Cold Email Prospecting Not Working? Here’s What You May Be Doing Wrong

Cold emailing isn’t easy. But if it were, everyone would be doing it. So let’s rethink your email prospecting strategy to succeed where others have failed. All it takes is some time, effort, and a little ninja-ing.

How’s your inbox looking these days? If you’re like us, you’ve probably got a lot of unread emails in there.

There are Nigerian princes still waiting for us to wire them money. There are chain letters from our aunt that will never get forwarded to three other people. There are we-only-wanted-15%-off-but-are-too-lazy-to-unsubscribe newsletters. So many notifications from the FBI that our PC is infected even though we use a Mac. Hey, there’s Jack from accounting requesting expense reports. Probably should have opened that one…

But hey, who has the time? Not your customers, that’s for sure.

Given the hundreds of emails your customers wade through on the daily, it’s no surprise your email outreach is going left unread.

The average Joe receives over 120 emails per day. And only 24% of cold emails get opened.

That’s right; most of your emails are NOT getting read.

Which leaves even most self-assured of digital marketers wondering…

Does Cold Email Prospecting Work?


There are so many compelling stats supporting cold email prospecting; it’d make your head spin.

Not only do more people use email than any other marketing channel, but email has the highest customer acquisition rate.

That’s probably because, as Hubspot found, consumers prefer to get messages via email over any other marketing channel, including social media, TV commercials, direct mail, and roadside sign spinners.

Guess what else: Two-thirds of all customers who make a purchase do so as the direct result of email marketing messages.

Sure, these stats could be applied to all email marketing. But even if a small fraction of these results holds true for cold email prospecting, then it is still one of the best, budget-friendly ways to reach your potential customers.

Though you might be asking yourself, if that’s all true, why is your cold email outreach not performing as well as you’d like?

Three words.

Spam, spam, and SPAM!

Cold Email Prospecting and You: Avoid Looking Spammy

Cold email prospecting is not spam.

But, if you’re not careful, your outreach could smell really spammy to your customers.

That’s because pretty much all spam are cold emails. And, by association, that reputation very often gets slapped onto perfectly good, non-spammy cold outreach.

But there is a huge difference between annoying spam emails indiscriminately targeting everyone and one-to-one personalized cold emails targeting a specific audience.

Malwarebytes perhaps says it best when they define spam as:

Spam is any kind of unwanted, unsolicited digital communication that gets sent out in bulk.

There are two key components in that definition. They are:

  1. Unwanted
  2. Bulk

Cold email prospecting may be unsolicited, but it is not inherently unwanted or sent out blindly in bulk. In fact, when done right, a cold email can be just as well-received as any other email in an inbox. Just don’t fall victim to these two components. If your cold email prospecting is not working, more than likely, you have.

This is a problem for a few reasons.

Not only will people find your communications annoying, which creates a negative brand perception, but your business could also get blacklisted.

But don’t worry.

We’re going to show how to avoid looking spammy, and in turn, improve your cold email outreach ROI.

When all is said and done, the next time you look in the mirror, a cold email ninja will be looking back. Steely-eyed and fully authenticated. One that can stealthily enter any inbox and engage any prospect.

Don’t Make These Beginner Cold Email Prospecting Mistakes

At the bare minimum, avoid the following:


  • Misrepresenting who you are (e.g., a Nigerian prince)
  • Misleading subject lines (e.g. “Zuckerburg wants to give you money!”)
  • Deceitful offers (e.g., “Reply to get $1,000. Free. No Catch. Honest.”)
  • Not providing an opt-out option
  • Ignoring opt-out requests
  • Not vetting your contact lists


Most of those are pretty self-explanatory. (If you need help with that last one, let us know.)

Though more than likely, you already know all that.

You might also know that even if you follow these cold email prospecting best practices, sometimes your messages can still get flagged as spam.

So let’s take a look at some common, but often overlooked, reasons why cold email prospecting does not work, and how to fix each.

Cold Email Fail #1: Not Properly Configuring Your Domain

Above all else, you want your emails to avoid being classified as unwanted and bulky. This means two things:


  • You want service providers to want you.
  • You want your customers to want you.


As in….

Embrace your inner Cheap Trick. That’s the secret to successful cold email prospecting. (And rocking.)

