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How I Generated Over $20 Million in New Business Using Cold Email Outreach Success at any pursuit requires time and attention to detail. Cold email outreach is no exception.

By Gabriel Shaoolian Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


For most companies, the chief business objective is to generate leads that will increase overall sales. When it comes to lead generation, a company's options are pretty much limitless. From SEO and paid search to social media and content marketing, there are dozens of different approaches to choose from. The problem is that lead generation can be very expensive, and many marketing tactics are out of reach to businesses operating on tight budgets. We're often led to believe that it takes big money to achieve big results, so it might surprise you to learn that it's possible to generate new business through one incredibly simple and cost-effective approach: cold emailing.

Related: 7 Key Selling Habits All Sales Professionals Must Develop

Fifteen years ago, I started a digital agency out of my apartment. Today that digital agency, Blue Fountain Media, has over 250 employees and serves hundreds of clients globally. I was able to build Blue Fountain Media to what it is today by using a variety of sales and marketing tactics, but one of the most significant ones was cold email outreach. In the first year of operation, I only generated $100,000 of new business through cold emailing, but I was able to increase my sales over time by honing and improving my outreach approach. In the past three years alone, we generated over $20 million of new business at Blue Fountain Media through cold email outreach.

As I'm sure you know, nothing worth having comes easily. Success at any pursuit requires time and attention to detail. Cold email outreach is no exception. When poorly executed, cold email outreach can backfire, ruining your chances of closing a lead and damaging your company's reputation with a prospect. Remember, all of us receive more emails than we can possibly read, and cold emails in particular are seen as intrusive if they don't contain a personal and valuable message.

When executed correctly, however, cold email outreach can be a great way to generate leads. It takes time to properly format and personalize a cold email. It's not a one-size-fits-all solution, nor is it about creating a template and blasting it out. You'll need to carefully craft your emails to capture the attention of the receiver.

Related: AI Is Taking the Art Out of Sales

Here's an example of the type of poorly executed cold email we're all accustomed to receiving routinely:

Dear Sir or Madam,

Greetings! How are you? I hope you are well.

We at Company X do great work. We have a great offering for you today. Please take the time to read more about us.


Let's take a look at all the ways this cold email goes wrong:

It's riddled with meaningless pleasantries.

Emailing someone "Hi! How are you doing today?" when you don't know the person comes off as fake. The receiver doesn't know you. They also know you don't actually care how they're doing, so the pleasantries in the email give it a phony quality that recipients will pick up on immediately.

A better approach is to start the conversation quickly and efficiently. Address the recipient by name, and explain exactly why you're reaching out.

It's templated.

Sending out the same cookie-cutter email to every business owner you hope to work with will give recipients a negative impression of your company, and won't win you any quality leads in the long run. Personalization is key when it comes to cold email outreach. The goal is to convey to the recipient that you're interested in working with her and her business specifically.

If you're planning to send out a batch of templated emails at once, ensure that you include at least a handful of personalized fields. The inclusion of the recipient's first name, job title, business name and industry vertical, for example, will make the email feel more relevant and targeted. Personalization takes time, but it's effort well spent.

Related: 7 Tips for Getting More Sales Meetings With Prospects

It focuses too much on the sender.

Focusing too much on how great your company is will likely get your email deleted within seconds. The recipient doesn't need to know what makes your company special (not yet, at least), she needs to know what you can do for her. Start off by addressing why you're contacting the business owner in the first place, and then you can explain why you think a partnership would be a good fit.

It lacks contact information.

The example email lacks professionalism because the contact information of the sender is missing. Don't leave it to the recipient to Google your company to find your website or phone number. Including this information in your signature builds trust and makes it easy for the recipient to get in touch or learn more about your company.

So, now that it's clear where the first example goes wrong, here's what an effective cold email looks like:

Hi Jill,

I enjoyed reading the blog/article you wrote on the best ways to increase customer satisfaction. I shared it with my team, as I thought they would appreciate the points you made about xyz.

We also work in the xyz industry and have found similar success in providing xyz services to help boost our clients' results. I'd love to share these successes with you and see what you think.

Do you have time for a chat next week?

Phone number
Company name
Company website

Let's take a look at what this email does right:

It demonstrates that the sender stays on top of trends.

It's difficult to establish credibility in an outbound sales email, but one way to add legitimacy and build trust is to show that you're on top of trends that are relevant to the industry in which the recipient works.

Related: 11 Ways to Boost Your Sales Performance

You can do this by highlighting recent work you've done in that vertical, or by referencing relevant current events and news within the industry. Doing this builds trust between you and the recipient because it shows that you know what you're talking about, and that you are knowledgeable when it comes to the needs of businesses in their sector.

It's specific and to the point.

Whatever your approach to cold emailing, you should avoid sounding generic at all costs. Sure, generic emails are less time consuming to write, but they look like spam and don't provide much in the way of ROI. The example above is precise, referencing the recipient's vertical and current business practices. This kind of attention to detail is key to a more successful cold email outreach strategy.

It's also important to keep your emails concise. Though you might have lots to say, the recipient likely doesn't have much time to read. Write an interesting subject line that will spark interest, hit your main points and show the value of your company, then wrap it up quickly.

It includes a call-to-action.

It's critical to tell recipients what action they should take next. Outlining why your business provides the best app development and then wishing the recipients an enjoyable remainder of their week will prompt absolutely no action on their part. Let them know that if they're interested they should email back, or give your company a call.

Adding another touchpoint to the outreach process will result in even better lead generation. For example, if you have the business owner's phone number, take the time to follow up with a phone call to inquire if she's received your email and whether she has any questions about your business. If you have the recipient's physical address, sending out print collateral is another great option. These additional touchpoints build credibility and can push prospects closer to the point of conversion.

Related: The 15 Characteristics of People Who Succeed at Sales

One final tip: Try to remember to be patient. We all know that regardless of the vertical we're in, it takes time to close new sales. The same goes for sales emails. Cold selling is a skill that takes practice and persistence to perfect, and your early outreach attempts may not generate results until much further down the line. Be sure to track the performance of your emails in order to optimize your strategy. A/B testing your emails on an ongoing basis will help you identify what resonates with recipients and what doesn't.

A successful cold email outreach strategy takes time to develop, but when it's done right it's one of the most cost-effective ways to generate quality leads and close new business.

Related Video: Want to Make Your First Sale? These Entrepreneurs Share How They Did It.

Gabriel Shaoolian

Founder & CEO of Digital Silk

Gabriel Shaoolian is the CEO and founder of the creative digital agency Digital Silk. Digital Silk focuses on growing brands online and provides brand strategies, custom web design, and digital marketing to drive growth.

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