catch-all, or accept all, depending on the terminology of the tool you use).

There is a fourth possibility with the email server not responding (usually old or bad infrastructure), emails are generally marked as unknown and you shouldn’t email those.

For invalid and valid emails, it’s pretty straightforward. Don’t email the invalid ones if you don’t want to get bounces and ruin your sender reputation. But what do you do with Risky and Unknowns?

What to do with risky emails?

Risky emails are generally not a small portion of the list. Although this will vary, you can expect risky to be between 20 & 40% of your list. For example, on my 2.7 million email validations, I ended up with 

You’ll have to decide what to do with a third of your list.

Will you run the risk to send even though it may generate some bounces?

I’d say it depends a bit on how you are building the list and how much you can afford to bounce. 

If this is a brand new domain, this may not be worth the risk. It would be better to focus only on the low-risk addresses. But, if you are getting 1% bounce, you may be more open to sending to risky emails too because your address is still in the safe zone.

Regardless, this is something you need to decide based on your situation and appetite for risks.

If you decide not to email risky addresses, don’t throw the list away – you could still use it as a custom audience on Facebook or LinkedIn to advertise to them. That way, your email-finding efforts weren’t all for nothing.

Personalizing Your Cold Emails for Better Response Rates
Chapter 8

Personalizing Your Cold Emails for Better Response Rates

Personalization is the key to getting replies to your cold emails. Here’s how you can personalize every email you send and massively increase reply rates, on both an individual email basis, and at scale.

What is cold email personalization?

Personalization is the action of adding a piece of text that is different per prospect.

It goes beyond using attributes like {{prospect.first_name}} and {{company.name}}. We are talking about a real piece of text crafted to connect with the recipient on a personal level to warm up the email fast.

For example, specifying the field of study of the recipient, congratulating their team on an achievement milestone, adding a common passion or history as a PS…

Does that work?

When done well, it can be the difference between a campaign that flops and one that is insanely successful.

I see it as a multiplier factor. That is: if your cold email campaign is rubbish (no one cares), it will still be rubbish, but if your campaign is good, this will make it insanely good.

In 2022, cold email personalization is what is earning you the right to reach out.

Personalization vs. cold mail copywriting

Personalizing emails could have been included in the cold email copywriting section, but it’s more efficient to do the personalization at the time you are crafting your list. Some QuickMail users use Task, Drafts, and VA to personalize the email before sending the cold email.

Here, I’ll give you some examples of strong personalization and how you can have this as part of your process when list building. You can then use the personalized text as a custom attribute in your email copy.

Example of how to personalize a cold email

This is my LinkedIn profile.

My profile gives you a ton of opportunities to personalize your cold email when reaching out to me.

For example, you could be picking up on the fact that I’ve been running my company for longer than any other cold email software in the industry, that I've been a podcast co-host for more than 2 years, or that I authored a book on cold email…

How would you use this in your copy? Many ways:

  • “I’m reaching out to people who started the space of cold email”

  • “I’m reaching out to cold email authority figures”

  • “Love your podcast btw” 

  • “Big fan of the show”

  • “Checked out your book on cold email”

These are all simple, but effective ways to show you’ve done your research before reaching out to me, and your personalized cold email will stand out in my inbox.

Does your personalization need to be genuine?

When doing personalization, there is always the temptation to go for comments that aren’t genuine. E.g. “Big fan of the show” even if you’ve never listened to an episode.

This comes from the need to scale mostly. Comments like this are easy to say, and hard for the recipient to verify.

Most of the time, however, it’s not that hard to be genuine with marginally more effort. 

For example, you could say “PS: Congrats on getting Derek Sivers on your show! I bet this wasn’t easy.”

Instantly, I’d know you’ve actually looked into the podcast and have done more than just surface-level research.

Added benefits of personalizing cold emails

One of the added benefits of personalization is better deliverability. 

This may sound odd as it’s hard to link the two, but the reality is that it gets the prospect better engaged and prevents your emails from looking the same by adding variations to your template.

Turns out that people don’t flag you as spam when you make an effort to learn more about them.

ESPs will notice this and be less likely to send you to the spam folder, as it’s clear your emails are getting engagement.


Adding visual personalization with images and videos

Cold email image personalization is something that can boost your campaign reply rate (that’s the promise of personalization in general), so it’s worth trying. I personally prefer to stick to text, but some people, including QuickMail users, have good results with images.

Just bear in mind that cold email image personalization is a tactic and personalization is the strategy. 

Tactics die with time (e.g. when it’s been overused and prospects start to ignore it), the strategy (personalizing content of the email) doesn’t. 

If you read the chapter on deliverability, you know by now that having images in your body will hurt your deliverability. BUT, if having an image boosts your prospect engagement (getting more replies and/or clicks), this may not matter.