Email Service Providers (ESPs), like Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo Mail, are the gatekeepers — the bouncers if you will — to your customer’s inbox. So you better make them happy. If they don’t like the looks of you, then your emails are never going to get through.

A good place to start is being able to talk the talk. So we recommend being familiar with the following terms if you’re not already:


  • Domain – What follows after the @ symbol in an email address.
  • Internet Protocol (IP) Address – A series of numbers assigned to a device that is connected to the Internet. Think of it as the home address for your computer, printer, or other wired devices, as well as a website.
  • Domain Name System (DNS) – Translates human-readable domains (like into IP addresses ( that web browsers use to pull up a website. Think of DNS like your phone’s GPS. You put it in the name of a location and your phone pulls up the numerical GPS coordinates to show where it is on a map.
  • Mail Server – The digital equivalent of a mailman. When you send an email, it has to be transferred to a mail server first, kind of like a post office. Every email that is sent passes through a series of mail servers on its way to its intended recipient.

All of these play a role in whether or not ESPs trust your email lists. If they’re not trusted, then your emails will, at best, land in a spam folder and, at worst, get you blacklisted.

So your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to authenticate your domain for emailing.

Cold Email Fix #1: Email Authentication

Email authentication (or domain authentication) provides a way to verify that an email comes from who it claims, using DNS records.

DNS records prove your domain can be trusted, verify the credibility of the sender (aka you), and ensure your cold emails end up where you want them (aka in your customer’s inbox).

There are several DNS records you should set up to authenticate your domain. These include:


  • A Record
  • MX Record
  • Reverse DNS Record
  • DKIM
  • SPF


Here’s what each of those does:

A Record

The Address (A) Record links a domain name to an IP Address number. A Records are the most basic type of DNS record, and are required to send and receive mail properly. Most likely, if you’re using a branded email address, your A Records are already set up.

MX Record

MX Record is short for “mail exchange.” These records specify the mail server responsible for accepting emails and show where emails sent to your domain should be routed, by referencing the A Record. Although MX Records are not required to send emails, having one is a standard best practice to ensure deliverability.

Reverse DNS Record (rDNS)

The Reverse DNS Record maps IP addresses back into host names, reversing the normal “forward” DNS process. Also known as a PTR Record, instead of writing the domain and getting to the IP Address, you start with the IP address to reach the domain name. This is probably the most important DNS record for email authentication. Without a valid reverse DNS record, many ESPs will block your email.

DomainKey Identified Mail (DKIM)

DKIM provides certainty that a message from a domain is indeed from that domain by attaching an encrypted digital signature identifier to your messages. For many ESPs, like Gmail, if your DKIM signature fails, your emails have a high probability of being routed to a spam folder.

Sender Policy Framework (SPF)

The SPF record prevents spammers from sending emails that appear to come from your domain (called “spoofing”). In other words, like DKIM, it verifies that you are who you say you are. Many ESPs also require a valid SPF.

Domain Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC)

DMARC is an extra layer of domain credibility that indicates your emails are, in fact, protected by SPF and DKIM. It helps protect your brand further against phishing and spoofing attacks. In order to implement DMARC, you must first have SPF and DKIM setup.

Implementing DKIM or SPF records incorrectly can cause major issues. We recommend contacting your email hosting company to assist with setting up email authentication. You can also find authentication tutorials for your specific ESP online (for example, here’s the email authentication resource Google provides). Or, if you’re looking for personalized assistance, reach out to us anytime.

Once you have your DNS records set up, you should then warm up your domain’s email, which basically means using it consistently at a lower email volume to establish legitimacy. To effectively warm up a domain, you’ll want to send smaller batches of emails over the first few months. Also, use the domain for business and personal use as well. The more replies you can elicit can help improve your domain trust and sender score.

That covers the technical side of cold email outreach. Next up, let’s take a look at the content side.

Cold Email Fail #2: Unwanted Messaging

Now that you’ve gotten service providers to want you, you need to get prospects to want you.

We get it; cold email prospecting is not the most fun thing to do.

No one wants to be “that guy.”

You know, the one that calls when you’re just sitting down to dinner. Who knocks on the door unexpectedly to sell you a vacuum (if this were 1950). Who emails you acting like you’re best friends to upsell a premium membership.

