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Reevaluating Cold Emailing: Exploring Superior Alternatives

cold emailing cover image with a snowflake

Cold emailing is basically the practice of sending an email to someone you don’t know in hopes of gaining business or making a connection. But it often falls short of expectations. 

Picture this: You spend your morning crafting what feels like a sharp, engaging email. You hit send, feeling a mix of anticipation and pride. But then, hours turn into days, and the only thing overflowing is your coffee cup — not your inbox. Worse yet, sometimes the response is not just silence but a firm, discouraging “no.”

It’s disheartening, isn’t it? 

If you understand the mechanics of cold outreach, you’ll understand why its effectiveness keeps declining, and you can pinpoint more effective alternatives.

What Is Cold Email Marketing?

Cold email marketing is when you send an email to someone you haven’t interacted with before, hoping to start a business relationship. This could be anything from promoting products to applying for a job, inviting people to an event, or even seeking funding for a startup.

The term “cold” in this context means that there is no prior relationship or warm introduction paving the way for the email. This is different from “warm” marketing, where you reach out to someone who has already shown interest in your service or product, perhaps by subscribing to your newsletter or following your social media channels.

Cold emails might come across as spam because they’re unsolicited—recipients didn’t ask to receive them. 

When your inbox gets filled with emails from people you don’t know, it’s natural to regard them with a bit of suspicion or annoyance, especially if they seem overly salesy or don’t relate to your interests or needs.

As an email marketing platform known for high-volume solutions and exceptional deliverability, we have a strict policy against using mass email marketing for cold outreach. We believe it’s not a sustainable strategy that yields positive results. That’s why we keep a close eye on user activity and shut down any accounts that engage in cold email practices.

Does Cold Emailing Work?

Sometimes, a cold email is your only option when you need to initiate a conversation with a potential investor, employer, or client. In rare cases, a cold email to a single recipient might prove useful, but don’t expect too much from it. 

If you’re considering cold emailing as a primary marketing strategy, you’re likely to be disappointed. Many experts agree that isn’t a good idea and advise against it. 

These are the reasons you should avoid cold emailing: 

  1. Your spam complaints go up. 
  2. You risk hitting spam traps. 
  3. You can’t build trust. 
  4. Cold emails have low engagement. 
  5. Your brand image will suffer. 
  6. Legal issues are a concern. 

Let’s cover each one in more detail. 

Your Spam Complaints Go Up

The person receiving your cold email doesn’t know you. They never signed up to hear from you. You probably found their email address online, or worse, you bought an address list that included their address. 

Think about how that person feels when they see your email in their inbox. How are they likely to react? They’ll either ignore it or open it and mark it as spam.

Once enough of these complaints pile up, ISPs will penalize you and your sender reputation will take a hit. They’ll start treating you as someone who sends spam emails.  

Important Note: At Campaign Refinery, we advise all our clients to keep their spam complaint rates below 0.05 percent, which is up to one complaint per 2,000 emails sent. If a client’s rate goes above 0.1 percent, we’ll step in to make sure potentially uninformed decisions don’t harm the collective reputation of all senders. 

You Risk Hitting Spam Traps 

A spam trap is a repurposed email address that ISPs and email providers use to catch spammers. It’s usually an old address that used to belong to a legitimate email user but got abandoned because the owner didn’t need it anymore. Instead of deactivating the address, the ISP turned it into a tool to catch spammers. 

The main purpose of a spam trap is to uncover email marketers who use poor list management practices or those who send unsolicited emails.

When you purchase email lists, there’s a significant risk that they include spam traps. These lists often contain outdated or fabricated email addresses, and since spam traps look just like any other email address, they can easily end up in your campaign without your knowledge.

Every time you hit a spam trap, your ISP will take note. Hit enough spam traps, and your emails will go straight to the spam folder or get blocked entirely. 

You Can’t Build Trust 

Building a relationship through cold emailing is tough because it lacks a good first impression.

You can do your best to research your recipients to craft personalized emails for each one, but they’ll still dismiss it as impersonal because the connection isn’t genuine. 

In email marketing, your recipients already know your business. They might have bought something from you or visited your website. Most importantly, they opted in to receive emails from you, meaning they’re interested in what you have to say.

The prior connection makes it easier to grab their attention and get them to read your messages.

This kind of familiarity is absent in cold emailing. The recipients don’t know or trust you, and you lack any data on their past behaviors and preferences. This makes it much harder to create content that resonates with them.

