The rules for sending an effective cold email

Cold emails are not necessarily spam — but if poorly done, they can be just as annoying. So, what do you have to do to get it right?

First, prepare

Before crafting a cold email, there are some key questions you need to ask yourself:

  • What message do we allow?
  • Do we even want our brands to outbound?
  • Should the emails be automated?

Most importantly: before diving into cold emails, you need to understand the spam laws in your country.

Most countries are trying to stop spam due to emails being sent out that are unsolicited, fraudulent, misleading, or are clear ads (e.g. “here’s the offer” or “buy it now”). These types of emails are the reason why laws are needed — to protect us from rubbish.

How to avoid the ‘spam’ label’

Commercial emails, like the ones you’ll be sending, aren’t illegal according to spam laws* in most countries, but you do need to be careful. Essentially, other than in the European Union, there are 7 basic rules of commercial emails:

    1. Do not include false or misleading header information
    2. Avoid the use of deceptive headlines or subject lines
    3. Clearly explain that the email is an ad (if it is)
    4. Tell people where you’re located
    5. Explain how to opt out of receiving emails from you
    6. Honour the decision to opt out if it’s requested
    7. If someone is sending cold emails on your behalf, monitor what they’re doing

In an interview between Sean Campbell (CEO of Cascade Insights) and Ryan O’Donnell (Co-founder of Replyify), they highlight a number of clear tips about the way you should conduct yourself for maximum effectiveness. They offer practical advice on:

  • How many emails you should send
  • How often you should send them
  • What content you should use
  • How long they should be
  • What the subject lines should be

Based on their conversation, I want to pose the question: should you outbound at all?

Should you use outbound for your business?

Short answer for most of us: yes.

To outbound is key to an effective marketing strategy. Without it, you’re not really doing B2B marketing properly.

But if you’re nervous about your reputation, and how your audience might react to a cold email from you, you can always have a salesperson do their homework and send hand crafted emails.

Something like this:

Hello <prospect name>,

We haven’t met, and I don’t profess to be an expert in your industry, but I do know these things about your business:

  • I do know [this], and
  • I do know [this]…

And based on that, I have to imagine that this is an issue for you. I really understand that [issue], and I’d love to chat with you about some of your options for solving it.

Automating your email sends

Once you’ve decided to outbound, the next question is: can it be automated?

Or, more accurately: should it be automated?

Many marketers hesitate, thinking that they’re losing personalisation in the process of automation.

This is where your execution skills come in. An automated email can be every bit as good as a handcrafted one, as long as you have the right tools.

From my experience I recommend these 3 automation programs (but keep in mind there are many other options):

When it comes to actually crafting professionally-automated cold outbound emails, there are three points you need to consider:

    1. Personalisation — build a templated email, but then heavily modify it for each individual prospect who you’re targeting.
    2. Target carefully — pay attention to the company and role.
    3. Don’t make it about your product — they don’t care about your product. Make it about the business problem that you’ve made it your life’s work to solve. For example:

“Here is the challenge [insert] – I have some experience in solving [that problem], and I’d love to chat with you about how we’ve gone about it for others, and what we learned from that. If it’s not a problem affecting you, tell me and I’ll get out of your hair. If it is an issue, then let’s chat.”

For optimised results, combine inbound and outbound

For about 10 years, inbound marketing was all the rage. But now there has been a realisation that a combination of both inbound and outbound is most effective.

For inbound, think about:

  • Who am I trying to target?
  • What issue do I want them to be worried about?
  • How will I get them to be worried about that?

For the outbound, think about:

  • Who am I targeting?
  • Where will I get their contact details from?
  • How will I outbound in a way that’s meaningful to them?
  • How will I get them troubled enough about the problem that I solve — troubled enough to engage in a conversation?

For both, you’ll need to ask: how will I get them to understand and agree what they need to solve their problem?

Effective outbound email in the context of your other tactics

Now, all of those questions — together with the strategic question of “What problem am I solving for which market?” — that’s the job of Funnel Plan.

If you have a Funnel Plan already, you know how easily it helps you to create a clear, actionable marketing strategy centred around the problem you solve for the market.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out and grab yourself your very own Funnel Plan.

I hope you got value out of this month’s Funnel Vision blog. We’ll have a new blog up next month in the same place. Until then, may your funnel be full and always flowing.

If you prefer to watch this content subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Our thanks this week to:

Cascade Insights and for their articles about cold email

Sean Campbell and Ryan O’Donnell for sparking the idea of this blog

Brittany Shipton & Bella Newton for blog production

Amy Dethick for video production

Hugh Macfarlane for scripting and presenting this week’s show

*Remember to always do your own homework. Please do not rely on a marketer’s opinion about the law in your country, or any other.