6 Reasons Your Cold Outreach Campaign is Underperforming| What to Do About It

6 Reasons Your Cold Outreach Campaign is Underperforming| What to Do About It

If you’re a startup or have reached a stage where you need to ramp up marketing, then cold outreach campaigns are one of the first strategies you should try. They are cheaper to execute, easier to scale, and more likely to succeed.  

Here are some numbers that you should pique your interest:

  • In 2021, the worldwide email users stand at 4.1 billion, which is set to increase to 4.6 billion by 2025 – Statista
  • Email newsletters are the most used element in content marketing for B2B marketers – Content Marketing Institute
  • 64% of small businesses rely on emails to connect with customers – Campaign Monitor

Every business tries a cold email campaign at least once because the ROI is undeniably amazing. But not every business sees great results because it’s very easy to mess up cold emails.

If your email campaign isn’t quite hitting the mark or if you’re not aware of the do’s and don’ts of successful cold outreach campaigns, this guide will open up more than a few new doors for you. 

Here are 6 reasons why your cold outreach campaign is failing to yield results and how you can fix them:

1. You’re mailing to the wrong person

More often than not, cold campaigns fail because they don’t reach the right inbox at the right time.

Take this for example: if you’re a bookkeeping outsourcing startup, and you’re mailing to the content head of a company, you’re unlikely to get a reply. It’s because it’s not the recipient’s job to reply to these emails. You’d need to look for the contact details of the CFO or a decision-maker in their finance department. 

How to fix it:

Knowing whom to reach is the crucial first step. To find the contact details of the relevant person in the company, you need to dive deep into the research.

Start with checking the website, the about us, and the contact us pages to find contact details. If you have a name, search their social media profiles to find their professional email addresses. Another great way to find contact details within a company is by using an email finder tool

You also need to remember that not all the email addresses you find are active. People often change jobs or positions but forget to update their addresses. They can also deactivate their old inbox. Emailing to irrelevant addresses not only ruins your campaign metrics but also increases spam triggers. That’s why you must verify your email list to keep it lean and active.

2. Your emails look half-baked or robotic

A lot of companies try to play it safe when it comes to cold outreach campaigns. You’re sending cold emails. The prospect doesn’t know about you. You have nothing to lose by standing out, but everything to gain. 

If you’re using an off-the-shelf email template that hasn’t been updated since 2015, your emails will come across as if you haven’t put any effort into them.  

How to fix it:

The fear of infusing creativity is a shortcut to being invisible in a cluttered inbox. That’s why you need to personalize emails to fit the recipient’s profile. When browsing through their social media or company updates, find points of commonality and use them to start the email. Alternatively, you can look into the technology they’re running at the backend to see where you fit in. 

Take this one for example:

Hi James,

I just came across your article on Entrepreneur and loved the way you positioned sales automation technology in the context of the pandemic. We at {company name} help sales teams like yours zoom past low-quality leads with patented software. 

This email introduction is an ice breaker, a point of commonality on which the sender can build their case. By contextualizing your emails, you ensure people not only read them but also take action. 

3. You’re not offering value to the recipient

In cold emails, you have a little time to put your case forward. Most companies get stuck in polishing their value proposition and forget that it’s about the recipient and not them. 

It’s important to remember that no one cares about your business as much as you do. With too much emphasis on what you do, you might be forgetting to tell how it can help your prospect. 

How to fix it: 

Start by putting yourself in the recipient’s shoes and answer this: ‘What’s in it for me?’

Check this email:

This email does a perfect job of offering value and keeping the recipient engaged. Far too many emails contain a narcissistic and often desperate tone to sell something. Instead, position yourself as the value provider and show the benefits that you or your business brings to the table. 

One clever way to do it is by replacing the first person words (I, we, us) into second person (you, your) words. That way, you can quickly shift your perspective and fetch a reply. 