Cold Emails Have Low Engagement

Even if you craft compelling subject lines and follow all the email etiquette rules, unsolicited emails still won’t deliver the results or feedback you’re hoping for. The truth is you can’t trick people into liking or interacting with you! 

The average cold email open rate is around 20 percent and continues to decrease as buyers become more sensitive to receiving valuable and personalized information in their email marketing customer journeys

What’s more, just getting an email opened doesn’t guarantee success. For a cold email campaign to be considered successful, you need a significant number of replies. Given that only about 7% of cold emails receive a response, very few campaigns prove worthwhile.

Your Brand Image Will Suffer 

When you send unsolicited emails, recipients might think of your brand as intrusive or desperate. 

This first impression can be damaging because it associates your brand with annoyance or disruption rather than value or relevance.

If you keep at it, your recipients will experience email fatigue and develop a negative perception of your email branding efforts. Now, think about what happens when people express their annoyance on social media or talk about their experience with friends. More and more people will be reluctant to interact with your brand. 

Legal Issues Are a Concern

Outreach isn’t exactly illegal, but the legal landscape can be tricky. The CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t ban cold emails, but it does set a few guidelines you need to follow. 

For one, you need to include an option for people to unsubscribe from your list, and if they decide they don’t want to hear from you, you need to respect their decision. Otherwise, you could end up facing some serious fines.

Second, you need to clearly display your business information, identity, and contact address to avoid the perception of being fraudulent. 

Finally, keep an eye on any local or state laws that might be stricter than the federal rules. For example, the California Consumer Privacy Act is stricter on finding and keeping personal information belonging to California residents. 

Cold Outreach Just Isn’t Worth the Effort 

Cold emailing has its pitfalls — it can harm your reputation, annoy potential customers, and even land you in legal hot water. Not to mention, your emails often end up marked as spam, which hurts their effectiveness.

Clearly, it’s time to switch gears to a smarter strategy: opt-in email marketing. It connects you with an audience that’s already interested. You’ll be more relevant to your audience and your messages will make a better impact. 

Let’s see how you can transition smoothly to a more effective email marketing approach.

Cold Emailing vs. Email Marketing 

If cold emailing involves sending messages to a group of recipients to advertise your products, how is it different from email marketing? 

In general, email marketing takes more time and effort because you need to make sure you only communicate with people who want to hear from you and you only send content that those people want to see. 

When you send cold emails, you’re using the recipient’s email address without their consent. On the other hand, with email marketing, the recipient willingly gives you their email to receive your communications. 

They usually do this in exchange for receiving an exclusive discount, guide, or special offer. The message offering a digital product or discount in exchange for a subscription is called a lead magnet, and it’s one of the most effective ways to grow your email list organically

Ditch Cold Email — Get 8X More Clicks on Your Lead Magnets

With the right lead magnet, you can say goodbye to cold emailing. You’ll draw in more interested prospects, engage your audience effectively, and generate leads who are excited to hear from you.

The Lead Magnet Multiplier Mini-Course teaches you how to create irresistible lead magnets that people want to download.

This 4-part mini-course walks you through: 

  • The various types of lead magnets and how to make them.
  • The benefits of using the scarcity effect.
  • How to automate the back-end processes for your lead magnets.

Sign up for the Lead Magnet Multiplier Course today and start getting more leads.

Besides the type of recipients, there are other differences between email marketing and cold emailing that you can see in the table below. 

Feature Email Marketing Cold Email
Type of message ‣ Newsletters
‣ Transactional
‣ Promotional 
‣ Abandoned cart emails
‣ Trigger emails based on customer journey
Emails introducing a business to potential customers 
Purpose ‣ Increase brand awareness
‣ Boost customer loyalty
‣ Promote new products or services 
‣ Educate subscribers
‣ Deliver value
Make your business or product known to potential prospects 
Recipients ‣ With prior engagement No previous contact 
Level of personalization ‣ Medium to high Low 
Email marketing vs. cold email

How To Get Started With Email Marketing 

When you decide to go the email marketing route, you need to set up your foundation and develop a strategy that ensures success. 

Authenticate Your Domain 

Authenticating your domain is a critical first step in email marketing. It helps verify your identity as the domain owner and proves that you’re a legitimate sender. This process significantly increases the chances of your emails landing in the primary inbox

The most common authentication protocols are SPF, DKIM, and DMARC. Setting them up involves adding specific DNS records to your domain. 