This was clearly the case for Ramp, the TShirt company. You see a picture of the CEO (fun guy to talk to, btw) with a generated logo of the recipient company on it. It’s a fun way to show that their product would work for the recipient company, and that they’re reaching out to them intentionally.

Clearly, a campaign like that wouldn’t have worked as well without the image. You can check out the whole article here. 

And so it may be worth trying, just ask yourself if the image IS the selling point (like in the case of Ramp) or it’s just a gimmick.

Images in emails have always had their place. People used memes and funny GIFs. 

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Like humor, it is a double-edged sword.

If you want to try image personalization in your cold emails, I recommend you check out Hyperise - it’s a tool that helps you speed up the process. Plus the founder is also a fun guy to talk to.

Writing Email Copy That Gets You Replies
Chapter 9

Writing Email Copy That Gets You Replies

If this is the first chapter you read on this page, do yourself a favor and read the other chapters too.

I see people jumping into cold email copywriting before making sure they have the basics covered way too often. No matter how good your copy is, it won’t matter if your recipients aren’t qualified.

That said, let’s get into it as this is one of the most exciting parts of cold emailing!

If this is the first chapter you read on this page, make yourself a favor and read the other chapters too.

Way too often I see people jumping into email copy before making sure they have the bases.

For example, if you think you have a list already and all you need to do it to know how to write to that list, you are at a serious disadvantage and I would recommend that you read the chapter on list building first.

That said, let’s get into it as this is (for me at least) the most exciting part of cold email!

Writing an effective cold email subject line

The common hypothesis is that an email that is not opened, there’s no chance to get a reply. That is true, but that’s not what’s important here for a few reasons.

The main risk here is that you will optimize for the wrong things.

For example, a classical example is to prefix with “Re:”. This will increase your open rate but will actually hurt your reply rate. Plus, do you want to start a relationship with tricking recipients?

A great example from Steli (founder of Close.io CRM) is the subject line “Very disappointed…”. 

This email copy certainly got him to open the email, but you can see what he has to say about it here.

The data also shows that the impact of the subject line is minimal on the open rate. This means that people would have opened the email anyway and if that’s the case, there’s no need to try and trick the recipient into taking an action they would have taken anyway.

In the example of Steli, where he thought this would be about his product, then realized it was in fact an invitation to connect on LinkedIn. Would you want to connect after feeling tricked?

So much for building trust…

The other problem with claims like: “this amazing subject line increases open rate by more than 50%” is that the sample size is often too small.

Here is an example to illustrate the point. Imagine you are sending 20 emails total, 10 with one subject line, and 10 with another.

Even if you more than double the open rate, this is still not statically significant!


You can use the calculator tool here to check if your sample size is statistically significant.

Be careful with the settings you use though. It’s easy to fall into thinking you have a significant result, even if you don’t. See the example below.

6 emails is just not enough of a sample size to determine if a version really is a winner, so you can’t claim a 3x improvement in open rate.

Opens also take time (approximately 2 days) to get a clear number because not everyone opens their emails as soon as they receive it (plus some days have more opens than others and many don’t open emails on weekends).

So beware of wrong conclusions, and don’t rely on examples from people not sharing the actual variables of their test (like how many emails were actually sent for both versions… at minimum).

So, what should you use as your subject line?

I aggregated all the millions of opens on my system to figure out what the best cold email subject line was.

The result? Well, it turns out that email subject actually didn’t matter much for open rate.

Even mentioning the person’s name didn’t have a significant impact. What seemed to have an impact (about 10%) was to actually mention the name of the company.

So much for all that noise…

A subject line is a contract between you and your reader

My recommendation is to use the subject line as a contract between you and the reader that implicitly states “if you open my email, this is what I’m going to talk about”.

That way, you’re building trust from the moment your recipient opens the email.

For example, if your email has a subject line of “Quick question”, don’t follow up with an email with a 6-page body. Make it a quick read.

All great cold emails start with a simple subject line:

  • “Promote QuickMail to 850,000 Entrepreneurs!”

  • “Jeremy, see a video of Intercom on QuickMail’s website”

  • “Doing a story on you”

That will be enough to know what the email is about and set the tone.

Recipients see more than just the subject line

The final thing I’ll have to say about this subject line frenzy is that it’s incomplete. It’s only one side of what your prospects actually see!

Each new email has 3 parts that the recipient see:

  1. Who sends the email

  2. The actual subject line

  3. A snippet of the beginning of the email

This is how it looks like on Gmail:

A good chunk of the view is spent on the subject line, yet who sends the email is probably going to be where your eyes go first.

This is far worse on Outlook, as the subject line is limited to a small number of characters while the snippet takes a good chunk of the view.

Same with using the built-in iPhone mail app.

