Cold Email or SPAM? An In-Depth Look at Good Cold Email Practices

The number one question that many marketers and salespeople have always had is, “What is cold email?” And the query that almost always follows this is, “Is cold email spam?”

When you are talking about cold email meaning and its relation (or lack of) to spam, an in-depth answer is the best way to tackle the issue. So, here we go:

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Cold Email or SPAM? An In-Depth Look at Good Cold Email Practices

Table of Contents

Cold Email Meaning

Simply put, a cold email is a type of email that you send to potential customers that have not had a prior relationship with you. It is a sales tactic that, at its core, requires you to send customized and personalized emails to prospects that you have never contacted before. Think of it as a cold call, but way less intrusive and annoying.

As an outbound sales tactic, the popularity of cold emailing has grown a lot over the last few years. This is because marketers and salespeople have discovered just how effective it can be. It certainly also helps that studies into the efficiency of cold emails prove what we already know: cold emails work.

But that does not mean that cold emailing is easy. In fact, it is one of the hardest modes of communication for a couple of reasons. First, you do not have a prior relationship with the prospective customer yet. This means that you can very easily be dismissed as spam (we’ll get more into that later).

And second, you do not have the benefit of the kind of non-verbal feedback that salespeople thrive on. We all know that such cues can help a seller modify their approach in real-time, a fact that makes face-to-face sales very effective. Because of these two reasons, the likelihood of cold emails failing is very high when compared to other sales strategies.  

But they can work – if done correctly. We have all heard the success stories about people who have managed to increase sales, build careers, or even launch successful startups with nothing more than cold emails. You can also land meetings with potential customers and even gain a mentor, job or internship through the humble cold email. It is truly very exciting stuff!

It is important to note that we are not talking about sales emails, which typically tend to be sent in bulk. Our focus is on cold emails, which have been optimized for a specific person. Even if your cold email campaign involves reaching out to hundreds or thousands of people, personalization and customization are key.

That brings us to the next question: is cold email spam?

Cold Email vs. Spam

There is a huge difference between sending out mass emails about the next “revolutionary” pharmaceutical products and reaching out via one-on-one personalized emails to a targeted specific business audience. The first example is spam while the second is a great way to show cod email meaning.

An interesting tidbit here – bulk emails about medicine and other drugs make up for more than 80 percent of all spam!

On a more serious note, it is quite easy to identify spam emails. The top five characteristics of spam include the following:

  • The sender uses a fake name

  • The subject line is typically very misleading

  • The email content does not identify the message as an advertisement

  • There email doesn’t have the typical signature or address that you would expect from business communication

  • The sender does not provide a legitimate opt-out option.

Does this sound like one of the many emails that are currently languishing in your spam or delete folders?

On the other hand, cold emails tend to have the following characteristics:

  • The sender uses their real name and email address

  • The email includes a relevant and appropriate subject line

  • The tone of the message body is friendly and conversational, rather than ad-like

  • The email sign-off includes a full signature that shows the sender’s address and contact information

  • The sender adds a valid opt-out option, usually in the P.S.

Apart from that, the law protects consumers from spam emails. The CAN-SPAM act allows marketers and salespeople to send business emails to prospects they do not know. But you also have to comply with the rules set by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and other best practices.

When done well, cold email is not spam. There is a basic difference in the intent and execution between the two. It could be argued that the black hat techniques that spam uses can improve your open rates, but they will do nothing for your response rates. After all, making potential customers angry will not help you close deals!

At the core, cold emails are also basically asking for something from a prospect. But the difference here is how the potential customer receives it and how you use time-tested marketing techniques to get them to accept your pitch.

In line with this, here are six important things that you need to incorporate to set your cold emails apart from spam:

1. Never misrepresent who you are

Your sender information, including your “from,” “to,” and “reply to” information must be genuine. It needs to establish who you are.

2. Do not use deceitful subject lines

Using a subject line that says one thing while the email body talks about something else is a misleading practice that you should stay away from. This is the fastest way of getting your message sent straight to the trash folder. In fact, you will be lucky if you don’t get blacklisted by the recipient! Fortunately, it is very easy to learn how to craft effective email opening lines.

3. Add your business address

Whether it is a physical address or a PO Box, make sure to add the address of your business. Ideally, this should be included as part of your email signature.

4. Include an opt-out option

By its very nature, some people simply do not want to receive cold emails and nothing in your pitch will convince them otherwise. That’s okay! You win some and lose some with this tactic. But the important thing is to give them an effective way to say that they do not want to be part of your cold email campaign.

