The answer will surprise you.
A few newsletters ago, I wrote about the continued relevance of email newsletters in today’s era of artificial intelligence (AI). I was pleasantly surprised to receive an overwhelming response, almost all of it in favor of the email newsletter.
Which then turned my thoughts to….cold emails. How relevant is cold emailing as a digital marketing tactic in 2023?
Now, before some of you switch off, not wanting to know more about what’s often described as a “cringe-worthy” tactic (I mean, who writes to strangers, right?) I would say, hold on. You will be surprised, as I was, in knowing that cold emails are still a formidable component of digital marketing even today.
There are scores of service providers out there providing you the wherewithal to include cold emailing in your marketing plan. And there are plenty of enterprises doing it, too. To my mind, then, that means it ain’t dead if it is still working. I could project some stats here to back up my claim, but don’t want to bore you with numbers. But here’s just one I encountered: The RoI for a cold email campaign is $38 for every dollar spent or 3,800%? Exaggeration? Believe me, it may be not.
To be honest, as a marketer, I sometimes resort to sending cold emails for the content and digital marketing services that my firm New Age Content Services LLP offers. What makes me do it? The singular reason is that my messaging has some chance of standing out as compared to, say, social media. Newsletters and emails offer that one-on-one exchange between a lead and a brand that most of the other marketing channels do not.
So, yes. When done right, cold emailing still remains an effective way to market your business, even in 2023.
Here are some more reasons why:
Direct access to target prospects
Cold emails allow you to reach your ideal customers directly. With targeted prospect lists and research, you can segment and engage your best-fit audience.
Compared to other paid advertising channels, cold email costs little beyond time. Careful targeting provides high ROI on time invested.
Flexibility in messaging
You control the messaging and have the flexibility to improve it over time through testing. Tweaks and optimizations can make cold emails convert better.
Cold Does Not Mean Spam
In real life, cold spam does taste good, but that’s not true in the digital world we live in. Also, one must not mistake one for the other. When it comes to cold emailing, the key is to avoid coming across as spammy in your messaging and follow the best practices.
Cold emailing refers to sending unsolicited emails to potential customers or clients with the goal of generating new business. Unlike emails sent to existing contacts, cold emails are outreach messages sent to people the sender doesn’t have a relationship with. Cold emailing is a common tactic used in sales and marketing to connect with prospects, promote products or services, and ultimately convert leads into customers.
But like cold calls, cold emailing has developed a negative reputation over the years. Understandable. With most of us having multiple email accounts, who wants to deal with overflowing inboxes and spammy emails, right?
However, when executed properly, cold emails can be an inexpensive and effective way to expand business reach and acquire new leads. It has to be done right, and some amount of research and preparedness is required prior to sending them out. For example, imagine this scenario: you have been contemplating buying a car accessory for your newly acquired Tesla, but have not found the time yet to research the market. Then lands a cold email selling you just the accessory you had in mind. Spot on.
Not only must you follow all the relevant laws, but also adhere to CAN-SPAM requirements (which is a good place to start). Check out the guidelines offered for promotional communication.
Do remember — cold emailing is NOT illegal, contrary to what some people think. Spamming, however, IS, and you could be even fined for it.
An example: Sending out bulk emails carrying dirty jokes, pornographic material or even messages such as, “Check out my website X” is SPAM.
Sending out a highly personalized email (in a chain email of about 3) with details of the services/products your company offers, etc., is Cold EMAIL.
But the recipient must be part of your target audience.
What does that mean? Simple. You cannot be sending an email offering back-end fintech services to someone who is a truck driver (Why would any sane marketer do that in the first place? The lazy sort.). Not only is there a mismatch but the driver can report you as spam, and block you. But a driver may appreciate it if your email offers him a unique truck cleaning shampoo or the latest GPS device. It could result in a sale, even.
Some key guidelines you may follow (as within the CAN-SPAM framework):
Accurate Header Information: Maintain transparency in your header details such as ‘from,’ ‘to,’ and ‘reply to’ fields by using genuine names and valid email addresses.
Honest Subject Lines: Steer clear of misleading subject lines. It’s crucial that your subject accurately reflects the actual content of your email.
Transparent Advertising: Clearly indicate when your email constitutes an advertisement. Transparency builds trust with recipients.
Physical Address Disclosure: Provide your physical address, including street address or post office box. This adds authenticity to your communications.
Simplified Unsubscribing: Facilitate easy opting-out. Include an opt-out link that allows recipients to unsubscribe from future emails effortlessly.
Beyond legal compliance, marketers should also consider the ethics of cold emailing. While it can be an effective tactic, recipients may find unsolicited emails annoying or intrusive. Ways to make cold emailing more ethical include:
- Only email people for whom your product or service is relevant
- Making it easy to opt out
- Avoiding subject lines that are misleading or falsely urgent
- Respecting recipients’ contact preferences and privacy
Taking the time to craft personalized, thoughtful emails shows respect for the recipient’s time and attention. Mass blasting generic emails often backfires.