My good friend Amar actually ran an experiment. He experimented with changing the persona he sent emails from. 

The results? Let’s just say that it had a much stronger impact than playing with the subject line to increase the open rate…

So, stop obsessing about the subject line and focus on higher-impact activities that will increase what you really want: positive replies.

Writing a good cold email body

This is what everybody wants advice on.

People will search the internet for the best cold email examples and templates and the best cold email tips to write the perfect cold email. 

But the truth is that if you ignore all the other parts (like creating a qualified list of prospects), no amount of information in this section will help you.

Creating a cold email mindset

Ok, before looking at what every cold email needs to have, let’s spend a bit of time making sure we enter this section with the right mindset. 

Why? 

Because all cold email marketing tactics' successes fade with time. 

It’s important to learn what makes things successful in the first place. 

Let’s take Amazon: Jeff Bezos famously said that there are some truths that won’t change with time. For example, no customer will ever say “I hope they would make it more expensive”, or “I wish it took longer to deliver”. Here is what he said exactly:

I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time. … In our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that’s going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want vast selection. It’s impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says, ‘Jeff I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher’, ‘I love Amazon; I just wish you’d deliver a little more slowly.’ Impossible. And so the effort we put into those things, spinning those things up, we know the energy we put into it today will still be paying off dividends for our customers 10 years from now. When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it. – Jeff Bezos

As in all industries, there are some cold email truths that will still be true in 10 years. 

Firstly, cold outreach, whether by email or another medium will still be a way to get new clients. Learning how to transform strangers into customers is an important skill. But no matter how much you want it, you have to remember that simple rule: The goal of your cold email is to open a conversation. If you can do that, you’ll be able to consistently start conversations with busy prospects using cold email, and everyone on your team will think you are a sales genius.

A proven cold email recipe for getting replies

All successful cold email outreach has 3 elements that answer 3 different questions. 

  1. Why me?

  2. What’s in it for me? (Value Proposition)

  3. What’s the next step? (Call To Action (CTA))

Look at this cold email example and see how AppSumo nailed it: 

 

They did a lot of things right. In my book, this is as close to a perfect cold email as you can get.

1. Why me?

This is the first thing that goes through the mind of a reader. They need to know why you are contacting them. They won’t be able to fully read your email until they can get an answer to that question.

2. Value Proposition

The value proposition is where most people struggle. Make it crystal clear & easy to get it. Make it about the recipient, not you (what’s in it for them, not you).

You need to show that you’re here to solve a problem in their business, or add value in some way – not just to sell your product.

3. Call To Action (CTA)

Your CTA needs to be crystal clear & easy to act on. Include only ONE question in your entire email and make sure it’s at the end.

You want your prospect to finish reading and be able to immediately reply to you without needing to think about it.

Want to see some of my favorite CTAs? Check out this cold email CTA swipe file.

4. Should I always personalize my cold email?

Without a doubt! The bar is higher than ever, and personalizing your email will always give you an edge. 

For example, if you target high growth companies with 3-5 sales reps, you could personalize your message with a “PS: Amazing what you have been able to achieve with just a few sales reps.”

If you want to have a process to do it at scale individually, check out the chapter on automation but regardless, do it manually first. 

Don’t optimize your process too soon, and always consider what you want from a cold email.

Do you want to increase your network, invite someone to a podcast/event, sell a product/service/course, or partner up for cross-marketing promotion…? These will all change your cold email template of choice.

I built a website where I list all the great cold emails I received, you can check it out here.

Following up on a Cold Email
Chapter 10

Following up on a Cold Email

  • Should you follow-up if you get no response? 

  • How to properly follow-up on a cold email? 

  • How many follow ups, how often? 

  • What do I say?

If you are wondering whether to follow up or not, consider that 40% of replies come from a follow-up on average. 

It’s one of the easiest ways to increase your response time if you don’t have any follow up yet.

For example, I rarely bother answering a cold email on the first email.

Yet, many people are afraid to follow up as they interpret silence as a ‘no’.

Nothing could be further from the truth…

Your prospect could be:

  • Dealing with a crisis at work (and you are not a crisis, and therefore not a priority)

  • Behind schedule on important things (and you are a stranger)

  • Read your email on the move, postponed the reply for later and forgot to reply (this happens a lot)

All of these are real reasons to ignore an initial email. 

That’s why it’s vital to avoid guilt-tripping the recipient (e.g. “I didn’t hear from you yet”).

Proper follow-ups are powerful and if you’re persistent but polite, it’s not uncommon to get positive replies after the 12th touch email.

Pushy, guilt-tripping, or aggressive follow-ups, on the other hand, will accelerate your spam complaints.

Let’s see what there is to know about follow-ups.

1. The classic “bump” email

Ever received this email before?


From: Someone annoying
Subject:Re: Quick question

Hi {{prospect.first_name}},

Did you read my email below?

