Cold Email for SMBs: How to Drive More Leads

Cold emailing has always been an effective marketing and sales tactic, but how to use it effectively has changed over the years. When it comes to cold email for SMB, this is even more true.

Before, you could send in bulk to your entire email list and expect responses. And you’d get them, but that’s mostly because people weren’t as savvy about how to protect their inboxes from spam.

Plus, they weren’t getting annoyed by being bombarded with cold emails, which were not even as widely used as they are these days.

But today, cold emails are almost only effective when they’re:

  • Personalized
  • Targeted at actual potential customers
  • Following email best practices to avoid being marked as spam, and
  • Including an attractive offer

As a small business owner or entrepreneur, you need to make sure you have those points down. Once your sales emails have those elements, they’ll almost always drive leads and revenue for your business.

How Does Cold Emailing Work? 

Just like cold calling, cold email is an outbound sales tactic that you use to get in touch directly with people who are likely to become customers, but who still aren’t aware of your company.

First, you’ll want to research and identify your target market. This means researching the people who are most interested in what you’re selling, as well as your current best customers.

You can find them using sales tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Clearbit, and others. We’ll share more about that later.

Next, create a cold email template and start emailing your target audience and prospects with relevant offers. We’ll do a more thorough breakdown of how this entire process works in the Steps Process to Sending Your First Cold Email below. But this is essentially the process of cold emailing.

Cold Email for SMB: Does it Work?

Before we go into all the steps to become successful in cold emailing, let’s talk about why it’s worth doing in the first place.

We think it’s 100% worth the efforts put into it, especially when you look at numbers and statistics like these:

  • Email is nearly 40 times more successful at acquiring customers than social media, according to a McKinsey study
  • The majority of customers prefer to be contacted by sales reps through email, with a staggering 80% making this their preferred method
Cold Email for SMB
  • founder Alex Berman once shared that he closed $400,000 worth of deals in 30 days using cold email. And there are many other verifiable stories like this everywhere online

So, “is cold email worth it” isn’t even the question anymore. It’s “how can you use cold emailing to drive more leads and sales for your business?” Let’s dive right in.

A 9-Step Process to Sending Your First Cold Email 

As promised earlier, we’ll now do a deep dive into the step-by-step process of sending your first cold email for SMB. 

Step 1: Create an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

There are several ways to start a cold email campaign, but the first and most important step is to create an ideal customer profile or a buyer persona.

This profile will help you define your target audience, who they are, what their main pain points are, where they “live” online, and most importantly, why they’ll need your product or service.

For instance, if you’re selling a CRM software product like Close, your ICP could look something like this:

  • Job title: Sales managers and sales reps in small to medium-sized businesses and startups
  • Industry: Any industry, but typically SaaS, marketing, and advertising
  • Pain points: Struggling to keep up with customer relationships, difficulty managing data and sales pipeline, lack of visibility into the sales process
  • Where they “live” online: Social media groups (particularly Facebook), forums related to their industry, and professional networks like LinkedIn
  • Location: United States

Building a profile like this helps you narrow down your target market and ensure that you’re sending relevant cold emails to prospects who’re most likely to convert into customers.

Step 2: Find Ideal Customers

Once you’ve identified an ideal customer profile, it’s time to start finding and building a list of prospects.

Tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Clearbit, and Datanyze can help you find leads who match your ideal customer profile.

For instance, with Sales Navigator, you can:

  • Use the “Advanced Search” feature to narrow down on leads that specifically match your ideal customer profile
  • Save your searches so you can run them again in the future
  • Get access to premium features like InMail (which allows you to contact leads directly even if you’re not connected with them), Lead Recommendations, and “Who’s Viewed Your Profile.”

With Clearbit, you can:

  • Use their email lookup feature to find contact information for potential prospects
  • Get access to data like job titles, locations, and social media links to help you refine your ideal customer profile
  • Use the “Company Lookup” feature to find leads who work for specific companies
  • Integrate with Gmail and CRMs like Salesforce and HubSpot to streamline contact searches.

Once you’ve got your profile ready and a list of prospects, it’s time to find their email addresses and make sure they’re all correct.

Step 3: Find the Right Email Address 

There are only a handful of things that are as detrimental to your cold email campaign process as sending emails to the wrong contacts.

