Cold Emailing a Waste of Time? Think Again

September 8, 2019

As someone inside an email marketing team you might be wondering if your efforts do pay off. I mean it’s the XXI century and companies still depend on cold emails as a way to attract customers? Short version yes. Companies still use it and it does work.

Sometimes you can find yourself without the proper motivation to work on cold email projects. This is perfectly normal and it’s mostly because email outreach is something that leaves us with a certain disconnection feeling from the actual result. Again, this is due to the low number of responses in an email outreach campaign. Rest assure cold emailing is not a waste of your time and it does pay off.

Cold Emailing a Waste of Time? Think Again

You just need to keep your eye on the prize and know how to identify the fruits of your labor. With this said, we all know the typical drill of prospecting.

Cold Emailing a Waste of Time? Think Again.

  • Prepare all leads and verify their email addresses, you can verify you list using the best service available, VerifyBee
  • Send the pitch email.
  • Follow-up on your cold email.
  • Close the deal.

This does sound a bit boring and automated, thus preventing us from scale our outreach efforts in better ways. Let’s face it, most people have had a list with potential clients and that list has often represented a long and hard day, or days. Of work. This leaves us with the feeling that most of our work doesn’t pay off in the end. The cost of dealing with such a high volume of potential clients is often the quality of the emails sent.

You’ll see why this fundamentally the wrong approach to take. Every outreach campaign should begin with doing your homework on your prospect. Further on, let’s explain how your email outreach should be conducted, once you understand this you will begin to see why it’s not a waste of time.

Understand your core audience.

The first thing that you should care about, before writing any emails, is your audience. You have to know your public if you want to get to them. Play a little with the subject line of your emails, make it more tempting to open for your recipients. Once they do, the body of your email, meaning its message is at play. Do remember that not all the recipients in an emailing list will have the same taste and preferences, make sure to do your homework on them.

The most common reasons at fault from a bad email outreach campaign are a list of poorly selected prospects or a problem with the pitch message. This aside from using the wrong platform to deliver your outreach campaign, more on this can be found on our article about why you shouldn’t use MailChimp to do email outreach. Understanding our core audience is key to avoid those reasons for failure. In order to make things more educational we’ll use three examples for different companies.


  • SaaS company trying to get new users to sign up.
  • SEO agency pursuing new clients.
  • Freelancer aiming to get new gigs on Instagram.

Basically, any company with a website needs SEO if it hopes to rank well. However, our SEO agency won’t just get into business with any company, no. Maybe our SEO agency wants a particular kind of company. Maybe an e-commerce startup or maybe work on retainer and pursue low-margin shops with high sales volume. In order to know which companies interest our SEO company the most, research has to be done.

The same applies for our SaaS company, they have to be selective and create a list of prospects that have the possibility to get their companies to work with ours. In particular they want to reach out only to CEO’s CMO’s and marketing managers. While our freelancer would be interested in contacting business that lack videos on their Instagram accounts.


What all of these cases have in common, is that each and every one has a target audience to which they need to focus their attention. In order to have a positive result with this endeavor there are two questions that need to be answered.

  • How can I provide value to them?
  • Can they afford to pay me?

How to better understand your audience?

You know what they say, all is fair in love and war. Make no mistake your business is your war, one that you fight being as smart as possible. In this case means digging into data from your prospects in order to better understand them. Use every tool at your disposal to get information on your recipients that would help you make a better sales pitch to them, tools such as:

  • Google Analytics.
  • Social Media.
  • Ads.
  • Your own software usage data.
  • Existing clients, active users and clients that generate a steady income.
  • LinkedIn search.
  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator.

All of these will help you a great deal when prospecting to improve your messaging. Try to segment your list and create different proposals based on shared interest. The questions posted in the previous part will be answered based on your information. Once you’re clear on the value you can provide to them you have a solid angle from where to start your sales pitch.

How to get the outreach result you want.

The reality of email outreach is that sometimes it works and others not so much. Think of it as testing and iterating new solutions and ways to land a prospect. Cold emailing is not pretty and perfect in its inherent response rate and is best suited for people with mid to long term ROI goals. Let’s explore more on this.

Let’s begin with the fact that email is a saturated channel. This means that most people do receive a lot of messages every single day, making it much harder for a particular email to get the attention our cold emails need.

As if that wasn’t enough some founders and marketing heads have a tendency to overthink stuff. It can range from the position of an image, the signature used in the email to the phrasing of the email.

All of that is mostly irrelevant. It really doesn’t matter if the email has a little more character than what you would like, the importance is in the message. The message is what tells the recipient if you can provide value or not.

A very important aspect to keep in mind at all times, is that these kinds of campaigns take long to produce sales. It’s very important to set a clear expectation from the very beginning of the campaign.

People don’t learn from their victories, people learn from their failures, just don’t make a habit out of them. You can learn about what doesn’t work for your audience based on low open and response rates. Which brings us to the next topic.

What you shouldn’t do when pitching prospects.

The first thing is that you shouldn’t copy templates from the web, use them as a guide line to your own emails. The problem is that they use a very known and generic framework. From a basic compliment, to straight out asking, followed by yet another compliment and asking again and a follow up.

Emails like that get old really fast, now days some people even consider those emails as spam. This means that the emails might get deleted or reported, in either case, not something to look for. As an example, on exactly what not to do here’s the following cold email.


This email is the classic form of email outreach that it’s just not worth it. You should always do your research on your prospects and avoid using generic templates as the one seen above.