No one responds well to strangers asking them to do things they didn’t ask for.

Especially when it happens all the time.

Which is the whole reason why Google created tabbed inboxes in Gmail.

That’s Google’s response to email fatigue. They segmented “less important” emails out and turned the Primary inbox into the “one tab for the mail you really, really want.” Their words. Not ours.

Why all the division?

Because when performing cold email prospecting, businesses often just whip together some generic message and blast it out in bulk to the masses. In their eyes, this saves time and money. Also, they likely have little faith cold outreach will provide a worthwhile return.

As a result, stereotypical cold emails can come off as being:


  • Interruptive
  • Annoying
  • Irrelevant
  • An invasion of privacy

If you want your cold email prospecting to work, don’t be any of those things.

Instead, be the complete opposite. Don’t be “that guy” your customers despise. Be the guy who’s a welcomed surprise.

How does one become so desirable, you ask?

Aside from turning into the Rock, some good ole fashioned writing should do the trick.

Cold Email Fix #2: Write Engaging Cold Emails

Email writing might seem like a beast of a topic, but really it’s quite simple. Any effectively written email (cold, warm, or otherwise) boils down to three essential elements:


  • Being personalized
  • Being sincere
  • Being creative


Personalized, as in your email doesn’t scream mass-produced and is relatable to the individual you’re sending it to. Sincere, as in your emails aren’t deceitful, unhelpful, and all-about-you. Creative, as in creative.

Beyond that, when crafting engaging cold emails, be sure they are:


  • Short
  • Clear and concise
  • Using proper grammar
  • Using industry buzzwords
  • Not stuffed with too many links (one CTA at most)


The most personalized way to achieve all that is to research each contact and individually write out each cold email you send to them. But that might not be practical, especially if you have an extensive contact list.

If the latter is the case, go all-in on merge tags (or merge mail).

Merge tags or personalization tokens are ESP-specific code that allows you to insert unique recipient data into your mass mailings. Think beyond merely using “Hi NAME.” Get creative. You can create custom merge fields for pretty much anything on pretty much every ESP.

Of course, there’s one other crucial component to making sure your prospects want your messaging: Making sure you’re sending your emails to the right prospects.

Cold Email Fail #3: Targeting the Wrong Audience

Who we reach out to can make or break a campaign.

Which is why it’s so frustrating to see brands that take a shortcut with their cold contact email lists. Nine times out of ten, poor targeting is why cold email prospecting is not working.

The two biggest cold email prospecting mistakes we commonly see are:

  • Using unvetted purchased email lists.
  • Emailing contacts that don’t match a brand’s Ideal Customer Profile (ICP).


Most doing email marketing wrong adhere to the philosophy that the more people you contact, the greater the chance someone will respond. That’s why so many blindly purchase email lists and then push out impersonal messaging en masse to non-vetted addresses in hopes that something will stick.

It’s the throw-spaghetti-against-the-wall strategy… but it mostly just ends up on the floor.

But by sending relatable, personalized messages to pre-vetted sales qualified leads; you’ll find far more success.

That’s more like throwing darts (or ninja stars).

Train hard enough, and you’ll hit the bullseye every time.

Cold Email Fix #3: Target the Right Audience

Unlike warm lead contact lists, who pretty much just fall in your lap if you promise to give them something for free, you have to work a little harder when building a cold email list.

More specifically, you have to be more discerning about who you target.

Ideally, the people you target will match your Ideal Customer Profiles.

An Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) defines your most valuable customers. They are the ones that are a perfect fit for your solution and would benefit most from what you offer. Your cold contact lists should exclusively target your brand’s ICP.

If it doesn’t, then it’s not worth doing any cold email prospecting at all.

Target the right audience, and not only will you vastly improve your chances that recipients will want your messages, but you will also ensure you’re not overdoing it.

Which brings us to…

Cold Email Fail #4: Doing Too Much Outreach

Remember the two components that make spam emails spammy? They were:

  1. Unwanted
  2. Bulk

We just looked at three ways to ensure your emails don’t fall prey to the first component, unwanted emails. Now let’s tackle the second – bulk emails.

If you’re using an ESP, they’re built with a server capacity to send large numbers of emails at once.

