The Complete Guide to Getting Started with Cold Email

The Complete Guide to Getting Started with Cold Email

Curious about cold email? Maybe you’ve dabbled in cold outreach for a short time, and now you’re looking for some help with getting better results from your campaigns?

Whatever the case may be, we’re here to help.

In this guide, we’ll cover what cold email is, why you should use it, and how to set up and run effective cold email campaigns.

Let’s start.

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What is a cold email?

A cold email is an email sent to someone who doesn’t know you and hasn’t interacted with your business or website before.

While the concept sounds fairly simple, cold emails can drive incredible results for a business.


Why send cold emails?

You can use cold emails to:

  • Generate leads – Reaching out to prospects that fit your target audience and presenting them with your offer can be a great way to generate leads for your business.
  • Build links – Cold email outreach is a scalable way to build links for your website by reaching out to offer guest posts and arrange other types of SEO collaborations.
  • Find investors for your startup – If you’re looking to start a company and need an initial investment to get things going, you can use cold emails to reach out to potential investors.
  • Set up partnerships – Cold emails are also great for networking and setting up partnerships with like-minded individuals or businesses that are open to collaborating with your company.
  • Find affiliates and influencers for your brand – Whatever industry you’re in, there are likely hundreds of people out there who would be a good fit to promote your business. You can connect with these people through cold email.

How to get started with cold email

Now that you understand what cold email is and why you should use it, let’s look at how you can set up your first cold email campaign.

Choose a cold email software

If you want to run a cold email campaign, regular email marketing software like Mailchimp or Aweber won’t work. These types of tools aren’t designed for cold emailing, and their terms of service usually forbid users to run such campaigns.

You need specialized cold email software to run cold email campaigns effectively. Quite a few of these software solutions have emerged in the past few years. So, how do you choose the right one?

Well, the thought process is really the same as with choosing almost any other software solution for your business. Your cold email software should:

  • Be easy to use – The purpose of cold email software is to help you save time by automating your cold email campaigns. You don’t want a tool that has such a steep learning curve that you’ll need to spend a lot of time learning how to use it.
  • Include essential features – While cold email solutions differ in their feature sets, you should look for a tool that, at a minimum, allows you to do the following:
  1. Set up a custom sending schedule for your cold email campaigns

2. Personalize your cold emails using merge tags or custom attributes

3. Automate follow-ups

4. Track the number of people who open or reply to your emails, as well as click on links within your emails

5. Use multiple email accounts

  • Have great customer support – No matter how great a tool is, issues happen. When they do, you want the software’s customer support team to be quick to help.

You can use Campaigns to get started running cold email campaigns quickly and easily. It supports custom sending schedules, advanced personalization, automated follow-ups, email tracking, and detailed reports.

Get a domain for cold outreach

Many beginners make the mistake of running cold email campaigns from their website’s main domain.

The issue with this is that if your domain gets blacklisted by email servers for any reason, you’ll have problems with delivering regular email communication to your existing customers and newsletter subscribers.

To avoid this, you should use a separate domain for your cold outreach campaigns.

If your website is on a .com domain, you can purchase and use the equivalent .net, .org, and .co domains and use those for your cold outreach campaigns.

For example, at Hunter, we use first@hunter.io emails for regular business communication and first@email-hunter.com for cold outreach. You can experiment with the domain names.

The key goal is to keep them similar to your main domain.

Set up your email account

Once you have your new domain, it’s time to set up your email account. You can set up an email account with your domain using Google Workspace or another email provider.

Once you do that, make sure to customize the following:

  • From name – This is what recipients will recognize as the sender of the email once they receive a message from you. You can use your full name here or something like “[First name] from [Website]”.
  • Email signature – You can use your email signature to let recipients know more about you. Include your name, job role, the name of your company, and a business phone number (if you have one).
  • Profile photo – Email providers like Gmail allow you to add a profile photo to your account that will be displayed when you send other Gmail users an email. Definitely take advantage of this feature if you’re using Gmail.

Customizing the “From” name, email signature, and profile photo will make your emails seem more authentic and less likely to end up in the trash or spam folders.

Custom From name, email signature, and profile photo in Gmail

Authenticate your email with SPF, DKIM, and DMARC

If you want to ensure high deliverability for your cold emails, you need to set up DNS records for three email authentication protocols:

Sender Policy Framework (SPF)

Sender Policy Framework (SPF) is an email authentication protocol that helps protect your domain from email spoofing and lets the recipient’s email server know that you’re authorized to send email from your domain.

By setting up SPF, you reduce the chances of your emails being marked as spam by the recipient’s email server.

To set up SPF for your domain, you’ll need to add a TXT record provided by your email provider to your domain’s DNS zone file.

Here’s how to do it if you’re using Gmail.

DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM)

DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) is another method of preventing email spoofing. It helps to prove that:

  • The content of an email hasn’t been tampered with
  • The email header hasn’t changed since the original sender sent it
  • The sender of the email is authorized to send emails from a particular domain

Here’s how to set up DKIM in Gmail.

Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC)

Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC) is an email authentication protocol that allows you to protect your domain from unauthorized use and prevent email spoofing and phishing attacks.

It allows receiving email servers to authenticate incoming emails based on the instructions provided by a domain’s DMARC record.

Here are instructions for setting up DMARC using Gmail.

Warm up your domain

When automating cold email campaigns, it’s crucial to make it seem like a human is sending the emails. This will make it less likely that your email provider will block your account and that your recipient’s email server will mark your emails as spam.

So, what does this mean in practice? Firstly, you can’t create a new email account and immediately start sending 100 or more emails a day.

You need to gradually build up the volume of emails you’re sending a day, preferably by sending the emails to recipients you know first.

This is known as warming up a domain or email account.

There are essentially two ways to warm up a domain:

  • Manual – You can warm up your domain manually by sending emails to friends, family, and colleagues and asking them to open and reply to your emails. They should also mark the emails as not being spam and remove them from the spam folder if they end up there by accident.
  • Automatic – There are also dedicated domain warmup solutions, such as Mailwarm and Warmbox, that can warm up your domain automatically.

Find prospects

Once you’ve set up a domain and an email account, and found the right cold email solution, it’s time to build a list of people you’re going to reach out to. Here’s how to do it:

Define your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

An Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is a description of a customer that would be a perfect fit for your product or service.

These are some factors you should consider when defining your ICP:

  • Industry
  • Company size (# of employees)
  • Annual revenue
  • Location
  • Pain points

Here’s an example of an ICP: Ecommerce businesses with 50-100 employees making $20M in annual revenue and headquartered in the USA, looking to generate more revenue from their email marketing efforts.

Use TechLookup to find websites that fit your ICP

Now that you have your ICP, how exactly do you find these companies? One way to do it is to use TechLookup, Hunter’s tool for finding companies that use a specific technology.

Taking our example ICP from the previous section, you could use TechLookup to download a list of all the websites using Shopify, a popular ecommerce solution.

Shopify websites found using Tech Lookup

The next step would be to find the contact details for these websites.

Generate a prospect list using Domain Search

Domain Search allows you to find all the email addresses associated with a particular domain or list of domains.

We’re going to use it to find the email addresses associated with our prospect list.

Here’s how to do it:

First, log in to your Hunter account and go to Bulks > Domain Search.

Click the +New bulk button.

New bulk in Bulk Domain Search

On the next screen, enter a name for your list and then upload your list of prospects.

Hunter's Bulk Domain Search

Set the maximum number of email addresses you want Domain Search to extract for each domain and choose whether you want Hunter to verify all the email addresses.

Finally, decide whether you want to extract generic or personal email addresses (or both), and if you want email addresses from a specific department or all company departments.

Filters in Bulk Domain Search

Click Upload.

Once Domain Search processes your list, you’ll get the option to download the list of email addresses or import it directly to the Leads section.

Exported leads from Domain Search

Looking to find the email address of one specific individual at a company? You can use the Email Finder instead.

Write an effective cold email

Now that we have all the technical stuff out of the way, it’s time to get creative. Let’s look at how to write an effective cold email that will increase your chances of getting a response.

The subject line

The subject line is the first thing a prospect will notice about your email. For a third of your prospects, it’s the main thing they’ll look at to decide whether to open your email or not.

33% of people decide to open an email based on the subject line

This makes it crucial that you spend the time to craft a great subject line. So, what makes a subject line great?

Firstly, it’s short to ensure recipients will be able to read and comprehend it quickly and that it won’t appear cut off in their email client.

Here are a few examples:

  • Introduction
  • A quick question
  • Trying to connect

Secondly, it’s personalized for every recipient. This serves to intrigue prospects, build rapport, and make them more likely to open your email.

These are good examples of personalized cold email subject lines:

  • Quick collaboration with {{company}}
  • A better way to solve {{pain point}}
  • Nice to meet you, {{Name}}!

Finally, a good subject line should instill a sense of urgency and make the prospect feel like they need to deal with the email as soon as possible.

Like this:

  • Hi, [Name]. 10 mins this week?
  • Are you available [date and time]?
  • Last chance

The email body

After crafting a great subject line, we can move on to drafting the email body.

Your email should start with an introduction. Let the prospect know who you are and what you do.

Then, explain why you’re reaching out and what they can gain from working with you.

As a general rule, you should try to keep your email short and use as few words as possible. If you do it right, four or five sentences should be more than enough.

This will ensure that the prospect reads your email in its entirety without skipping any parts or giving up on reading the email altogether.

