What is Cold Email (and is it SPAM?)

Since launching LeadFuze, the single most asked question has been: “What is cold email?”, followed by, “is it SPAM?”

What is cold email spam

Although we did not invent the term “cold email”, we were really among the first companies to start talking about it as a tool for driving B2B revenue growth.

I thought taking the time to answer this in a more in-depth manner would serve as a good resource for me to be able to send to people to for further reading.

So… just what is cold email?

Cold email is an email sent to a potential customer that has had no prior relationship with you.

You can think of it like a cold call, but much less obtrusive.

A successful cold email outreach plan uses personalized cold emails to make contact with those potential customers that you’ve had no prior relationship or connect with.

There are 5 key differences in Spam vs Cold email. Here they are:

What is cold email?

Is Cold Email SPAM?

There is a difference between bulk pharmacy product emails (which accounts for 81% of spam) and one-to-one emails to a targeted business audience.

Under the CAN-SPAM act, you are able to send emails to business people that you do not know.

However, you want to make sure you are complying with the rules that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has outlined.

Luckily, that isn’t difficult to do. Here are the seven things you need to incorporate when sending cold emails:

  1. Don’t misrepresent who you are – Basically, your “From”, “To”, and “Reply-To” information needs to identify who you are.
  2. Don’t use misleading subject lines – Using a subject line of “Your receipt” when pitching your product/service would be misleading. Keep it real.
  3. Identify if the email is an ad – If your email is an advertisement or special coupon offer, just make sure it is labeled as such.
  4. Include your business address – This can be a PO Box or your physical address, but you have to include it. Ideal placement for this information would be in your email signature.
  5. Give them an opt-out option – You don’t have to use an “unsubscribe” link which takes away some of the personal aspects of the email. Instead, ask them, “Please let me know if you are not the right person to contact for this.” It’s a good alternative that keeps things personal.
  6. Honor opt-outs – If they don’t want any future emails, make sure they don’t get any more emails. I don’t even respond to the request, I just make sure they don’t get any more follow-ups.
  7. Know what others do/send on your behalf – Even if you hire a company to handle your email outreach, you are still legally responsible. Make sure whoever you have working on your email outreach understands these seven rules.

For more information, you can read this PDF straight from the FTC.

Is cold email outreach unsolicited? Yes. Is cold email SPAM? No. Not if you follow the rules outlined above.

Cold Email Use Cases

So, what is the purpose of cold emailing someone?

Learning how to cold email (sometimes referred to as “cold call email”), effectively can be a huge boost to your sales process. 

Editor’s Note: I will be using cold email, email outreach, and cold call email pretty interchangeably throughout this post, but they all mean the same thing.

Mention the words cold call email to most people and they’ll immediately think you’re a salesperson.

And while that is the primary reason to send messages to people who don’t know who you are, it’s not the only reason to do it.

Here at LeadFuze, we obviously think that cold email is one of the quickest ways for startups to experience growth.

It’s also a fantastic way for established small and medium businesses to add revenue to their current marketing system.

But what about all the other uses?

Have you ever thought about emailing “leads” for other reasons?

If you’re not sure what other reasons there are, that’s exactly what this post will be showing you.

We’ll go over nine different uses for cold emails in your business as well as a sample cold email template for each use. 

Let’s start with the obvious…

Cold Email for Lead Generation 

We mentioned that lead gen is the most common reason for cold emailing.

Of course, the first thing you need to be able to cold email are the actual email addresses. You can actually use LeadFuze to find email addresses of contacts in your target market. 

LeadFuze is a software solution to help you build lists of accurate leads automatically, while integrating with sales outreach tools to allow you to contact those freshly verified leads.

LeadFuze Demo

LeadFuze in action. Sign up to get 25 leads for FREE.

We are going to spend the majority of this guide talking about cold email for lead generation purposes.

So I will keep this brief and leave you with a resource that has 10 different lead gen examples and complete breakdowns by myself and my partner at LeadFuze. 

Further Reading: For a deep dive into cold email for sales, you can check out a couple of our cold email examples and breakdowns post. That link will open in a new tab so you can continue reading this guide. ?

Cold Emailing for Market Research

Another way to use cold email outreach is for market research.

It might be to validate a startup idea, learn pain points of a target market, gather survey results, or strictly for data gathering purposes that you use for a report or whitepaper.

Be sure you follow up with them when you publish the whitepaper and thank them for contributing.

Determine Startup Viability

In today’s lean startup approach, it’s more important than ever to talk to your potential customers before you start going crazy with development and business plans.

I’ve actually used this approach to determine the viability of a business idea.

I would gather up a list of people in a target market and shoot them an email to determine what, if any, pain points they have.

I’d look for common responses and then do research based on that feedback.

Or if I have the idea already, I would just direct them to a landing page to see what kind of interest there was.

With Workado (a software project I started before LeadFuze), I used this market research strategy for gathering feedback on which systems marketing agencies were currently using to manage their campaigns.

It was a soft intro to Workado, but at the same time it allowed me to gather data that I could use to determine which existing software solutions I might want to integrate with.

This led to customer sign-ups as well as great information that can be used for integration planning and future product development. 

Sample Cold Email

Subject Line: What’s your project management system?

Hi, [first name],

Hope you can help me out.

I am interviewing agency owners to find out what project management system they are using to manage their client campaigns. Would you mind sharing?

On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you with it?

Any insight at all would be appreciated!


[Email Signature]

P.S. If you’d rather I not contact you again, just let me know. Or,if you know another agency owner using a project management solution —feel free to forward them my info. 

Cold Email for Invitation (podcast/webinar/event/etc)

If you’ve followed the LeadFuze blog for any amount of time, you know we rarely suggest sending a straight sales email.

