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Cold Email Prospecting for Beginners

Let's start with a few questions:

  • When you hear "email marketing", what does that mean to you?

  • When you hear "email prospecting", what does that mean to you?

There are no right or wrong answers, but we wanted to start with a mental exercise to get you into the proper mindset for what we are about to share with you.

Ready for something shocking about email marketing in 2021 (and beyond)? The shocking truth is that email marketing is entirely different in 2021 than it was in, say 2010, 2015, or even 2020.

User engagement with your content is a signal of propensity or interest in your offer”, it’s a fairly common sense statement but it’s absolutely imperative for email prospecting. If you do not believe nor are willing to accept this, thanks for reading this far but save time and accept that email prospecting is not a good fit for you 🙂

Email Prospecting is NOT a Free Lunch

This article is dedicated to email prospecting! While cold email prospecting (many call this spamming) is certainly something widely considered illegal, unethical, and maybe even immoral, if I had $1 for every person that asked me for help implementing an email prospecting campaign than I would not be writing this article, I would be living it up in a tropical paradise somewhere 🙂 So, it’s certainly a popular concept and many are (at least) interested in email prospecting.

Time and time again I am approached by professionals that would like to do email marketing. As we navigate through a series of standard questions that I ask, inevitably 90% of the time the person on the other end of the phone, or zoom screen, wants to do cold email prospecting ... and ... they want to do it because they think it's cheap, in many cases they believe it's FREE! It's not free and please do not fall into this trap believing it’s free, it's actually quite expensive especially when compared side-by-side with SMS, social, and other communication channels. 

Understanding Emails Rules, Regulations, and Laws

The three basic types of compliance defined in the CAN-SPAM Act — unsubscribe, content, and sending behavior — are as follows:

Unsubscribe Compliance

  • A visible and operable unsubscribe mechanism is present in all emails.

  • Consumer opt-out requests are honored within 10 business days.

  • Opt-out lists also known as suppression lists are used only for compliance purposes.

Content Compliance

  • Accurate "From" lines

  • Relevant subject lines (relative to offer in body content and not deceptive)

  • A legitimate physical address of the publisher or advertiser is present. PO Box addresses are acceptable in compliance with 16 CFR 316.2 and if the email is sent by a third party, the legitimate physical address of the entity, whose products or services are promoted through the email should be visible.

  • A label is present if the content is adult.

Sending Behavior Compliance

  • A message cannot be sent without an unsubscribe option.

  • A message cannot be sent to a harvested email address

  • A message cannot contain a false header

  • A message should contain at least one sentence.

  • A message cannot be null.

  • Unsubscribe option should be below the message.

Email Marketing - Operating in the White, Black, and Gray

Well, after reading the above I probably crushed your dreams of building your empire via cold email prospecting and outreach. Ready for some truth, laws were meant to be broken. I am not advocating anyone read this then go feel compelled to commit a crime, rather let’s understand the rules of engagement a little before we introduce the good stuff.

Q: What is the good stuff?

A: How to execute email prospecting with high(er) deliverability!

We can operate in the white (good little Johnny follows the law to the T), we can operate in the black (bad little Johnny operates with no regard for the law or other people), or we can operate in the gray (Johnny does what he needs to do to earn a living while operating within the confines of the law). So, let’s play in the gray!

The Five (5) Pillars of Cold Email Prospecting


Let’s start and end the strategy discussion with the understanding that email prospecting is just like conventional sales phone prospecting, it’s a numbers game! If you don’t have thick skin and can’t deal with rejection, this game is not for you!

For every person that is interested, you may have 5-10 people who respond “kiss my grits”, “take me off your list”, etc. You only win at scale and with volume, the more people you communicate with the greater your chances of winning. Set realistic rules and guiding principles:

  • “Don’t try to hit a home run on the first date”

  • “Sales and marketing is a relationship game”

  • “People do business with people they know, like, and trust

  • Offer and give before you ask and take”

A few quotes to demonstrate some guiding principles. Each time you are writing an introductory email or the first few emails in a series of emails (a drip), consider the quotes above - TRUST ME, IT WORKS!


You need some math skills here, remember this number -> 48. Why 48? For starters, 48 is a sexier number than 50 (FYI, my number was always 50 until I compared notes with another email prospecting pro who I trust)! 🙂 Secondarily, 48 represents the number of emails you can most safely send per day per email account without attracting (too much) attention from the internet police. Once you exceed this number, you are way more likely to be on the radar of email service providers and that’s akin to walking around with a big-ass tether around your ankle, everyone will know you are a criminal and not pay attention to you. At this point, you run a huge risk of landing in the SPAM/JUNK/TRASH folder and getting our of that folder is next to impossible (kind of like being labeled a criminal, for life). In the next section we talk about weaponizing this knowledge and scaling tactics. 