You can also offer value with free content. If you’re into SEO, provide a free but basic SEO audit for the website, if you’re pitching for a guest post, send a topic, outline, and the angles you want to cover. Here’s a well-prepared pitch that gets the job done:

Hunter Templates

4. You’re not focusing on the subject lines

Subject lines are as small as they’re powerful. Even if you cover all the bases, not spending enough time to craft subject lines might be the reason why your outreach campaign is falling flat on the floor. 

How to fix it:

Taking a cue from the previous point, you’d want to provide the most value upfront – give them the reasons to open your mail. Here are 5 point steps to create scroll-stopping subject lines:

  • Keep it short and to the point. You don’t have the luxury to beat around the bush
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment with punctuation marks and emojis, if it fits the context
  • Use the name of the recipient or the company to show you’ve done your research. Personalize and contextualize with a recognizable angle
  • Always try to make it as unique and attention-grabbing as possible but stay away from deceptive or salesy words. Unhappy recipients might just mark you as spam which will increase your bounce rate.
  • Use the preheader text box to elaborate the subject line. Don’t leave it empty or worse: ask recipients to open the email in a browser.
  • Track your emails to get data-driven insights on what works to get opens and replies.

Here’s a series of subject lines Copyblogger used to drive home their value to their target audience: writers.

5. Your email copy is simply not good enough

This is one fatal flaw that not many marketers are willing to accept. Sometimes, your email design and copy are simply not good enough to warrant a response. 

How to fix it:

There are a lot of ways you can improve and keep refining the email body. Start by keeping it short. No one likes to read a wall of text and jargon. 

Next, format your email body by breaking it into multiple short paragraphs and using plenty of white space. Like the one, you’re reading right now. 

Then, use one of the oldest copywriting strategies in the book: AIDA. AIDA stands for attention, interest, desire, and action. Your copy needs to evoke the emotions in that order. 

Up next, create one compelling call to action or CTA. We see far too many marketers not knowing how to end an email because they cram multiple CTAs in a bid to increase the response rate. It doesn’t work. Multiple CTAs only confuse readers and you’re just creating unnecessary friction. 

And finally, create your emails for the smartphone ratio. 67% of Generation Z checks emails on mobile and there’s no reason for them to read poorly formatted cold emails. 

Here’s a great example of properly formatted email copy with a compelling subject line:

Hunter Templates 

6. You don’t follow up

Sending a cold email is just the start. If you move on from a prospect after not getting a reply the first time, you’re setting your campaign up for failure. 

Think of it as basic psychology – you’ve just been approached by a company that you didn’t know before. It’ll take you some time to warm up to their services. In the meantime, what you want is to see more of their services and the efforts they put to reach you out and give you the reason to interact with them.

That’s why following up is so important. People receive hundreds of emails every day. Even if you send solid emails to the right people, you cannot expect a reply immediately.

How to fix it:

While rolling out a cold outreach campaign, include a follow-up strategy as well. Ideally, you’ll want 2-3 follow-up emails spaced between 2-4 weeks to nurture the prospect. With each new follow-up, you should provide more value and reiterate your offer. This is a good follow up template: 

Hunter Templates

To start you off, weekdays see more engagements than weekends. Emails sent at and after 8 AM work the best and it more or less stays the same except midday, post-lunch, and 7 PM to 7 AM, when we see a dip. Ultimately, you need to find the days and times that work for YOUR audience so don’t be afraid to experiment with your follow-up strategy.

Summing up

Successful email campaigns have a lot to do with empathy and imagination. You need to put yourself in your prospects’ shoes and ask – will I open the emails I’m writing?

Your emails must show the efforts you’re putting in. Using an email campaign manager is always a good idea but don’t ignore the importance of individuality. If you can address the 6 issues mentioned here, you’ll surely see an uptick in the metrics. 


Irina Maltseva – Head of Marketing at Hunter. I enjoy working on inbound and product marketing strategies. In my spare time, I entertain my cat Persie and collect airline miles.

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