Instead, you should send an offer or resource of some sort.

An invitation to something is one of the easiest intros to get.

If you’re having a webinar, doing a podcast that needs fresh guests, or are holding a networking event in your city — cold email can build a relationship and get people to whatever you’re putting on.

Sample Cold Email Sequence

For this one, I actually wrote an entire post on the subject. In it, there is a 4-email sequence to help you squeeze the most webinar attendees out of a list.

It is written specifically for webinars, but you could easily augment it for just about any event you’re holding.

If you don’t want to click over, I’ll copy and paste the first email below.

Subject Line: See What Your Competitors Are Doing

Hi [First Name],

I’d love to have you attend one of our upcoming webinars where we show what some of your competitors like [Competitor] are doing to grow.

I thought you’d be a great fit since you’re in the industry we’ll be reviewing. 

It’s free, but we only have so many slots. You can register for it here.

[Email Signature]

P.S. Not the person to talk to? Let me know! Don’t want me to follow-up with you? You can let me know about that too!

Cold Call Email for Influencer Marketing

One of the best ways of getting your products and services in front of a large, targeted audience is via influencer marketing.

If you can manage to woo the ear of someone with a platform, you can reap the benefits through promotional mentions on some of the biggest blogs, podcasts, and social media accounts.

It’s been going on since before the internet.

Small companies would send their merch to stars in Hollywood in hopes that they’d be caught out in public with it on them.

Or even that the famous person would mention it during an interview.

Now we see internet sensations getting similar treatment for one reason. It’s incredibly effective.

cold call email

If you follow Casey Neistat or Tim Ferris, you’ll notice that they love small businesses and will often “review” or mention the products that they like.

BTW: If you’re interested in Influencer Outreach or building up your own platform, Tomoson is a fantastic resource. Here’s a link to their blog.

Just like lead generation, it’s easier to get an email address than a phone number.

And, if your email stands out — you may just get a shot.

You don’t have to reach out to those with millions of subscribers, but you will have to put some thought into who would be the best choice.

To find who your industry influencers are, head over to BuzzSumo and look up a keyword/industry. For our purposes, we might want to look for influencers in the “sales” space:

How to Use Cold Email Outreach for Growth-sales influencers

So right off the bat, I can see people like Mark Hunter, Jill Konrath, and David Brock, who might find what we are doing interesting and be able to help provide exposure if I built up a good relationship with them.

Side Note: Mentioning their names and linking to them in a blog post is a good way to start the relationship, since they get value out of that and at the same time there’s a good chance they are using brand name monitoring or Google Alerts for their name.

Now once you have some influencers, you want to start up a spreadsheet so you know who you need to maintain relationships with.

How to Use Cold Email Outreach for Growth- influencer spreadsheet

You can use tools like BuzzStream or Linkio as well to help manage your influencer finding and outreach.

Influencer Fact: On average, businesses generate $6.50 in revenue for each $1 invested in influencer marketing. (source)

According to Tomoson, businesses generate $6.50 for every $1 spent on influencers marketing. Click To Tweet

Sample Cold Email

Subject Line: I read your blog post and took action

Hi, [First Name],

Your recent post, [insert post here], really struck a cord with me.

I used it as a spring board to [insert your action here]. 

The results have been awesome. [insert results here].

I know you’re busy and won’t take up much of your time. I just wanted to introduce myself and let you know that your advice works and I love your content.

[Email Signature]

P.S. If you’d like to use anything from this email as a testimonial or get more from me, just let me know. I can provide a longer version, write a guest post about it, or even hop on a call. Thanks again! 

Disclaimer: Obviously, you’ll have to try the tips put forth in the blog post, or whatever resource you decide. The point is, don’t just say, “You have cool stuff.” Show them why you love them and what you’ve done about it. 

Cold Email for Networking/Follow-Up

If you’re in B2B sales, networking is a necessary part of your life.

Going to events, getting involved in social media, and other forms of public interaction help you to develop relationships that build the business and get more customers.

cold call email

You can be networking for a number of reasons, too.

Joint ventures, leads, integrations, advice, mentorship, you name it.

Cold email can help you network for all of these reasons in at least two ways.

  1. Introduce Yourself: You don’t always need an event to say hello. If there are others in your industry that seem to be advantageous (for you and them) — it’s ok to reach out. Especially, if you do it the right way.
  2. Follow-Up: Ok, so this isn’t exactly “cold”. That said, it’s not something that is commonly done. If you go to a conference or networking luncheon; it’s totally cool to follow up with the people you spoke with. If you met someone cool and beneficial to your efforts — why not reach out via email?

Example and Sample Cold Email

Again, there are a ton of reasons to want to break the ice.

This sample is literally just that. The key here is simple. Find something nice to say. Which requires a bit of personalization.

I will go into much more detail on personalization later in this guide.

For now though, let’s say a local agency may compliment another marketing company’s social profile. The other company has a complimentary set of services and cross promotion could be in the future.

Subject Line: Your amazing Instagram account

Hi, [First Name]

Me and the entire [your company name] team have been really enjoying the [company name] Instagram.

You really do an amazing job of capturing the beauty of [local city/town].

We haven’t met anyone from your team at [company name] and wanted to break the ice and connect.

Not to mention tell you that we love your social game.

[Email Signature]

P.S. If you’d be interested in taking over our Instagram for a day, just let me know.

Further Reading: How to Write Networking Emails That People Can’t Ignore (via HubSpot)

Cold Email for Hiring

Recruiting is a big business.

Dow Jones is skyrocketing and hiring signs are everywhere.

