5 Mistakes that Derail Your Cold Email Strategy

John Greene

April 25, 2024

10 min

Table of Contents

Cold emailing can be an effective way to start up a conversation, generate sales leads, and ultimately close deals.

Unfortunately, sometimes it can feel like those emails go unnoticed or get ignored. Or perhaps they generate a trickle of replies, but nothing that compares to your lofty expectations, guided perhaps by success stories you've heard.

If your cold email strategy is not producing the kind of replies you hope for, here are some common mistakes you're likely making. Avoid them and you'll be rewarded with high potential new prospects to pull into your sales funnel.

Mistake #1 - Not Targeting Properly

Forget volume. Think quality.

A successful cold email strategy stems from targeting the right people with the right message. Take your time here in determining the right list for your campaign. Everything else (the subject, messaging, call to action, etc.) stems from having a well-defined list.

Mistake #2 - Bad Sender Reputation

Sender reputation is a number between 0 (bad) and 100 (good) that email services use to determine if your email is “spam” or not.

Having a good sender reputation is extremely important to keeping your deliverability rate high, which means people will actually receive your emails.

Whether you send cold emails one by one, or use automated software, you should be aware of what email service filters look for when they filter incoming mail.

Otherwise, not only can your cold emails be sent to the spam filter, but you could damage your domain reputation and capabilities for the future.

Here are some factors to keep in mind that can negatively affect your sender reputation...

High bounce rate

Having a high bounce rate can really derail your cold email efforts. The first type of email bounce is a soft bounce, which is when the problem is temporary (e.g. inbox full). You can’t necessarily prevent these types of bounces. However the second type of bounce is a hard bounce, which is when the address has been rejected by the destination server (the email doesn’t exist). Most hard bounces can be prevented by running your emails through a verification service such as BriteVerify or Mail-Tester.

Spam complaints

As you probably already know, if your recipient marks your email as spam, then this will negatively affect the future deliverability of your emails.  Personalization matters. Your email should not look like a spammy marketing message. It should be written from a person (not from [email protected]) to a person - with a personalized message.

Volume & consistency

Sending all your weekly emails at one time is going to send some red flags to the email services. So don't blast 500 emails all at once. Slow and steady wins the race.

Too many recipients

You can avoid this by sending your cold emails to each recipient separately, not hundreds in one go. Most automated cold email services will allow you to do this. In addition to being less spammy, you will have the best results from cold emails when you send to one person at a time.

Mistake #3 - Not Testing Subject Lines

Now that we have discussed what will stop your email from being delivered, what is the single most important factor to consider for the content of your emails? The subject line.

What makes for a good cold email subject line?

You'll have to test to find out what works best for your company.  Whether you go vague, such as "Quick question, Ann?" or "Trying to reach you" or "Are you the right person?"... or specific "Idea for [GOAL OF PROSPECT]" (ie. An idea for generating more malpractice clients) or "Question about [NICHE YOU SERVE] (ie. Question about your HR department) curiosity is key.

Think about what you know about the people on your cold email list - including their name, industry, department, pain points or hot buttons, etc - and write out subject lines that you feel will resonate with your target market. Then test to see what works best for you.

Mistake #4 - Too much content

Your prospects inbox is loaded.

Their time is limited.

Their attention span is short.

Don't make the mistake of saying too much or going to deep. Your prospect needs to know who you are and why you're writing, and understand why they might want to take action of some sort (what's in it for them, some social proof/what you achieved for others like them). Beyond that, you're likely saying too much.

Remember, this is a personal one-to-one email, not a marketing blast.

Mistake #5 - Asking for Too Much Commitment

Just because a prospect opens and reads your email, doesn't mean they're suddenly captivated and ready to ink a deal.

Your goal should be to hit upon a pain point or highlight something that would benefit them, and to open the door to a next step.

An open-ended, "Do you have a few minutes to discuss this week?" is a great one. Keep it simple. Don't overwhelm. Don't ask for too much.


Cold emailing can be an extremely profitable customer acquisition strategy for your business, you just need to make sure you are doing it right. With cold email volume is rarely the key. Instead, focus on targeting, and then send a carefully crafted, personalized email that resonates. Avoiding the mistakes above is critical to success of your campaign.

What's your best tip for an effective cold email strategy?

The Ultimate Guide to Cold Calls and Outbound

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