Cold Email Best Practices

Cold Email Marketing is a campaign tactic used mainly by B2B sales and marketing professionals who want to automate their lead generation efforts. These campaigns use automation technologies that connect to your existing email account to send a series of text-based emails to contacts who match their ideal customer profile (ICP). The advantage of these …

Cold Email Best Practices Read More »

By Shawn Elledge
Cold Email Marketing

Cold Email Best Practices

Cold Email Marketing is a campaign tactic used mainly by B2B sales and marketing professionals who want to automate their lead generation efforts. These campaigns use automation technologies that connect to your existing email account to send a series of text-based emails to contacts who match their ideal customer profile (ICP).

The advantage of these automated programs is they are easy to implement. All you need is sales automation software like Sales Prophet, an email account to connect to and a good list of contacts with email addresses to start.

Note: Sales Prophet is also one of the only sales automation platforms that is integrated with one of the largest b2b contact database in the U.S. (86 million records and growing)

These apps have become wildly adopted because they require very little change to your existing work flow, i.e., monitor your inbox for replies, identify opportunities, book meetings, and close sales.

The disadvantage of these programs is that you are limited on the number of emails you can send each day (we recommend under 100 a day unless per email account). So this tactic isn’t ideal for market reach but is very effective as an sales augmentation strategy.
You are also limited in the use of graphics or images in these sort of email campaigns.

NOTE: While these programs are great for generating leads, they do not entirely replace your sales efforts.

Best Practices

For this post, we will assume you have acquired a list of ideal contacts, picked a sales automation platform, and connected your email account to that platform.
So, where do you start?

With the subject line!
With cold email or outbound marketing, most people focus on increasing the number of replies you get from your campaigns. But to get more responses, your emails need to be opened first.

Subject lines generate email opens; body copy generates email responses or replies.

A/B testing is critical to uncovering the best subject line with the best open rates. Once you test two different subject lines, the subject line with the best open rate becomes your new baseline to test yet another subject line. Testing isn’t done after one, two, or even three tests. You should continuously test subject lines until you are convinced you have the best subject line.

NOTE: To be statistically relevant across all variations you are testing, we like to have at least 1,000 emails sent for each subject line before determining the winner.

Subject Lines Best Practices

Keep subject lines short and personal. More often, emails are being opened on mobile devices where longer subject lines are cut off. Subject lines with 3-7 words are most effective.

Try to Use a Creative Subject Line.
Your prospect first sees your subject line and who sent the email. The combination of the subject line and the email address will determine if they’ll even open your email (Step one).

Make sure you come up with a creative subject line to achieve a good email open rate. For example, questions in the subject line consistently perform better than other subject lines across all of our clients.

Subject Line Examples

Subject: Is this a problem?
Subject: A Big Mistake!
Subject: Any chance you can help?
Subject: Introduction?
Your advice is needed…

Personalize Subject Line Examples

If you’re trying to reach out to an employee at a particular company, including their name or the company name in the subject line can help. Whenever I see my name or the name of my company in a subject line, I’m willing to open the email and at least scan it in case there’s something vital for me.

Subject: [FirstName], who should I address?
Subject: [FirstName], is this worth consideration?
Subject: Is this a problem [FirstName]?

Sender Name

The sender’s name is important. Make sure your sender’s name is a real person who matches their profile on LinkedIn.

Subject Line Wrap Up

The tips above are the ones we use here at Sales Prophet to ensure our client’s open rates remain high enough to provide the proper level of engagement with their prospects.

Always test at least two subject lines with the identical body copy
Test using your prospect’s name or company name in the subject line
Don’t make your subject line sounds like a marketing email
Experiment with questions in your subject lines
Always deliver in your email what you promise in your subject line

Email Writing Basics

We usually recommend writing short, concise emails with one call to action (CTA). However, you can write longer emails if you sell or offer a considered purchase with an extended sales cycle. Still, longer emails are more ideal for a marketing automation platform using graphic-rich HTML email vs. a sales automation platform that sends a text-based email. A lot of text create reader fatigue and generally doesn’t work as well in sales automaton campaigns. Remember, every business is unique so testing is the only way to decide how much email copy you need to generate leads.