If you’re not actively seeking out the best candidates, you’re likely not going to get the best talent at your company.

The best people for the jobs you need to fill probably are already working for someone else, but looking for the next opportunity (most of the time passively).

cold call email


The two best ways to get in touch are email and LinkedIn.

Further Reading: If you’re really interested in recruiting, here’s a fantastic guide from Recruitee.

Sample Cold Email

Subject Line: I’ll be direct

Hi, [first name],

From the looks of it, you’re a talented and hardworking individual who happens to have a ton of experience with [coding language].

[company name/recruiting company name] has taken a look at some of the projects you’ve done and really want to speak with you about potential employment. 

I’d love to speak with you and answer any questions you may have.

You can reply to this email, give me a call, or schedule a time for coffee.

[Email Signature]

P.S. If you’d rather I not contact you again, just let me know. Or, if you’re happy with your current position but know someone as qualified as you are that may be looking—feel free to forward them my info. 

Bonus Resource: 37 more recruiting cold email templates from Beamery.

Cold Emailing for List Building

This is more important for early stage startups.

If you don’t have much of a list, you need to start somewhere.

Reaching out to people with something of value can be a great way to build up your initial list. Click To Tweet

Your efforts won’t go anywhere if you don’t truly have something of value to the person you’re emailing.

Guides that help your prospective customer make money, save money, or save time should be the focus.

Subject Line: The Ultimate Guide on [relevant topic]

Hi, [first name],

Just taking a stab here based on what I found out about you LinkedIn, but I’m assuming this guide on [topic] would be of interest to you.

I am finishing it up as we speak and should have it ready soon. Based on your experience, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

Cool if I send it to you when it’s ready?

[Email Signature]

P.S. If you’d rather I not contact you again, just let me know. Or, if you know someone else who might be interest, that would be awesome! 

Cold Call Email for Link Building

Inbound marketing is still alive and well, but can be neglected by startups.

You’re trying to get your product established and get to the first funding round, testing growth channels, and tweaking funnels. Makes sense.

But setting yourself up for steady organic traffic and the ability to rank relevant keywords isn’t a bad idea.

The biggest problem is the amount of work.

There are portions of this process that can be automated, but it’s still fairly hands-on.

In fact, most companies have a team of two or more link builders according to one survey (screenshot and source link below).

cold call email


Perhaps the most involved reason for cold email, but also the one with the most long-term benefits. There are a couple of methods.

Method One: Write and Ask

  1. Write an amazing piece of content. Like a go-to resource that your target audience would love to have in their Evernote or Pocket.
  2. Search for relevant blogs, who are always looking for good content to share with their audiences via links in their posts.
  3. Put their info in a spreadsheet or use a tool like LeadFuze to find them.
  4. Find content on the blogs that could easily link to your post.
  5. Send email complimenting the blog, and humbly ask for the link.

Method Two: Find, Write, and Ask

  1. Search for relevant blogs, who are always looking for good content to share with their audiences via links in their posts.
  2. Read through their posts, finding any bad links (404 errors and such).
  3. Write a quality post (or find one you already have) similar to the subject and context of the broken link.
  4. Email the blog to humbly let them know they have a broken link and that you have a post that they may want to link to for their audience.

Sample Cold Email

Subject Line: Broken link in a [blog name] blog post

Hi [First Name],

I was reading your post [insert post title here], and found that a link wasn’t working.

It was [insert location or screenshot of broken link]. 

If you’re interested, I have a [resource/blog/etc.], that I created for [insert your company/blog] that could work.

Here’s a link to it for your review.

We put a lot of work into our resources and would love for it to benefit your audience. 

[Email Signature]

Bonus Resource: Here is a post with 8 more examples of link-building emails.

Cold Emailing for Partnerships

Find potential affiliates or referral partners, or in our case, integration partners. These partners can then promote you to their audience.

Of all the ways to use cold email that I have listed, this is currently the one I personally use the most. Now, not as a company, but just me personally (as I am not involved in the sales process much these days). 

I usually go much longer into detail about what a partnership might look like, why we would be good partners, etc. 

Subject Line: Partner?

Hi [First Name],

I have been following [company/partner] for awhile as you have a lot of content about our industry.

I imagine you’ve built up a nice little audience and I wanted to see if you’d have interest in partnering? 

I think this could work really well since your audience most likely would have interest in a solution like ours. 

What I propose is:

[partnership details]

Up for it? 

[Email Signature]

For a handy reference, here are the use cases above put into an infographic:

cold email use cases

Cold Email Best Practices

Ask any seasoned salesperson, and they will guarantee that cold emailing and calling is the way to go if you want new customers and grow your business.

But let’s talk about cold calling another day. Let’s discuss how to create a winning game plan for cold emailing.

The first goal of writing cold emails is, of course, to get it read.

The second goal is to make sure that the person reads until the end of the email. So every word and sentence you use should persuade the reader to move to the next one.

Your cold email should be personal, relevant, and hit the prospect’s biggest challenge to get them interested in your offering.

While there isn’t any hard and fast rule or formula to write the perfect cold email, below are some of the tips and tricks you can use to increase the chance of getting a response.

NOTE: These cold emailing tips have been compiled after YEARS of practice and insights into tens of thousands of campaigns and millions of cold emails sent.

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

How do your customers view the problem you are trying to solve?

Have your message meet them where they are at, and help them solve a legitimate problem.

Imagine that they just received a cold email from your competitor. You need to stand out right from the beginning so you need to nail your subject line…

Experiment with Subject Lines

Nothing is more frustrating than sending out a carefully crafted outreach email that does not get read, right?

But wait. Did you take a second look at your subject line?