...

Those are classic bump emails. They don’t add value and are meant to simply send an email back to the top of the recipient’s inbox.

The advantage is that it works with any campaign you may have. Just stick that in front and you are good to go. 

BUT, is it effective?

To some extent, it is. But, it’s not 2018 and I don’t recommend you use them anymore. You’ll get more spam complaints than answers.

A bump email is a lazy follow-up and people know it now. Plus, you’ll miss an opportunity to impress/inform/educate your prospect.

So in the next sections, I’ll show you how to craft an amazing follow-up so you are the one that will feel guilty about NOT sending a follow-up. 🙂

2. The “Adding value” follow-up

This has the same effect as a classic bump email (putting your email back on top of your prospect inbox), but adds some freshness to it. 

Vary your CTA with each follow-up. Some people are more receptive to certain CTA, so if you asked for a 10-minute phone call, in the next email, ask a basic question like “does that sound interesting to you?”. It's a lower commitment request and may encourage them to reply. 

The goal is to maximize your chances. 

Next, add some information that was missing in the first email. 

For example, AppSumo’s cold email that we looked at above could add a follow-up mentioning how much people make on average, or that it takes no more than 48h to get started…

Those are the best follow-ups. They aren’t as hard to craft as people think. Most people add too much information to their first email. Instead, design your campaign so each follow-up touches a different point.

3. The “breakup” email

A break-up email is an email that basically states: I won’t email you again after this, so act now if this is of interest to you.

Break-up emails became popular as a quick, cheap, and dirty way to increase the response rate at the expense of future potential replies.

You may get fewer replies in the future, but at least you’ll get some now. It’s like betting everything and cashing in now.

But if you are following the advice and focused on emailing a smaller and more targeted list of prospects, why would you ever want to break up with that list?

There are a few cases when it makes sense:

  • You need to reach your sales quota or you will get fired – so you need replies, now.

  • The offer truly has an expiry date (e.g. seasonal products, events with a deadline looming)

  • You prioritize deliverability over potential new clients. E.g. the recipient never opened or clicked on your emails, so you don’t want to risk them marking you as spam one day.

  • You’re targeting a huge market and/or are doing some tests on a new audience (so you want to accelerate the learning and get results in 3 weeks instead of 3 months).

One thing about the break-up email is this: if you tell your prospect you’ll break up with them, break up.

One day, I received a break-up email, and yet, 3 months later, I received another email from supposedly another sales rep catching up on leads from another sales rep… Clearly, the first break-up email was a lie.

Build trust with everything you do – and that includes staying true to your word when you tell someone you won’t reach out again.

Want to see some example cold email follow-up templates? Check out our guide here.

Timing your follow-up emails

When it comes to timing your follow up email, we have 2 conflicting ideas.

  1. The less spaced follow-ups are, the more replies you’ll get

  2. It’s all about timing and you want to stay top of mind with your prospects for a long time.

On one hand we know that sending many follow-ups will get you more replies (note: not necessarily positive ones!), On the other hand you want your prospect to remember you 6 months down the line, when business priorities changed.

Fortunately for us, there is a mathematical formula that helps solve this problem by combining email spacing and regularity.

Mathematics to the rescue!

1. Using Fibonacci to craft your follow-up email sequence

The Fibonacci sequence is a sequence of numbers such that each number is the sum of the two preceding ones, starting from 0 & 1.

The sequence is the following: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55 …

Now if you strip the beginning, you may well have the perfect sequence of time between emails.

Depending on how aggressive your email sequence needs to be, you can start at 1 or 2 or 3 days delay between your emails, and simply keep following the sequence from there.

2. The 5-minute cold email follow up tactic

I came up with an interesting tactic while I was experimenting with follow-ups before writing this guide.

Space your first follow-up 5 minutes after your original email and add a missing piece of information.

For example, if you tell the prospect about coming to your podcast, your cold email follow-up 4 hours later can be as follows:


From:Jeremy Chatelaine
Subject:Re: Quick question

Should probably have added the podcast link: https://itunes.apple.com/podcast/cold-email-outreach-with-jeremy-jack/id1272643794

...

Cold Email Metrics
Chapter 11

Cold Email Metrics

What metrics to track with cold emails? What do you need to be paying attention to?

6 years ago, I was keeping track of my cold email campaign success using nothing but a Trello board as there wasn’t a solution that worked in a tool. Luckily, nowadays, all cold email software includes some kind of metrics and tracking features.

However, there’s a new problem. Getting information is easy. Understanding what metrics to spend time and attention on is a different challenge. 

Let’s review what you can track and what to pay attention to.

Cold email metrics worth tracking

We wrote a whole guide to cold email metrics – click here to read it. I’ve summarized some of our thoughts on them below.