The call-to-action

Your cold email should end with a call-to-action (CTA). This should be a question or statement inviting the prospect to take your desired action, such as booking a call, scheduling a demo, or visiting your website.

Here are a few examples of CTAs you can use in your cold email:

  • Are you available for a quick call this week?
  • Are you the right person to speak about this? If not, who do you recommend I should contact?
  • Is this a problem that you're facing currently?

Decide on a follow-up strategy

Only 8.5% of cold emails get a response. This means that you’ll likely need to follow up on your initial cold email.

You might be asking yourself — after how much time should I follow up? Well, data shows that 42% of emails get replied to within the first hour.

42% of emails get a reply within the first hour

So, if you don’t receive a reply within a day or so, you should start thinking about following up. A good rule of thumb is to send your first follow-up three days after your initial email.

Keep in mind that you should increase the waiting time between follow-ups with each new follow-up you send. Here’s a schedule you can follow:

  • Day 1: Initial cold email
  • Day 4: Follow-up #1
  • Day 11: Follow-up #2
  • Day 25: Follow-up #3

As for how many times you should follow up, there’s really no set rule. At Hunter, we try to send no more than three follow-ups if we never hear back from a prospect.

If a prospect shows interest, however, you can likely get away with sending more follow-ups.

Use your best judgment when deciding how many times to follow up with prospects who show interest, and make sure to stop following up if the prospect asks you to do so.

What to include in a follow-up email?

Your follow-up email should do the following:

  • Recap your previous email – Don’t assume the prospect read your previous email. Recap what you’ve stated previously.
  • Add value – Don’t make it seem like you’re following up just for the sake of following up. Try to add more value for the prospect with each follow-up (e.g., by including more details about your offer or sending links to resources they might appreciate).
  • Give the prospect another chance to act on your offer – Finally, end your follow-up email with another call-to-action.

Before you hit send

Itching to launch your cold email campaign? We’re almost there.

Let’s just add a few more finishing touches:

  • Proofread your cold email Read through your email and make sure it’s free of typos. You can use Grammarly to make sure you address all grammatical and spelling errors.
  • Check links (if any) – Make sure your email doesn’t contain any broken links.
  • Do a spam test – Check your cold email for spam words using a spam checker tool. Use a tool like Mail-Tester.com to analyze your email for any other issues that might get it flagged by spam filters.

Best practices for effective cold email campaigns

Before you launch your next cold email campaign, let’s go through some final tips that can help you maximize your results.

Make sure your email list is clean

Always verify the email addresses on your list with a tool like Email Verifier before sending out a cold email campaign. With Email Verifier, you can verify up to 50 emails for free every month.

Email Verifier screenshot

Avoid building such a big list of prospects that it will take you months to reach out to all the prospects. This will help to avoid having your list go bad due to websites going out of business, people changing email addresses or jobs, and so on.

Use CRM software

CRM software can help you keep track of all your leads and prospects and allow you to stay on top of tasks that will keep the sales process moving forward.

Most CRM tools allow you to set up tasks and reminders. This will be especially useful when you need to remember to manually follow up with interested prospects.

Avoid sending cold emails on weekends

Studies show that emails sent on Saturdays and Sundays get lower engagement rates. This makes sense — most people try to rest and not think about work on weekends. For best results, avoid sending your cold emails on weekends.

Implement a multi-channel outreach strategy

Reaching out to prospects via email is just one way to do cold outreach. The best outreach campaigns utilize multiple channels.

It makes sense — the more channels you use, the greater the chance that you’ll catch your prospects’ attention.

For example, you can combine cold email with LinkedIn outreach to create a multi-channel outreach strategy and get a better response rate.


Bonus: 15 cold email templates to get you started

If you’re struggling with drafting an effective cold email, you can use our cold email templates as inspiration. Hunter Templates has 260+ templates you can use to get started on your next cold email quickly.

We’ll share some of our favorites below.

Cold email templates for sales

1. Can I help with [[pain point]]?

2. Solution for [[challenge]]

3. {{company} + [[your company]]

4. Quick collaboration with {{company}}

5. Content for [[blog]]

6. Awesome article

Cold email templates for networking

7. Reaching out to you via [[name]]

8. Looking to exchange ideas with a fellow small business owner

9. Can I put you two in touch?

Cold email templates for recruitment

10. Open position

11. Let's build your A-team

12. [[job position]] for {{company}}

Follow-up cold email templates

13. Your thoughts?

14. Quick one {{first_name}

15. Not a priority?


Reach your goals with cold email

If you got this far, you should have everything you need to set up and launch a successful cold email campaign. All you need to do now is stop reading and take action.

Go out there and start sending those cold emails.

Boris Mustapic
Boris Mustapic

Content Manager at Hunter. Passionate about books, marketing, and technology.

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