According to Convince and Convert, 35% of email recipients open emails based on the subject line.

If the subject line isn’t enticing for the recipient, they aren’t going to open and read your email.

So how do you write cold email subject lines that boost open rates? Here are three types of subject lines you can start using in your cold email.

  • Subjects that are personalized: When we say personal, it means including the recipient’s first name, title, company name or anything that shows that you have researched about them before getting in touch.

Example: “A personal note to {company name} from a fan!”

  • Subjects that are short and simple: The most basic, almost amateur subject lines work best than the sophisticated ones. And since an increasing number of people today access their inbox via mobile, they tend to treat it as text messages and reply to it quickly.

Example: “Hello, {first name}”

  • Subjects that generate curiosity: One effective way to make sure that your emails get opened is to generate curiosity. Don’t give away too much in your subject line. Instead, it should be provocative, and pique the lead’s interest in finding out what is in the email body.

Example: “Let’s decide, {first name}”

Further Reading: We’ve put together guides on cold email subject lines and follow-up subject lines.

Write Like You Talk

People can sniff out “marketing copy” right away. Write your message like something you would send to a coworker, not giving a speech to 1,000 people.

Forget the Introduction

When someone views your message on their mobile device and the first line reads, “I’m Mike with ABC Corporation,” you make it very easy for your prospect to delete the message and not read any further, especially if you hit them on a busy day.

Ditch this intro! There will be an appropriate time for an introduction later.

Your readers will make the critical decision whether to continue reading or not after the subject line and the first sentence of your text. To persuade them to continue, your first sentence needs to be captivating and engaging.

Many phones will show you not only the subject line of your emails but also a preview of the first few words of the text before you even open anything.

A recent survey reported that 55% of people opened their emails on mobile devices.

This makes your first sentence all the more important.

Get to the Point

Your prospects don’t have time to read long, boring emails that brag about your company and achievements.

For one it makes your email harder to read if it exceeds a scroll in the mobile, and two, they tend to lose interest faster.

Instead, get straight to the point and explain everything that you want in the first two sentences.

Keep your language simple, reduce the number of ‘I’ and ‘we’ in sentences, and maintain a casual tone.

Make sure you follow a structure in your cold email — a great opening line, your objective, social proof, and a call-to-action in separate paragraphs.

If a paragraph exceeds more than 2-3 lines, break it up by using bullet points so that it’s easy for the prospect to scan and understand the meat of the cold email.

Remember to stick with your topic. Don’t cover other topics in the same email. If you have more topics, save them for another separate email.

At times, there are cases where you simply cannot avoid writing longer emails. In these situations, focus on making your email at least easy to read. This means:

  • Using headlines and short paragraphs
  • Creating bulleted lists
  • Highlighting important parts in bold
  • Avoiding jargon and using simple terms

This makes it easier to scan through your text. In fact, when we read a text such as email, we spend only 20% of the time on processing the content and 80% on moving our eyes around to scan the text.

Keep it short and simple.

Make It Clear Why You’re Reaching out to Them

Although it needs to be short and simple, you still need to have it be clear why you are contacting them.

When you want your cold emails to stand out in your recipient’s cluttered inbox, you need to hyper-personalize them (I’ll mention this again shortly).

Your research shouldn’t limit to just the company information, but should also include finding the right contact in the organization.

Your research shouldn’t limit to just the company information, but should also include finding the right contact in the organization. Click To Tweet

When you reach out to the recipient, it’s not enough to make it clear why you are reaching out.

You will also have to make it clear why you’re reaching out to them in particular.

Data shared by Tucker Max on the Harvard Business Review website said that “people are far more motivated to help others when they feel uniquely qualified to do so.”

For instance, this could make a great opening line for cold emails:

I am reaching out to you because being the {recipient’s current role}, I was certain you would know more about the current process in place at your company for {which department}. 

Personalize What You Can

I am going to share MUCH more detail on how to personalize a cold email, but for now I’ll keep this short and sweet.

If you can, adding your prospects first name is good, but not essential. Especially if you can jump right into a conversation they are excited to talk about.

Use Social Proof to Win over Prospects

Just personalizing your cold emails isn’t going to entice prospects to spend their precious time with you.

You need to build credibility and trust with the recipient for them to take you seriously and consider buying from you. And one effective way to do that is by adding social proof in your cold email. By social proof we mean, mentioning the name of:

  • A famous company who happens to be your customer
  • A well-known investor
  • A person whom you know in common

Social proof is a psychological phenomenon which makes people think that you are great because the people whom they know think that way.

So when you mention a well-known company who is using your solution, it automatically builds credibility, and you are likely to get more customers because they trust the initial customer’s opinion.

Mention the One Thing You Want Them to Do

Your cold email should specify the next step you want your recipients to do.

For instance, the call-to-action (CTA) can be to reply to your email, access a link that you sent, or sign up for your solution.

Asking a quick question can be a great way to entice your prospect into a conversation with you. A great way to begin the relationship building phase towards the sale!

Your CTA has to be clear and actionable so that the recipient doesn’t have to wonder too much about the details.

For instance, if you want to initiate a meeting with the recipient, you can craft your CTA like this:

I’d love to show you those innovations. Does Monday (January 16th) at 10:00 am sound good for you?

Now, I do NOT recommend this as it’s a BIG ask for a cold email. However, if you’re going to ask for a call, giving them a specific date and time works as it makes the decision a lot easier for them.

This way it also reduces the stress of having to look at their calendar and thinking of a date which works for both of you.

Another way to end your cold email is to leave the communication open.

Take this case for example,

I wanted to see if there is a way to help you out. Looking forward to hearing from you.

