Cold emails: How to find your ideal prospects
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Research shows that for every dollar spent on email marketing, companies net $49 back.
But that statistic does not hold true for cold emails. For many marketers, cold emails are the elusive unicorn. They’ve heard the successes of others—but they struggle to replicate those same results.
So they ditch their cold email strategy—or shortchange it.
But more often than not, cold email itself isn’t to blame for poor results. The execution is.
If you email the wrong people, they won’t respond, they won’t convert, and they ultimately won’t buy. Companies waste years following the wrong email strategy. It doesn’t matter if you have accurate email addresses (which we discuss later in this article) or the perfect copy.
First and foremost you need to identify the right people to cold email. Once you target your prospects, you need to find those contacts’ email addresses.
We dive into both of these below. Let’s begin.
Tip 1: Finding dissatisfied competitor customers
At a high-level, you want to find the names and job titles of people who are in a position to convert—if your pitch hits the mark. These folks are pretty far in the funnel. They tend to deliver your best ROI.
For cold emails, customers of your competitors are a goldmine. Specifically, customers of your competitors who are dissatisfied are your best bet for conversions.
That’s why before you start cold emailing you should know:
- How your competitors acquire customers
- What happens to these customers after they purchase
For example, if you buy Salesforce, it’s a near certainty that at some point you’ll end up on Trailhead, their tutorial site.
If you ever have problems with their product (something competitors can leverage in cold emails), you’ll start posting in their forums.
Many people who post on forums create a profile page—it’s often a requirement to post. That profile page typically includes a LinkedIn profile link—an invaluable piece of information for your cold email efforts. As you see in this forum profile below, the Salesforce customer added links to several social media profiles:
If you were a competing CRM, Salesforce’s forum is indeed an excellent place to start.
But it’s not the only place to go.
Tip 2: Other places to find your competitors’ customers
There are a tremendous number of online channels you can scrape for potentially dissatisfied customers.
Here is a list of places we look to find prospects who are as far into the customer journey as possible:
- Customer logos from competitor landing pages
- Sales webinars (poach names from these webinars)
- Testimonial answers from YouTube channels
- Twitter (track down everyone who tweet-mentions a competitor)
- Case study customers and testimonials from competitor websites
- Chrome Store reviewers
- Third-party review sites like GetApp, TrustRadius, Capterra (combine the names you find with Clearbit)
None of these are guaranteed to work, but all are worth exploring. It typically only takes 5 to 10 minutes of researching per tactic to see whether it’s viable. If it’s not, move on to the next.
This is not an exhaustive list. There are several other channels known to uncover valuable prospects--at minimal effort. We reveal these channels--and tips to leverage their potential--in our 4-week growth training course.
How to turn your list of names, job titles, and companies into the actual email addresses you want
You can’t email people without their email address. Finding an email address is one of the most significant sticking points for people new to cold emailing. It’s why so many give up before they ever really started.
There are two elements you should know when it comes to finding emails:
- Where emails live: It helps to know where emails are made publicly available.
- Email-finding tools: You don’t have to do this alone. There is software that unlocks emails using other profiles or information.
Tip 3: Discovering where emails live
One of the quickest and easiest ways to find emails of your prospects is right on their website. The sitelinks in the header and footer can often point you the right direction.
Here is an example of a website, with the recommendations on how to use that information to find prospects’ emails:
In addition to websites, here are some of the ways we’ve harvested emails in the past:
GitHub is useful for targeting developers and some designers. You can also search an email address in the search box and see if it turns up a profile.
Tip: Create a program that automatically scrapes GitHub for designers who followed specific projects aligned with your products.
Google Groups are often easy to join, with emails available once you’re welcomed to the group. Google Groups has been a mainstay of cold email prospecting for years.
Admittedly, this requires a bit more work, but if someone has a blog or portfolio site, there is usually an about page. And on that about page is typically an email address—or at least a contact form.
This is great if you’re a B2G company.
Tip 4: Using prospecting tools and strategies to find email addresses
There is value in investing the time to find email addresses manually. But it’s not your only option. There are many prospecting tools explicitly designed to help you find email addresses. Below is a comprehensive (although not exhaustive) list.
We share more prospecting tools in our growth-marketing course.
1. Clearbit Connect — Designed to help you find business emails
Clearbit Connect helps you find virtually anyone’s business email address in under 5 seconds. It also gives you 100 free credits, which is great for any startup on a budget.
Clearbit Connect is almost always the first place we start for finding B2B emails. It’s not, however, as powerful for B2C.
Similar tools to Clearbit Connect include:
These are often not always as accurate as Clearbit, but they’re rather inexpensive or, in some cases, free.
This tool gives you lists of people by job title, industry, company size, seniority, and more. When you pair this with a tool like Clearbit or ContactOut, you can turn a LinkedIn profile into a viable email address in seconds.
3. LinkedIn Request
This is a strategy with a slightly lower hit-rate—but it's worth testing. Send your prospects a LinkedIn request. Once your prospect accepts, you’ll be able to see their email address on their profile.
First, to use LinkedIn InMail, you need to upgrade to a Premium account.
Why do you need InMail vs. sending a request to connect? Asking a stranger to connect on LinkedIn can be awkward—and ineffective. InMail bridges that gap by letting you send an email to a LinkedIn profile, without requesting to connect.
5. Sales Navigator Lite (Previously called Rapportive)
This tool lets you type an email address into Gmail to see if it matches a LinkedIn profile (usingLinkedIn’s internal data). This is great when you’re looking up personal emails, since most people use a predictable combination of their first and last name, sometimes with a period separating the two.
If you have to do a lot of manual research and it doesn’t make sense to hire a programmer to automate what you’re doing, hire someone off Upwork for under $10 an hour.
Lead Generation is now a specialty on Upwork and has its own category.
Recommend to the freelancer that they guess the firstname.lastname@example.org combination of potential hires. Then have the freelancer test those addresses against the Rapportive Chrome extension to see whether they matched with real LinkedIn profiles.
After years of doing this, we have a tip when using Upwork: Make it extremely clear to the freelancer they should not reach out to the prospects or mention your name or company. We have some great horror stories.
Making the most of your cold email strategy
We often see companies fall into one of two traps with cold email outreach:
- They hit a wall and give up before making any real progress
- They invest too much time and resources into channels that don’t deliver worthy returns
The tips above are designed to address both these traps. With a variety of tools and tricks to work with you should never have to invest more than a few minutes on any given strategy before deciding if it’s worth continuing.
While cold emailing requires more effort than automating email workflows to existing customers, this strategy can be one of your most powerful tools in expanding your reach to newer audiences.