Before we jump to the topic at hand, it is important to note that the answer to the question in the subject line is almost always “at least some.” If you are a B2B company and you are not doing any cold email, you probably should be. For some companies, cold email will represent a more important channel than for others, but its advantages are so great that it should almost always be a part of a B2B marketing strategy.
With that in mind, it’s fair to say that the question of how much cold email to send comes up quite a bit when we start with new clients! There are generally two different perspectives behind this question:
One set of clients is more interested in sending as many cold emails as possible, no matter the relative ROI (so long as that ROI is still positive). In this case, we first explain that the answer to how many emails to send can be plotted as a line chart with the number of emails sent on the x axis and ROI per email on the y axis and that this chart is a bell curve, not a hockey stick. In other words, it does cross the x axis on a downslope and go negative somewhere on the right side of the graph (see the very ugly example chart below). This is mostly due to the fact that a portion of emails are marked as spam and negatively influence deliverability across the entire set of emails sent.
A second set of clients understands that the chart of emails sent is a bell curve and wants us to tell them where the peak of the curve is.
In both of these cases, clients are asking us to get as close as possible to a point along the x axis (for the first group, it’s the x value where the bell curve peaks and for the second group, it’s the x value just before the value turns negative). Understandably, there are dozens of variables that influence where these points are for individual clients. These include:
Market size and concentration: If you are selling a product that almost any company could buy, you can and should send more cold emails, relatively speaking.
Competitive positioning: The degree to which you can succinctly enunciate your value proposition affects the number of emails you can send (more clarity = more emails, and this improves over time).
Confidence in targeting: The better a sense you have of exactly who your customer is, the more emails you can send (this also improves over time).
Email sequence length: Simple math here, as adding 100 prospects to a 4 email campaign will use less of your bandwidth than adding 100 prospects to an 8 email campaign.
Relative number of cold emails sent so far: If you've already emailed much of your target market, you probably have fewer prospects to email. This is less a suggestion about email volume as it is about email content. If you have already emailed all of your target customers, you should send them an updated value proposition the next time (but you certainly can “recycle”).
All of that said, the answer is typically somewhere between 2,000 and 10,000 unique prospects per month. At low volume, sending any one email provides incremental value (even the first one!), but the 2,000 unique prospects number is where you start to see some of the advantages of the scale provided by an outbound email setup. Anything less than that and you’re probably better off personalizing dozens or hundreds of emails. After 10,000 unique prospects, managing domains and email accounts gets pretty messy (though not impossible). We’ve seen this be the breaking point for most clients where there are simply too many fires to put out to make the campaign worthwhile.
We would be curious to get feedback as well, especially if others have had a different experience. Let us know what you think!