WTF is this and what does this mean? Well, email service providers are not dumb and they use  signals to determine if an email sender is legit or not. With the growth of AI and Machine Learning, email service providers have very robust processes to interpret our legitimacy.

This is a pretty intense component of email prospecting so we are just going to summarize and give an example.

Pretend you are Google, and you see a new email address was created yesterday and today that email address sends 5,000 emails of which all 5,000 emails are identical.

How do you think Google interprets the legitimacy of that email address? It’s pretty obvious to me, should be obvious to you, and is certainly obvious to Google that this is a spammer!

That is a pretty extreme example above but hopefully emphasizes the point. Email service providers are seeking signals from email recipients, some of the signals include:

  • Email Open and Click Rates

  • Email Response Rates (very important)

  • Unsubscribe Rates (not as deadly as you may think!!!)

  • Spam Rates (% of people who report email as spam)

  • General Email Activity, i.e. are users putting emails into folders, etc.


Before we discuss engagement, PLEASE reread STRATEGY above. Once you come to grips and accept the strategy, you will be ready for the elbow-grease phase. Oh, and yep prospecting requires work, hard work! So, let’s say you send to a list of 5,000 people a compelling email with the perfect message and the perfect content. Here is my guarantee; 1) NONE of the 5,000 people (that don’t know YOU) are gonna click any buttons to “buy shit” or “book an appointment with me cause I am awesome”, remember you are not going to hit a home run on this first date! Here is another guarantee, IF you have a relevant list and your content (and offer) has value, there are some opportunities in that list of 5,000 … maybe … a LOT of opportunity. It’s akin to the old 49’er gold prospectors, if you are prospecting with the right raw material you simply need proper tools to sift the nuggets from the dirt of gold.


Not to be cliche, but CONTENT IS KING, duh? 🙂 You can absolutely perfect all the other pillars but without good content it’s guaranteed you lose. Conversely, you can absolutely suck at the other pillars but if you have good content, you can still win (pick up what I’m putting down here?). Ask a million copy writers, advertisers, or marketers; “how to structure my copy and content?”. You are likely to receive a million different answers. That said, I’m a pragmatist and I follow a simple and proven approach; 1) Problem statement, 2) Value proposition, 3) Call-to-Action. Consider the old mesothelioma commercials (which I consider to be PERFECT advertising); “Do you or someone you know suffer from mesothelioma? My name is {insert lawyer name here} and I help people like you and your loved ones receive deserved compensation for pain and suffering. Contact me today, goto and let’s get started.

Tactics and Tools to Execute the Five Pillars

If you are still reading and not sleeping, THANKS for sticking with us! In this section we are just going to scratch the surface with tactics (how to’s) to support the above outlined strategy. PLEASE, if you made it this far and are not sleeping, there is another article with full tactical details RE executing email prospecting campaigns. Below is a simple summary of tactical execution.


Remember, we have to understand it’s a numbers game! Whether you are doing B2C or B2B, your strategy starts with making sure you have a relevant list. If you are a realtor, does it make sense to send emails to people that purchased a house in the past 6 months? There are a gazillion prospects and lead sources in the world, find one you like (or ask your network for a good referral).

I’m a math dude, a numbers guy, I like statistics, and I only play when the numbers are in my favor. That said, we need realistic numbers to play the game. Below are some GENERAL averages that are essential to understand and accept when playing the email prospecting game.

TOFU - Top of Funnel, averages for the first 3 Emails

  • 20 to 30% Email Open Rates

  • 0.1 to 0.5% Click Rates

  • 0.3 to 0.5% Response Rates

MOFU - Middle of Funnel, averages after first 3 Emails

  • 20 to 50% Email Open Rates

  • 0.5 to 1% Click Rates

  • 1 to 2% Response Rates

BOFU - Bottom of Funnel, after MOFU

  • PICK UP THE PHONE 🙂 Don’t play with averages here, these are people HIGHLY interested in your products and services so give them the special attention they deserve!


Remember, I’m a math dude? Also, remember above the magic number 48? Well, if it’s best practice to send only 48 emails per day per account and you have a list of 960 people to send an email to, what does that mean? It means one of two things!

  • 20 Days - The number of days required to drip 960 emails from one email account.

  • 20 Accounts - The number of email accounts required to send 960 emails in one day


{Number of Emails / Day}  =  {Number of Accounts} X 48 Emails Per Day


{Number of Emails Sent}  =  {Number of Days} X {Number of Accounts} X 48 Emails Per Day


Start with a Google search; “How to warm up my email address?”. Here is a link to a good article RE warming up an email address and/or domain. Trust me, email warmup sucks and it’s a HUGE PITA (pain in the a**) but it’s a necessary evil and (trust me) if you do not warm up your email, within 5-10 days or less your inbox placement tests will go from ~ 90% to 10% (that’s not good).


