What is a cold email?

How to send cold emails and boost deliverability?

What's the best way to avoid spam?

Does cold emailing still work?

At some point, we all had to deal with these questions. I clearly remember the pain after my first few cold email campaigns.

No need to worry if you're either a rookie rising through the ranks or if you have a proven track record in cold email marketing. In this article, we're gonna address each one of these questions.

The article is broken down into 5 core pieces:

  • Cold Email Fundamentals - basics of cold emailing, difference between a newsletter and a cold email, examples, using the right tool etc
  • The ABCs of Spam - why some cold emails go to spam and best practices to avoid such a fate
  • How to Send Cold Emails - how to boost email deliverability and land in the primary tab
  • Cold Email Best Practices - lemlist's high-performing cold email templates that you can steal
  • Dangerous Email Myths - short vs. long copy, GDPR, best time and date to send cold emails ... we'll debunk each one of these subjective opinions you do not need to follow

For those of you who are too lazy to read the full article or simply want to listen to our CEO's nice French accent (🇫🇷 🥖), here's a video that goes through everything I just mentioned.

Now, let's start with the basics.

What Is a Cold Email?

A cold email is an email you send to prospects that have no prior relationship with you and that haven't opted in to receive it in the first place.

Think of it as a modern way of door-to-door sales, only much more efficient.

An important point to note is that a cold email is not the same kind of message as a newsletter.

A newsletter is a way of communicating with a much broader audience. It contains a lot of visuals and it's sent as a blast to everyone at the same time.

Here's a good example by Finimize.

In the opposite corner, we have the cold email. Contrary to the newsletter that's used for product-related messaging and content distribution, cold email is a one-on-one type of email tailored for a specific audience.

You send cold emails to drive interest and warm up your leads, move them down your sales funnel and eventually convert them.

Here's an example from our own garage.

Wondering what does [Contextual Personalization] mean? It's the unscalable human effort where I give a meaningful comment on their podcast work. ;)

Ready to take an important note?

It's critical to separate cold emails from newsletters because many salespeople make a huge mistake when they decide to use tools like MailChimp to send cold emails.

Even though that's maybe the best-in-class newsletter tool, they don't realize that they are literally trying to drive a car on water.

As a result, they dramatically lower their email deliverability and double the chances of being flagged as a spammer.

Just don't use an email marketing tool to do cold emailing. Nor vice versa. It can work but you'll get much poorer results.

Is Cold Email Actually Spam?

This assumption is so ridiculous.

A salesman that knocks on your door for the first time asking you whether you're interested to buy an encyclopedia is not going to go to jail. He has a legitimate interest to try to sell you an encyclopedia because he saw the way you take care of your garden and he wants to earn some money along the way.

But he will be spending the night in jail if he continuous to knock on your door when you clearly mentioned you aren't interested.

Cold emails work in the exact same way.

First and foremost, there is such a thing as the CAN-SPAM act. It states that you are able to send emails to business people that you do not know. However, you have to play by the rules that are all outlined in the Federal Trade Commission's guide.

The key thing to know here is that emailing leads won't get you the first-class ticket to spam. Bad messaging, being boring and misleading your prospects will.

Why Do Emails Go to Spam?

There are a few reasons. We'll go through most important ones.

#1 - Your Complaint Rate Isn't Good

This is a no-brainer. If you send spam or anything that feels like spam, people will mark you as a spammer.

The more people mark your message as spam, the more your "complaint rate" increase...

And as you've probably guessed already, the higher your complaint rate is, the more your emails will end up in spam.

I know right... getting a high complaint rate is by far the worst thing that can happen to your domain.

So always make sure to personalize your emails and always put an opt-out link so you keep your complaint rate the lowest possible.

Better said, don't send spam.

#2 - You Didn't Authenticate Your Domain

Domain authentication is a critical component of any cold email marketing strategy.

Think of it as exactly the same process as when you’re checking in for your flight. Customs officer needs to verify your identity before you can actually board the plane.

