If you’re thinking of starting a cold email agency, you’re in the right place.

In our view, it’s an excellent business model. As long as you get results for your clients, a cold email agency can generate consistent cash flow and is highly scalable.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about starting a cold email agency, from the benefits of the business model to the core principles to have in place before launching, right through to a step-by-step process to running your agency operations.

  1. What is a Cold Email Agency?

  2. Why is a Cold Email Agency a Good Business to Start?

  3. First Steps in Starting a Cold Email Agency

  4. 8 Steps to Getting Results for Your Cold Email Agency Clients

  5. 5 Tools to Use in Your Cold Email Agency Stack

Let’s dive in.

What is a Cold Email Agency?

A cold email agency is a business that helps clients generate leads through cold email outreach.

As a cold email agency owner, you’ll spend your time sourcing new agency clients, setting up email campaigns for your clients, and organizing the lead handoff process. If your cold email campaigns attract the right type of leads, your clients will be able to close them without much difficulty and will grow their business.

Your clients will be happy to keep working with you and paying for the leads you generate.

Why is a Cold Email Agency a Good Business to Start?

There are several good reasons to start a cold email agency. Let’s take a look:

1. Always in Demand

Businesses always need more clients. If your agency can generate warm leads for others, your services will always be in demand.

David Valentine, CEO of Avadel – a performance-driven lead generation agency – told us: "Cold email is still the MOST effective way to generate leads in 2023. Our 81 clients book 88% of all of their meetings through cold email."

There are hundreds of businesses in every industry that are either:

  • Struggling with other lead generation channels

  • Wanting to boost their existing customer acquisition efforts

When you approach them with the low-risk value proposition of generating leads for them using cold email, most business owners will be open to a conversation about working together.

2. Doesn’t Require a Large Initial Investment

Cold email agencies don’t require much upfront capital to start. 

Rachel Haley, former CPO of Avadel and current COO of QuickMail who has booked over 11k meetings in 2 years using cold email says: "With cold email, you can get killer results on a shoestring budget. If you’re looking for low-risk and big wins - cold email should be central in your B2B strategy."

All you need to start is:

  • A basic website with an overview of your services

  • An email domain to run your own outreach campaigns to potential clients 

  • A cold email platform like QuickMail to run campaigns

  • A simple CRM to track your leads

Due to this low cost, it’s a relatively risk-free business to start.

If you don't succeed, you won’t have spent more than a few hundred dollars and your time on the business.

If you see results, you’ll quickly be generating cash flow and can start to invest in additional software or new hires to help you scale your agency faster.

3. Results-Driven Business Model

Another excellent part of the cold email agency business model is that it’s results-driven. Most agencies use a pay-per-lead model with a setup fee or retainer.

This means clients are exclusively paying for results.

In return, it’s easier to convince potential clients to try out your services.

When your agency performs well and generates a high volume of leads, the clients will be happy, and pay you for every lead you generate.

First Steps in Starting a Cold Email Agency

You don’t need to create a multi-page business plan to launch a successful agency, but you do need to have a basic plan in place. Here are some elements you need to consider before setting up your agency.

1. Who is Your Target Customer?

First, decide who your ideal customer is.

You’ll see the best results if your agency is niched down to one particular industry. For example, you may just work with SaaS companies, or you could focus on serving real estate agencies.

Having a focus does two things:

  • It makes it easier to identify potential clients for your agency

  • It helps you build specific expertise that you can leverage to get better results for your clients

It’s usually best if you have some prior experience in an industry. For example, if you’ve worked for multiple years in one industry and know what it takes to generate leads there, you should utilize that expertise.

There’s nothing wrong with starting a cold email agency in a niche you don’t have much prior experience in, but it will take time to learn what type of cold email templates get results in that niche. As well as that, there’s a risk that you don’t fully understand the value proposition of your clients, which could hurt your results. 

2. Establishing Core Agency KPIs

You need to know what KPIs and metrics your agency will be tracked on.

It’s vital to clarify this upfront because your clients will want to know and it’ll be an important discussion point in your sales calls.

An example, suppose the core KPI that you report to clients is your Email Open Rate. For most clients, that would be a dealbreaker because the metric doesn’t tie into the core business results they’re looking for: new sales.

Instead, you could make your core KPI something like the Number of Meetings Booked. 

As soon as a potential client sees this, they’ll be more willing to trust your offer. The benefit is extremely tangible to them, and they know that you’re doing the legwork – all they have to do is close the deal.

3. Who Will be Your First Clients?

Most potential clients want to see proof that you can get results before they sign a contract.

Research from G2 found that 92% of B2B decision-makers are more likely to make a buying decision after seeing social proof.

To get that, you’ll need:

  • Case studies showing your results

  • Testimonials from decision-makers

If you don’t have these things upfront, you can consider reaching out to your existing network of contacts, or people you think would make great clients for your agency.

Offer them your cold email services for either a discounted rate or for free, but with the caveat that if you get results they’d be willing to work with you on a case study or share a positive review.

After gathering two or three case studies, you can start to use these in your own cold emails to potential clients, proving that you can do what you say.

4. Choosing Your Cold Email Agency Pricing Model

Pay-per-lead is the most common business model for cold email marketing agencies. In short, it means that your clients pay a fixed fee for every meeting you book with a lead.