1. Open Tracking

Open tracking is an indicator to determine how well your emails are inboxing, but it is not a perfect science.

To understand why you can’t always trust the open rate, you’ll need to understand how it works.

The core idea is very simple: a link to an invisible pixel (a 1 by 1 pixel large transparent image) is added as part of the cold email you send.

The recipient will then automatically load the image when opening the email.

The image is located on a remote server that listens to requests for images. Given the personalized URL requested for the image, the server can then know which one of your prospects opened the email.

Although the theory is nice and simple, users who don’t have images turned on (like me), will never trigger the loading of this image.

On Gmail, this looks like this:

Unless I click on “Display the images below”, the invisible pixel won’t load and this person has no way to know if I opened the email or not.

The same thing happens on mobile too, here is the how it looks on the iPhone app:

Unless clicked, the images won’t load.

Even with a Microsoft Outlook 😉 Client.

By the way, this is how you would disable open tracking on your email client so open tracking won’t work on you.

In Gmail:

Go in the settings:

And turn off the autoloading of external images.

On iPhone:

Go in Settings / Mail

Then disable loading of Remote Images

At this point, you may say: okay Jeremy, it’s just something to factor in. A certain amount of email will not trigger an open.

That’s fair enough, but that’s not the end of the story, unfortunately.

You also have to deal with false positives as spam filters do check the image too before showing it to the user.

Spam filters protect the recipients from receiving spam in the form of images. It could be an image with text selling you stuff (this used to be a trick from shady marketers in the past).

That is fine, but they also will trigger an open even though the prospect didn’t even open the email.

Then, you have to consider that Gmail preloads images in its proxy before the user requests the email. So you end up getting an open trigger even though the user hasn’t opened the email yet. And if the user opens multiple times the email, the image will come from the proxy and therefore not trigger an open on the server that tracks opens.

So, you can start to see that the open rate alone isn’t that reliable. And, there are two more drawbacks to consider too.

The first is that open tracking is a lagging indicator. This means that it takes time to actually show the right number.

Imagine you send 300 emails now. Some recipients may open it in 3 days, and maybe more if there’s a weekend in between. It’s not a big deal, but you need to take this into consideration when looking at it.

The second drawback is much more annoying. Spam filters dislike sending images, so they will give you a bad score for including an image (which is the pixel used for open tracking).

Fortunately, the impact is minor, but I’d avoid running the risk on a fresh new inbox/domain.

That’s why I recommend not adding open tracking pixels on the first email you send. Instead, add them to your follow-ups. The idea is that in your follow-up reply to the original message, there will be more text and therefore the pixel will be less of a problem. This will, unfortunately, add a lot of lag to the metric and it will take time for you to diagnose deliverability issues. But on the other hand, getting your first email delivered to your prospect is arguably more important than collecting that data, at least initially.

By now, you’ll know that open tracking is neither reliable nor ideal. But that’s the most common way to make sure our emails don’t go to spam.

If monitoring deliverability is a concern (and it should be these days), you need to regularly send emails to monitoring inboxes that will tell you where you land (inbox/spam/promotional tab…).

For example, this is how it will look like in QuickMail once you enable deliverability monitoring.

It won’t generate engagement (e.g. people interacting with your email and replying to you), but is a useful way to understand how well your emails are being delivered.

If you decide to track your open rate, aim to be in the 60-80% range.

If you are below 40%, something is going badly wrong and it’s time to pause your campaign to address this. It could be your prospecting, but it’s more likely to be deliverability issues, as people tend to open emails even if they’re not a fit for what’s inside.

Anything in between (40-60%), you need to dedicate some time to improve your open rate: review how your list is generated, check if you aren’t in a spam list, and that all technical indicators are good (SPF, DKIM).

So, the open rate is a semi-useful metric. Let’s look at some more, and whether or not they’re more useful.

2. Click Tracking

Click Tracking works in a similar way as to open tracking, but instead of an image being loaded on the server, the request hits the tracking servers. The server then redirects the request to the correct website and logs a click notification for that prospect.

I’m not a fan of click tracking, as it’s like having a big sign that says: I’ll know as soon as you click on the link.

I get it – you want to know if your prospects click on the link and engage with your content. If they do, you can adapt your communication if they open the link or not.

But, this is approaching it from the wrong angle. The goal is not to have them click, but to engage in a conversation with you. Someone is more likely to engage if you show you’re not aggressively tracking their every action.

Plus, it has the same problem as open tracking. Some spam filters will randomly check your links, therefore generating false positives.

You can use custom domain tracking (basically white-labeling the links to use your domain instead of the cold email application you are using), but even so, it’s too easy to spot for the recipient.

On top of this, if you actually write the URL, the address in the text will be different from the actual address you are sending the person to, which is a big red flag for spam filters.