It does not have to be an “unsubscribe” link, which can take away some of the personal vibe of the email. Instead, you can say something like:

If you are not the right person to contact about this, please let me know.

5. Respect all opt-outs

The most important part of giving an opt-out option is respecting it when it is used. If not, then what’s the point of adding it? If a prospect opts out of future emails, make sure that they do not receive any more emails from you.

6. Keep up with what others do on your behalf

Many businesses and brands hire other companies to handle their email outreach. But even in these cases, you are still responsible for what is done on your behalf. It is important to make sure that the people working on your cold email outreach campaign also understand the rules highlighted here.

What Makes Cold Email Effective?

If you want to write effective cold emails, then you must incorporate these five key things:

1. Personalize the email to the intended recipient

The key difference between cold emails that work and those that don’t is personalization. In order to get this right, you have to do your research.

To personalize a cold email right, you must know who the prospect is, what their interests are, and how they see the world. You must know what the pain points are in their businesses or companies. Establishing this “theory of mind” shows that you have gone the extra mile to understand your prospect – and they love it!

You should also make it clear from the outset why you are emailing them and not someone else. Studies have shown that people are more likely to help you when they feel that they are exclusively qualified to do so. Showing where the prospect fits in gives them information that makes sense to them.

You must also show that your ask cannot be fulfilled easily in any other way. For example, you can’t ask for advice on a particular subject if the prospect has already created a resource tackling that particular issue. Research will help you avoid such embarrassing mistakes that will leave the prospect wondering whether they should take you seriously or not.

2. Prove yourself

When a prospect gets a cold email, their first question is usually, “Who is this?” That is typically followed by, “Why should I care?”

In every step of the way, it is important to remember that you are a stranger. You may have done a lot of research into the prospect, but they do not know anything about you. So, your first step will be to prove your credibility so that they can trust you.

The best social proof that you can offer is a mutual connection. This works even better if the prospect already trusts and has a cordial relationship with the mutual contact. So if you have any direct contacts, be sure to mention them right from the first cold email.

But you can still make headway without this. All you have to do is establish your authority, social status, or credibility that is relevant to your ask early on. You can do this in one or two lines in your first email.

Lacking that, you can establish common ground with the prospect. Do you come from the same hometown or school? Are you both into obscure bands or unusual hobbies? The more rare or unexpected the connection, the easier it will be to establish rapport with the prospect.

3. Give them a kickass value proposition

The only way to get prospects to care about a cold email is by showing what is in it for them. If you are able to show clearly how your product or service will ease a potential customer’s pain, then you are set for life.

Research shows that people will do much more to avoid pain than to gain pleasure. During your research, you might have come across a prospect’s main pain point. If your product or service can give them some relief, then make sure to point that out clearly.

But if you cannot solve the problem, focus on giving potential customers what they want. Can you connect them to someone that they would like to meet? Actually, this kind of  move will definitely grab the prospect’s attention because not many people would offer to do so before an ask.

Whatever the case, make sure that your gift feels appropriate, considering it is coming from one stranger to another.

4. Keep it short and easy

A lot of people find it very rewarding to help others. And as much as you can use this to your advantage, you also have to make it easy for the prospect to respond accordingly.

Start off by making your cold email as short as possible. Obviously, it is much easier to read short emails than longer ones. But if you also include a clear and specific request, you will generate higher response rates.

The best way to accomplish this is by writing how you would talk. If you were to meet the prospect at a conference or cocktail party, you would not start pitching to them right away. Instead, you would most likely introduce yourself, make some small talk about shared contacts and interests, then make a sensible ask. This is a nice and simple format that you can also use when crafting your cold emails.

Another thing to be mindful of is the ask. Your goal is to make the request as simple and actionable as possible. To do this, you must do as much work for the prospect as possible. If you want a meeting with them, don’t just say something like:

“Do you want to meet up?”

Such a request forces prospects to put in extra time and energy to make the decision and sort out the details for both of you. No one is willing to do that, especially for a stranger!

Instead, you can say something like this:

“Can we meet on Thursday or Friday this week at 11 am at (mention a location that is close to their office)? If that doesn’t work for you, please tell me what does and I’ll make it happen.”

5. Be nice and friendly

As much as what you say matters, how you say it could be even more important. We’re not saying that you should grovel before the prospect, but you can make an effort to be nice and friendly in all your emails.

