The Essential Guide to Cold Email Outreach

The Essential Guide To Cold Email Outreach

In a world where cold calling is dead, cold email outreach is still alive and well — when it’s done right. Email is a much less intrusive form of communication. Given that people check their email about 15 times per day, it’s also a pretty surefire way to get in touch with someone.

The problem? Your email is likely getting lost amidst dozens — if not hundreds — of emails that arrive in your recipient’s email that same day. People on the receiving end of cold email outreach efforts tend to be important in one way or another. They have something of value to offer, which is why they’re getting cold emails in the first place.

So how do you get noticed? The truth is that there’s no magic trick to success here. People are email-savvy, and even the cleverest cold emails usually get recognized for what they are before even being opened. Given this, our number one recommendation for successful cold email outreach is to be genuine. When you’re authentically you, you’re off to a good start.

After that? There’s no guaranteed way to get a response, but there are best practices you can follow to give your cold emails their best shot. In this guide, we’ll cover reasons to consider cold emails as well as the essential dos and don’ts you need to know before sending them.

Quick Takeaways

  • Cold email outreach is an effective strategy for lead generation, building professional networks, and pursuing new opportunities.
  • Using poor practices like misleading subject lines and vague identifiers is not only bad form, but it can also be illegal by FTC standards.
  • You are always responsible for cold emails outreach sent on your behalf, even when it’s outsourced to marketing agencies.
  • Best practices such as writing like you talk, using personalization, and getting straight to the point give cold emails their best shot at success.

Why send cold emails?

Let’s start by covering reasons why people send cold emails. If it’s so challenging to get noticed, why would anyone use cold email outreach as a strategy?

Despite its challenges, cold email outreach is a really effective way (and sometimes the only way) to get in touch with people you might never connect with otherwise. Savvy professionals know that cold emails are not to simply be dismissed. They can present opportunities and create new partnerships that can provide real value to an organization. 

Here are 4 common reasons why people use cold email outreach:

Generate leads

Cold email outreach is one of the primary ways companies find potential clients. While many companies consider cold emailing akin to a shot in the dark, those that do it right know how effective it can be.

Here’s why: many times, potential customers don’t fully understand their pain points. When you send a cold email that clearly demonstrates that you understand their pain points and have a real solution that can help, recipients pay attention.

Recent research from Chief Marketer found that email is the channel that provides leads with the highest ROI for B2B companies.

email provides b2b leads with highest ROI

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In reality, generating leads through cold email outreach requires more than one simple send. It often requires strategic follow up, multiple asks, and using the right formula to make your pitch. LeadsBridge created this great guide to cold email lead generation formulas that breaks each of them down in detail. 

Here they are in summary:

Direct approach: Intro sentence + brief explanation + one-line ask

Make the direct pitch right in the email. Most of the time, this isn’t the best strategy, but there are exceptions.

Customer success story: Client results + limited explanation + call to action

Highlight how you have helped clients succeed and asks recipients to check out a case study that demonstrates your track record.

Consultation offer: Common problem + experience + consult offer + call to action

Offer your expert advice to recipients who will likely want to hear it.

Webinar invite: Description of webinar solution + invitation + scarcity + call to action

Webinars are more popular than ever now that online events are the norm. They’re a great way to get your potential client engaged with you directly.

Guest invite: Ask for help (for your audience) + description/invitation + call to action

Invite your potential client to partner with you in a way that could help your larger audience (examples: be featured in a blog series, be a podcast guest, or speak at an event). Your audience is more likely to engage with your peers, and no one (no matter how experienced) dislikes being featured for their knowledge and expertise.

Make connections

Another way people use cold email outreach is to build their networks by making connections with specific people. In some cases, there just will not be an opportunity to meet someone you want to connect with professionally. In these cases, a well-constructed cold email could be the way to do it.

There are a few important things to remember here. First is that you need to be honest about the reason for your email. In some instances, you may truly just want to make a connection and get to know someone because both parties have something in common or potential insights to share with each other.

In other cases, you might have a direct ask (like needing advice or wanting to be kept in mind for future hiring opportunities). In these instances, don’t beat around the bush or be misleading about the purpose of your email. Reading and responding to emails is time consuming. There’s no reason to worry that a direct ask will be a turn-off. In fact, people prefer honesty from the start rather than a vague message (which will be less likely to get a response).

Gain exposure

Cold email outreach can be an effective way to gain exposure for yourself individually or for your company. Many times, people send cold emails to help with link building or to ask people to share their content in other ways — through social media shares, featured blog posts, or mentions in other media (such as podcasts).