Overall, being mindful of regulations and ethics helps ensure your cold emailing strategy is effective and sustainable over the long term.
Do It Right
Cold email complements your other marketing efforts. If done right, it is a useful tool to drive traffic to your site, for promotions and events, or for selling something.
While some decry cold outreach as spam, careful targeting and personalization make it a viable strategy. Following best practices for effective writing, segmentation, timing, and metrics can stop your cold email from being spammy.
Readers may have realized that throughout this newsletter, I have been emphasizing on doing it right, getting it right, targeting it right. You want to do cold emails, you need to first research the market and find the relevant target audience, get their email IDs, and more than anything, also understand the psychology behind what compels people to open, read, and respond to emails from unfamiliar senders.
The Psychology Behind Cold Emails
Cold emailing relies heavily on principles of psychology to influence the recipient’s behavior. By understanding what motivates people, marketers can craft more effective emails that are more likely to get opened, read, and acted upon. Here are some of the main psychological factors at play:
Creating a sense of urgency or limited availability pressures the recipient to take action. Time-sensitive offers and one-time deals make people more likely to respond.
Social proof describes people’s tendency to follow the lead of others. Mentioning positive reviews, testimonials, or existing customers demonstrates social validation.
The reciprocity principle states that people feel obligated to return favors and gestures. Providing free information or resources in cold emails can trigger reciprocal actions.
Putting yourself in the recipient’s shoes is key. Ask yourself: what pain points or needs might they have? How would they benefit from your offer? What objections might they raise? Tailoring your messaging to align with your recipient’s mindset and motivations can dramatically improve email effectiveness.
Understanding and incorporating these psychological drivers into cold emails can greatly increase their conversion rates. Additionally, research on consumer behavior and email marketing sheds light on structural and stylistic best practices for crafting compelling cold messages.
Crafting a Compelling Cold Email
I am not going to take up your precious time explaining the actual wording to be used for your cold email to hit home.
But without a doubt, if you want your cold email to resonate, research and personalization are the keys.
Take time out to:
Investing the effort to tailor your message according to the recipient’s interests and needs demonstrates your genuine concern for them as a unique individual, rather than just a generic entry on a list. Moreover, studies indicate that personalized emails boast elevated rates of opens and responses, underscoring their effectiveness.
Templates Are Not the Way to Go
Generic templates may give you the easy route out but they DO NOT WORK where cold email is concerned.
Here’s what you need to focus on:
Subject line: This is the make-or-break element. The subject line is the first impression your email makes. You typically have about 5–10 words to convince the recipient to open instead of deleting. You will have to work on it till you kinda get in it right. Strategies like using the recipient’s name, invoking curiosity, or offering value do work. For example, “Quick question for you, Sarah” or “A solution to your inventory issues”.
Test, test, test with different subject lines to see which resonates the most.
Email body: The body content should be focused and scannable. Get to the point quickly in the first paragraph with a value proposition. Use bullet points and bolding for key information. Link to any relevant materials. End with a clear call-to-action and make it easy for them to respond or schedule a meeting. Sign off with a professional closing and signature.
- Personalize each cold email to grab the recipient’s attention.
- Craft compelling subject lines that prompt opening.
- Write focused body content with bold CTAs.
Timing and Frequency of Cold Emails
Once you have got the target audience, the subject line and the broader content right, you need to then focus on finding out the optimal timing and frequency for sending cold emails. These are factors crucial for maximizing open and response rates. For example, research shows cold emails generally have higher open rates if sent early morning than late afternoon. This aligns with daily work rhythms and reflects when people will most likely be actively checking emails.
While timing is important, striking the right balance for frequency is also key. Sending too many emails can quickly cause recipients to perceive you as a spammer. However, spacing out emails too far apart loses momentum and wastes opportunities.
As a general rule, no more than 2–3 cold emails should be sent to the same recipient within a two-week period. Any higher frequency risks annoying the recipient and having emails marked as spam. It’s better to focus on crafting higher quality, personalized emails than bombarding them with excessive frequency.
That said, if a recipient has not replied after 2–3 emails, it’s usually best to move on and try other prospects rather than continue to email someone who is not engaging.
To wrap it up, cold emailing remains relevant even today. With the right mix of psychology, strategy, and persistence, cold emailing can become one of your most valuable tools for boosting marketing and sales.
To repeat the key takeaways:
- Personalization is key — Take the time to research your recipients and customize your emails to their needs and interests.
- Optimize subject lines for open rates — Use urgency, social proof, value propositions, or curiosity to get recipients to open your email.
- Keep copy clear, concise and scannable — Get to the point quickly and use bullet points, headings, and emphasis to make your emails easy to read.
- Time your emails strategically — Avoid early mornings, weekends, holidays, and other inconvenient times.
- Test and refine your approach — Use A/B testing and data to constantly improve your cold email strategy.
(A confession: Some help was taken from a machine to write/re-write bits and portions of this newsletter.)