Let’s start with one statement and two questions;

  • User engagement with your content is a signal of propensity or interest in your offer

  • Are you familiar with lead scoring or propensity scoring? 

  • Have you ever used ActiveCampaign CRM and are you aware of ActiveCampaign lead scoring?

User engagement with your content is a signal of propensity or interest in your offer”, remember this from the first section of the article?!?

Please remember, we will be publishing future content with more details RE email prospecting tactics and execution. The foundation of our email prospecting is MEASURING AND MONITORING how engaged consumers are with our email, how engaged they are with our content. How do we measure and monitor?

We monitor and measure read, click, and response rates over time and apply standardized (yet simple) scoring to consumers.

  • Add 1 to the score of a consumer if they open an email

  • Add 3 to the score of a consumer if they click link in an email

  • Add 5 to the score of a consumer if they open an email

  • Keep a running tally of their score

  • Requires at the very least a series of 5 emails to capture representative scoring

  • The higher the score, the more likely they are to become a client or customer!

After a series of at least 5 emails, you will have an understanding of;

  • How good are your subject lines (high open rates indicate good subject lines)

  • Who are your most engaged consumers, hence, who is most interested

  • Leverage scoring to place most interested consumers with special actions (send exclusive content, pick up the phone and call them!, etc.)


Once again, you can nail the other pillars but without solid content (email copy, good landing pages, etc.) it is guaranteed that you will lose.

Content, believe it or not, is ½ art and ½ science. The art part is the copy, the science part is TECHNOLOGY! 

I am not a classically educated journalist or copy writer, so if you want high quality copy and content hire a professional which I have done several times.

Beyond the art (well written copy), technology is incredibly powerful and effective. Use tags, keyword insertion, or whatever your call it to personalize your email subject lines and copy. Not only are dynamic subject lines and content GREAT signals to search engines that you are sending authentic content, it will also increase your email engagement rates (open, click, respond).

Below is one example with incredible results that I vividly remember!

In 2019/2020 I was executing an email prospecting campaign for a marketer, a pretty generic email with a fairly generic subject line. Results were not good, to put it mildly. We made ONE simple change to the subject line and our results immediately EXPLODED! our CTA (call-to-action) was a whitepaper download, before the change our conversion rate was zero and after the change our rate was ~ 3% (while 3% does not sound like much, it’s an unheard of cold optin rate!). What was the subject line change?

  • Subject Line Before: What Local Attorneys are Doing to Dominate Google 

  • Subject Line After: What {Attorney #1} and {Attorney #2) are Doing to Dominate Google

On the surface it may seem a little sketchy, but the info and the data was legit! For every person on our list we dynamically inserted the top 2 local attorney listing in GMB (Google My Business) for that local area, so indeed; 1) Attorney #1 and Attorney #2 were real … and … 2) Attorney #1 and Attorney #2 were highly ranked in GMB. This was a play on psychology, playing on known names of competitors to attorneys and the fear of missing out (what is my competition doing that I am not?)

Do It My Way - What Happens If I Don’t Follow This Guidance?

Good Luck! 🙂 The absolute most important thing you can walk away with here is;

It is 100% guaranteed that if you send too many emails too often and too fast from one email account, your inbox placement and deliverability gets destroyed. If you are not in the inbox, nobody is reading your emails, if nobody is reading emails you are wasting your time.

In ~ 2016, I downloaded a list of 25,000 customers from a Magento eCommerce generator parts supply store. The store owner wanted to send emails NOT from Magento but from MailChimp.

Every customer had opted in to receive emails, so the list was legit and the appropriate permissions were in place. We uploaded the list to a new MailChimp account, we mapped the “optin date” column as proof to MailChimp that these consumers opted in.

We crafted our email and hit [SEND]. Within 5 minutes, MailChimp shutdown the account. The unsubscribe rate was over 5% which sent the signal to MailChimp for a new account that we were spammers, although we were following protocol.

This example is not necessarily an email prospecting apples-to-apples. That said, what it proves is that EVEN if you have a list, a fairly large list in this case, and then you send bulk email from one source email address … IF consumers do not respond positively or worse yet respond with negative signals (unsubscribes), you WILL 100% be penalized!

A Few Helpful Tools

GMass, LemList, GMonster, WoodPecker, MailShake - These are five of the most common cold email services on the internet. They all do the same thing essentially, they create X number of Email/Gmail accounts for your cold email campaign and then load balance the sending of emails using the same exact strategy and equations in this article! Depending on your needs, requirements, and volume you will spend anywhere from $20 to $1000+ per month to reach your sending requirements. There is a learning curve for each of these and 3rd party system/CRM integration can be time consuming.

GHL (Go High Level) Prospecting Bandit - If you are a GoHighLevel agency (like us), this is an exclusive plug-n-play product that is fully integrated and will scale your email prospecting directly within your agency platform for you and/or your clients.

Click Here to Check Your Email Setup & Configuration


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