But that doesn’t mean you should test the limits.

These providers keep watch over accounts that put undue stress on the system. If a lot of outgoing emails aren’t landing (i.e., bounce a lot), then it raises a big fat spammy red flag. The more volume you put out, the more you increase your potential bounce rate.

So at this point — having a properly setup domain, some very creatively written messages, and having built your cold contact dream team —  you need to put the odds evermore in your favor of making contact.

But you don’t do that by inundating the system.

You do it by picking your moves wisely.

Cold Email Fix #4: Choose Quality Over Quantity

Cold emailing lives and dies on finding that sweet spot of outreach.

Not too much.

Not too little.

You should strive to send just the right amount of emails to get an acceptable reply rate, but not inundate the system of your ESP. Where your optimal engagement rate meets your ESPs volume threshold is the sweet spot of outreach.

If you followed the third fix above, your list should already inherently be built around the highest quality leads possible. But just to be safe, and ensure you don’t use up your sending capacity reaching out to un-engaged prospects or non-existent addresses, run the following test.


  1. Send a test batch of emails to a smaller sample of your list.
  2. If those emails provide positive results (e.g., high open rates and replies), send out the rest. If your list is really large, send it out in batches, monitoring results closely.
  3. If a majority of emails bounce (i.e., can’t be delivered), the list is not meeting quality standards and you need to refine further or reassess your methods for list vetting.
  4. If a majority of emails get delivered, but your open rates and replies are low, then you need to reassess your subject line and email messaging.


Do that, and you’ll end up with one quality cold email prospecting campaign.

Conclusion: Ninja Your Cold Email Outreach

Avoiding these cold email fails can prevent being flagged as spam, dodge spam filters, improve open rates, generate click-throughs, and get off blacklists.

The average business will spend most of their time, effort, and budget on crafting fancy-looking warm marketing emails, when they would be wise to put just as much, if not more, into cold email outreach.

Cold email outreach is just as important as warm emailing because it has the potential to provide higher ROIs.

Believe it or not, there’s less of an ongoing cost to run cold email prospecting campaigns. Warm emailing depends on nurturing leads from the top of the sales funnel to the bottom, while cold emailing, when done right, cuts to the chase by going directly after your pre-vetted, sales qualified leads.

So if your outreach is not working, don’t give up.

There is no reason why you can’t reach your prospects with the skill of a disarmingly friendly ninja, one cold email at a time.

Cold Email Prospecting vs. Cold Calling: Which Works Best?

You want to do cold outreach but can’t decide the best way. We’ve all been there. Should you go all-in on cold email prospecting or take a chance on cold calling? It’s an easier choice than you would think.

Being cold gets a bad rap. It’s like the villain of temperatures.

In a study we just made up, nine out of ten people prefer being warm over cold. It’s the reason why an apartment costs roughly one gazillion dollars to rent in Southern California, but you can buy a mansion in North Alaska for $150 and a jar of maple syrup.

But we’re here to tell you being cold is actually a great thing, especially for your business.

Take ice baths, for example.

Dipping your body into a freezing cold tub filled with ice water has shown to:



Now we’re no scientist, but that sounds legit. All thanks to the power of cold.

And if being cold can benefit our bodies, doesn’t it just make sense it could benefit our businesses as well? You know, transitive properties and all that jazz. That’s how science works, right?

It’s the reason why one of our mottos has always been:


TitanGrowth: We’re like an ice bath for your business.


Because here at Titan, we believe in growing brands like you do bodies — with effective cold outreach.


Well, actually, we believe in growing brands by the most effective means possible, be they warm or cold.

But cold outreach usually gets the shaft in most prospecting strategies. Yet, in our look at the differences between cold emailing and marketing emails, we found cold outbound prospecting can often produce better results than warm, inbound marketing.

Moral of the story: Don’t let your love of being warm keep you from the benefits of getting cold.

But we probably don’t need to tell you that.

You’re probably already on board with adding cold prospecting to your marketing strategy. Maybe you’ve already performed some. Otherwise, you probably wouldn’t be reading this article.

(You also probably didn’t click on this article to learn how to improve your health by changing your bathing habits. That’s just an extra. You’re welcome. TitanGrowth: We’re like optimization for your body.)

