A staggering number entrepreneurs and marketers tend -to the dismay of sales leaders- to discard cold email as a method to recruit customers. I believe this situation to be due to misguided beliefs and hard to budge myths!

Let’s debunk them and unleash the untapped potential of cold email!

What is cold email anyway?

Cold emailing consists in sending unsolicited email to potential customers with whom you’ve had no contact before.

It’s not a marketing move, it’s a sales move. And while there are a thousands of ways to do it, the goal is to present value in a personal and personalized way.

I’ve listed the myths in 3 categories, starting from the concept of cold email itself to the sending of the messages!

Cold email

1. Cold email is illegal

I am not a lawyer, so this shouldn’t be taken as legal advice. However, I believe it’s safe to say that cold email is legal in the United States so long as you don’t use harvested email lists and follow three simple rules:

  1. Clear sender identification
  2. Clear unsubscribe option
  3. Legit physical address

Canada: It is legal under the same rules, so long as you are referred by someone who you have a preexisting relationship with.

Australia: It is also legal if your recipient’s email address is conspicuously displayed along with their role/function and your message refers to that role/function

United Kingdom and Ireland: Cold email is legal if strictly reserved to communication with corporations.

European Union: The European Union tends to be a mess when it comes to spam laws since they’re being governed by the Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive 2002. It’s general aim is to prohibit unsolicited communications and uses the opt-in (free, informed and specific consent) as basis for legality. As always, it leaves it to the member states to translate that into law. Because that’s how EU directives work.

While some countries like Germany have strict policies when it comes to spam, countries Sweden, France, Netherlands, Finland and Belgium have pretty relaxed laws when it comes to cold email.

The point is not to go into details into the spam regulations of every country, but to point out that it is, in most cases, legal; you just need to conform to the laws of your country and/or to those of your prospect’s.

2. Everything can and must be scaled

Nobody says it like Paul Graham: do things that don’t scale.

Instances of an “overnight success” are extremely rare and most that are thought to be… aren’t. It’s more likely the result of a compound growth that reached you and those around you at the same time.

Most successful businesses were built one customer at a time. Airbnb’s founders would go door to door in NYC to take pictures of the apartments they were renting. Tinder’s VP of Marketing, Whitney Wolfe would go to sororities and fraternities all over the United States to directly pitch future users and have them install the app.

Examples are countless.

If these business aren’t too good to do it the hard way, why would you be?

Yes, you might need to cold email and manually recruit your customers!

3. Cold emailing individual prospects is a waste of time

This ties to the previous point but hey, that’s a valid question: does cold email work anyway?

Well, if it didn’t, we at Prospect.io wouldn’t even have a business. And yes, people actually do respond. If you know how to grab their attention and show that you can help them with a specific pain point, there’s a good chance you might closes sales.

Here’s a case study about how one of our customers managed to get a 31% response rate!

4. You need a huge list for it to matter

You don’t need a big lot of prospects, you need to do the emailing right. Guaranteeing a great experience for a small number of prospects who will then advocate for you is one of the best steps you can take as a starter.

5. Automated emails aren’t personal

Just because you don’t push the button for each and every prospect doesn’t mean you don’t craft powerful and personalized content. You simply use automation to help organize the sending of said personalized content.

By segmenting your prospects, you can tailor messages to fit your prospects’ localization, industry, level of experience… Add a few personalized tags like their first name, company name or anything that might truly be relevant, and you’ll get the feel of a one-shot personal email.

6. Sales automation is expensive and not that useful

That is, if you don’t believe it works.

Automating your sales email process can help you effectively help you prospect 4 times faster. Also automation tools allow you to track your results with razor-sharp precision, which you can’t afford not to do.

Competition is fierce, lots of services are available and some can get you started for no more than a few bucks per month. For example, Prospect.io has a plan starting at 79$/month.

Email setup

7. Subject lines should be short

This is something most people tend have difficulties coming to terms to. According to data we’ve been gathering, you’ve got about two choices:

  1. Very short and to the point (3-25 characters): 44% avg open rate
  2. Longer but specialized (86-11 characters): 53% avg open rate

While the science behind this behaviour hasn’t been uncovered yet, it does seems that specificity now beats shortness.

8. Spam trigger words define your deliverability

While it’s highly advised to watch what words you use, spam algorithms have been getting smarter and smarter and now take context into account when it comes to decide the fate of your email.

Don’t sweat it if you use “Free”, “Guaranteed”, “Cash” or “Opportunity” in your subject line.

9. You need a polished design and HTML

You don’t. On the contrary, plain text emails are the way to go when it comes to cold email. Recent data shows that HTML templates had 25% lower opens and that increasing the amount of HTML could lead to lower the open rate by 23%!

It should look like a personal email straight from your mailbox; that’s how you want your prospect to see it.

Avoid unsubscribe buttons as well, they might set alarm bells ringing and let your prospect know they’re part of a larger mailing list. Remember, this is sales, not marketing.

Email sending

10. There is a single best time to send emails

Lots of “best practices” articles and famous blogs instruct you on the best times to be sending emails to your prospects. But the truth is, it depends entirely on the industry of your prospects, their country, their specific job…

Journalists, for example, are known to be connected 24/7 and won’t mind getting and answering emails late at night or during the week-end whereas an HR officer at a big company might be more receptive on a Tuesday morning after all the Monday meetings and week-end backlog has been dealt with. Also, you might have trouble reaching prospects on a Sunday in the US but that shouldn’t be troublesome if your prospects is in Israel or in Muslim countries, where the work week actually starts on Sunday.

The only way to establish an optimal time to send emails is to analyze your target!

11. If they don’t respond, there’s no need to follow up

You have to follow up. Especially if they don’t respond.

mails can be overlooked, maybe the recipient wasn’t in the right mood when she read the email and then forgot about it. It may take time to the recipient to come to a decision and consistency on your part may help them make a step in your direction. As long as you keep it friendly, with a “no pressure” attitude, you’ll be fine.

In our experience here at Prospect.io, 5 steps is the sweet spot when it comes to setting up a cold email campaign. Our largest cold outreach campaign was sent to 1792 prospects. 34% of our replies came from the fourth email alone. 38% came from the last two emails.

In total, this campaign brought us our first 144 customers.

Tobin Lehman at New North insists that the sales of a SaaS depends on a great follow-up. This article by Neil Patel at Kissmetrics highlights the fact that you should push prospects down the funnel by encouraging them to take action, any action. Asking them to provide feedback or simply having them reply to an email could tip the scales in your favor. Just make it easy for your prospect to do whatever you want them to do.

My whole life is a lie!

The future of business relies on the alignment of sales and marketing 

Get busy with these cold emails!