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Cold Email Strategy: 10-Step Guide + Case Studies in 2024

By Liza Shuttleworth Last updated: 14 minute read E-commerce & RetailMarketing Guides

Cold or bulk unsolicited electronic mail marketing in the hands of smart marketers can be a huge boost to your sales and marketing strategy.

However, people often misunderstand the true purpose of cold outreach emails or give up way too early. This has given the humble yet powerful bulk unsolicited e-mail a bad rap.

Whether you’re networking, launching a new product, contacting influencers, hiring a team, or growing your customer base, cold marketing emails should be in your toolkit.

So, where do we find the secret to getting it right?

Well, you’ve come to the right place, because we’re going to break it down into a 10-Step Cold Email Marketing Guide to help you succeed.

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    What Makes Cold Email Marketing Effective?

    Let’s first get a few things straight. Cold marketing emails are not email spam. When done correctly, this is a softer form of a cold call. It shouldn’t be confused with bulk spam and is a legitimate sales and marketing strategy.

    What makes this kind of email marketing so effective has to do with the approach.

    Firstly, since you’re in a position where you might not know the person you’re emailing personally, you end up working much harder on crafting your message.

    Secondly, when these electronic mails are personalised, they have a 17% reply rate!

    Lastly, when using the right software, bulk unsolicited electronic mail marketing gives you a competitive edge by ensuring electronic mail deliverability and high reply rates.

    So, before we take you through each step, let’s look closer at the statistics behind bulk unsolicited emailing and just what makes it so effective at reaching customers.

    Summary: What Makes Cold Email Marketing Effective?

    1. As you do not know the person you’re emailing personally, you end up working much harder on crafting the perfect message.
    2. When cold outreach emails are personalized, they have a 17% reply rate!
    3. With the right software, cold email marketing gives you a competitive edge by ensuring email deliverability and high reply rates.

    20 Cold Email Statistics You Need to Know

    1. Targeted emailing results in higher open rates of between 14% and 23%.
    2. 35% of customers open an email based on the content of the subject line. Source
    3. 55% of customers like emails with relevant content. Source
    4. Average client open rates for emails ranges between 15.22% to 28.46%, depending on the type of industry. Source
    5. Personalizing emails, according to each customer, will increase reply rates by 100%.
      Propeller article on cold email stats
      Source: Propeller CRM
    6. By distributing follow up emails, you can triple your reply rate. Source
    7. Email subjects with numbers have a 57% better open rate. Source
    8. Around 24% of emails are opened on mobile. Source
    9. Following up with cold email prospects can double your response rate. Source
    10. If you include the recipient’s name in the subject line, it will increase open rates by 22.2%. Source
    11. The best times to send cold emails are at 6 am in the morning (before work) and at 8 pm (after work). Source
    12. The best days to send your cold emails are on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Source
    13. Adding multiple personalization fields to cold emails can improve response rates by 142%. Source
    14. SEO-related emails get the highest response rates. Source
    15. Currently there are 3.9 billion daily email users. Source
    16. More than 347 billion emails were sent and received in 2022. Source
    17. According to the Radicati Group, the average ratio of email accounts to user is 1.86 in 2022. Source
    18. 86% of professionals favor emails. Source
    19. Email is 40% better at conversions than Facebook and Twitter. Source
    20. 47% of businesses use videos in their email marketing campaigns. Source 

    In order to really crack cold email marketing, we’ve outlined 10 steps to follow!

    10 Steps to Effective Cold Email Strategy

    Step 1: Register a Similar Domain

    Cold Email Marketing - Connecting a domain
    Image source:

    That’s right. Cold marketing emails require some experimentation at first, and you could run the risk of blacklisting your company domain and email address in the process.

    To avoid this, buy a different domain and link the email address associated with that domain to your cold email tools. You can choose one similar to your company name so that follow-up emails are still on-brand.

    Pro Tip for Improving Deliverability

    Improve deliverability by letting your campaign domain warm up before using it for cold emailsTo warm up your domain: use it manually for about 3 weeks to earn reputation so that it is ready to send out automated emails.

    Step 2: Set Up SPF and DKIM Keys

    This is an important step for improving your email deliverability and keeping your emails out of the spam folder.

    SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (DomainKey Identified Mail) are two methods used to prevent people from spoofing email addresses and using it in phishing scams.

    You’ll need to set up SPF and DKIM on your DNS server in order to authenticate the emails sent from your address. This will improve deliverability by verifying that you are indeed the person sending these emails.


    “Did you know? 59% of B2B marketers say email is their most effective channel in terms of revenue generation.”