More than likely, you’re here to find out the best method of cold outreach for your business. Are cold call showers the way to go, or is plunging into an icy cold email campaign a better approach?

Let’s strip down, dip our toes in, and find out.

Cold Email Prospecting vs. Cold Calling 101

This is pretty obvious. The difference is right there in their names. One involves sending emails; the other involves making phone calls.

That’s the difference between cold email prospecting and cold calling.

Both target people who either have no clue who you are or have yet to engage with your business. They are the first stage of lead generation when a business reaches out to a prospect without any prior contact. Their primary goals are to raise brand awareness and encourage further contact.

Though, we should note, technically “cold calling” is an umbrella term. It can involve either placing a phone call or knocking on a door.

For our purposes, let’s stick to cold calling being when you dial someone, introduce yourself, and have them promptly hang up in your face.

Why Would Someone Do Outreach via Cold Calls

Cold calling, in the eyes of many sales reps, is more personal than email. The same way calling someone is a little more personal than texting them. That’s because the act of talking person-to-person and hearing one another’s voice is more engaging than sending a message full of words.

A phone call is also harder to ignore.

Just think how easy it is to pretend you never got someone’s text.


Someone: Did you get my text?

You: Oh, you sent me a text? No, never got it. How weird. Must be my phone.


The same goes for email.

Now think about how guilty you feel dodging that same person’s phone calls, and never calling them back.

There’s a reason why face-to-face meetings are always so successful — they create a meaningful connection. While emailing is further removed from forging this bond, calling lies somewhere in the middle, and can leverage an interpersonal connection more than a mere message can.

We perhaps see this best in Albert Mehrabian’s 7-38-55 Rule of Personal Communication, which states:

  • 7% of a message relies on words
  • 38% of a message relies on the sound of a voice
  • 55% of a message relies on facial expression or body language

By that standard, cold calling has a 31% greater chance of effectively communicating your message than an email.

Why Would Someone Do Outreach via Cold Email Prospecting

Cold Email prospecting is an inherently more convenient way to contact people than cold calling. Hands down. Here are the reasons why:

Reason #1: Emailing is easier and less stressful

You tell us, what’s easier? Calling your mom to tell her you won’t be home for Thanksgiving or sending a quick message?

Reason #2: Emailing is less intrusive

On average, sales reps feel more comfortable with sending an email versus placing a call since it feels less like an intrusion of privacy. Calling involves interrupting someone wherever they and whatever they’re doing, and then broadcasting your voice into their personal space.

Emailing, on the other hand, involves appearing before someone when they choose to read emails, in a space designated entirely for email reading.

Reason #3: People have short attention spans

Getting someone to care long enough to listen to a sales pitch that they didn’t ask for is a challenge. By emailing, you put the ball more in their court. A recipient has to first willingly read what you’ve written them, as opposed to having a bunch of words spewed at them the moment they pick up the phone.

So in that regard, thanks to the brilliant invention known as “subject lines,” just the mere act of opening an email acts as an opt-in.

Reason #4: Cold emails do less harm to brand perception

People can get really angry with telemarketer calls. They yell, scream, swear, and hurl insults at the stranger on the other end of that phone. Have you ever seen someone verbally insult an email?


Because cold emails tend to be less intrusive and by their very nature require a soft opt-in to read, people are more accepting when they appear in their inbox. We are also more accustomed to seeing “cold” paid and display ads appear unsolicited in our search results, Amazon product listings, Facebook pages, and webpages. This means we are less likely to form a negative perception of a brand even after receiving several emails from them.

But call one time during pizza night, and we don’t even want to know what will happen.

Which Form of Cold Email Prospecting Should You Choose

Based on the above, you might think we’re on Team Cold Email. You’d be right.

Most businesses use email as their preferred method of cold contacting. We recommend you do the same.

We’re not the only ones who have a thing for email outreach. There have been entire studies done on how email is the best way to reach customers.

When done right, it can grow your business far better than cold calling. Want to know the most common mistakes we see with cold email prospecting? Click here.

Why Cold Email Prospecting Beats Cold Calling

In the long run, emailing saves more time and money than calling.

Mostly because it’s less time-intensive, and you can do it at scale.

