6 mins

The 13 Most Common Mistakes on Cold-Emailing

Unlock success: learn from 13 common cold email mistakes and master high-response strategies.

    Sales and marketing are the lifeblood of any company. They are critical in attracting prospects, increasing revenue, and driving business growth. A key element of any successful marketing campaign is e-mail outreach. It's an efficient and cost-effective way to communicate with potential clients and generate leads. But what happens when your carefully crafted emails remain unopened? What if your prospects see your outreach efforts as nothing more than spam?‍

    The truth is many businesses make common mistakes that can taint their reputation and diminish the effectiveness of their campaigns. It's not enough to create a list of potential leads and bombard them with emails daily. It's crucial to avoid pitfalls that can send your messages straight to the trash bin or, even worse, tarnish the image of your company.

    This detailed article delves into the seven most common mistakes individuals and companies typically make when sending unsolicited e-mails. If you recognize yourself or your business in these mistakes, don't despair - it's entirely possible to remedy them! Just be careful not to repeat these errors in the future. You'll see a significant improvement in your response rate, ability to generate leads, and overall success in reaching potential clients.

    No e-mail personalization

    The first and arguably most crucial thing to do when sending unsolicited e-mail is personalising it. This means addressing your recipient by name and including relevant information about them in the body of your message. For example, if your recipient is facing a specific problem that your product or service can help solve, mention this in your e-mail. Generic e-mails are very easy to identify and are unlikely to receive a positive response.

    Using pre-designed e-mail templates

    Directly related to the first point, avoiding sending e-mails based on preconceived templates is crucial. These are often perceived as robotic messages, devoid of personalisation, distributed en masse to several recipients. To stand out from the crowd and encourage a response, it's best to take the time to write a unique and specific message for each recipient of your e-mail.

    No follow-up

    Following up is essential if you are still waiting for a response after sending an unsolicited e-mail. Often, people need help to respond to e-mails, either because they're overwhelmed or because they procrastinate. By following up, you increase your chances of receiving a response. However, maintain a balance and don't become too insistent: nobody likes to be pestered for a reply!

    Excessive insistence

    When it comes to persistence, one of the major mistakes you can make when sending unsolicited e-mails is being too aggressive. It's normal to want recipients to respond to your e-mails, but it's vital to know where the line is between persistence and harassment. If someone doesn't respond to your first e-mail, give them a little time before following up. Moving on and directing your efforts elsewhere is a good idea if you still receive no response.

    Focus on your desires rather than those of the recipients

    When writing unsolicited e-mails, focusing on what you want to achieve is tempting, i.e., persuading recipients to buy your product or subscribe to your service. However, to get a positive response from recipients, it's imperative to focus on what THEY want, not what YOU want. What do you have to offer that will improve their lives or solve their problems? You need to emphasise this value proposition in your e-mails, not the features of your product (save that for later).

    Use titles that are too general or irrelevant

    Your e-mail subject is the first thing your recipients see, so it must be punchy and relevant. Using e-mail subject lines that are too vague, too long, or that don't give a clear idea of the message's content can dissuade recipients from opening your e-mail. Make sure your subject line is brief, to the point, and clearly indicates what the recipient can expect from the content of your message.

    Too many CTAs, too many links (One idea, one e-mail, one CTA)

    It can be tempting to cram as much information as possible into a single e-mail, including numerous calls to action (CTAs) and links to different pages on your website. However, this can quickly become counter-productive and overwhelming for the recipient. More choice can lead to analysis paralysis, where the recipient needs help knowing where to click or what action to take and ignoring the email.

    It's best to adopt the "one idea, one email, one CTA" strategy. Every e-mail you send out should have a single main objective supported by a single call to action. This makes your message clearer and more direct, making the recipient more likely to take the action you want. Plus, it helps keep your e-mail shorter and easier to read, which is always a plus when addressing people who are likely to be very busy.

    Sending Emails at the Wrong Time

    Emails can be an incredibly powerful tool in your marketing toolkit, but only if your intended recipient views them. One common mistake many people make when sending unsolicited emails is not taking into account the timing of their messages.

    Think about it this way - your prospects likely receive dozens, if not hundreds, of emails daily. Unfortunately, most of these will be ignored, especially if they arrive at inconvenient times. If your email lands in their inbox during a busy period or when they're away from work, it risks being buried beneath newer messages and forgotten.