The above example does not come across as being too pushy or sales-y, which is great because your recipient will just hit delete if your CTA sounds pushy.

Instead, giving them an option to get in touch with you largely increases their desire to do so.

The whole idea of your CTA is to initiate a short discussion which could eventually lead to a meeting and sale.

Remember that you’re offering a solution to a problem. Be honest about your intentions and convince them that they need your help.

Put All Contact Info in Your Signature

Make it easy for your prospect to do a little detective work by architecting your signature to include the links you want them to see. Be subtle about this, less is more in many cases.

By having your mailing address in your signature though, it checks off one of the CAN-SPAM requirements while seeming perfectly natural. 

Use Images

One of the biggest misconceptions with cold emails is the belief that avoiding images will boost your email deliverability and overall performance.

The goal of a cold email is to grab attention and start a conversation. Images are your best play to accomplish that.

Plus, there’s not a single proof that they impact your email deliverability negatively. Just have a look at how this networking coffee email template got a 52% reply rate by using a personalized image in both the first email and the follow-up.

Bonus: Another great article from Lemlist with 15 different templates (it’s amazing).

Include a P.S.

You can use the P.S. to satisfy the opt-out requirement, keeping the message conversational rather than having the obnoxious opt-out link.

what is cold email?

Since a lot of people will scroll down to read the P.S. first, you can re-state the CTA in a different way. Do NOT overload them with multiple CTA’s and offers throughout your cold email. 

Polish your text

We all know how easily bad grammar and spelling mistakes can put us off. Spam emails are notorious for their grammatical errors. You don’t want your email to end up in the same folder with them.

In case you aren’t confident about editing your own content, there are many tools and services that can help you polish your writing. Proofreading and editing tools such as Grammarly and Handmadewritings help you avoid some of the common mistakes.

First impressions matter. So make sure to proofread your email before sending it.

Use cold emailing software

Thanks to recent technological innovations, it has become possible to automate your cold email sending and follow-ups. The nice thing is, they all have tracking software that tells you when a recipient opens your email or clicks on a link.

As a follow-up, you can increase your chances of selling by contacting the person directly by phone. I’ll be sharing more on this strategy further into this post, but test it out and see if it generates more sales.

LeadFuze actually integrates natively with several email outreach tools. This way, you can use LeadFuze to build a list of leads, then automatically send those leads to your email outreach software of choice and have that trigger an entire email outreach campaign… all without lifting a finger!

Follow Up, then Follow Up Again!

If your prospect doesn’t reply to your initial message, go ahead and follow up. They may still be interested when they have more time to respond!

Most cold email outreach software will send follow-ups automatically. So there’s no excuse to not have an entire email outreach sequence going. 

The cool thing is generally all cold email software will then take out any leads who respond so that your follow-ups don’t go out to them!

Test Your Messages

Try different hooks in each of your messages. Try giving them more or less details, and try different links and educational resources.

Further Reading: Here are 50 cold email split test ideas.


Don’t ever quit! It can be a numbers game on some level, and a dedicated commitment to sales prospecting can bear a lot of fruit over time! Cold emailing is meant to build a background for cooperation, which will eventually lead to prospects buying your product. Click To Tweet

The “QVC” Cold Email Framework

How to Start a Cold Email

Not that QVC. ?

Q is for Question

How to Start a Cold Email

If you do one thing that we suggest in this post, make it this point—DON’T start your email talking about yourself.

Seriously, don’t even think about it.

Everything a lead needs to know should be covered in your email signature.

Instead of boring them with your self-promotion, ask them a question that highlights the pain your solution solves and introduces your (or your product’s) ability to solve it.

It’s likely that leads will be able to see this first sentence.

Showing the pain and value is maximizing the unopened real estate of their inbox. Click To Tweet

Your subject line is enticing and your first sentence makes the case. When they open it, they’ll be ready to see what you have to say.

V is for Value Proposition

How to Start a Cold Email

One to three sentences of your best value.

You can let them know why you’re reaching out to them (we love XYZ, or noticed ABC), or that you’ve helped [similar company] increase their [core goal].

Show them the goods and give them something to chew on.

C is for Closing

How to Start a Cold Email

We’ve talked a lot about how to start a cold email, but the end is critical as well.

You have to ask for a response, or your email is pointless.

The last sentence, like the first, should be a question.

Yeah, it probably could have been QVQ, but it doesn’t roll off the tongue as well.

This question should NOT be a repeat of the first.

In fact, it should be the “good cop” of the email.

Having a hard and soft question is a great way to maximize response rate and gauge how close a lead is to buying.

I wrote all about the QVC cold email framework for Huffington Post. You can read more about it here.

Personalizing Your Cold Email Outreach

Okay, so we have covered a LOT of cold email tips so far and even an entire framework. 

Now, we need to talk about what might be the single MOST important factor of your cold email outreach campaign’s success… 


“Personalized outreach” AND “at scale” doesn’t seem to go together, but here are some ideas for making it happen.

You know the importance of personalized email.

But maybe haven’t quite put your finger on how to send enough emails to make cold outreach effective in your business?

If that sounds like you, I hope to help.

Hopefully it goes without saying that there are some things that depend upon your business.

The target industry, pricing, and a few other factors. That said, there are more B2Bs that can benefit from sending personalized cold emails than not.

This post isn’t about the benefits of outreach emails with a personal touch.

Instead, we’ll take a deep look at effectively sending more emails with data in them in order to get more responses.

Brief Intro to Personalized Email

Getting to know your leads before you first speak with them is one of the biggest trends amongst successful sales professionals and small businesses today.