The process is simple. At Campaign Refinery, we ask all our clients to set up these protocols from the first day, and we’ll help them if they need any assistance. 

Build Your List Organically

The people who receive your emails must express their interest in being on your list. If you deceive people into signing up, you’ll risk an increase in spam complaints and your deliverability will drop. 

Follow these tips to attract subscribers: 

  1. Offer value through lead magnets: Provide something valuable like a free ebook, an email coupon, or exclusive access to content in exchange for their email address. 
  2. Use sign-up forms on your website: Place sign-up forms strategically on your website. Consider high-traffic areas like the homepage, your blog, or the footer. Make the sign-up process simple and the form easily accessible.
  3. Host webinars or live events: Offer compelling webinars where participants register using their email addresses. 
  4. Run contests and giveaways: These are excellent for quickly expanding your list. Make sure the contest is relevant to your target audience to attract subscribers who are genuinely interested in your brand.

Create Segments 

Email segmentation is the process of dividing your email list into smaller groups based on specific criteria, such as interests or behavior. This strategy lets you tailor your messaging to fit the unique needs and preferences of different subscribers. 

By doing so, you can make your emails more relevant and engaging, which usually leads to higher open rates, better engagement, and increased conversion rates

Prepare Your Content 

When you’re planning your email marketing content, you need to decide what type of information you want to share with your audience. Remember, not every email should push a sale. 

To keep your subscribers engaged and interested, balance your content using these tips:

  1. Send a welcome email: Always start with a welcome email when someone subscribes to your list. This sets the tone for your relationship and shows new subscribers what kind of value they can expect right from the start.
  2. Add them to a drip campaign: Drip campaigns are email sequences designed to nurture your audience through the customer journey, providing relevant information and warm-ups before any sales pitch. 
  3. Send regular newsletters: Keep your audience informed and engaged with regular email marketing newsletters. Share updates, insights, or useful content that adds value without necessarily promoting a product.
  4. Send promotional emails on special occasions: Reserve promotional emails for special occasions or significant promotions, such as your holiday email campaigns. This keeps them from feeling overwhelmed by sales pitches and makes your offers stand out as something special.

Personalize Your Content 

Personalizing your emails means making sure your content matches each subscriber’s individual preferences, behaviors, and needs. 

For example, if a subscriber has shown interest in a specific product category on your website, you could send them special offers or articles related to that category. This approach makes each email feel like it’s been tailor-made for them.

The benefits of personalization are clear. When your emails are more relevant, you’ll enjoy more engagement, including higher open and click-through rates

Personalized emails also strengthen the relationship between your brand and your audience because your subscribers feel valued and understood. 

Consider Monetization 

Email marketing is eventually a way to generate revenue for your business. So, think about how you can make money from your email list

The top five ways are: 

  • Product promotions,
  • Affiliate marketing,
  • Sponsored content,
  • Paid subscriptions,
  • Ad space. 

Your monetization strategy must match your business model and core offer. For example, if you provide a service or sell a product, you should use your email list to promote your products or services. 

On the other hand, if you own a content-based operation, sponsored content and selling ad space are better options. 

Build Better Business Relationships with Campaign Refinery 

Cold outreach just doesn’t cut it as a reliable business strategy. It’s plagued by poor engagement. Worse yet, it carries a high risk of tarnishing your reputation, and it’s hardly the way to build meaningful relationships with customers.

At Campaign Refinery, we believe in a different kind of strategy—one that’s built on email marketing best practices and aimed at fostering long-term success. 

With our top-tier deliverability rates, you’ll have the chance to get your message in front of the right eyes. So, you’ll have the opportunity to forge lasting relationships with those who are genuinely interested in what you have to say.

And you’ll gain access to a suite of sophisticated tools designed to enhance how your messages engage:

  • Engagement gamification: Reward your audience for their interest in your content. Offer exclusive access to discounts, webinars, and special offers to your most engaged Subscribers. 
  • Advanced branch and rule automation builder: Build any engagement scenario with any level of complexity to guide your audience from initial curiosity to the final purchase with ease. 
  • Campaign templates: Skip the blank page anxiety. Use our expertly crafted campaign templates for different scenarios to quickly build campaigns that capture attention and drive conversions. 

Ready to move beyond cold emailing? Apply to join Campaign Refinery today and begin your journey in email marketing.

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