3 Challenges and 4 opportunities in cold mailing — a hands-on analysis and evaluation

Find a list of most important action items when it comes to setting up a cold mailing strategy from scratch

By Jana Pelchen

Our job at Project A is to support our ventures operationally with the expertise they need to further grow and scale their business. For one of our portfolio companies in the digital health space, we introduced cold mailing into the marketing mix to optimize their lead generation activities.

In this 8-minutes read you will learn about the cautions and opportunities of cold mailing, we identified during the implementation and execution process in regards to this digital health provider. Also, we’ll provide you with a list of most important action items when it comes to setting up a cold mailing strategy. These learnings and insights can be further used as a base for cold mailing integration decisions for other companies.

The two catalysts

There were two big occasions, which acted as a catalyst for the digital healthcare provider and kick-started the company’s growth immensely. The first one is Covid19.

No surprise, Covid19 changed the German healthcare system tremendously.

Secondly, the provision of the company’s service to Germany’s publicly insured sector. Overnight, 83 million german residents suddenly had the opportunity to consult a doctor from home via the company’s app.

From then on, patients were able to get prescriptions, sick notes or medical referrals in a couple of minutes online and without leaving the couch at home.

All eyes on clinicians

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

While we’ve talked about the benefits to patients and the sudden growth of the company, we haven’t yet mentioned one crucial player: the clinicians.

But where to find clinicians with the right profile? Where to find clinicians who are open for new professional challenges? Well, we can tell you, You won’t find them on LinkedIn or on general career pages.

Instead, we aimed to increase our overall digital activities as opposed to focusing on general offline recruiting activities. To extend our online marketing efforts, we focused on channels that allowed us to reach clinicians at their workplaces. We identified email as a suitable channel for this purpose, as doctors can check their inboxes at a quieter time of the day during their mostly hectic and busy practice days. So, we introduced cold mailing to the cross-channel approach for clinicians.

Risks and opportunities in cold mailing

As a channel, cold mailing has a bad reputation. Nevertheless, it is a powerful tool for gaining awareness. Before diving deeper into the “how”, I’d like to share a couple of identified risks and opportunities when evaluating cold mailing for your business.


1. Legal

Cold mailing is a sensitive topic in Germany. By sending cold emails, you’re addressing people who haven’t given their permission to be contacted (no DOI confirmation). In other words — due to GDPR it is noncompliant to contact people with cold emails. A company that ignores data privacy can incur high fines as the prominent example of Delivery Hero Germany GmbHhas shown. To be on the safe side, you should consult a legal advisor from the beginning of the project to get a clear understanding of the opportunities and risks.

2. Dependencies

When introducing cold mailing to the channel mix, you should take the various stakeholders into account. In bigger firms, such as in the case of our portfolio partner, IT security is crucial when selecting and approving your toolset.
As mentioned above, you’ll need support from your legal department should you receive a written warning or are threatened with a fine. Additionally, you should consider allocating enough customer service resources to accommodate potential responses from the recipients. Be aware of your dependencies with those departments and estimate enough time for communication and approval.

3. Lower performance

People receive a lot of emails each day. Now imagine you receive an email from an unknown sender who you haven’t given permission to contact you. And beyond that, the content of the email is to sell something which does not interest you — would you click? Surely not.

Expect to see that with this daily overflow in user’s email inboxes, cold mailing isn’t the best performing channel. That means if you sent an email to 100 people, you’d be doing well if two respond.


1. Quantity of contacts

As we learned already, with a cold email, everyone in your recipient list is addressed, regardless of whether they have given their permission or not. Logically, ignoring the users’ DOI email confirmations results in a higher amount (not necessarily quality) of the sender volume. The higher the number of contacts that you address, the more likely someone will respond to your email.

2. Lead quality

With your cold mailing audience list, you have the power to decide exactly who you want to target. In the example of the digital healthcare provider, we only added clinicians to the send out list when their profiles matched the companies requirements.