Right now, there are possibly hundreds of reps searching for details about you and me on “the net”.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at this screenshot from the morning I wrote this post. LinkedIn sent me an email telling me that my profile is showing up in searches.

cold email

What are these people looking for?

Most are likely prospecting for people who fit their ideal buyer profiles.

But they also would be looking for my interests, shared posts, and other things that could make their point of contact (either via email, call or social) stand out.

We use this tactic at times, too.

If we have contact data, we’ll pop open a social platform to see if we can’t make our emails that much more personal.

It’s highly effective, but it’s not exactly what we would call “scalable”.

At one contact every 3 minutes, that’s only 20/hour. And if you sell a product that is extremely niche and high price/profit — I highly recommend it.

Entry-level data points used in personalization:

  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Job Title/Role
  • Company Name

More advanced data points:

  • Competitor Name
  • Colleague/Co-Worker Name
  • Geographic Data
  • Industry Data
  • Personal Interests (i.e. Sports team)

There are many more. Here’s a link to the blog of a company focused on personalization that you may find helpful (called SmartFocus).

Personalized email outreach

Source: SmartFocus

Personalized Cold Email at Scale: Onto the Tips

personalized email

Tip One: Narrow Down Your Target Market

Having buyer profiles for your business is so ridiculously vital, I’m not sure how to convey it in a serious enough way.

Not that you have to have a little index card or graphic with a name, like Sally Store Owner, or something like that (although it could help).

You should, however, have an idea of the industries, business details, and people details of those who’ll buy your stuff.

You should have an idea of the industries, business details, and people details of those who'll buy your stuff. Click To Tweet

If you sell something for the medical world, does it convert better for orthopedic doctors and surgeons better than just plain old “doctor”?

Or, instead of small businesses, say a marketing agency does a little research on your current clients and finds out their ideal buyers are SaaS and Tech companies.

Maybe their profile looks something like this;

  • Company Details: American or European SaaS companies with revenue of $5-$15 million annually and between 3-100 employees.
  • Decision Maker Details: Typically the buyer is the COO, Director of Marketing, or (possibly) the Owner/CEO
  • Typical Influencers: Sales manager, Marketing manager, CEO
  • Closest Competitors: Software Company ABC, SaaS Product XYZ

How It Helps Personalized Email

Oh, let me count the ways this helps (using the example above).

  1. Specific Industry Knowledge: There are so many things specific to the Software as a Service world (SaaS) that would go a long way in personalizing the email. But in a way that would hinder or slow down the scale.
  2. Specific Company Knowledge: A small, one-product company and a large software bigger biz operation have different needs and are at different stages of their company. One may use cold email and FB ads, while the other may have a 7-figure ad spend. Not to mention the number of hands touching their marketing.
  3. Specific Role Knowledge: Understanding that you’re likely going to be talking to a COO or Head of Marketing will help you with your email copy, but also with the personalization. You can say things like, “We created [insert resource title] specifically for Marketing Executives of companies just like [company name]”. That’s really specific, but can be done quickly.
  4. Specific Influencer Knowledge: Having the data of those who have the ear of your primary contact is incredibly valuable. Sending emails to these people and providing resources for them as well can really move the needle and get you a conversation.
  5. Specific Competitor Knowledge: Unless your contact doesn’t care about their job, they’ll want to know things about their competitors. Think about every movie when someone says they have information — they always get the ear they wanted. If you narrow down your industry, you’ll have data on the competition.

Bonus (Personalized Fishing): Maybe this company sends an email to a contact. There was another contact, but the title was “Head of Customer Service” and the decision maker is not clear. You could include a PS in your email like this;

Should I be speaking to [insert Head of Customer Service’s name here], instead? 

Key Takeaway: The more your leads have in common, the easier it will be to personalize your cold outreach at scale.

Further Reading: We’ve written extensively on the subject of using data to develop profiles and such here, here, and here.

Tip Two: Don’t Send Personalized Email and Don’t Do It at Scale

Personalized email outreach

Sounds weird, right?

There’s a reason this tip is in here, and could be the most important one.

Regardless of what you do in terms of marketing your business — you should always be testing something.

In fact, you should always be testing just about everything.

This one has been hitting close to home.

sSometimes — the results are unexpected.

For instance, we’ve noticed that using ZERO (not just less, but no) personalization in the subject line had a greater open rate than using things like [company name] or [first name].

Regardless of what you do in terms of marketing—you should always be testing something. Click To Tweet

However, the response rate is actually lower.

Another thing that email marketers have to be concerned with is deliverability.

If the old Google machine deems your email worthy of the spam folder, it’s really hard to get anything going.

One of the other things we’ve tested is the email sending frequency.

Use a new email service to send 300 emails as soon as you can and you’ll likely end up with terrible open rates and deliverability.

Send those same 300 emails staggered at 20-50 at a time and you’ll likely not look suspicious to all of the algorithms hunting spam.

Disclosure: Just don’t send spam, even if you can. It’s bad and you should feel bad if you do it.

There are so many things to test when it comes to your email, but here are some basic categories to help you start coming up with your own experiments.

  • Copywriting: Subject line variations, first sentence, the way you word your hook (e.g. the thing you’re hoping will get them to respond), the PS, even the signature used can and should be tested to see what works better.
  • The Hook Itself: You likely shouldn’t be cold pitching your services. Instead, you should be providing a resource, asking them to attend a webinar, or something like that. But you should also test a few offers to see which works best.
  • Ascetics: The copy and hook are going to be the primary tests, but font choices and size and other ascetic items can be tested over time to see if they move the needle in the right direction.

Important: Never test too many things at once. For instance, if you try two subject lines AND two hooks in one test — how are you supposed to know what did better/worse? One thing at a time.