The thing to keep in mind here is this: whatever you’re asking others to share must provide real, genuine value for that person and their audience. People don’t want to (and flat out won’t) share content as just a favor to a stranger. You’ve got to make a bit of a sales pitch here that not only covers what you’re offering but clearly demonstrates why your content is valuable to the audience who will ultimately receive it.

Find opportunities

Cold email outreach is still used quite frequently by people looking for jobs or other professional opportunities (like guest speaking engagements, guest blog features, and more). We consider this separate from emails aiming to gain exposure because they’re asking for much more than a content share.

Cold emails sent to seek new opportunities are asking for a commitment to the real, live you: either at an event, on their website, or in a potential role at that person’s organization. That’s a much bigger ask!

Here’s the key: you must demonstrate why you are interested in the organization or opportunity specifically. When you do, cold emails show real initiative and can position you well to be considered in the future, even if no opportunities are available when you first do your outreach.

What not to send: cold email outreach edition

When it comes to cold email outreach, there are several specific do-nots to remender. Failing to do so isn’t just bad form, it can be illegal according to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) standards outlined in the CAN-SPAM act.

Let’s run through them quickly.

Misleading subject lines

Keep it honest in the subject line when you send cold emails. For example, don’t put  “Here’s the info you requested,” in the subject line of an email to a potential client you’ve never interacted with before (and who never did in fact request information).

Vague identifiers

Say who you are. Put clear identifiers in your “From,” “To,” and “Reply-To” fields. Never intentionally mislead your recipient by saying you’re someone you aren’t. Don’t omit identifiers in an attempt to make recipients more likely to open your email. Always include your business address somewhere in your email (the signature is a good place to do it).

Missing opt-out options

Not wanting to include an “unsubscribe” link is totally understandable — it takes away from the personalization of the email and can make it seem more like an ad than a genuine outreach. 

Fortunately, there are other ways to provide opt-out options to your recipients. It’s as simple as including language like: “Please let me know if you are not the right person to receive this message,” or “Let me know if you’d no longer like to receive my emails.” And remember: always honor opt-out requests by ceasing messages after that point.

Poor quality outsourcing

Outsourcing cold email outreach can be a huge time-saver. It’s also smart in many cases to lean on agencies and marketers who are experts in the art of making the cold ask. But no matter who actually does the sending, you are still responsible for any messages sent on your behalf.

Don’t be in the dark about your email outreach. If you hire a company to do it for you, make sure you monitor the messaging — especially in the beginning.

Here’s a visual overview of how these FTC standards are applied:

ftc can-spam standards

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Bonus: careless mistakes

It may not be monitored by the FTC, but poor grammar and other careless mistakes (like misspelling someone’s name or forgetting to replace templated form fields) are immediate turn-offs to cold email recipients.

This one’s easy: always proofread your emails, and take time to get personalized information right.

Turning cold emails warm

Time to bring things full circle. We covered at the start of this guide that there’s no guarantee when it comes to cold emailing. Now we know when it makes the most sense to do cold email outreach, and we’ve gone over mistakes to avoid.

But how do you make people want to read your cold emails? How do you turn them into warm leads and real connections? 

Here are 5 strategies that give your cold emails their best shot at success:

Write like you talk

Humans aren’t robots. They want to read messages that sound authentic, real, and written by a real human being. Stay authentic by writing like you talk —professional, but real. Your message will resonate much more when you do.

Grab attention with your subject line

Did you know that well over half (64%) of email recipients decide whether or not to open an email based on the subject line? More than any other component of your email, the subject line is your chance to get noticed.

Here are some cold email subject line ideas you can try:

cold email subject line ideas

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Get to the point

Don’t make readers scour paragraphs to find the main point of your email. It’s tempting to include more in an attempt to get people reading, but it will most likely have the opposite effect (people will dismiss emails that seem vague or time consuming). Make your point prominent and clear. 

Personalize whenever possible

Showing your recipient that you’ve taken the time to learn about them, their experience, and their organization demonstrates genuine interest on your part. It also proves that you aren’t just looking to push your message without any real investment in that specific recipient.

The most simple ways to personalize are by using names of individuals and companies, but it also goes a long way to mention something you’ve read or watched from that person recently (like a blog post or webinar talk).

Only send to real people

The whole point of cold email outreach is to make a real connection that can further your business and goals (in exchange for the value you can offer with products, services, or experience). Sending to general business contact email addresses (like or is not likely to get you far.

Take time to research who the right person is to contact at a prospect organization and reach out to them directly.
Ready to implement a cold email outreach strategy that generates high-quality leads and yields real results? Schedule a quick consultation with one of our specialists to get started.