    Step 3: Test Your Spam Score

    It is important to test your score as this will reveal areas of improvement or errors in your email configuration, which might lead to your emails landing in the spam filter or not being delivered at all.

    Using a tool such as,  you can check if your emails are fully authenticated, using the correct syntax and formatting, free from broken links and so on.

    Step 4: Now it’s Time to Build Your Email List

    First, you’ll need to develop your ideal customer profile (ICP) and outline the description of the type of customer you are targeting with your product or service.

    With a detailed customer profile in place, you can begin building your list!

    There are a few ways you can gather a good quality prospects list. Start with what you can gather using your own mailing lists, platforms and social accounts like LinkedIn. This will allow you to gather people who are already close to (or part of ) your network.

    Then, use a tool such as Bouncer to help you validate email addresses before you add them to your list.

    Case Study:

    B2B sales and marketing agency, ProSales Connection, runs many cold outreach programs for their clients. In order to generate more business, they used a strategy for cold email with a major focus on segmentation.

    They created a highly targeted email list of industry professionals and segmented them to a point where they only had 250 prospects in a single campaign, thereby creating custom personalised emails of high quality.

    This resulted in open rate of 83.3% with a 38.9% reply rate. Read more on this case study.


    “When cold emails are highly personalized, they can have a 38.9% reply rate!”



    Step 5: Prepare Your Email Content and Plan Follow-ups

    Cold Email Marketing - Follow ups

    Here comes the creative part: creating your content plan and follow-ups to start engaging with your email prospects and improving your reply rate.

    For your follow-ups, make use of light templates and only use images if you really have to (for example your company logo or key product).

    Your cold email should be personalised, simple, and short. Something too flashy with too many images might look like a promotional email and those often get ignored or reported for spam.

    Don’t forget to scan your email copy for any words which might trigger spam filters. Sometimes, this is not as easy as you think! Especially if you’re trying to craft a short email with a strong call to action, you might include phrases such as “Call now” or “Apply online”.

    Related Read: Should you worry about spam trigger words?

    Pro Tip to Save Time on Follow-ups

    Save time and make use of tried and tested cold email marketing templates for follow-up emails – we recommend at least 3 follow-ups.

    Whether you’re sending out a networking email to your LinkedIn contacts, reaching out to webinar attendees, or asking for advice; a well constructed cold email can go a long way.

    One thing that often holds people back is that first approach. What do you say? How do you spark a conversation without coming across as too “salesy”?

    Here are a few great examples from the Woodpecker e-book, 15 Cold Email Templates That Will Get You Leads

    For cold emails that sell a service:

    Cold Email Templates

    For getting customer reviews:

    Cold Email Templates2

    For something with a little humour:

    Cold Email Templates3

    Step 6: Choose a Tool that Fits Your Needs

    When it comes to choosing the right cold email marketing software, there are a number of options out there for you. Depending on your specific needs, there is standalone email marketing software specifically geared at cold email marketing, browser extensions, and full CRM systems.

    What we like about standalone cold email marketing software is that it gives more power over the process from start to finish. This type of software makes it much easier to respond to potential clients directly from your own email address.

    The main features you should look out for when choosing the right tool for your needs are:

    Email List Optimization

    Check if the tool provides enough features to import, manage and validate email addresses quickly.

    Cold email marketing software


    Automatic follow-ups with reply detection, bounce detection, and scheduling are always a bonus.

    Anti-spam Measures

    Check out if the tool offers “human-like sending” with features such as integration with email clients, authentication, and email throttling for a more natural, manual-looking send pattern.


    Have a look at what level of personalisation you have control over and how easy it is to personalise cold emails.


    For larger teams or agencies, the level of access and workflows are important for collaboration. Make sure your chosen tool is capable of supporting teams.


    Now we’re talking! One of the most powerful features you can get from good cold email marketing software is access to detailed, real-time stats and actionable insights.


    Spend a little more time checking out the security features of your prospective tool. Having proper email validation, duplicates cleaning, and easy-to-follow workflows means that you won’t publish anything with missing information, send to inactive emails, nor expose your domain to reputational damage.

    Other Innovative Features

    What if we told you that you could save even more time by automatically determining the interest level of your prospects based on sentiment?

    Woodpecker has recently launched their AI-powered interest level feature which automatically analyses replies and indicates a prospect’s interest level for you.

    AI Powered Interest Level

    “There are currently 3.9 billion daily email users”



    Step 7: Create an A/B Test

    Cold Email Marketing - A/B Testing

    An A/B test is honestly a great way to start with cold email marketing because you get instant insights, which you are able to analyze and plug right back into your strategy.

