How to Plan and Launch Your First Cold Email Campaign

by Brian

I’ve been thinking about trying out cold email as a marketing channel to reach agency owners and invite them to check out Ops Calendar.

So before I start, I figured I’d ask my friend, Justin McGill, founder of LeadFuze and all-around expert when it comes to sales outreach, for some advice.

Justin responded to my request with an entire article! So here it is… Take it away Justin!

Brian Casel, Founder of Audience Ops and Ops Calendar, is a good friend of mine. So when he recently asked me for some help planning and launching his first cold email campaign, we thought it might actually make sense in full blog format.

Some people get scared off by “cold email” because they think it’s “spam” and is against CAN-SPAM rules. Good news, cold email isn’t spam!

In fact, it’s one of the best possible ways to get directly in front of your ideal customers.

There are two aspects of cold email that I see people do wrong. First, is who they are emailing. Second, is what they they’re offering.

So assuming you’re trying to launch your first cold email campaign and you want to cut out the learning curve, let’s start with targeting.

Identifying Who Should Get Your Cold Emails

Having had this conversation with a lot of LeadFuze prospects and customers, the one line that I’ve identified works best for this is:

“Think of your favorite customer. What industry are they in? What role do they have?”

You want more customers like your favorite customer, right? Well, it makes sense to start there when putting your list together.

So, I would fire up LeadFuze and put together search criteria.

What industries are they in?

In Brian’s case, he’s mainly looking for agencies. They’re his favorite customer because they would use the tool more and therefore, pay a higher price.

I went ahead and added “Media” and “Business Services” categories as well. I’ll show you how you can filter down further in a bit to get specific into agencies.

What roles do they have?

So for Brian’s case, I’m going to focus on people in a marketing role. You can just choose “Marketing” and it will pre-fill all those titles for you.

Optionally, you can add your own if you’d like. Brian may decide he also wants to target the Owner of the agency. You can easily choose those roles as well.

You can add “negative” titles. Say, in Brian’s case he wanted the Owner, which includes roles like “President”, but he doesn’t want the Vice President or VP of the company he can type in -vice to create a negative title. This will skip anyone with vice in their title.

For now, I’ll leave it like we have it shown above.

Other Traits of Your Ideal Customer

I left Employee Size blank, which will bring me back more results.

At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself if you’d turn away customers at a given employee size.

If you input “Below 200 employees, and someone comes to you with 320 employees – are you really going to pass on them? If so, then you would want to input the minimum and maximum employee sizes.

Some customers prefer to use “Estimated Revenue”. A quick calculation to get there is using estimated revenue based on employee range.

Rule of thumb is $150,000 in revenue per employee. It is generally anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000, but there are industries like Oil & Gas which make nearly $1.8 million per employee.

So if you’re looking for companies with over $10 million in revenue and up… That’s 66 employees. So you might want to start at 50+ employees.

Again, ask yourself if they are at $5 million… would you turn them away?

So now we have 17,000+ results to work with. These are people we have double verified which means an insanely low bounce rate.

Now, with LeadFuze I can just assign Fuzebot and let him build that list for me automatically. So while that’s happen, lets move on to the offer.

Your Offer

This is the second and final key component to having success with your first cold email campaign.

Your “offer”, should not necessarily be confused with your “offering”.

Your offer needs to be compelling and something they would actually be interested in. I am not joking when I say 9 out of 10 (it’s actually higher) cold emails that are sent are self promotional emails that basically read like a sales page.

These people didn’t come to you… YOU went to THEM.

How are you going to deliver value?

We pre-load accounts with over 20 different offer frameworks you can use.

That gives you an idea for some different “offers” you can use.

“Consults” are usually the least effective, but most used. People don’t want to hop on a call to be sold to.

That said, if the reason is compelling enough… people will do it!

In Brian’s case, we’ll keep it simple and start off with a push to a Trial.

Cold Email Copy

Your goal with cold email is to:


Sorry, but I had to scream that for emphasis 🙂

Your goal should NOT be to go from “cold to closed.”

When it comes to cold email, long form is not better. Short form has worked in every single case I’ve tested when it comes to cold email.

Break up your points across several follow-up emails, try different offers across the same sequence, etc. More follow-ups, and less copy tends to work best.

I always like to start with a simple, conversation starting question. So, this is something along the lines of what I’d send if I were Brian:

You’ll notice a few things here:

  • For starters, it’s all in one line.
  • It’s a question (ie, easy to respond to)
  • A couple personalization tokens (first name and company)
  • I have a placeholder for physical to comply with CAN-SPAM address requirements
  • P.S. asks for referral if necessary, but gives option (also CAN-SPAM)
  • Subject line relates to body of message
  • Subject line is two words (2-4 work best)
  • Subject line doesn’t capitalize every word (can go either way, test it!)

Keep in mind, the first sentence is often what is seen in email preview panes and what they see on mobile devices. Introducing yourself is a waste of space and quickly makes them realize they don’t know you.

Notice also, you aren’t pushing your product or service yet. Why not? Because you’re goal is to start a conversation.


In the follow-ups, Brian will want to expand on the value prop a little more. So the next email might go something like this:

So this email serves the purpose of trying to show you know their problem and that it’s for an agency (aka, relevant to them).

It closes with a question again, to try and get the conversation started. This time though, I added a P.S. with a CTA for the trial.

As long as you include your first email (which had the P.S. giving them a way to opt-out), then you’re fine. You don’t need to include an unsubscribe link or an opt-out again (since it’s technically in this email thread).

Each follow-up should be 2 to 4 sentences at most.

The next email might be more feature/benefit specific and pushing for the Trial in the body of the email.

The fourth email, you might switch gears and see if they’d like to schedule a demo.

The fifth email, you might link them to a relevant blog post or case study.

You get the idea.

Improving Your Results

Now that you have leads and a sequence to get started with, you just need to get started!

What I recommend you do, is actually go into reporting and look at your Daily Breakdown to see who is opening and clicking on your emails.

Remember, the first email didn’t have a link so you won’t see clicks from that particular email.

People that open your email, you know you’ve at least captured their attention. Those are the people I would go into and personalize their emails further.

You can reference another decision maker at the company, reschedule out of office replies and talk about their vacation, talk about clients they’re working with, etc.

Same thing for people that have clicked, they are even warmer opportunities since they’ve done the added step of clicking through to see what it’s all about.

Test Everything

Once you’ve sent 250 to 500 cold emails, you now have enough data to make some determinations about what is working and what isn’t.

There are three key key performance indicators (KPI’s) we look at:

  1. Open rate above 30%
  2. Clicks in the 2% to 5% range
  3. Responses in the 2% to 5% range

Our more successful customers typically all follow these KPI’s.

Internally, we shoot for 40% opens, 5% clicks, and 5% responses. If our open rates are in the 20’s, we know we need to improve the subject line.

In Brian’s case, if we’re using “Content plans” as the subject line and our open rate is 20%, the first thing I’m going to do is change that to something like: “How Agencies Manage Content”.

Something similar actually worked dramatically with our own cold emailing efforts at LeadFuze.

We were using “More Leads for {{.CompanyName}}” and changed it to “How Agencies Automate Their Lead Generation” and opens went from 29% to 41%.

Go figure.

If clicks and responses aren’t at those levels, it means the offer isn’t resonating with the market we’re going after. So we either need to try new markets, new offers, or at the very least a re-write to the message we’re sending.

We recently came up with over 50 different things to split test for your cold emails.


Like with any form of marketing, it comes down to knowing your target market and having the right offer to get in front of them.

Once you have those basics down, then it’s all about getting it in front of them!