Spam filters see that as a possible Phishing Attack. For example, you could write www.google.com yet, redirect to Bing with the hyperlink. Here, it’s harmless – but imagine we are writing paypal.com and in fact, you are sending the user to your personal hacking server.

How about relying on URL shorteners? 

That way the user will think we only wanted to shorten the link instead of tracking them. This may work, but spam filters see those links as potentially harmful, so your deliverability will tank (it’s been used by many spammers to hide the real website they are sending people toward).

So if you plan on having click tracking turned on, use words, not URLs as text. Like THIS

Or better, don’t track clicks at all. People will refrain from clicking on your links if they don't know where your link leads, which is not what you want.

There are a few exceptions though. Some links are whitelisted, meaning you won’t get penalized if you add them. That’s the case of LinkedIn profiles and YouTube videos to name just two. That said, there’s still no guarantee. Not all companies are using the same email infrastructure and some may indeed reject your email.

In summary, don’t track clicks. And ideally, just write the link without making it a link if you need to.

Like what I do with my signature:

Jeremy Chatelaine
Founder & CEO QuickMail.io
Check me out on LinkedIn / Facebook
What’s QuickMail in 1 minute? -> https://youtu.be/9IleUfqbuP0

(see, it’s not a clickable link, yet Gmail will transform this into a clickable link when read by the recipient and will even pull out the thumbnails for you when it’s youtube… nice)

3. Reply Rate

Okay, now we’re talking. Replies are important, but there are a few things to pay attention to.

Like Open Rate, the Reply Rate is a lagging indicator, and you’ll need to wait even longer as people put aside emails they will reply to later.

Reply rate doesn’t move your bottom line by itself, and you’ll always be getting replies like “Take me off your list” mixed in with the positives. It happens to all of us, and even though it does increase the reply rates, it’s not something we can consider a success.

Therefore, the real metric you need to be tracking is positive reply rate or appointments booked.

In terms of reply rate metrics, most effective cold email marketing campaigns will see a 20% reply rate of more.

If you are getting below 10%, it could be that your targeting is off, or that the message still needs tweaking. Keep iterating at this stage and experiment until you find a formula that works.

4. Positive Reply Rate

Not all replies are equal. For example, your reply rate could be good, but what if everyone is telling you to take a hike, or to fly a kite?

One of the easiest ways to improve the positive/negative ratio is to simply pay attention to the negative replies. 

Back in the days, I did a campaign targeted at Doctors and although the reply rate was good, most of the replies were people angry at me for not using Doctor in front of their name (they worked 8 years to get this after all) and for using the word ‘customer’ instead of ‘patient’ when referring to their business. Those are two simple mistakes with easy fixes that got my campaign back on track. If I was only looking at reply rate rather than separating positive and negative replies, I might have missed this.

What do you need to aim for as a ratio between positive and negative?

Have a minimum of 50%.

You shouldn't get more negative than positive replies. Keep iterating until you have at least a ratio of 1 negative for every 3 positive.

5. Bounce Rate

I’m often amazed at how little people pay attention to their bounce rate.

Every bounce is signaling to ESPs that you’re taking your cold email marketing efforts lightly. 

Too many bounces can immediately kill a new inbox, as it signals you’re willing to be reckless with it and clearly aren’t using it to contact people you know.

You’ll get huge deliverability problems if you don’t tackle this quickly (as discussed in the chapter about verifying your list).

Here’s the distribution of bounce rate for QuickMail users:

A good bounce rate to aim for is less than 5% with every cold email campaign – which most QuickMail users are getting. 

If you are reaching a 10% bounce rate, you need to stop the campaign and address this first. Anything above, and you won’t be doing cold email for very long.

6. Spam Rate

It would be amazing, but unfortunately, it’s not possible to track how many people label your cold emails as spam.

One last note about cold email metrics

Those stats can also be cyclic, and they are. For example, you won’t get the same open rate during holidays. It doesn’t mean you need to avoid sending cold emails (in fact some are taking advantage of those times a year), but it will have a big impact on your stats.

Here is an example of how Covid-19 impacted cold emails in 2020:

I looked at all the open rates across millions of emails QuickMail sent during that period.

Here is what the open rate looked like:

And how the reply rate looked like:

As you can see, there is a massive dip similar to the end of year during that pandemic time, yet, the open rate shoots up drastically as soon as the pandemic measures are relaxed. This indicates people were catching up with their inbox and answering emails.

If you want to check the metrics, do take the external factors into consideration too, not to take the wrong conclusions.


Handling Replies
Chapter 12

Handling Replies

You got a reply, now what?

Handling incoming replies

Why a chapter on handling replies?

Turns out that getting replies is only half of the story.

For example, Jack, my co-host from EmailsThatSell, once had a client that was doing super well with cold email but could simply not keep up with the leads.