You should always send two versions of every email. Always be testing something.” — Justin McGill

Tip Three: Use a Good Data Provider

If you really take some time to build out who is most likely to buy your product (and who you want to sell to the most) — you’ll have the knowledge to personalize email at scale.

But there is one more thing you’ll need in order to pull it off — good data.

It is not scalable for sales reps to search LinkedIn all the live long day to find 10-20 qualified leads.

Unless you’re selling a product that makes one deal every other month lucrative, it’s just not sustainable.

At scale, you or your reps should be sending hundreds or even thousands of emails every month.

And in order to use all the intel that you’ve gathered on your target market — you actually have to have a pool of data that you can search.

Not only that, but the intel has to be detailed and accurate.

Just take a look at this screenshot from the LeadFuze App.

Personalized email outreach

Imagine being able to find this data from a simple search of the word “SaaS”.

You can input the other data we discussed in the example (role, size, even geographic details).

You can even use LeadFuze’s sales AI assistant, Fuzebot, to find these leads and automatically send personalized emails daily.

With LeadFuze now able to provide you the ability to quickly customize every single email that goes out, the possibilities are endless.

Avoid These Cold Email Mistakes

With all these tips, it can be overwhelming. So let me leave you with some cold email mistakes you need to avoid. 

Email mistakes can cost more than your open rate. Some are costly enough to throw your entire email outreach campaign off track.

email mistakes

Email Mistake 1: Playing to the Wrong Crowd

No matter how beautiful an orchestra plays, there are many people who just don’t care for it.

And others still who like it, but don’t LOVE it. The same is true with your products/services.

The skills that you offer will speak better to some target markets than others.

The skills that you offer will speak better to some target markets than others. Click To Tweet

Solution: Really niche until it hurts. Don’t just find potential buyers, but find out who your ideal buyers are and look for leads who match that profile. Your emails will be much more celebrated.

Email Mistake 2: “Just Checking In”

Don’t say this in your emails. Follow-up emails — Good. Passive language — Bad.

In addition to this, avoid things like “following up”.

Solution: Instead of the timid options, just start out with the questions at hand. Something like, “Have you taken a look at [resource] yet, [First Name]? Would really like to get your feedback.”

Email Mistake 3: Not Using Email Templates

Continuing with the orchestra theme, playing a song without sheet music leaves too much to improvisation.

Sending hundreds of emails without a well-thought-out template for the bulk of your copy could leave your emails sounding like you made it up as you went along.

Solution: Good templates along with personalization are also a necessary combination to avoid email mistakes.

Email Mistake 4: Not Tuning Your Email

Okay, we’re just going to use the orchestra theme throughout at this point…

Instruments that aren’t properly tuned can be either flat or sharp.

Too flat and the music sounds dull (even confusing). Too sharp and it’s offensive to the listener.

Emails (not surprisingly) are the same. If you don’t focus the call-to-action, it can be very confusing what you want a lead to do.

If you just send a straight sales email, it’s likely going to come off too sharp.

Solution: Cut out all of the fluff. Take away everything you can that doesn’t add clarity. Figure out what you want the lead to do and only include words that make that most likely.

Email Mistake 5: Read the Audience

Each piece of music an orchestra plays tells a story. So does the entire concert.

Conductors may re-arrange the music based on the average crowds’ reaction.

All of this is to entice a maximum response.

You should be figuring out when those targeted leads want to see your emails.

Solution: Software goes a long way toward reading a lead’s inbox. Look at the behavior of your leads in your email software.

Seeing, not just the number of opens/responses, but the times that they came in can be compared to when emails were sent.

This data allows for you to tweak send times and track effectiveness — allowing for improvements over time.

Email Mistake 6: Being Afraid to Improvise

Ever send a text message that was interpreted differently than you meant it?

Composers write music, but it can be interpreted in different ways.

Sticking with the template alone can have lackluster results.

If you only send a couple hundred emails a month, a 2% conversation rate is only 4 people. A 25% close rate would only be one new client a month. Is this ok?

Solution: Sometimes, especially if you send to fewer leads, it’s beneficial to add a little bit of improvisation to the email by looking up details about the specific lead you’re sending an email to. Templates are still helpful, but be much more personal.

Email Mistake 7: You’re Not Entertaining

If you’re on a sales call, you’re likely doing something to build rapport.

Mentioning the sites/weather where the lead is at, asking questions that are “off topic”, or even being funny.

Too often, this rapport-building doesn’t translate to cold email — and that’s a shame.

Solution: Many people play the violin well, but there is only one Lindsey Stirling. Her entertainment and skill far surpass playing beautiful music. Try to stand out via humor or personalization. Just be purely valuable to your lead without asking for anything (at first).

Email Mistake 8: Failure to Experiment

Sending the same email for long periods of time will diminish your results over time.

Tactics change, roles change, and even your products/services change. Sending the same email is never a good idea, even if everything remains the same.

Solution: Always be testing something. Make a list of email split tests (we’ve got over 50 for you right here) and start doing them one at a time. Double down on what works and forget what doesn’t.

Email Mistake 9: Emails are Too Long

So, symphonies are long. Some are in the 4-6 hour range.

Our analogy breaks apart here for just a second, because your emails shouldn’t even be 6 sentences.

Long-form sales copy still has a place in the world, but long-form sales emails don’t. Like, at all.

Solution: Don’t write long emails and use the other solutions we’ve mentioned so far (i.e. templates, focus, etc..)

Email Mistake 10: Forgetting Your Audience

Musicians can become conceited (like us all), especially when they’re good.