This means that cold emailing requires less of your time or that of your SDR (i.e., sales development representative). When your email returns a response from a prospect, they are either now a sales qualified lead (SQL), marketing qualified lead (MQL), OR want to be removed from your communication’s list.

There’s no awkward getting to know you phase. Either they’re interested or not.

You skip entirely dealing with the uppermost phases of the sales funnel that take up the majority of time in cold calling.

Similarly to warm emailing, cold calling requires nurturing leads. On the other hand, cold email prospecting’s sole objective is to qualify or disqualify prospects, immediately.

That’s why cold email prospecting is better from your business’s perspective.

From the customer perspective, it is just as beneficial.

For a customer, email is non-threatening. Unlike with a cold call, they are not required to have a conversation on the spot. They can reply whenever, if at all, to your outreach. This gives the customer more freedom. And ultimately drives better results.

Replace Cold Calling with Lukewarm Outreach

So, yes, given a choice between cold emailing or cold calling, put down the phone, and go with hitting send.

But, in reality, cold email prospecting versus cold call outreach really shouldn’t be a mano a mano, two outreaches enter, one outreach leave, battle royale.

Instead, cold emailing and cold calling can be used as tag team outreach.

It’s tough to ignore that phone outreach has a response rate of over 8%, as one study found. Or that 92% of all customer interactions happen on the phone.

So don’t.

Instead, tap into all cold calling has to offer by properly incorporating it into your sales strategy and letting it bolster your cold emailing. Start your outreach by sending a cold email first, and, in the right circumstances, then follow up with a “lukewarm” call.

After you’ve introduced yourself to the prospect in an email, the conditions will be primed to engage them further. So bridge the gap and warm them up a little more with a call, letting them know you sent an email and just wanted to follow-up.

If they don’t pick up, no worries. Leave a voicemail. Sometimes that’s even better, providing a prospect the freedom to choose the next step on their own terms.

Why follow up your cold email, with a slightly less cold call? For two very good reasons found in a study on sales interactions:

  • Cold emailing without calling is 98% less effective
  • Using multiple outreach methods simultaneously is 3X more successful

The key is that your call should correlate to your email, because the email prospecting will be the foundation of your cold outreach campaigns.

Conclusion: Take More Freezing Cold Baths

You know what stinks—clicking on a versus article, scrolling all the way to the bottom because who has time to read things, and looking for the final verdict only not to find one.

Or, worse, read the answer, “it depends.”

Well, for all you “skip-to-the-end” readers, cold email prospecting is better than cold calling.

Take that to the bank and cash it.

We advocate starting your outreach with personalized, cold emails. (If you want to bolster its chances of landing, then follow-up with a “lukewarm” phone call.)

Of course, if you really want to be amazing, try performing cold email prospecting while taking an ice bath. That’s next level.

Actually, on second thought, don’t do that. That’s probably a terrible idea.

First, send out a wave of awesome cold emails. Then jump into freezing cold water to celebrate. That’s a surefire recipe for success.

So jump on in. The water’s just fine.

Cold Email Prospecting vs. Marketing Emails: The Difference Explained

Cold email prospecting and email marketing are two VERY different strategies, yet some marketers think they are the same thing or get them confused. We are here to clear up the differences while also discussing the advantages of each email strategy.

Email has got to be the greatest thing to happen to business communication since the invention of the Internet.

It’s that good.

We ask you, who has had the biggest impact on your business?

Your boss? Your customers? Your investors? Your sales team? Your mom? Meghan Markle? Chad the Starbucks barista?

Nope. Guess again.

It was Ray Tomlinson.

Yeah, that dude.

Ray Tomlinson invented email.

Ray is the reason you’re able to work from home right now. Why your finance department, sales team, and analytics gurus can talk shop without ever knowing what each other looks like. Why you always remember to pay your bills. Why no one ever has to spend full price at Bed, Bath & Beyond. Ray’s invention is pretty much single-handedly keeping the economy afloat.

Oh yeah, and it saves trees.

Sure, Chad makes one tasty Iced Caramel Macchiato, but he can’t send an attachment at three in the morning. Ray’s creation can.

If you’re a marketer, life is even more plush, thanks to Ray and his “electronic mail.”

Has any other marketing tool in the history of marketing tools provided a better return on investment?


