Cold email marketing 101: The cold email leadgen handbook

Cold Email Marketing 101:

The Ultimate Cold Email Leadgen Handbook


Where We’re At

You may have noticed that it’s getting harder to generate leads with cold emails. It may even seem a little like this:

This is because more people are getting more emails than ever before. In fact, according to Hubspot, the average person receives roughly 147 emails daily and discards half of them within about five minutes. Most go unopened into the trash. Imagine sifting through your mail, which contains over a hundred flyers, just to find those two bills and a postcard from your aunt.
You can see why people might be over it.

To get your cold email opened, you must first get it noticed. Make it stand out against all of the other flyers in the postbox. In this Ultimate Cold Emailing Leadgen Handbook, we’ll go through the whys and the hows and help you to create the perfect cold email template for the best open rate and LeadGen conversion.


Is it Even Legal?

Yes, sending cold emails is still legal. Just like posting flyers in postboxes, it’s still a free country, and you can certainly post away.
There is a difference between cold emails and SPAM, which are unsolicited, mass emails. This document should guide you in determining what is legal and what is not.

Legally speaking, and in short, the best way to send a cold email is to ensure that it is personalized, with the recipient’s name and email address (not just a stack of email addresses in the same field); it should have a subject line which matches the content of the email (not a clickbait-y kind of subject with a disproportionate number of exclamation marks); it should clearly be intended to open up a conversation or start a business relationship, instead of simply advertising products or services straight out of the gate.

If you stick to those criteria, you should be fine.


To Everything a Time and a Season

Even cold emails have a good time and a bad time. There is conflicting information on the best time to send cold emails. Some studies say midweek, some say early in the week. Some say early in the morning or late in the evening, and others claim it’s better over the midday hours. This differing range of opinions may be because they have each focused on a different industry. For example, salespeople and journalists will open emails early in the morning and late at night because they mostly work outside of the office. In contrast, office-bound people will open emails later on in the day as they settle into things.

The point is you need to consider the workflow and schedule of your target market. You want your email to pop up at the most likely time for it to be opened, usually when that person is checking emails. They are more likely to see and open it if it is fresh. Do your research and find out when that is. Just remember that stalking is still illegal, so keep it tidy.


Where We’re Going with This

When you send cold emails, you want to know what kind of numbers to aim for. You will never (okay, it’s doubtful that you will ever) get every one of your emails opened and converted into a sale. So you need to know what a decent rate is.

You can have all of the numbers in the world up your sleeve, but it won’t mean a thing if you aren’t getting reports on whether your emails are being opened or not, so ensure that you are using some kind of reporting to show this. The simplest way is to set your email server to give an automatic flag when an email has been opened/read. If you use a content management app that handles your mail, there will be a reporting option available, so look for it and make sure it’s switched on.

You want to aim for around a quarter to a third of your cold emails to be opened. Obviously, you want it to be higher, and so you should aim for that, but a sign that you are doing at least moderately well is the above percentage.

Of this, your response rate will be significantly lower, and you might consider yourself incredibly successful if you get a 5-10% response rate from those opened emails.

Yes, it’s hard work, but fortunately, you’re not literally going door-to-door when you put those flyers into mailboxes.


Planning Your Approach

Like a lot of things related to marketing, everything should flow from your media objective. This is your desired outcome translated into a measurable, achievable marketing goal with a plan behind it. For example, your vision might be to “get more sales,” and this will translate into something like, “achieve target sales of 1000 units per day at x facility in the week before Christmas”.

You need to determine what you want to achieve and be clear and specific about it. Once you know this, you can identify your target market. Get to know your target market well. Look at what they like to do and how they enjoy spending time, their values, and their demographics. Then, once you feel like you understand your audience, you can sit down and begin drafting an email.


Anatomy of a Perfect Cold Email

Now we look at how to craft a missive that will make cold emailing executives turn green with envy.


Subject Line

The subject line is the feature that makes or breaks a cold email. It has been shown that consumers will either open a cold email or report it as spam, depending on the quality of the cold email subject line. You need a catchy, relevant and informative subject line. The best cold email subject lines will stick very closely to the CTA but without actually being one. You should also consider using your contact’s name in the subject line to personalize it and make it stand out.

Under no circumstances should you try to make it anything other than what it is. Your subject line should not contain any misleading or false information designed to trick the reader into opening your email. This is unforgivable, and you will be sent to the spam folder, along with your email.



You need to research and know to whom you are addressing your email, so it is personalized. This is good for a number of reasons:

  • You are keeping within the prescripts of the legal method of contacting people.
  • You are less likely to have your email filtered out of the inbox if it contains the person’s name in the greeting and subject line.
  • People take notice when they are addressed by name, and you want your reader to take notice.



The best subject lines for cold emails always link up with the intro line for the sake of continuity. Don’t start another theme in your introduction. Just continue with the same theme or message from your subject line, but ensure it is customized to your reader’s context. Again, this is where your research begins to pay off. If you know all about your client’s business and you have a good grasp of how you can help them improve productivity or sales, then you will make a connection. You just have to phrase it in a way that makes it appealing and relevant without being demanding or sales-y.



Thanks to technology and the digital era, you can include short videos in your email body. This is great, and you should usef this feature because society has become primarily a visually-motivated entity. Reading alone doesn’t do it anymore. We need images to connect with, and while photos, infographics and gifs are great, videos spare us the hassle of decoding written words and sentences.

You can include a short written introduction to your service or product and how it fits into your client’s world and improves it. This is to answer any lingering questions that your reader might have after seeing your video pitch.


CTA – But in a Conversational Tone

A good, subtle cold email that seeks to open doors, make introductions and encourage conversation cannot end with a strident “Take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity” style CTA. This is unlike the overall email tone, and you will lose your reader by sounding like a snake-oil salesman.

Instead, stay with the tone and style you have created, and make your CTA more of a conversation starter. This will encourage your reader to consider engaging further with your email without the pressure to hand over credit card details immediately.

You can also conclude your email with a personalized “funny;” something that shows you have done your homework and have invested time and energy in learning about your client’s business. Do this in a light, humorous way, and you will win.

Remember that the way to build rapport with strangers is to make it really easy for them to use whatever you have without being pressured or threatened. People don’t respond to pressure or threats, but they do respond to anything that is easy and will make their lives or jobs simpler, or make their businesses more successful. If you remember this when drafting your cold email template, then you will write a perfect cold email that supports a high open/conversion rate.

Now you have been shown everything about how to send a cold email. Go out and do it.

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