Not Google ads, not blogs, not social media posts. The best way for startups to generate leads, marketers say, is cold email.
An old school method of outreach, cold emailing is messaging a potential customer with whom you haven’t yet built a relationship.
Unlike spam, which is blasting one same email to a large number of people, usually with the goal of selling something, cold emails are targeted, personalized, and aim to start a conversation. “You’re making it seem like you are sending it just to them, and you’re trying to sell them on meeting with you,” Alex Berman, CMO at digital marketing agency Experiment 27, explained in a YouTube video.
The advantages of cold emails for startups? Cold emails are affordable, scalable, and effective. Startups can use them not only to ramp up sales, but also to find investors, recruit talent, get press coverage, and network.
Essential cold emails for startups
The most common cold emails for startups are lead generation, promotional, networking, recruiting, and fundraising emails.
1) Lead generation emails help them find their first customers
2) Promotional emails help them share their story with the press
3) Networking emails are a way to connect with potential partners, influencers, and other startup founders
4) Recruiting emails are used to reach out to talent
5) Fundraising emails are used for connecting with potential investors
Why use cold emails for startups
New businesses rely heavily on cold emails for lead generation, networking, and fundraising because it works: according to HubSpot, email generates $42 for every $1 spent, which is a 4200% ROI. According to Berman, cold emails are the main source of growth in all his companies.
Online, startup founders will find success stories like Dhruv Ghulati’s, who secured a $500,000 investment for his startup from billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban after sending him a cold email. (You can read the full story, and read the cold email, here.)
But there’s a catch. For a cold email to work, i.e., for it to be opened, read, and taken action on, it needs to be good.
Cold email essentials
So what makes a good cold email? Plenty of marketers have taken a stab at answering this question, and have even written books and designed courses on the topic. But most of them agree on one thing: the subject line and the opening sentence can make or break a cold email.
The subject line
“If you can get your subject line to work, that’ll solve most of your problems with cold email,” says Berman.
But finding the subject line that works best with your audience takes testing and iterating.
“The typical testing process that we do (…) is to send subject lines in batches of 10. So, for every subject line, we’re gonna send it to 10 prospects and see what the open rates are,” he explains.
According to him, the subject line that’s performed the best is one with no words, just an emoji related to the industry the client is in (e.g., beer emoji for a brewery). Other tried-and-tested subject lines include:
- “<Prospect’s company name> + <your company name>”
- “Quick question”
- “Hi from <your name>”
- A word for what you offer, e.g. “soundtrack”
- A mention of a future event, e.g. “coffee thursday?”
- A passionate statement, e.g. “I can’t wait to work with you”
- A compliment, e.g. “Impressed!”
- Using the prospect’s name, e.g. “Paul, here’s an idea”
- A question