    Start with testing out different subject lines as this is the most important part of your cold email marketing strategy. It’s essentially the first communication these individuals will receive from you and first impressions are extremely important as these emails compete for attention in one’s inbox.

    What subject lines work the best? It might sound like an impossible puzzle to solve, but trust us, it’s doable! A great email subject line should be relevant, short, and focussed around your prospect’s needs.

    Case Study:

    We Are Team Rocket is a B2B growth marketing agency based in the UK.

    They provide automated outreach solutions to their clients who are looking to generate more leads. A/B testing is a critical part of their outreach efforts. In fact, they test everything from subject lines to email signatures in order to improve the performance of their campaigns.

    This dedication to A/B testing has contributed to their high open and reply rates. Read more about this case study.

    Step 8: Don’t Forget Your Email Signature

    Email Signature Examples

    Your email signature is often the last element you think of when running email marketing campaigns. This often-neglected part of your email message can certainly work harder if you give it some extra attention.

    Look at the design of your signature. Are there any distorted icons, outdated branding or broken links? Clean up any repeated or irrelevant info so that your message comes across short, and sharp.

    Pro Tip for a Great Email Signature

    If in doubt, go with the ‘less is more’ approach to your email signature. Only put in the crucial information and leave the other messaging aside.

    Step 9: Test Everything!

    Before you schedule your first send, make sure to test everything. And we mean everything. Here’s a quick checklist:

    • Spelling and grammar
    • Personalisation
    • Check for spam trigger words
    • Subject lines
    • Email list – deleted duplicates and verified email addresses
    • SPF and DKIM set up
    • Simple and mobile-friendly HTML templates
    • Clickable links
    • Clear calls to action
    • Neat and professional email signature
    • Tracking

    PS: Don’t forget to test your email sequences and paths.

    Testing your campaigns


    Step 10: Launch, Test, Optimize and Report

    Cold Emailing - Woodpecker analytics

    While it might feel like the end after all these steps, the job doesn’t stop once you hit SEND.

    As your bulk unsolicited emails fire off to their respective inboxes, you’ll soon begin to see real time feedback if you’re making use of an electronic mail marketing tool such as Mailchimp.

    It’s important not to lose momentum at this point, so put in a process for constantly testing, optimizing and reporting on your campaign performance.

    Choosing a tool with powerful analytics and actionable insights will save you a great deal of time and will allow you to adapt your campaigns quicker and more accurately.

    Summary: 10 Steps to Effective Cold Email Strategy

    Step 1: Register a Similar Domain

    Step 2: Set Up SPF and DKIM Keys

    Step 3: Test Your Spam Score

    Step 4: Now it’s Time to Build Your Email List

    Step 5: Prepare Your Email Content and Plan Follow-ups

    Step 6: Choose a Tool that Fits Your Needs

    Step 7: Create an A/B Test

    Step 8: Don’t Forget Your Email Signature

    Step 9: Test Everything!

    Step 10: Launch, Test, Optimize and Report

    Give Cold Email Marketing a Try

    Now that you are familiar with the key steps to a successful bulk unsolicited electronic mail marketing strategy, there’s nothing stopping you!

    The real secret to bulk unsolicited emailing is in segmentation, personalization, testing, and sheer persistence. Optimize until you get it right!

    And, since we don’t all have the luxury of time to spend manually doing this, a robust email marketing tool will reduce hours of your time and allow you to focus on crafting the best subject lines, conduct split testing, and understand how to connect with potential customers.

    What we love about using tools like Woodpecker is that so much of this work is already done on automation, security and deliverability – all you have to do is sign up and get started.


    Singlegrain: 10-Minute Guide to Cold E-mail Campaigns for Marketers

    Wordstream: 5 Steps to Grow your Small Business with Cold Email 

    Mailgun: Domain Warmup and Reputation: Stretch Before you Send 

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is cold emailing?

    A cold email is an unsolicited form of email, used for marketing purposes, that is sent to a receiver without prior contact. Cold emails differ from warm or transactional emails and are the digital equivalent of cold calling. Read the guide now for more details.

    Are cold emails spam?

    Cold emails are not spam. When done correctly, a cold email is basically a softer form of a cold call. It shouldn’t be confused with bulk spam and is a legitimate sales and marketing strategy. Read the guide for more details.

    What to include in a cold email?

    The content of the cold email should be short and precise, and very crisp. Emails with 1400 - 1500 characters have a response rate of around 8%. More details included in the full guide.