Once your email hits their inbox, your email provider will return the dreaded “Not Found” error, and you’ll have to start all over again. And it gets worse if you’re sending tens or hundreds of emails a day—your email address and domain could easily get blacklisted, which affects your email deliverability because it makes it harder for you to get any emails delivered.

To avoid this, you need to make sure that your email addresses are valid and accurate. Technology comes in handy here again; tools like VoilaNorbert and UpLead can help you quickly find and validate email addresses for your prospects, and integrations can get them into your CRM.

Once you’ve got the right contacts and their emails in your CRM, go ahead and create a custom, personalized email template.

Step 4: Craft a Personalized, On-Brand Email Template

One major mistake many salespeople and marketers make with cold emails is that they create “one-size-fits-all” email templates.

This approach often backfires because, in reality, there’s nothing like a generic email template that works for every prospect. Your prospects are all different, so your emails should be too.

But there’s also a danger of going to the other extreme: busy SMB sales teams won’t succeed with the time-consuming process of writing out each individual email.

For instance, one prospect might come from the SaaS industry, while another might be from the marketing and advertising industry. One may be a completely new lead, another may be coming in from a referral. These prospects will have different challenges, interests, and needs.

If you were selling social media management services, for example, your email cold email for SMB template could look something like this:

Subject line: Social Media Management at {CompanyName}

Hi {{First Name}},

I noticed you’re currently using LinkedIn to reach {TargetCustomers}, but your posts haven’t been getting enough engagement.

Would you need professional help there? I work with brands like {ReputableBrand 1}, {ReputableBrand 2}, and {ReputableBrand 3} to help them manage their social media channels and grow their brand presence on these platforms.

Let me know if you’d like to discuss how my team and I can help you do the same.

Look forward to hearing from you soon,

{Your Name}

{Your Designation}

{Company Name}

This type of cold email template, while simple at first glance, is tailored with the prospect’s industry, challenges, and needs in mind. And you can already see how it’ll change quickly if you were selling some other service or product.

You can take this even further by personalizing the email with data points from your research—like job titles, company sizes, etc.

The key here is to be as targeted and personalized with the email template as possible. This will help your prospects further understand that you have a good understanding of their challenges and that you may have something that can help them solve those issues.

More importantly, using personalization like this has been proven to increase email engagement. And more advanced personalization techniques—can even do as much as double your email reply rate.

Step 5: Write an Engaging Email Subject Line

Your cold email subject lines are a make-or-break moment for your email campaigns.

And this is because the average office worker receives up to 120 emails every day, which means that yours needs to stand out and grab their attention right away.

Your cold email subject lines should be short, concise, and to the point. They should also evoke curiosity and make them want to open your email.

For example, if you’re selling a customer support SaaS product, you could use a subject line like:

  • “Improving customer service for {CompanyName}?”
  • “Customer service at {CompanyName}”

This way, you quickly communicate the purpose of the email to the recipient and make them curious enough to open it.

Finally, keep testing different variations of your subject lines to see which ones get the most engagement. This data will help you optimize your cold emails over time and make them even more effective.

Step 6: Optimize Your Email 

Optimizing your email simply means making it as easy as possible for your prospects to take the desired action.

For example, if you’re looking to sell a product or service, include a direct link to the purchase page or a call-to-action (CTA) button in your email.

Or ask an easy-to-answer question at the end of the email—if you’re looking for a reply. Include a clear ask in your email and provide multiple ways for the prospect to get back to you (e.g. “Let me know if you have any questions, via email or phone” or “Would you like to see a demo of this product?”)

Also, make sure all images, text, and links in your cold emails are optimized for mobile devices. And this is important because most people use their phones to check their emails these days.

Include a link to your website and social media profiles, too, so that the recipient can quickly learn more about your company and the products/services you offer. This also helps to quickly know who they’re dealing with and build a rapport with them.

Those are just a few of the ways you can optimize your cold emails for maximum impact; feel free to add other elements that you think may work well for your prospects.

Step 7: Check for Errors and Send Your Email 

Finally, it’s time to hit the “Send” button.