What a waste – all this effort to build a great cold email campaign, but the effort was wasted as leads were falling through the cracks.

So, it would make sense to know you have a system to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.

This could mean:

  • Mapping out the expected reply rate and judging if you can handle it

  • Lowering the volume of cold emails you send and see if you can manage it on a small scale first

  • Hiring VAs or team members to help you manage the replies

The main thing is that when someone replies, you need to be attentive and show that you’re there to help as you promised in your email to them.

 

Overcoming the fear of rejection

Many people avoid cold emailing because they fear rejection.

The funny thing is that you should be seeking rejection. That’s how you learn fast.

Here are a few things to help reframe your mind when it comes to being rejected

  1. Your goal is to help people. If you don’t contact them, you are doing them a disservice. If you have a service or an app that would help me grow my business, why would you not let me know about it? Isn’t that what friends do? Help me!

  2. The fear of rejection forces you to be clear on your offering, and your target audience as you’ll be more self-critical

  3. Rejection helps you course correct. Maybe this was the wrong audience, the value offering was unclear, the call to action too high… Feedback is the breakfast of champions. Use it to improve future campaigns.

  4. At least you get a reply! Even if it’s negative, it’s a chance to learn and reflect.

Here are some strategies to handle it:

  1. In the beginning, only check your emails once or twice a week. That way it’s likely you will have positive replies and won’t be affected by one rejection. If all you have is rejection, it stings less to have them in bulk.

  2. Have a VA filtering for you the bad ones and forwarding you the good ones. You will lose the learning from the rejection though, so be careful with this

  3. Get used to it. Rejection is only hard in the beginning, so consider giving yourself a 30 day challenge of looking at every rejection. Once done, having the fear of rejection will be old news.


Outsourcing Your Cold Email Workflow
Chapter 13

Outsourcing Your Cold Email Workflow

You don’t have to do everything on your own. Luckily for you, I’ll show you how to hire the perfect virtual assistant for you.

Note that you will need to run cold email campaigns a few times on your own first. This will give you an understanding of the tasks. Once you get the hang of it, there is little reason for keeping on doing mundane tasks that anyone else can do, and it will give you more time to spend growing your business.

$1,000 per hour vs $1 per hour

Not all tasks have the same value, yet our time as a human being is set as 24 hours per day.

It’s clear that some tasks are worth $1/hour or $10/hour, while others are worth more. The goal for you in your cold outreach is to spend the time on the highest possible value (usually being on the phone with your prospect).

Prospecting & data-entry are usually good places to start for outsourcing, as it’s tedious and low-value by nature. Pretty much anyone can type on a keyboard, so the level of training for this is pretty low.

Once you identify the part of the process you would like to outsource (e.g. data-entry, handling replies, setting up domains, capturing emails…), it’s time to hire the right person for the job.

How to hire a superstar from Upwork

Upwork is a platform that gives you access to a large pool of talent, making it ideal for outsourcing tasks.

I’ve been hiring a lot of people successfully from Upwork over the years and I ended up with a very detailed process to get rid of 95% of bad applicants without taking much time or energy. Here are the steps I follow:

1. Always add a challenge to your job post

The first thing you’ll need to do is to create a job spec. For low-level work, it doesn’t need to be very detailed, a few sentences explaining the nature of the work will suffice, but you will need to drop at least one challenge in it to filter the spam applicants.

Often, bad freelancers will run crawlers to automatically apply to jobs. These are usually low-quality applicants and they are just wasting your time with their spam application, hoping someone will accept.

A challenge is meant to see if the applicant read your job post or not.

Here is an example of a challenge on my job posts currently:

When creating your job post, you add the question for your challenge as part of your screening process, like this:

Then, you expect people to apply with this as a response:

You may think this is obvious, but you’d be amazed at the number of people who don’t read the job spec and don’t even bother.

E.g. people who did not read the job spec and expect you to read their essay on their favorite animal instead…

You can use any challenge you see fit. In the past, I used “What’s the magic word?”, but this became overused and spam applicants got used to it.

My favorite animal works because the previous question is about them, so they think it’s some kind of psychological test.

The goal is to spend close to no time on people who don’t spend the time to read your job spec.

With this challenge, I spend about 5 seconds per spam applicant, which is very manageable. It seems harsh, but you get a high volume of applicants and you need people who you can trust with detail when it comes to data entry tasks.

2. Invite freelancers you deem worthy

Once you have your job post up, you don’t have to sit and wait for the perfect match to knock at your door.

I encourage you to do your own research for the perfect virtual assistant.

Fortunately, you can simply ask Google for the best freelancer using some URL ninja skills.