    So, when is the "right" time to send emails? There's no one-size-fits-all answer, as it depends heavily on your specific audience. However, considering your recipient's typical work schedule is a good rule of thumb. For B2B emails, sending messages during the workweek, and avoiding early mornings (when individuals are just starting their day and sorting through a cluttered inbox) and late evenings (when they're likely signing off for the day), is a generally accepted best practice.

    It's also important to consider time zones if your recipients are globally spread. What's morning for you could be the middle of the night for them.

    Lastly, test and analyze different sending times to see what yields the best open and response rates for your particular audience. An email marketing tool that provides analytics can help you optimize your send times based on real data.

    Remember, timing is everything. With the right schedule, your emails stand a much better chance of being seen and acted upon.

    Lack of Clear Communication

    One of the most critical elements in sending unsolicited emails - or any form of communication - is ensuring your message is clear and easily understood. If your recipient cannot ascertain the purpose of your email quickly, they're likely to disregard it. This is especially true in our fast-paced world, where individuals often skim through emails due to a high volume of incoming messages.

    Here are several ways that a lack of clear communication can manifest itself in your emails:

    • Ambiguous subject lines: Your subject line is the first thing your recipient sees. If it needs to be clarified or accurately represent the content of the email, it may lead to confusion or, worse, cause the recipient to ignore your email entirely.
    • Complicated language or jargon: While it's important to demonstrate your expertise, overly technical or industry-specific jargon can confuse recipients and discourage them from reading further. Instead, aim for a professional yet conversational tone accessible to a broad audience.
    • Poorly structured content: Long paragraphs and a lack of clear headings or bullet points can make your email easier to read and skim. Breaking up your content into digestible chunks can go a long way in improving readability.
    • Unclear call to action (CTA): Every email should have a clear purpose and an accompanying CTA. Whether it's to schedule a call, sign up for a newsletter, or check out a blog post, make sure your CTA is prominent and its purpose is obvious.
    • Failing to answer, "What's in it for me?": From the recipient's perspective, your offer's benefit must be evident. Always clarify how your product or service can solve their problem or improve their current situation.

    Ensuring that clear communication increases the chances of the recipient engaging with your content and taking the desired action. After all, clarity is the key to understanding, and understanding is the first step towards action.

    Ignoring Mobile Optimization

    As smartphones continue to dominate the digital landscape, mobile optimization for emails has become increasingly important. Ignoring mobile optimization can be a crucial mistake when sending unsolicited emails or any emails.

    In fact, according to various studies, more than half of all emails are opened on mobile devices. This shift towards mobile means that a significant portion of your audience will likely view your email on a smaller screen. If your email is mobile-friendly, it might be easier to read or navigate, leading to a better user experience and discouraging recipients from engaging with your content.

    Here are some key points to keep in mind when optimizing your emails for mobile devices:

    • Responsive Design: Your email design should be responsive, meaning it adapts to the screen size on which it's viewed. This ensures that your content is easily read and navigated, whether viewed on a desktop computer, a tablet, or a smartphone.
    • Readable Text: Ensure your font size is large enough to read easily on a small screen. Generally, your body text should be at least 14pt, and your headlines should be at least 22pt.
    • Clear and Concise Content: Keeping your content clear and concise on smaller screens is even more critical. Long paragraphs can appear even more daunting on mobile, so break your text into smaller sections and use bullet points or subheadings for easy scanning.
    • CTA Buttons: Make sure your call-to-action (CTA) buttons are large enough to be easily tapped with a thumb. A minimum size of 44x44 pixels is usually recommended.
    • Image Optimization: Ensure your images are optimized for mobile. Large images can slow down loading times, frustrating recipients and leading them to close your email before it fully opens.

    By keeping mobile optimization in mind, you can ensure your email looks great and performs well on any device, improving the user experience and increasing your chances of engagement.

    Failing to Segment Your Audience

    Understanding your audience is key to effective marketing communication. Businesses often need to improve on treating their audience as a single entity. Your audience likely consists of multiple segments with unique interests, needs, and preferences.

    The message may only resonate with some recipients when you send the same email to all your contacts. That's where audience segmentation comes into play. It allows you to tailor your emails based on specific characteristics of different audience groups, thereby increasing the relevance and effectiveness of your message.

