When Josh Denning started cold emailing potential clients, less than 1% of them responded.

Now, his team sends out 3,000 emails each day, has a response rate between 5 and 10%, and generates 300 leads every month. He gets so many leads that his sales team complains about not knowing what to do with all of them.

Can you imagine complaining about too many leads? It sounds like a dream come true, doesn’t it?

Many people will tell you that cold emailing is dead. But they’re wrong.

If you do it right, cold emailing is a highly effective means of generating leads and driving conversions. We’ve collected Denning’s shared best cold email advice, as well as a host of other best practices, in this guidebook.

Follow the right recipe for cold email success and you could start seeing results in no time. Read on to become a cold email master.

Everything You Need for Perfect Cold Emails

  1. How to get perfect copy for your emails
  2. How to find the best prospects
  3. Focus on benefits to keep prospects’ attention
  4. Keep it short
  5. The secret key: follow up, then follow up again
  6. A/B test your cold emails, then C/D/E test them
  7. Save your valuable time with automation

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1. How to get perfect copy for your emails

In his initial cold email campaigns, Denning was seeing the same response rates that lead to the “cold email is dead” proclamations. But instead of abandoning the practice, he looked for ways to improve.

The first thing that led to increased success was hiring a copywriter—but not just any copywriter. He worked specifically with a B2B copywriter, and he says this is very important.

Learn the basics of email copywriting with Spear Marketing’s awesome infographic “10 Commandments of Email Copywriting.”

B2B copywriters are well-versed in the best practices of marketing to business decision-makers. They understand the B2B purchasing funnel, know the common pain points and needs of different industries, and can craft cold emails that capture attention and promote action.

If you have the budget for it, you may be able to save yourself some time and effort by hiring a B2B copywriter to craft a series of cold emails. Once you’ve nailed down copy, you can make the process even more automated by using an existing email template.

If you don’t have the budget, you can certainly write your cold emails yourself. But first, you need to educate yourself on the best practices of cold emailing.

Learn how to write effective cold emails

2. How to find the best prospects

Taking the time to craft the perfect cold email is crucial—unless you’re sending that perfect email to the wrong people.

Even the most persuasive, compelling, and benefit-driven emails end up in the trash folder (or worse, marked as spam) if you send them to people who don’t need what you’re offering or who can’t make decisions for the company.

Denning uses data mining to find ideal prospects for his cold emails, but it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Performing some manual research—or hiring an experienced virtual assistant to do it for you—can be just as effective as data mining in identifying promising prospects.

Start by writing customer personas. Spend time brainstorming and defining who your ideal customers are. What do they care about? What excites them? Which issues are they struggling with? What position they hold at their companies?

Once you’ve defined these personas, you can begin conducting research to find real individuals who meet those criteria.

These are your best prospects.

Learn how to find prospects for your cold emails

3. Focus on benefits to keep prospects’ attention

A cold email with a long list of product features is likely to be ignored and deleted, as is an introductory email listing all of your awards, accolades, and accomplishments.


Product features are meaningless unless you define the benefits to the client. The harsh reality is that your email recipients don’t care about you (at least not yet). They care about themselves and their businesses.

Effective cold emails clearly define the value of your proposal to the recipient.

As a freelancer sending a cold email, you could say, “I have 15 years of experience in the field.”

However, it’s more compelling when presented in the context of the value of that experience to your recipient: “I’ll help you craft cold emails that raise your response rate to 10%, drawing on more than 15 years of experience in the B2B copywriting industry.”

By ensuring the benefit to your readers takes precedence over your own desire to quote stats, you get the best of both worlds—rapt attention and increased credibility. —Dave Navarro

As an SEO company, you could say “We’ve helped more than 10 companies grow their search traffic by more than 500%,” but believing that statement requires trust you haven’t earned.

It’s better to say, “We conducted a preliminary analysis of your rankings and used that to develop a list ideas for how you can earn higher placements in search. Let me know if you have 15 minutes to review this list with me.”

Keep the focus off of yourself. Instead, emphasize how your proposal is going to benefit the recipient. Does it eliminate a pain point? Simplify a complex process? Drive much-needed revenue?

Spell it out and make sure it’s clear how you’re going to help your prospect meet their goals.

Learn how to write benefit-driven cold emails

4. Keep it short

It’s not uncommon for business leaders to receive hundreds of emails each day. If you’re lucky enough to catch a prospect’s attention with a catchy subject line, don’t immediately scare them away with body text that’s better fit for a blog post than a cold email.

Company leaders skim emails from their employees—they won’t be absorbing every detail of a 500-word unsolicited email from a stranger.