Email authentication works exactly the same. The provider performs an “ID check”.

In other words, they want to verify that the email is actually coming from you and not somebody else. This is the way the internet fights spammers.

Simply put, you'll have to set up two parameters. Your SPF, and your DKIM.

Here's how to do that:

After you authenticate your domain, you'll see an instant boost in email deliverability 😍.

#3 - People Aren't Responding to Your Cold Emails

The way your audience interacts with your cold emails also highly impacts your email performance.

That's why it's of utmost importance for you to write cold emails that talk about your prospects' needs and wants. Don't go for a desperate sales-y right hook. Instead, play to grab their attention and make them intrigued.

Here's the CRUCIAL point.

The goal of the cold email is not to convert a customer. NOPE!

Your mission is to get on a call with that person or start a conversation. Your content and the language you use need to be positioned in the right way.

Remember, anyone has the power to mark your email as spam.

Your leverage?

Good copy.

#4 - Your List Has Invalid Emails

This is another technical reason to keep in mind. Invalid emails in your list.

If you upload emails that haven't been verified, this will result in a higher bounce rate and your email reputation will be at stake.

Unfortunately, from there, it's only a matter of time before you go to spam land.

So before actually sending your emails, always make sure that you've used a tool to verify your email addresses and "clean" your list first.

#5 - You're Sending Cold Emails as One-Time Blasts

A huge threat for you is the way you send cold emails.

Some tools, with the majority of them being email marketing tools, send one-time blasts. In other words, they shoot all emails at once.

This also lowers your email deliverability dramatically.

So, how to send cold emails if you can't send them as a one-time blast?

You should use a tool that has been made for that purpose and that allows you to spread the sending of your emails.

Spreading your cold sales emails means that your emails will be sent one after the other.

It's precisely why they don't go to spam or the promotions tab. They're being sent as if one person went on and send them one by one.

How spreading out looks like in lemlist - take it for a spin

#6 - You're Using Email Marketing Tool for Cold Emailing

This is a huge mistake and here's why.

Email marketing tools group multiple users on the same server so they can manage high-volume messaging.

If someone who’s using the same server as you is spamming people, your deliverability will be directly affected and your emails will be more likely to end up in the spam folder.

Not fair, you say?

We agree.

But it is what it is.

Cold Email Best Practices + FREE Templates

Tip number one - PERSONALIZATION! Great salespeople don't play the odds, they play the (wo)man.

In other words, you want to have your email tailored individually or for a carefully drafted niche segment.

This doesn't mean having {{firstName}} or {{companyName}} tags. It means boiling it down to the smallest details, putting yourself in your customer's shoes and empathizing with their position.

Here are 3 email templates that will bring 🔥 to your world:

  1. Coffee Cup Cold Email Template
  2. Client Acquisition Example
  3. Tinder Cold Email Template

Do your homework and research your prospects. Based on your research, craft a message that speaks their language. You will be amazed what kind of results you'll get.

And remember ... you can't automate relationships!

Dangerous Email Myths to Avoid

There's a lot of opinions on cold emails and cold emailing in general. Some campaigns work better than others. Some entrepreneurs end up being successful while others get buried in spam folders.

With that said, every entrepreneur is entitled to their own opinion on how cold emails work. All I'm saying here is to be careful which one of them you decide to listen because you might end up following a myth rather than a best practice.

Let's address the most dangerous cold email myths:

  1. Avoid images at all cost
  2. Keep your subject line and copy short
  3. Send emails at a specific time and date
  4. Never use spam words

These are all myths that are suffocated by personal opinions.

Avoiding Images in Your Cold Emails

Don't do that, because they work brilliantly. Just check out how one of our users used personalized images in both his first email and the follow up to get a 52% reply rate.

Guillaume used the same logic to get 44 qualified meetings at SaaStr in Paris.

Keeping Your Copy Short

There's not a single proof that short emails perform better and that people don't scroll down to read.