  • Use site:upwork.com to limit research to pages on upwork.com only

  • Use BOOLEAN expressions to specify content (use * for any word)

  • Use intitle: to search your job title as the title of the freelancer

  • Use inurl: to make sure you don’t get blog posts or other useless pages

Here is an example if I search for a great Data Entry virtual assistant:

site:upwork.com AND (“Best * I’ve ever” OR “is amazing” OR “hands down”) intitle:”data-entry” -inurl:/l/ -inurl:/hire/ -inurl:/job/ -inurl:/o/

You will then have a list of virtual assistants to pick from. You can inspect their profile and check out their work history.

You are looking for comments like these:

Here you want to pay attention to the comment as well as the number of hours worked. Some virtual assistants pay for fake reviews. Getting an amazing review for 1 hour of work is a clear sign of this.

If you like the freelancer, just invite them to your post. Don’t forget to drop their name in the invite. Most invites are generic and look like spam invites. By dropping their name, you stand a much greater chance of having them pay attention to your job.

Scaling and Automating Your Cold Email Outreach
Chapter 14

Scaling and Automating Your Cold Email Outreach

How to automate your cold email campaign and scale your outreach process.

Why Scaling and Automation?

Usually, you will need to have some automation in place when the time comes to scale. The idea of scaling is always scaling beyond oneself.

We can however scale with more humans or machines.

For example, before tools like QuickMail helped with sending cold email and follow-ups on automation, people relied on VA (virtual assistants).

Tools like ZoomInfo help you scale your prospecting, and before that, it was done manually.

Software like NeverBounce helps you scale your email verification process, which was always difficult to automate without technical know-how.

How do you know when you’re ready to scale your cold outreach?

This may sound like a silly question. But, people often scale too early.

Think about it a moment: should you scale something that doesn’t work?

Here are some considerations before scaling up your cold emailing.

1. Is outbound working for you?

There are many problems that are specific to scaling, so better nail down working at low volume first.

That means: Do your prospects choose email to communicate? Do you consistently get replies that show prospects have understood your value proposition?

From a metrics standpoint, make sure you get a minimum of 15% reply rate with at least half of the responses being positive. When you see that on a consistent basis, you may be ready to start scaling.

2. How large is your prospect list?

The risk of burning through your market is real. Even if your market is the entire world, you will need to segment your list in smaller lists to better target and personalize your cold emails, or you’ll never reach the 15% reply rate. 

Because it’s hard to have a compelling message for a lot of people, you’ll likely experience the law of diminishing returns. So, your role will be to actually maintain your performance as you scale. Don’t think you will figure it out and improve as you scale – it’s likely to worsen, not improve.

3. Do you have the people and processes to scale?

Another point that people quickly forget is how much stress their company can take. Stress in terms of workflow and processes.

Imagine you are getting 10 replies from interested prospects each day.

Do you have the resources to handle those 10? What about 20? 50 or 100? If your company can’t handle that reply volume, leads will fall through the cracks and you’ll be wasting opportunities to have conversations with qualified prospects.

Remember that the goal of a cold email is to open a conversation. You’ll need people and processes to convert a reply into a buyer, which can take weeks or months in some industries.

Do you need to change your team composition by hiring new people, or giving people extra responsibilities to reflect the increased volume?

4. Can you ensure deliverability at scale?

Cold email deliverability will always be a challenge, especially if you try to scale before nailing down messaging and get positive replies.

To avoid problems, have a backup plan (e.g. some backup domains pre-warmed) in case your first campaigns hurt your sender reputation and domain.

When sending 20-50 emails a day, deliverability isn’t really a problem, but this can quickly become a massive problem when scaling to hundreds of emails per day.

One way to get around this is to rely on multiple inboxes to do the job (each inbox sending a smaller batch of emails).

This works great but until now, scaling with inboxes proved complex and complicated to manage as you’d need to duplicate a campaign for each inbox. Imagine if you had to change the copy of one email, but then had to make the same minor change for all campaigns that are exactly the same (and pulling stats together to know what works).

We actually solved this problem with QuickMail’s inbox rotation feature. Each campaign can have any number of inboxes participating.

That way, you only have one campaign to manage even if the emails are getting distributed between all the available inboxes. Volume stays low for each inbox and deliverability is maintained despite scaling up without adding management complexity.

Conclusion

Everything You Need to Know About Cold Email in One Place

You made it!

We’ve looked at everything you need to know when you’re starting with cold emailing at your company.

If you follow the steps in this cold email guide, it’ll be hard to go wrong.

Hopefully, you now have all you need to be successful with cold emails and be on your way to cold email mastery. Send me an email if you think something is missing on this page.

When you’re ready to start running cold outreach campaigns I’d love for you to try out QuickMail.

If you want to learn more about cold email, you can check out our latest articles on our cold email blog.

Start Your Trial

See how many more replies you can get with the help of our software.