    Here are several ways you can segment your audience:

    • Demographic Segmentation: This involves grouping your audience based on demographic data such as age, gender, income level, education level, occupation, etc. For instance, a career coaching service may send different emails to recent graduates and mid-career professionals.
    • Behavioural Segmentation: This is based on the actions your audience takes, such as their browsing behaviour, purchase history, email open rate, and response to previous marketing campaigns. For example, a software company might send different messages to users who have just signed up for a free trial and those who have been using their product for years.
    • Geographical Segmentation: Segmenting based on location can be especially useful for businesses operating in multiple regions or countries. You can tailor your emails based on climate, cultural preferences, local events, or language.
    • Psychographic Segmentation: This involves grouping your audience based on their lifestyle, personality traits, attitudes, interests, and values. A fitness brand, for instance, might send different emails to hardcore gym-goers and casual fitness enthusiasts.

    The more targeted your emails are, the more your audience will feel that your message is relevant to them, increasing the chances of engagement. It also helps you avoid sending unnecessary emails to those not interested in a particular offer, reducing the risk of your emails being marked as spam. Remember, personalization is key to standing out in today's crowded inbox.

    No Testing and Analysis

    One of the most overlooked aspects of email marketing, especially with unsolicited emails, is the lack of testing and analysis. Often, individuals or companies send emails hoping for the best without taking the time to understand what's working and what's not. This approach can lead to repeated mistakes, poor performance, and wasted effort.

    Here's why testing and analysis are so crucial:

    • A/B Testing: Also known as split testing, A/B testing involves sending two slightly different versions of an email to see which one performs better. You could test elements like the subject line, the call-to-action, the layout, the images used, the timing of the email, and more. The goal is to understand what resonates most with your audience, leading to higher open rates, click-through rates, and conversions.
    • Analytics: Most email marketing platforms provide analytics that can offer valuable insights. Key metrics include open rate, click-through rate, bounce rate, conversion rate, and unsubscribe rate. Monitoring these metrics will help you gauge your emails' effectiveness and identify improvement areas.
    • Feedback: Pay attention to direct feedback from your recipients. Consider these if people respond to your emails with questions, comments, or complaints. This can be valuable information for refining your approach.

    Without testing and analysis, you're essentially flying blind. You might be repeating the same mistakes repeatedly without realizing it or missing out on opportunities to improve. By regularly testing different aspects of your emails and analyzing the results, you can continuously optimize your email campaigns, leading to better performance and higher engagement. Remember, what can be measured can be improved.

    Violating Spam Laws

    It's critical for any business or individual sending emails, especially unsolicited ones, to understand and abide by the spam laws of their country and the countries of their recipients. Ignorance or violation of these laws can lead to hefty fines and serious damage to your business reputation.

    Here's why complying with spam laws is essential:

    • Legal implications: Violating spam laws can lead to severe penalties, including hefty fines and legal actions against your business. Each country has its regulations, so it's important to familiarize yourself with the laws that apply to you.
    • Reputation damage: Being marked as a spammer can damage your business reputation. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) could block your emails, and recipients may view your company as untrustworthy.
    • Deliverability issues: If many of your emails are marked as spam, it can affect your email deliverability in the long run. ISPs might start sending your emails straight to the spam folder, making your emails less likely to be seen or opened.

    Here are key points to consider to ensure you comply with spam laws:

    • Consent: Many countries require you to have the recipient's consent before you can send them marketing emails. This is especially true in countries that adhere to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), like the European Union.
    • Identification: Your emails must identify your business and provide valid contact information. Recipients should know who the email is from and how to contact you.
    • Unsubscribe option: Every email you send must include an easy and obvious way for recipients to opt-out or unsubscribe. Once someone has chosen to unsubscribe, you must honour this request promptly.
    • Content accuracy: Your email subject lines and content should accurately reflect the content of your email. Misleading subject lines can be seen as deceptive under some spam laws.
    • Buying email lists: Many spam laws prohibit sending emails to purchased or rented email lists. It's always best to build your list of people who have opted in to receive your emails.


    Sending unsolicited e-mails can be a real challenge, but avoiding these common mistakes puts the odds in your favour! Remember to personalize each message, avoid using pre-designed templates, follow up where necessary, remain polite and respectful, and focus on solving your recipients' problems rather than promoting your products or services. By adhering to these principles, you'll see a marked improvement in the effectiveness of your unsolicited e-mail campaigns.

    Romuald Pouget
    Growth Marketer
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