As long as it matters and it's relevant to your prospect, they'll read it.

By now, you've probably seen a lot of emails in long and short forms. If you're like me and you've read them all, then you realize the truth is pretty straightforward.

Great and relevant copy always works!

And great copy comes in all kinds of forms. Just make sure it's relevant to the person who's reading it.

Best Time and Date to Send Cold Emails

Just because Friday 09 am works for you, it doesn't mean it will work for me.

If you research this topic on Google, you'll discover many different analysis that are all giving different answers...

But what always bothered me is that I wasn't the one performing those tests.

Let me explain. I have no clue whether the product they're selling is amazing or not, who was the target audience and how did the copy look like.

With that in mind, I've always respected their data and what worked for them.

I've even tested it on my campaigns. Nevertheless, I always knew that this was somebody else's historical data that may or may not align with my business.

Best advice I can give you?

Go test for yourself and see what works for you. That's the best way and it will always be so.

Using Spam Words

Will holding CAPS LOCK or extensively using words such as "FREE" or "BUY NOW" hurt your email results? Well, it definitely won't help.

But it's not the word that will push your email to spam...

It's your complaint rate, using invalid emails, misleading your audience and not authenticating your email and domain.

That's all I have to say here.

To wrap up these myths, it's crucial to be a practitioner and not only a blog reader.

Go test and see how different tactics perform. Understand what works for you and don't believe everything you hear.

Get to Know Your Prospects

Before you start writing emails, you need to figure out your target audience. You should pay attention to quite a few things as there are multiple segments within every audience and value propositions tend to vary.

The main reason behind poor cold email performance is either a list of badly selected prospects or a pitch that didn’t resonate in the first place.

The cold email campaign starts with understanding your core audience.

Think of it this way. If you're selling air conditioning, your game will probably come down to finding homes in hot and warm locations, and then offer them a way to cool off.

If I'm living somewhere where it's not that hot or I already have air conditioning, you're preaching to the wrong choir.

You're selling me something that's unsellable in the first place... And trying to sell to everyone is like selling to no one.

The key to success with cold emails is figuring out your audience.

Do they really need your product or service?

Are their your ideal client?

Can they pay you?

Whatever your pitch is about, think about who will most likely to be interested in it.

Avoid Fake Complimenting

Fake complimenting is when you're saying stuff like "I really love what your company has accomplished"...

This type of compliment is not specific at all hence, it looks very fake.

Since we’re all very much aware how spam looks like, 9 out of 10 times, we'll immediately delete these emails.

So why bother!?

Plus, think about your brand. Don't drag it through the mud for no reason. People will think you are shady and your cold email will go to oblivion.

Instead, be genuine and show that you mean what you say.

Invest more time into relationship building. It's really not that time-consuming and it will really pay off long-term.

Will GDPR Send Your Emails in Spam?

It won't. It's nonsense.

Here's what GDPR officially states under Recital 47 named "Overriding legitimate interest":

"The processing of personal data for direct marketing purposes may be regarded as carried out for a legitimate interest."

GDPR tries to fight spammers. It DOES NOT forbid cold email outreach.

If you keep sending cold emails even though the person clearly outlined they are not interested ... now that's illegal.

If you're looking for other email outreach myths, we have an article for you that will help you focus on things that matter and neglect others that will have you drive in circles.

Let's Wrap This Up

  • Cold email is an email you send to prospects that have no prior relationship with you and that haven't opted in to receive it in the first place
  • Cold email is not a newsletter, it's sent in a different way and with a different tool
  • CAN-SPAM states that you are able to send emails to business people that you do not know if you play by the rules, while GDPR states that "the processing of personal data for direct marketing purposes may be regarded as carried out for a legitimate interest"
  • Cold emailing starts with understanding your core audience and having a carefully targeted list of prospects
  • Never avoid images in your cold emails as this is one of the biggest email myths there is, here's why

Take care,