Bottom line, prospects don’t mind you sending them a long cold email if your content is valuable or relevant.

Call to Actions

Remember what you want your prospects to do when writing your emails. Ideally, you want them to take action like schedule a meeting, sign up for a course, book a demo, download a piece of content, or reply. So your emails need to have a clear purpose and call to action.
Moreover, if you want to get a response, give the recipient a question to answer. Asking 1-2 questions in your email gives you the best chance of generating a response.

Reading Level

Make sure your text is easy to read, and your content is presented logically and in easy-to-read order. We know it sounds crazy, but emails written at a third-grade reading level are most likely to get a response. Simpler words and shorter sentences consistently yield better results, period.


The format of your emails is just as important and possibly more important than the actual copy.
People tend to scan emails vs. read every word.
So if your email is lengthy, play around with the format by bolding or highlighting words of importance.
If you are sending HTML emails, test colored headlines in different sizes as well.

1. Lists work well in these emails

  • Try using bullets as well to improve readability

Positivity defines how positive or negative the context of your email reads. The highest email response rates come from emails that are slightly positive in tone.

Spam Words
Limit the number of spam words you use as much as possible (1-3 words top). Reducing the number of spam words increases the chance your email will be delivered into the inbox vs. spam folder. We are working on a lit of spam words to avoid, which we will post on our website soon.

Sample Cold Email
The very first email you should test is an introductory email. The email should be short and to the point and describe who you are, what pain points or problems you solve, and for who with one or two CTA’s.

Sample cold email

Note: test your email with and without a signature for best deliverability using Glockapps or Mail Tester (Free).
Signatures can create deliverability problems.

Bottom line: Keep your email short and sweet; don’t send long advertising or sales messages—those emails are rarely read and are usually ignored.

Emails Sequences – Best Practices

Now that you have a good idea of how to create/test your subject lines and the first message you want to send to your prospects, it’s time to create an email sequence where you send a series of emails over a period of time (usually days, weeks and even months).

Why do we use sequences?
The average person receives close to 140 emails a day. Expecting a response from someone who doesn’t know you after sending them just one email is unrealistic. Most often, it takes several emails over a period of time to generate a response. It also takes time to figure out the right subject line and body copy your prospects’ respond to the best.

We are often asked how long does it take to refine your email sequence?
It varies for each client, but generally, the first month is used to warm up your email account for best deliverability and test various subject lines for best open rates. Then we begin to test email copy and offers using the best performing subject lines from month one in month two and beyond.

People often get frustrated when they begin planning their first email sequence. So in this section, we’ve gathered the top-performing email sequences from several of our customers to use as examples in creating your email series.

We will assume you have already defined your ideal customer profile, downloaded and prepared your data for personalization, and are now ready to begin testing.

NOTE: having a good database of ideal prospects and personas makes it much easier to build an extremely efficient and effective email marketing sequence turning your cold prospects into warm leads. This is also an excellent time to identify potential segments for personalization. For example, you might want different messages for one industry or job title vs. another.

If you decide to add additional segments, keep in mind that you will need to write two versions of copy for each new segment or persona for testing purposes. All because one segment or persona responds well to one message doesn’t mean the other segments will respond the same.

A/B/C Test Splits

We recommend writing at least two or three different email series or sequences for every campaign/segment, known as A/B/C test splits. It is very rare we ever run an email sequence with only one version of the copy. You don’t want to skip this, especially if you don’t have experience sending emails to prospects in a particular industry.
The good news is Sales Prophet makes it easy to create A/B/C test splits for both text-based sales campaigns and html-based marketing campaigns.

Sequence or Campaign Types

Typically we test two different campaign types:
Response Campaign
which is designed to do one thing: generate a response or reply from our ideal prospect.
Action Campaign which is designed to get our target audience to take an action like clicking on a link.