Make it quick. Get to the point, tell them what you want, and send it off. Once you’ve captured their interest, you can expand on your early contact with follow-up emails, conversations, and demos.

Learn how to write impactful—but brief—cold emails

5. The secret key: follow up, then follow up again

Denning believes that too many people give up too soon. Sticking with it is possibly the most important piece of advice he provides. If you don’t get a response to your first email, send another. Getting a response may take five, six, or seven follow ups—or more.

Steli Efti of Close.io once followed up with a potential investor 48 times before finally getting a meeting.

Sending 48 emails is probably excessive, but if you only send one or two, you’ll likely continue to see low response rates. It’s with multiple follow ups that you start to reach the 10% response rates—and incredible number of resulting leads—that Denning reports.

According to Sydney SEO Agency, Gorilla360, it costs five times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. The same holds true for those you have begun to communicate with through email, regardless of which stage in the customer cycle they are up to. It makes sense to ensure follow up and nurture those relationships that you have already begun to invest in.

Learn how to perfect the art of the follow-up email

  • The Ultimate Guide on How to Write a Follow-Up Email: Sending the exact same email to a prospect multiple times is a surefire way to get marked as spam. Instead, you need to perfect the art of writing follow-up cold emails.
  • Why Every Outbound Campaign Needs 8 Emails: According to research from the cold emailing professionals at SalesFolk, the perfect balance between being persistent and obnoxious is right around eight emails.
  • The Breakup Email: Before you abandon a prospect for good, send one final email announcing that you won’t be reaching out again. Check out these tips on how to craft a breakup email that elicits responses (without coming across as creepy or angry).
  • The Secret Art of the Follow-up Email: If you’re going to put a system of follow-up emails in place, you need a way to manage and keep track of it.

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6. A/B test your cold emails, then C/D/E test them

Sending seven follow-up emails may be uncouth in your industry. Keeping your communications very brief may come across as lazy. Best practices are just guidelines.

In the end, the best practices for your cold emails will be the tactics you’ve found to work for your company, prospects, and industry.

The only way to find out what truly works—and what works best—is to try things out and see what happens. Change the number of follow-ups you send. Create multiple subject lines and see which generate the highest open rates. Test and monitor everything constantly.

Just because something doesn’t work once doesn’t mean it won’t work ever.

Learn how to A/B test cold emails

7. Save your valuable time with automation

Denning’s team sends 3,000 cold emails (including initial emails and follow-ups) each day. If you’re a freelancer or small business owner, there’s no way you can send that many emails in a single day—much less manage follow-ups and responses.

By automating as many of these processes as possible, you can increase the number of emails you send without much extra effort. Which means you can spend more time responding to leads, A/B testing emails, and personalizing copy.

Even just getting automatic reminders to follow up can be a huge help (Close.io lets you set these up easily):

Cold email follow up automation with Close.io

There are several email automation platforms you can use to automate some of these processes (a few of the best are listed below).

Keep in mind that you’ll want to avoid sending form emails as much as possible. Again, the difference between a cold email and a sales or marketing email is that cold emails are sent to a single person.

Nothing is more impersonal than an overly formatted email that obviously came from an email marketing platform.

Get started with these cold email automation tools

  • Woodpecker: Where Woodpecker really shines is in its lead-generation agency tools. These tools make it easy for agencies to keep up with multiple companies’ email campaigns.
  • Quickmail: The team at Quickmail says that their software saves its users one to two hours per day. That’s a lot of saved time over the course of months or years. And their founder literally wrote the book on cold emailing.
  • Reply: With a built-in contact-information-finding tool, Reply helps you reach out to the right people faster.
  • Prospect: Want to find contact information easily from social networks, Google searches, and business websites? Prospect’s Chrome extension will help, and import that information directly into the email tool.
  • Infusionsoft: The ultimate small business marketing tool, Infusionsoft has developed a big name for itself with a wide range of features and some serious automation tools.
  • Followup.cc: Looking for a more affordable tool? Starting at only $18/month, Followup.cc is great for individuals and small startups.

Generating leads with cold emails

Cold emails are not dead. As Denning’s numbers show, email is still a highly effective platform for generating leads and engaging with prospects.

But it won’t happen overnight. You’ll need to take time to learn the best practices of cold emailing, test different approaches to define what works, and investigate means of scaling your own best practices using virtual assistants or automation tools.

Stay persistent, and you’ll see results.

What tools or techniques have you used to increase the open or response rates for your cold emails? Share your own best practices with us in the comments below!