Can You Automate Cold Emails? (And Should You?)

To automate or not to automate? That is the question — at least it is for marketers looking to optimize their cold email outreach strategy.

Email is undoubtedly one of the most effective ways to generate cold leads. Consumers across B2B and B2C sectors report it’s their most preferred method of brand communication, they check their inboxes more than a dozen times per day, and in 2022, they generally consider email less intrusive (and thus more welcome) than phone calls.

But cold email automation presents separate considerations. Namely, can you execute it without sacrificing the quality and personalization standards required to engage cold prospects?

The short answer is yes — you can (and should) use automation in your cold email outreach strategy. By doing so you can execute at scale, generate leads at a higher volume, and build a healthy, reliable sales pipeline for your business.

But automation requires best-practice approaches in order to be effective, and there are certain mistakes that can cause it to quickly go wrong. In the sections that follow, we’ll cover both, guiding you through everything you need to know about what to do — and not do — to achieve cold email automation success.

Quick Takeaways

  • Automated cold emails should be sent intentionally — one-size-fits-all messaging or too many messages in a short time can turn prospects off to your brand.
  • Defined audience segments ensure you get the right messaging to the right prospects.
  • Sales prospecting software tools can help you scale your prospecting efforts, automate cold email outreach effectively, and improve the quality of leads in your pipeline.
  • Automated drip campaigns are a proven way to execute engaging lead follow-up that’s real-time reactive to prospect behavior.
  • Email platforms come with analytics features you can use to monitor and continuously improve performance.

Cold Email Outreach: What Not to Do

It’s a common misconception that effective email automation means sending as many emails to as many people as possible. This is particularly the case for cold email, which requires marketers to cast a wide net in order to yield results.

But the truth is that less can be more in the world of cold email automation — you don’t need to bombard potential leads in order to get their attention.

In fact, sending too many emails can cause prospects to tune you out, get your domain flagged as spam, and hinder your ability to personalize messages in a meaningful way.

Further, mistakenly using automation as a replacement for your marketing team’s responsibility to maintain quality standards can negatively impact your brand’s reputation.

The most successful automated cold email strategies are intentional and focused on reaching out to the right prospects with the right message at the right time. We’ll cover how to do this in the next section, but before we get there, note these 5 common mistakes to always avoid:

Sending the same email to everyone

The average professional receives more than 120+ emails per day. That means if you don’t make your messages relevant and personalized, you’re likely to get ignored.

Professionals receive 120 business emails per day.
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Further, people can quickly recognize when marketers use automation to cut corners — think sloppy mail merges, copy/paste text blocks, or one-size-fits-all subject lines and CTAs. 

Sending too many messages

Using automation to pump out as many messages as you can is a big mistake. It’s true that it usually takes multiple outreaches to convert a lead — industry research generally estimates 6-8 to be the average.

But those 6-8 touches can’t happen in too small a window, and going beyond that number puts you firmly in the spam category from the perspective of potential prospects.

Failing to adhere to CAN-SPAM guidelines

The CAN-SPAM act was enacted in 2003 to set legal standards for regulating spam email. It requires companies to take steps like always revealing the identity of their brand, being truthful and transparent in their messaging, and providing easy opt-out for recipients.

Tips for complying with the CAN-SPAM act.
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It’s a mistake to assume that email automation platforms eliminate a marketer’s responsibility to adhere to CAN-SPAM. Marketing teams must still take steps to honor opt-outs, ensure their messaging meets legal standards, and include required contact information.

Not cleaning up your lists

An email list typically decays in about a year — people move jobs and their emails are eliminated, they may opt out of receiving your messages, and typos can lead to nonexistent emails being added to your lists over time.

For these reasons, failing to clean up your lists regularly can lead to increases in bounce rates and undeliverable emails.

Inconsistent timing and outreach

Automation shouldn’t be used to send random one-off email blasts. Like any other type of email marketing, automated cold emails should be executed with a detailed sending plan that includes timing specifics like cadence, dates, times of day, etc. Without it, marketers are unable to build momentum with campaigns or build on previous communications.

5 Tips for Cold Email Automation Success

Define your audiences

Your ideal customer profiles and buyer personas are essential resources for this step of the process. Using both frameworks, define your audience segments for cold email outreach. Build lists based on shared attributes and needs.

Keep in mind that it’s not always the case that every segment needs a separate message. A cold email campaign for a new product/service offering may be relevant for multiple segments, for example. Newly identified prospects in two similar segments might receive the same automated introductory message with minor customizations.

The important thing is to have audiences defined appropriately so that prospects end up in the right lead buckets and you can effectively align audience segments with outreach campaigns.

Adopt a sales prospecting tool

According to HubSpot, 42% of salespeople say that prospecting is the hardest part of the sales process. This is not a huge surprise given the sheer amount of time that goes into manually researching potential customers, qualifying leads, and executing cold outreach plans to convert them to bonafide prospects.

Sales prospecting software tools automate the actual prospecting process to build you lists of high-potential leads, and come with features to automate cold emails and execute campaigns.

The benefits of adopting a sales prospecting tool are numerous: Significant time savings for your sales reps, more confidence in your lead quality, a continuously growing pipeline, and a central platform for building, executing, and measuring the success of cold email outreach campaigns.

Utilize templates

Cold email templates eliminate the need to reinvent the wheel every time you’re sending a new message or campaign.

In most email marketing platforms, you can build templates with branded design features and content blocks that you want to maintain across campaigns. Then you can customize templates for individual prospects, segments, and messages.

It’s a time saver and a key way to balance automation with the kind of personalized messaging buyers expect.

Automate follow up with drip campaigns

We’ve covered that you shouldn’t send one-size-fits all messages, you shouldn’t send too many messages, and you shouldn’t send messages with inconsistent timing and frequency.

What you should do instead is send planned, organized, automated drip campaigns.

Cold email drip campaigns are a great way to ensure you’re doing enough follow-up with leads in an intentional and engaging way. They contain content that builds on itself across multiple messages and offers real value to your potential prospect, rather than trying to convert them in a single message (which is rarely successful).

Below is a helpful flowchart that shows how automation maximizes drip campaign effectiveness by tailoring each follow-up message with previous recipient behavior:

Flowchart that shows how automation helps to execute an email drip campaign.
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Ideas for what to include in your drip campaigns: introductory messaging, downloadable content (like ebooks or PDF guides), embedded video content, linked blog articles, customer testimonials, and incentives or discounts.

Monitor performance

Email automation tools come with advanced analytics features — but they’re only as powerful as you make them. Use your email performance data to uncover actionable insights about how to make your cold email campaigns more effective.

A simple example: Is there a certain CTA garnering much higher click rates than others or certain content assets getting more engagement? If so, expand their use.

Look also for issues you may need to troubleshoot in order to optimize deliverability, like spam flags or excessive bounce backs.

Finally, you can use A/B testing features to experiment with different message options, monitor and compare their performance, and optimize your results by capitalizing on what works best.

Level Up Your Sales Prospecting Results with RevBoss

RevBoss wants to help you stop prospecting and start selling — we do the lead gen grunt work for you so that your team can spend more time moving prospects to close. Our outbound email software and lead generation services are custom-built for startups, consultancies, marketing agencies, and other B2B organizations.

Schedule a quick call with us and find out how we can help you win more clients.