On average, email generates $38 for every $1 spent. That’s a 3,800% return on investment! Amazing! Who knew percentages even went that high.

Email marketing is perhaps the best channel a business can use to build an authentic connection with customers. Even better, it is the best way to authentically connect with potential customers.

You know, those people who haven’t realized yet that they want to give you money.

Well, you’re just one email away from making that happen.

All thanks to Ray Tomlinson, and that one time back in 1971 when he sent out the first-ever initial unsolicited email to himself.

Come to think of it, that means Ray Tomlinson also invented cold email prospecting.

Alas, the wide world of emailing has changed a lot since then. No longer is an email just an email. Particularly for digital marketers.

Cold emails themselves have gotten a bad rap, relegated to the shadiest corners of emailing. This is really a shame because cold email prospecting can (and should) be an integral part of your online marketing strategy.

In fact, cold email prospecting is one of the best tools in your arsenal for business growth.

That’s right, we said it. Cold email prospecting. Your business. Lots of growth.

This is why it’s so important to understand the difference between cold email prospecting and marketing emails, and when to send each to incur the most benefit.

Email Marketing Explained in A Nifty Graphic

Email marketing is a lot of things. But very often email marketing gets muddled together as one single process.

It is not.

Email marketing is an umbrella term that covers several uniquely different forms of sending an online message to potential or current customers. Treating email marketing as a singular process can be kind of vague, confusing, and even detrimental to your email marketing strategy. When really, email marketing is a symbiosis of sales and marketing tactics.

So when you plan to implement “email marketing,” make sure you know what you’re getting into. That means differentiating email marketing into its distinct subsets.

Think of your email marketing strategy as a family tree. A happy family tree with marketing and sales as the parents. And their budding offspring are cold email prospecting and marketing emails.

Side Note….

As you might have noticed, it can get really confusing really quickly using the terms “marketing emails” and “email marketing.” Technically, they are not the same and should not be used interchangeably.

To help differentiate, it’s often easier to refer to “marketing emails” as “warm emails.”

The more you know.


Where were we?

That’s right…

Cold email prospecting and marketing emails are the one-two punch of customer outreach.

The best email marketing strategies tie one into the other as part of a bigger sales funnel, both with specific goals to either sell or nurture leads.

With us so far?

Great, now let’s get granular.

The Difference Between Cold Email Prospecting and Marketing Emails

Each aspect of email marketing serves a unique purpose and should be tailored to satisfy their separate goals.

If email marketing were a funnel, your cold emails would constitute the top, and marketing emails would comprise the middle and bottom sections. Here’s what else you need to know about the difference between cold email prospecting and marketing emails:

Cold Email Prospecting

Cold email Prospecting targets people who either have no idea who you are or have yet to engage with your brand. It is the first stage of lead generation and the first step to leading prospects down the sales funnel.


  • Target: New prospects
  • Objective: Introduce yourself, engage, and funnel into further interactions
  • Benefits:
    • Broadens your brand’s reach
    • Builds out your contact lists
    • Initiates people into your sales funnel
    • Helps convert customers currently using competitor solutions


When composing cold emails, write a short, simple, plain text message that is easy to read and promotes a singular call-to-action (CTA). Similar to if you were writing a friend an email, which would use very little graphics, if any.

Marketing Email Outreach

Marketing emails (also referred to as “warm mailing”) target specific audiences who have already engaged with your brand and opted in to receive emails from you. These are typically warmer leads, or are interested in learning more about your brand.


  • Target: Existing prospects (or customers)
  • Objective: Inform, build brand credibility, and convert leads
  • Benefits:
    • Creates trust between your brand and contacts
    • Provides insight into how people engage with your brand and service
    • Funnels marketing qualified leads into sales-qualified leads
    • Helps convert leads into customers


When composing warm emails, write informative, HTML-based messages. Ideally, this includes offering something of value to attract and engage your audience.

Going from Cold to Warm: Outbound vs. Inbound Marketing

Aside from the by-the-book definitions above, there is another way to differentiate cold email prospecting from sending warm, marketing emails.

This difference lies in who initiates contact.

Marketing, in general, can be broken up into two types: outbound marketing and inbound marketing.

