What are Cold Emails? A Beginners Guide to Cold Emailing Practices

Though the definition of cold emails may seem obvious, it is important to understand what separates cold emails from other marketing tools

If you run a business or are in the professional world, it’s very likely that you’ve heard about cold emailing before. Though it’s a well known and common practice, there is still a lot of underlying confusion as to what cold emails are and are not. So, even if you’ve been considering integrating a cold email campaign into your sales plan — or are just plain curious — keep reading to find out what cold emails are and how they should be used.

What are Cold Emails?

Let’s define what cold emailing is and how it works in the business world

Cold emails are trickier to execute than you might think.

A cold email, by definition, is an unsolicited email sent out to a recipient in order to garner a response, a conversion, a business opportunity, or some other end goal. In most cases, a cold email has a specific purpose in mind and a clear call to action. Let’s take a look at some examples of situations where cold emails are appropriate:

  • Students reaching out to companies to inquire about internship opportunities
  • Professionals looking to establish more contacts
  • Sales departments sending out emails as part of an initiative

Any of these scenarios are good reasons to send out a cold email. However, Depending on your end goal, each email will look a little bit different. Before we get ahead of ourselves, it’s time to take a look at what makes cold emailing such a powerful sales tool.

What Makes Cold Emailing So Important?

Cold emails can expand your network and win you new clients when executed correctly

Cold emails can help you reach a brand new audience.

Though there are some that may argue, cold emailing is an extremely effective and powerful tool for those looking to make sales or make connections. In fact, most businesses who use cold email strategy focus on one of two different goals: networking and demand generation.


To effectively execute a networking cold email strategy, you need to anticipate your target audience’s needs. For example, if you work for a company that manufactures home exercise equipment, you should aim to send messages to people who are interested in building a home gym. When your target receives an email that is similar to their recent searches or preferences, prospective customers are much more likely to respond.

Demand Generation:

Demand generation, unlike networking, creates demand for a product or service that may have been previously unknown to your target audience. The purpose of these emails are to generate interest in your product or service by creating leads. Once you’ve identified a lead from your email campaign, it’s time to start selling.

What Makes Cold Emails Different From Other Email Marketing Materials?

Cold emailing is all about is knowing what should go into each message and knowing which aspects to leave out

Before you start your campaign, make sure you are writing for the right audience.

Now that we know a little more about what cold emails are and how they can generate sales, we should go over some examples of what they are not. Cold emails and the more vague term “email marketing” are often used interchangeably. However, these refer to two very different practices. 

Email marketing is a broader umbrella term that refers to any kind of marketing that takes place via email. This is often different from cold emails, since many email marketing campaigns require recipients to opt-in to email marketing to receive a newsletter or some other form of email update. While this is an effective way to use emails to engage your audience, the goal of cold emails is to establish an audience.

What separates cold emailing from other marketing strategies is the fact that this is the first time the recipient has heard from you. Any marketing strategy that requires customers to sign up is no longer a cold email, since the recipient has already visited your site and is likely somewhat familiar with your brand. 

A fundamental difference between cold emails and email marketing is how you established your relationship with a new customer. This is an extremely important distinction to make. Otherwise, you could end up sending familiar sounding emails to brand new prospects — which is very confusing. If you’re sending email marketing materials without a clear sales pitch as cold emails, it is unlikely that you’ll create any conversions.

Now that we’ve explored what constitutes a cold email and what does not, it’s time for you to start planning your marketing strategy. In general, for new businesses cold emailing can be an excellent way to reach out to customers and drive initial sales. For a more established business, email marketing might be the better choice since it is likely you already have a customer base. So, before you start sending out cold emails, take time to review the key characteristics that make up an effective cold email.