Aside from that there’s yet another trap that you need to watch out for. You shouldn’t go straight to the ask, doing this from the get go, you start the negotiation from a weak position, this is not something you want to do. What you should do in this case is provide value upfront. Create your very own leverage, again this is possible by having information on your target.

When it comes to escalating your outreach, you have to know that gaining scalability and maintaining quality don’t exactly get along. Regardless of your prospects, automated emails are way too easy to ignore thus making the scaling difficult when you want to focus on the quality of your emails.

The science behind cold emails.

While no strategy can provide you with the best response rate and do wonders, you can get an idea of what does work on email outreach. The right approach is the one that works for you the best, however let’s go over a good strategy. The content process starts with thinking about two aspects.

  • Why should my prospect care about my email?
  • How can I personalize my outreach?

Do keep in mind that personalization and providing value to your readers will make your audience narrower. However, this is a price that you must be willing to pay to get good results in an email outreach. The trick here is coming up with a process that makes the production of cold emails faster and more efficient. This all begins, again, with analyzing your audience.

In our example SEO agency would divide its prospects into different lists based on different areas of interest. Every segment of the list will need a similar but fundamentally different email approach. Another thing to keep in mind is the tone on which to propose the offer.

Make sure to feel and sound human in your emails, provide value and demonstrate what you’re worth. Stay clear from promotional content and cliché sales pitches, don’t go straight for the ask and never use the line “please hire me”.

Let’s revisit all of this using different examples. Do make sure to send emails at appropriate times, you learn more about this with our article about the best time to send an email to get a response.

SaaS trying to convert more users.

When dealing with SaaS business you could try to leverage social proof and case studies whenever you can. Highlight a change that is happening in their industry and try to help them take advantage of a possible opportunity in it.

The case studies you provide should serve as a proof that what you offer does work after the change has taken place. You can provide additional value with this by carefully selecting the case study to represent the work you’ve done in the past. This means that the case study could be a success story from a previous customer. You can try the following:

  1. Create content that talks about a change and show how that change can create winners and losers.
  2. Then use your tools to solve one of their problems and send them the solution. Pro bono!

Don’t inquire for their business directly, be more of a teaser in that regard. Play with them and make them understand what you can offer and how the solutions you come up with can help them. So, summing up.

  • Start your emails by introducing a change in the world or industry.
  • Fix one of their problems and tease the formula.
  • Ask for an opportunity to show them the rest.

Freelancer looking for gigs.

There are some other variables to consider for this kind of outreach. The type of job you’re looking for and what you really desire from the company. Aside from knowing you prospects you also have to know about what you want. If you want to work based on a schedule or at your own convenience this can narrow down your list.

Groups such as small businesses and startups are usually in need of creative reinforcements. They often deal with tight budgets and pressure from clients and investors. This leads to a very clear way to position yourself for them.

Do remember that in this aspect nobody cares about what you want, only what you can offer. A good strategy, tough a long one, would be to sign up for one of your prospect’s trials, use their product and get an opinion about it. Next you want to find out how they treat people and if it’s something you can get along with. Make sure to understand how they do business; this will help you make up your mind on whether this is the right prospect or not.

Further on.

Don’t rush things, just let them play out and get as much information as you possible can. Eventually do the reach out and stablish a connection without rushing anything. Try to tease your way into what you want, which in this case is to talk about a problem they have that with your help can be an opportunity.

In the event that you find yourself discussing about money and you fee, try to remember that it’s still about them. Be willing to invest time and effort first before seeking out a bigger monetary reward.

While this does sound like a lot of time and effort to invest, it’s well worth it. The results are a solid 50%, or above, response rate and it is best to know a company before getting in bed with them. The process here is very simple, show them your worth, ask for money and keep providing your ROI on how much somebody pays you.

There are always risk with approaches like this one, nevertheless information and experience will only benefit you and your practice.

SEO agency and link building.

Leverage isn’t always easy to find and time is of the essence in this case. Meaning that you can’t take your time and build lasting relationships with your prospects. Study how the best manages a link building project and take notes from them.

In the case of leverage being applied here it basically means that you need to have something attractive to your prospects. This can be for instances, a strong Twitter account with lots of followers. This account can share the content of your prospect and bring in much value in publicity and brand awareness. Do keep in mind to be real and come across as a person. Take the following email as an example.

cold email

You can try a different approach by using social proof. You can base this on personalization and mentioning that you got published on a reputable website. You can take notes on this based on Tim Soulo from the following email.

email personalization

Notice how in this email Tim doesn’t ask for anything and makes use of previous content published on a very reputable site. This also plays to the ambitions of the prospect, getting a person that has worked for the best is more desirable than a someone with articles published on less known sites.

A last example.

As last example take a look at a more honest approach. Sometimes using an email that doesn’t rely on any kind of email template brings the connection you need to turn your prospect into a client. Take a look at the following email as an example.

cold email

And for further information here’s the follow up they sent.

cold email

In the event that you don’t have any kind of social media account at your disposal there are ways to make things work in your favor. Visit their website and check for broken links in their articles and main page. Think about possible opportunities based on their social media activities. Keep an eye out for outdated content and see in which ways you can provide value to them.


By now you should understand just what a successful email outreach campaign entail. With it and the examples given there is no doubt that cold emailing is not a waste of time. In fact, it is still the most used form of outreach for landing clients and jobs alike.

Cold emails represent a lot of effort and time but they do pay off in the end. What doesn’t and is most certainly dead is bad emails. Emails that take no consideration on any of the points mentioned here. Those are the emails that damage the sender reputation and provide no value what so ever to any part involved. Though we have provided a basic strategy to use in your cold emails you can learn more about why cold emails fail in our article.

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