After all, you are technically asking someone you do not know for a favor. A little appreciation and gratitude goes a long way. In fact, it has been proven that just saying “Thank you,” has can double the response rates to cold emails. Also, giving them an easy out will most likely increase the positive responses that you get.

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The Best Practices for Cold Email

1. Walk a mile in their shoes

What problems are your potential customers trying to solve? How do they view the solution you are offering? Ensure that the message of your cold email meets the prospects at their point of need.

2. Use a conversational tone

All the best cold email templates use a very simple, conversational tone. Take it a step further and customize these templates by writing how you talk. Keep in mind that prospects can smell generic templates and canned sales copy from a mile away.

3. Ditch the long-winded intros

These days, most people skim through their inboxes on a mobile device first. If your first line is a general introduction about yourself or company, it just makes it easier for prospects to delete your email without opening it or reading any further.

4. Get to the point

Instead, start off with your most interesting or compelling information. Remember, you only have a very short window to grab the prospect’s attention! So make your opening line work for you.

5. Short is the way to go

If your message is too long and detailed, prospects simply won’t read it. Keep it short and simple so that it is easy for the prospect to read and respond to your email in under one minute.

6. Personalize

The best way to get your cold emails read is to personalize them to a specific prospect. If your message is relevant to them, it will do wonders for your cold email open and response rates.

7. Add your contact information

Adding your business contact information in the email signature is an easy way to establish your credibility. It also gives you a chance to direct prospects to some of your best work. You can add a couple of links to any relevant articles or case studies that will act as social proof.

8. No images, please!

Packing a bunch of images into a cold email can make it harder to deliver and read. Since a lot of people have turned off automatic image downloads in their inboxes, it makes more sense to save the photos for whatever landing page you direct the recipient to.

9. Add a P.S.

Use a P.S. section to satisfy the need for an opt-out method. Rather than using an annoying link, this option will help you stick to the conversational tone of your email.

10. Use a question to wrap up

This is a great way to coax the prospect into having a continuous conversation with you. It also helps build up rapport that will help you close the deal.

11. Always follow up

Prospects can get caught up in meetings and busy work days, then forget to respond to your email. Just because you haven’t received a reply does not mean that they aren’t interested! So keep following up until you get a clear yes or no answer.

12. Test your emails

After you finish drafting a cold email, read it out loud to see if it sounds natural and relatable. Have a friend or co-worker read it and incorporate any corrections that make sense. Also, try out different hooks and resources in each message. This testing will show you what works and what does not.

13. Stay consistent

The most important thing is to never give up. At some point, cold emailing can be a numbers game. Only the most committed salespeople and marketers will reap the fruits of their efforts over time.

How Can You Use Cold Email Outreach?

The most popular use of cold email outreach is to generate leads and drum up interest for your service or product. But it can also be used in other ways, including the following:

1. Gauging the viability of a startup

Bootstrapping startups is a popular approach these days. No one wants to spend time, energy and resources working on business and development plans without talking to potential customers first. Reaching out through cold emails is a great way to see just how viable a business idea is.

You could email some people in your target market to determine what their pain points are. This approach could help you narrow down the scope and come up with a viable business idea.

If you already have the idea in mind, you could also use cold email to direct prospects to your landing page. This will help you gauge the level of interest that is there in your product or service.

2. Gathering data

You can also use cold emailing to ask questions and gather data or feedback on surveys. Let prospective customers know that you are carrying out research on a particular topic and are planning to publish the results soon. This is a subtle way of sending people to your website without asking for a sale directly.

3. Sending invitations

Cold emailing is a great way to invite people to an upcoming conference, webinar, or networking event. It could help you increase the number of promising customers attending these events, increasing your chances of netting great sales.

4. Scaling your sales

Automating your outbound lead generation is one of the best ways to scale your sales. You can use online tools like RooJet to identify prospects, email them, and follow up – all in an effort to generate meaningful conversations.

Wrapping Up

All in all, cold email is not spam. But there is a very thin line between the two, and you can easily cross it if you do not follow the tips and guidelines outlined here.

Cold emailing can be one of the most effective ways to push your business to the next level. We cannot ignore the fact that it can be a little intimidating to reach out to potential customers in this way.

But you must also remember that cold emails can help you create some very beneficial relationships that will improve your sales in the long run.

Do you have any more thoughts or advice about cold email? Don’t forget to leave them in the comments below!

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