Mariah Carey, on New Year’s, said she had to rough it like everybody else with no hot tea. You may not be so vain in your cold emails, but if you say “I” too much, it will seem that way.

Solution: Good music makes people feel. Great music makes people live in the song. Ever notice how virtually every movie is about the lead character(s) discovering this latent power within? That’s because most people know they aren’t living up to their potential and want to discover it. Music and even emails can do this, but you have to show “what’s in it for them”.

Email Mistake 11: Breaking the Law

That’s right, many well-intentioned marketers are being unlawful in their outreach by violating CAN-SPAM.

Not including your address is a big no-no, as well as not allowing a way for recipients to opt-out. Avoid at all costs.

Solution: Follow the email laws and do everything you can to keep from ending up on a blacklist somewhere.

Email Mistake 12: Only Playing One Song

People, even if they pay to go to a show, are distracted.

Back in the day, plays would start off with funny skits to focus the audience before the play would start. Our movies have trailers and announcements. We have meetings before the day starts. We are cats that often times need herding.

Point: Your first email will not be opened by the majority of your leads.

Solution: Send more than one email. Actually, send 4-6. And, if you’re really wanting to maximize effort, include other forms of contact (i.e. voicemails, social media, direct mail).

Email Mistake 13: It’s Clearly Canned

If you’re in B2B (most of our readers are), then this one is vital.

People know most emails aren’t personal, but mostly robotic.

Computer programs can play music too, but people don’t listen to it.

Even though a program plays flawlessly, it ultimately sounds lifeless. There’s no interpretation, no personality.

Are your emails like this?

Solution: Try to “touch” each of your emails and master the template to sound as close to sending a personal email as possible. It may even be worth trying to send a truly personal email (using a template). If results aren’t there, revert back.

Email Mistake 14: You Lie

Your subject line makes a promise, much like the title of a song or movie.

For instance, people saw “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and thought it would be (at least) decent.

Most people did not have their expectation met. Every Breath You Take by The Police promises to be a love song, but ends up about a stalker.

(Source: Rotten Tomatoes)

Solution: If you put something specific in the subject line, make sure it’s in the email.

The Stage is Set

An audience that came to hear a grand orchestra and a list of quality leads that don’t know they’re about to get an email have similar desires.

If they pay to see the show (monetarily or opens), they want to get their money’s/time’s worth.

If you practice, tune your instruments, and have the right song — you’ll avoid these email mistakes and people will respond the way you desire.

Remember, Your Only Cold Email Goal: Pique their Curiosity Enough to Start a Conversation

You should always strive to offer value to your prospects, but sometimes it’s best to lead with a cold email that simply piques their curiosity.

Get them to respond and start a genuine conversation around a topic they are interested in talking about. Then you have an opportunity to build a relationship and the value of your product or service.

You should always strive to offer value to your prospects. Click To Tweet

To be successful using this tactic, it’s important that your cold email sends the right message.

One of the essential things to consider when writing an effective cold call email is to avoid overselling.

Since spammers try to sell many different things through cold emails, appearing even a little “salesy” is something you should avoid at all costs.

It is always better to try to present yourself and your offer softly, without sounding too emotional or hopeless.

Warming Up Your Prospect

The goal of your first cold call email is not to get the sale. It’s to get a positive response.

This opens up the floor for further communication with your prospect. That is a very good thing.

Think about it. You basically barged into your prospect’s inbox completely uninvited, but your offer or service was compelling enough that they took time out of their day to respond to you, a total stranger.

You should never expect them to buy immediately, but you should be ready to answer some of these questions:

  • What is your offer? You should have alluded to it in your first email, but now you can spell it out clearly.
  • Who are you working with? Social proof is important, and even having just one recognizable name can be incredibly helpful. Offer to work for free or extremely discounted rates to get some testimonials. Pro tip: Always say no to people who ask you to work for free. If you offer, that’s different, but anyone who finds and contacts you looking for a handout is expecting the moon but paying for peanuts.
  • Why should I trust you? This can be a difficult question to answer. Extoll your strengths and use more social proof if possible. Talk about how current customers feel about your service and your high work standards. This is the perfect place to talk about your money-back guarantee or refund policy if you have one.

Answer any questions your prospect has and make it clear that you are willing to walk them through everything.

Best practice is to try to respond to prospect emails within a day, but preferably within the hour.

Doing so increases the likelihood that your prospect is still at their computer and can continue the dialogue in real time.

Once you have developed an email relationship with the prospect, don’t be afraid to ask for the call.

Simply end one of your emails with something like, “I’d love to discuss how I can help you grow your business with a quick 15 minute phone call. Are you available some time next week?”

The Call

Don’t make scheduling more difficult than it needs to be. Use a tool like Calendly, send the link to your prospect, and let them choose the times that work best for them.

cold call email

By getting permission before you call, you have eliminated one of the toughest barriers in cold calling: the gatekeepers.

Now when you call, if you reach a secretary or receptionist, you have the ability to say that your prospect is expecting you.

What’s more, if you reach a digital gatekeeper, like voicemail, you’ll most likely get a call back.

Ultimately, what started with a cold email to a complete stranger, and now here you are… about to turn that cold email into a real sales opportunity! 


Cold email outreach is a great method for generating leads as well as validating future business ventures.

Is cold email spam? NO!

We built a seven-figure marketing agency using this approach, and now we’re doing it with LeadFuze.

Any other advice you’d recommend for cold email? Connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know!

Editors Note:

Want to help contribute to future articles? Have data-backed and tactical advice to share? I’d love to hear from you!

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Justin McGill
About Author: Justin McGill
Justin McGill is the Founder of LeadFuze - a lead generation platform that discovers new leads for you automatically. Get 25 leads free.