Responses vs. Action Email Campaign

The goal is to determine which body copy works best in generating our desired outcome.
In some cases, you might want to establish credibility by sharing relevant content before asking for a meeting.
In other cases, you might only be interested in getting a prospect on the phone or scheduling an appointment.

When building your email sequence, you can mix a combination of response messages and action messages into your email series. But you have to be careful you don’t ruin your testing efforts by creating too many variations.
It will be hard to determine which email version or sequence performs best if you have too many variables.

Here is an Example of a Response Email Campaign

Email 1A in the email sequence
Email 1B in the email sequence

As you can see, we have two completely different messages to the same target audience. Over time (ideally after 1000 email sends), we can determine which email message generates the best response rate.

The process can be seen as daunting, but we want to remind you that Sales Prophet application makes this very easy and our staff members are here to help you figure everything out.

Email 2 in the Sequence
The second email in your sequence goes to people who didn’t respond to the first email, Email 1A or 1B with the subject line “Introduction?” after x number of days.
You can send this second email or follow-up message the day after the first email, three days, or even a week later; it’s up to you. (100% customizable) We generally recommend you send the second email 3 to 5 days after the first email in the sequence.

Email 2A in the email sequence
Email 2B in the email sequence

Third Email in the Sequence
This email goes to people who didn’t respond to either the first or second email. At this point, you can test various versions of email copy with different forms of call to action:
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Most clients ask us how many touches or emails they should send before giving up, and the answer is always the same. It depends on the data, the number of contacts you have to test, and the number of messages you send over x amount of time.

Some clients send as many as 17 emails over 14 days. Other clients send three messages over two weeks. As a rule of thumb, you should base your tests on the number of contacts you have that match your ideal customer profile.

At this point, we haven’t received a response to the two previous emails sent, so it’s fair to think that this person is not interested in your product or service or is the wrong person to talk to about your product or service. That’s where you’d go to email number three in your email sequence.
Note: continuing to send emails to people who are not responding, prohibits you from expanding your reach or ability to make new introductions to new prospects.
Also note that a big part of email deliverability it email engagement. The more engaged prospects are with our emails, the better your email deliverability.

Email 3A of the email sequence
Email 3B of the email sequence

You can send as many emails as you want or any time you like when creating your sequences.
That’s why we put so much emphasis on testing.
There are four primary areas you need to test:

Reach vs. Touches
When building your email sequences, you must consider the impact that sending multiple emails (known as “marketing touches”) has on your market reach. To safely send outbound emails using your primary work email, you must limit the number of emails you send to under 100 a day or risk getting blacklisted and your emails going into the spam folder.

That’s why we recommend using a subdomain if you need market reach. This helps increase the volume of emails you can send while protecting your primary email account. The good news is that Sales Prophet has direct integrations with the three top SMTP providers, Mailgun, SparkPost and SendGrid.

Here is an example to help you visualize the impact of the number of marketing touches vs. market reach:

Let’s say you have 2500 contacts in your email list and are sending 100 emails daily. It will take 25 days to send everyone on your list the first message.
However, since you are sending three emails to each person “Introduction?”, “Reconnect?” and “Who should I address?” and you only wait four days in between each step (in this example). Your actual email volume looks like this below:
Step 1 emails sent in week one
First four days you send 100 emails a day = 400 emails
Step 2 emails kick in so on Day five, you are now sending 50 step one emails and 50 step two emails
By day nine, you are sending 33 emails for step one, 33 emails for people in step two and 33 emails for people at step three.

So the number of new contacts being added to your campaign (36) is a third of the original volume or reach of 100 on day one.
It’s essential to remember this as you decide how many emails you want to send in your sequences when planning for your Reach vs. Touches.

Hopefully, we have given you some ideas to consider when launching a Cold Email Campaign or Sales Automation Program.
Please contact Sales Prophet if you need any help in setting up your email sequences.

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