So, the replies that we received to the cold email outreach came automatically and only from qualified leads. If you pay attention and invest effort in researching contacts for the upper funnel, you can save time and other resources for lead validation in the lower funnel.

3. Low costs

Compared to other marketing channels such as SEA or Display, the channel email is known as a cost-effective channel. The same applies to cold mailing, which incurs the general costs of sending tools and validating lists. In relation to this and considering a list size of 1,000 contacts, you can estimate with a CPM (cost per mail) of 0.06 € (plus maintenance costs).

4. Limited competition

Not every company has the resources and expertise, and is “bold” enough to use cold mailing. But because you are and because you are well prepared (more tips in the next paragraphs) you’ll have the chance to succeed.

Action items for a cold mail campaign

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

The goal of cold mailing is to write emails that get replies. And the final key to getting responses is an engaging email copy. Before users can see and act on the copy itself, you need to take several actions. Below those action items are highlighted step by step.

Set up the frame

Firstly, pick a send out tool. We decided on Lemlist. Lemlist is predestined for generating an automated cold email approach with a basic report dashboard, it’s easy to handle and it’s available at a fair price.

Secondly, there is always the risk that your mails will get reported as spam. To be on the safe side, you should create a new and autonomous sender domain and an appropriate sender name. Be aware when you start sending from a new domain, you need to warm up the domain first. In other words, slowly increase the send out volume.

The email copy

After the frame is set up, the next step is the email copy which consists of the subject line, text copy, CTA, personalization, signature.

Subject lines have a significant impact on open rates. There are lots of different ways to write successful subject lines, but offering relevant value is one of the best ways to approach it.

When it comes to the text copy, stay as personal as possible. Hello “firstname lastname” is just the beginning. You should consider a personal tone of voice. Don’t let the email sound like one of those many sales pitches. Try to find the hook and make it clear to the readers what you want from them. Avoid images and share information about where you found their contact details. This solves uncertainty and might avoid being reported as spam. Finally, add an opt-out option as well as the possibility to delete the users’ contact details. Finish the mail by letting recipients know who is talking to them with a reputable signature.

The audience list

As mentioned previously, the quality and health of the audience list determine the quality of the leads as well as the email deliverability and your sender reputation. Pay attention when setting up lists and audit them before starting the dispatch. This will save valuable resources in the process if done carefully.

In terms of list health, there are email validation tools such as Zerobouncewhich exclude invalid email addresses, bounces or spam traps from the list and therefore increase the inbox placement rate and avoid being blocked.

Sending and monitoring

As soon as the previously mentioned steps are in place and approved by the relevant stakeholders, it’s time to finally start the dispatch. Start sending in small batches and slowly increase the sender volumes in order to not burn the domain. In the beginning, keep an eye on the campaign performance especially bounces, complaints and unsubscribes. To further improve the campaign, use hypothesis-driven A/B testing to optimize open rate, click rate and conversion rate and to identify the best approach for your audience.


That’s it. In a nutshell:

  1. When doing cold mailing, you are operating in a grey zone. Due to this sensitivity, always consider enough time for IT security approval and especially legal consultancy.
  2. The quantity of addresses is essential. Find suitable sources which provide you with the quantity and quality of addresses you need and validate them with tools like Zerobounce in order to remove potential spam traps and keep your list healthy.
  3. Choose an appropriate send out tool, e.g. Lemlist.
  4. Set up new sender domains specifically for your project and slowly warm them up.
  5. Think about: Subject lines have a significant impact on open rates. What brings your audience value and how can you adapt it to your business?
  6. When it comes to the text copy, be as personal as possible, let the recipients know where you got their contact data from and give them the opportunity to opt-out from your mailing list.
  7. Finally, send in small batches in order to not burn your domain and use A/B testing to further improve your performance.

The impact of cold mailing on the outcome of the clinician recruiting activities was more superior than expected. This made cold mailing one of the most powerful channels in terms of lead quality for the digital healthcare provider and also one of the cheapest channels in the marketing mix.