Why Cold Email Matters and How to Do It Right

At Incendium, we maintain a Slack channel for the team called “Memorable Responses” where we post particularly vitriolic (or otherwise hilarious) replies to our cold emails. In addition to some incredible questions (“Do you ship explosives?”), there are a lot of responses that refer to our outreach as “spam.” 

Cold outbound email certainly can be spam, but it doesn’t have to be. Here, we’d like to propose some rules for everyone to follow so that we can all continue to use what we believe to be the highest ROI channel for growing B2B companies. 

But first, it is important to understand the stakes. If cold outbound email was one of many options for companies to grow, it may make sense to find a better one. We don’t see it that way.

B2B commerce by its nature requires a means for companies to reach new customers. Otherwise, growth ceases to exist. And in 2023, despite its long-awaited demise, email remains the best option. We know this because we see it work everyday at Incendium. In 2022, we booked over 4,300 meetings for our clients and drove tens of millions of dollars in pipeline– and we did it entirely through B2B email outreach. After all, people check their work email accounts dozens of times nearly every day, so there is no shorter distance from point A to point B if the goal is to introduce a new product or service.

This is why efforts to kill cold outbound email entirely are so misguided: We are mutually dependent on it for all of our companies to grow. Every year, there is a new effort to dislodge cold outbound (email or otherwise), but any eventual replacement will maintain the same fundamental characteristics: New business development will always require a first introduction to a new customer. So while email will not last forever, contacting someone who does not know about a solution to a problem that they have is the bedrock of B2B commerce.

With that background, here are the rules and mores that we suggest to keep our favorite selling channel ethical and working. What others do you have?

Do emphasize a crisp, focused value proposition. Otherwise, you are wasting the prospect’s time.

Do honor unsubscribe requests immediately. If they are not interested, you gave it your best shot and can move on.

Do follow national and international regulations. Despite our objections, you cannot send cold emails in every country.

Do target buyers to the extent it is possible. Emailing everyone under the sun is disrespectful, so have a thesis behind the buying decision for every prospect you contact.

Don’t act like you know the person you are emailing. A cold email is not a cold call.

Don’t use cold email for individual buyers or with individual email accounts. A work email exists for legitimate business propositions, but the same cannot be said of a personal Gmail account.

Don’t lie about why you are sending the email. This is both disingenuous and cowardly.

Does cold outbound email need to be reimagined in order to better align to the needs of buyers and sellers? Yes, and we are excited about the possibilities. But in the meantime, we can all do our part by using it appropriately, with good targeting and thoughtful attention to the buyers’ problems.

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