Why Everyone Needs Email Prospecting — Even If They Hate Email

Email prospecting is still the best way to reach leads at the companies you want to partner with. Why? People check their inboxes a lot, whether it’s during normal business hours, on vacation, in the bathroom — basically, everywhere. And beyond spam filters, there are no gatekeepers for the messages they receive. If you can get your emails to land in your leads’ inboxes, and use compelling subject lines to prompt them to open, you’re more likely to get conversations going than if you tried cold calling or posting on social media.

There was a time when cold calling was viewed as the best way to prospect for new business. Then, about ten years ago, leads seemed to stop picking up the phone for people they didn’t know. 

But not email — especially when they were conversational, non-salesy, and direct.

Data for Email Prospecting

Once the focus shifted from cold calling to emails, plenty of marketers wanted to get onboard. But that came with its own initial set of challenges, starting with: how do you get enough email addresses for the people you want to target?

The methods for that haven’t changed much over the years. You can go to a tradeshow and get an attendee list, you can travel around town collecting business cards, and you can purchase lead lists from data aggregate companies for contacts you hope are still accurate.

Those might all sound like good options initially, except: a) tradeshows and business cards can be limiting and require a lot of manual data entry; and b) purchased lists are often expensive and inaccurate.

Enter prospecting automation. By using specific data points from lead lists, prospecting automation has the ability to find and verify current email addresses for those contacts.

Is this process always successful? Unfortunately, no. There’s always a chance that an inbox will deny an email sent with prospecting automation due to privacy restrictions, or that a certain contact no longer works at the company where they’re initially reported.

But, like most aspects of digital marketing, it’s about casting a wide enough net so that you get a sufficient amount of verified contacts to feed into your normal sales funnel — and prospecting automation is the most effective use of your time to do that.

This automation also protects your core domain (website) and the sender reputation of your normal work email accounts from being blacklisted while it’s emailing hundreds to thousands of contacts.

Subject Lines for Email Prospecting

Most leads only take a matter of seconds to scan their inboxes and determine the relevance of their unread messages. That means that you only have an instant to grab their attention enough that they open your emails.

How do you do that?

It’s tempting to be salesy — for instance, Get this deal for a limited time only! — but that kind of language comes with a few issues.

First, it looks like plenty of other sales emails out there, so it’s easier to ignore. Second, it presumes leads already know who you are, and that they’re expecting to hear those kinds of promotions from you.

If you were emailing qualified leads — i.e., those who have opted in to hear from you — this sales approach might be expected and appropriate. But when they’re still at the prospecting stage, leads respond better to email subject lines that look like they’re starting casual, one-on-one conversations.

For example,

Thought you might find this interesting
These regulations have changed
Have you had trouble with [x]?
Do you need more [y]?

Content for Email Prospecting

There’s a tendency among some marketers and sales reps to want to cram as much information as possible into their cold emails. The thought process is that leads won’t open every email, so it’s better to have everything available for them when they finally do. 

The problem? Leads don’t have time for that much content all at once. Just like they skimmed the subject line, they’ll skim the message body, too.

That’s why we encourage our clients to be brief in their prospecting emails: preferably four to five sentences at most.

Are you tempted to ask your leads a lot of questions? We recommend reigning that in, too. Ask two at most in the message body to avoid confusing your leads or making them feel like they’re filling out surveys.

We also find that prospecting emails work best in a specific series:

Navigate. Have the first email that a lead opens be a navigational email that asks them who the best person is to talk to about new business.

Invite. Once you’ve confirmed who the right person is, ask them for a phone call. Follow up a few times in case they don’t immediately respond.

Educate. If these leads decline your phone calls but don’t opt out from your prospecting, continue to reach out a couple of times each month with short content emails. These should offer some sort of value to your leads, address their pain points, and share solutions they can use to improve their business. Include minimal links to push them to your website. Continue to encourage them to have phone calls with you, or perform some other relevant calls to action.

Those leads who accept your calls can then be qualified and — ideally — moved to your normal marketing and sales cycles.

Key Performance Indicators

Obviously, if your response rate improves, you know your emails are getting attention. Then it’s a matter of qualifying those leads to confirm that you’re targeting the right audience. 

But what about the prospects who don’t respond to your email outreach? Does that mean they aren’t worth keeping in your database?

Not necessarily. Depending on your industry and normal sales cycle, it may simply be that most of your leads don’t have an immediate need for what you offer. That doesn’t mean they won’t down the line, so it’s important to see who’s been opening your emails, clicking on links to your website, and reviewing specific pages.

This electronic behavior will help you determine who your best leads are to continue emailing, or even follow up with directly through phone calls and social media requests (LinkedIn).

What electronic behavior indicates successful emails?

In the past, this was often gauged by open rates. Healthy navigational emails would often see 1 – 3 percent, while content emails averaged 12 – 25. But with Apple’s iOS update throwing these into question, marketers like HubSpot now promote click-to-open rates (CTORs) as the better metric: the number of unique clicks divided by unique opens, multiplied by 100.

These can show you who’s actually using the links in your email to go to your website and spend time looking at what you do. As for an ideal CTOR, Constant Contact reports that the average is around 11%, with the caveat that this may vary based on industry.

When To Send Prospecting Emails

What’s the best time to send your emails to your potential customers? Some will tell you 10 AM; others will say 4 PM. The same goes for which day: some swear on Tuesdays, while others prefer to email later in the week. The answer about when to send is that it depends, and you’ll have to perform your own comparison testing to see if a certain day and time works better based on your target audience.

While we can’t speak to specific times, our general recommendation is to email on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays — not at the beginning or end of the traditional work week.


1) Mondays are typically busy for most leads as they ease back into the work week. Sending midweek also gives your leads at least 24 hours to respond to an email without the next weekend interfering.

2) Ideally, the soonest you want to follow up with a lead after your last email is 48 hours. This is easier when you start on a Tuesday, so your follow-up can go out on a Thursday — and the lead still has time to respond by Friday at the latest.

Help With Your Email Prospecting

Would you like assistance developing and maintaining a database of new leads? We can walk you through what that process looks like, and help you develop effective prospecting emails. When you’re ready, click the link below to schedule time for a free discussion.

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