With outbound marketing, the business contacts the prospect first. A business gathers contact information and sends out messaging to prospects. Outbound is considered the “traditional method” for outreach, contacting potential customers with cold emailing and cold calls.

Marketing emails, on the other hand, are a form of inbound marketing.

With inbound marketing, the prospect starts the sales process. Prospects come across a brand’s messaging and decide whether or not to engage with it. Inbound is considered the “modern method” for outreach, attracting potential customers with creative content, and lead magnets.

To summarize: cold emails are initiated by you (the business) while marketing emails are initiated by the prospect (your potential customer).

Do a quick Google search, and you’ll see what the Internet thinks of outbound marketing.

Spoiler: It’s not good.

You’d think anyone doing outbound marketing was a greedy, diabolical villain.

Whereas inbound marketing is depicted as all rainbowy, unicorny, and Taylor Swifty, presenting a wonderfully welcoming way to engage and converse with customers, outbound marketing is shown as an unwanted one-way conversation to doom, providing no value and seeking solely to steal the soul of your customers.

Unfortunately, a lot of this has to do with the stigma of spam and telemarketing.

But this bad rap can actually be a good thing for your business.

Because sometimes the “villain” is actually the lovable hero all along.

Why Outbound Email Marketing Can Beat Inbound Marketing

Most will tell you that sending marketing emails is always a better bet. But when people say cold email prospecting is a waste of time, we beg to differ.

In fact, when done right, cold email prospecting can be more cost-effective than inbound marketing.

Which is a taboo thing to say these days.

Well, guess what? It used to be taboo to have a tattoo and look at us now.

What do taboos know?

But just like how Post Malone’s face art might have put off a colonial puritan from enjoying the lyrical masterpiece that is Sunflower, the spammy stigma of cold email prospecting turns off a lot of businesses from outbound email marketing.

You can tell because there’s such a big emphasis on improving SEO and enhancing CRO and boosting PPC and streamlining marketing emails and social media and content creation and other forms of inbound marketing.

Less so with outbound email marketing.

Alas, most businesses’ loss is your brand’s gain.

Few pushing hard to do cold email prospecting (save for maybe link building or influencer marketing) means there is a low-hanging fruit opportunity to stand out from your competitors.

That’s the first way outbound marketing can outshine inbound marketing.

The second is by saving time. (Outbound marketing is a long game with its lengthy marketing email drip campaigns and long-winded lead nurturing.)

And the third is by better optimizing your budget for lead generation.

The list building software company LeadFuze sums up how by noting:

Outbound funnels are a lot shorter than inbound, making them ideal for early growth.

To understand why, let’s take a look at this funnel.

The outbound funnel starts right where your inbound ends.

With marketing emails, selling is equated to nurturing. In cold email prospecting, selling is equated to — well — selling.

The outbound sales funnel is so much shorter because it goes right after sales qualified leads from the start. It foregoes taking the time to nurture leads, most of whom will never convert anyway.

Instead, outbound efforts like cold emailing is a more proactive strategy that relies less on waiting around for leads to decide whether or not they like you, and more on directly engaging leads who you already know do.

In other words, with cold email prospecting, you cut right to the chase.

So don’t discount outbound marketing from your email marketing strategy. While there is little doubt sending warm emails is a tried-and-true method to funneling prospects into becoming customers, cold emails can be just as effective in winning the day.

Cold Email vs. Warm Email: The Choice Between Nature and Nurture

Which email marketing strategy should your business go with?

A definitive both.

The best marketing strategies are the most diversified. You wouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket, would you?

Of course not. That’s just silly.

So why would you bank all your email marketing efforts on just one type?

What you want to do is use cold email to reach new prospects naturally ready to purchase and use warm marketing emails to nurture existing prospects into making a purchase.

That’s the one-two punch of email marketing in action. No leads left behind.

It’s the reason why email was invented in the first place. To communicate with others when, where, and how you want. Open your email marketing strategy up to all cold emails and marketing emails have to offer, and you’ll reach every kind of prospect that could benefit your business.

Now doesn’t that sound nice?

Ray Tomlinson would be proud.

Not sure where to start with your cold email prospecting or want to know the most common mistakes we see?

Get in touch with our cold emailing experts for ways you can grow the profitability of your email marketing today.