But before you do that, double-check that:

  • All your links are working
  • Images are displaying correctly
  • Grammar and tone are all correct, and
  • You’ve followed all the best practices mentioned above

It’s never a good idea to send an email with errors in it. Some prospects might see a mistake and forgive you for it, but others might not be so forgiving and could take it as a sign that you don’t pay attention to details. That’s a situation you don’t want to be in.

Once you’re sure the email is good to go, hit “Send.” That’s it.

You’ll need to follow up, too; we’ll address this in the next point below.

Step 8: Follow Up Gently

Your cold email campaign doesn’t end after you hit the “Send” button.

You should plan to follow up at least once or twice, as some prospects might not open your emails or might not open them until later. To make sure you don’t forget to follow up, set a reminder for yourself (and/or your sales team) once the first email is out.

Or, if you’re sending a lot of emails, you can use tools like MailShake or GMass to automate the process of sending your first email and following up.

For instance, you could set these tools to follow up only after two days or four working days, depending on your preference. And these tools will only trigger those emails if the recipient hasn’t replied to your first one.

You can also send multi-step follow-ups, so you don’t have to send all your follow-up emails in the same go. For instance, you could set MailShake to trigger a follow-up email two days after the first one, three days after that, and so on.

Finally, remember to be gentle and polite with your follow-ups; don’t be too pushy. You don’t want to be perceived as a nuisance. Here’s a follow-up email template you can use:

Subject: Following up on {CompanyName}

Hi {Name},

I hope your week is going well.

I wanted to follow up on my previous email about {your product/service} for {CompanyName}.

Is it something you’re interested in at this time?



If you don’t get a response after your second follow-up, you may want to try again—a study from Woodpecker has shown that campaigns containing 1-3 emails (or two follow-up emails) in a sequence offer an average reply rate of 9%, while sequences comprising 4-7 messages (or 3 to 6 follow-ups) yield nearly three times higher responses at 27%.

Cold Email Follow Up for SMB

So while you don’t want to come across as too pushy, it’s important to follow up with your prospects if you don’t hear from them. The more follow-ups, the better. But pace yourself, and always remember to be polite.

Step 9: Repeat and Monitor Results

Last but not least, remember to repeat your cold email campaigns and track metrics and results.

After all, you don’t just want one-off conversions; you want long-term results. And one of the best ways to make sure your cold email campaigns keep working is to track what’s working and what isn’t.

So go back to your data after each campaign, analyze the results, and make improvements accordingly.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when evaluating the success of your campaign:

  • Which emails got the most opens?
  • What kind of follow-up emails seemed to work best?
  • Are there any links or images that had a higher click-through rate?
  • Are there more replies from one industry or niche compared to others?

Answering these questions will help you refine your sales strategy, leading to higher open rates and better response rates. With the right tweaks, you’ll be able to maximize the success of each campaign.

FAQs On Cold Emailing

Here are some answers to questions you may have about cold emailing:

What Is the Best Time to Send a Cold Email Campaign?

There’s no single “best” time to send a cold email campaign. This will depend on your target audience and the purpose of your emails.

However, research from the Woodpecker study above suggests that the best time to send an email is between 8.00 am and 11.00 on Tuesday or Thursday. You should also avoid sending emails on weekends, as these tend to have low open and response rates.

How Long Should a Cold Email for SMB Be?

Generally, your emails should be short and to the point. Your subject line should be no more than 40 characters. The body of your email should be around 50-150 words.

A good rule of thumb is to keep it as brief as possible, while still conveying the message you want to get across with all major points covered.

How Do I Know When I Should Follow Up?

Generally, it’s best to wait at least two days before sending a follow-up email. This way, you’d have given the recipient enough time to read and respond (if they are interested).

Remember To Keep Testing And Improving Results

In this article, we’ve covered the basics of cold email outreach, including what it is, some tips on how to write effective emails, and strategies for making sure your campaigns are successful.

Following the steps outlined in this guide, you can start sending cold emails to your target prospects and increase your chances of getting a response.

Remember, cold email marketing is all about testing and refining. So don’t be afraid to experiment with different subject lines, sent times, and follow-ups to see what works best for your campaigns!

Good luck, and happy cold emailing!

Amy Copadis
Amy is a Content Specialist at Close, researching and writing helpful content for sales teams and startups. When she's not working, you can probably find this Boston native running a 5K or reading.

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