It works for a few good reasons:

  • It’s low-risk for your clients, as they only pay for results

  • The better your agency performs, the more revenue you’ll generate

The main risk with a pay-per-lead model is that clients agree to work with you but then aren’t serious about the engagement. When you come back to them with appointments for calls with qualified leads, they don’t want to pay.

To avoid this, you can add a small retainer fee or add an initial setup fee to your contracts. Even if it’s a small amount compared to the revenue generated through each lead you generate, it shows that your clients are committed to working with you.

Once you’ve started closing new clients, it’s time to create a consistent process that you can use to scale your agency service delivery, deliver results, and generate revenue.

8 Steps to Getting Results for Your Cold Email Agency Clients

1. Learning About Your Clients

A fundamental part of any effective cold email campaign is understanding the value proposition that makes prospects interested in learning more about a product or service.

As a cold email marketing agency owner, you need to learn about every client you work with so you can pitch the best parts of their business in your cold email.

The best way to do this is with a structured onboarding process that includes a client survey.

You can ask 10-20 questions to learn about:

  • The main value propositions of your client’s product/service

  • The pain points they solve for their customers

  • Examples of success stories that their customers have seen

  • What makes their company unique compared to competitors

You can then schedule a kickoff meeting where you’ll get another chance to run through questions and clarify what your client wants your cold email templates to focus on most.

2. Setting Up Cold Email Domains for Clients

When you’re sending cold emails for clients, it needs to be on a domain that matches their company. However, you can’t do it on their main domain – if anything goes wrong and the domain deliverability is harmed, it would affect their day-to-day email activity.

Part of the process to ensure your campaigns run smoothly is to set up new cold email domains for your clients.

These domains will only be used for your campaigns, and ideally, you need 4-5 per client in case any of them encounter deliverability problems. You can then rotate between the domains to ensure there’s no downtime in campaigns.

Some clients will already have cold email domains, but if not, make sure to set them up. In most cases, it’s best if the client owns these, and you can cover the costs of the process in your agency set-up fee.

When setting up domains, make sure to:

  • Add details like a profile picture, name, and real user details to the account

  • Set up the SPF, DKIM, and DMARC records to ensure good deliverability

  • Forward the domain to the client’s main company domain

On top of those, you’ll need to warm up the new domain, which we’ll look at how to do next.

3. Warming Up Client Email Inboxes

Your cold email deliverability is critical to campaign success.

Part of that involves warming up any cold email domain you use.

The email inbox warm-up process involves spending 1-2 weeks generating email engagement on your new inbox, generating real activity to show email service providers like Gmail and Outlook that there’s a real person behind the inbox.

After a short time warming up the inbox, you’ll be ready to start sending campaigns with full confidence that your client's cold emails will land in the primary inbox.

In the past, cold email agencies had to do this manually. Your team would sign up to newsletters, send emails to colleagues and clients, and over time, the inbox would warm up.

Today, there is a range of cold email warm-up tools that automate the process.

One excellent option is Mailflow.

After connecting your client inboxes to the platform, the inbox will join an email warm-up network of other real inboxes. Your inbox will automatically send and receive emails to other inboxes, and if your emails land in the spam folder, they’ll be automatically removed and replied to.

Over time, this will show ESPs that they can trust you, and you’ll see clear reports on your deliverability performance in a dashboard.

Once your client inboxes are seeing good results in your reports, you know they’re ready to start sending campaigns from.

4. Sourcing Leads and Adding Personalization

Once your client email inboxes are warmed up, it’s time to source your prospect list.

Based on your client onboarding survey, you’ll already have details on what makes up an ideal customer for every client.

But, you’ll still need to go and identify the right leads.

To do this, you can use:

  • BuiltWith: Source prospects based on the software they use on their website

  • UpLead: Identify prospects based on company industry, sales revenue, location, job titles, and much more.

  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator: A powerful addition to LinkedIn that lets you build prospect lists, automatically monitor companies for changes, and send personalized InMails.

Source: UpLead

With these tools, you can quickly build qualified lead lists for your clients.

If you want to get results, you can’t just download each prospect's basic contact information and automatically send them an email.

You need to personalize your outreach.

To do that, you need a spreadsheet in place to manage your list. It can be simple, but needs to have a column titled “Opening Line”. In this, you’ll write a completely personalized opening line that will be included in each email template when sending to prospects.

If you’re unsure what content to include in your opening line, consider:

  • Checking the decision-maker’s LinkedIn or Twitter account

  • Using an AI-based opening line writer like QuickLines or Lyne

  • Looking through a company’s recent news on LinkedIn or Crunchbase

You can then use the information you find to write one or two short sentences that make your cold emails stand out from the rest of the emails in their inbox.

For example:

  • "Watched the recording of your talk at [event] - love the growth frameworks you shared."

  • “Awesome to see {{company.name}} featured in G2’s best product awards last month - well deserved.”

  • “Noticed you opened an office in [city] last April - how are you liking it so far?”

Any of these would be an ideal opening line. They’re personalized, unique, and you couldn’t have sent them to anyone else.

It’s vital that you spend time on this process for every client campaign.

The quality of your prospect list and the first impressions you make in your email with a personalized opening line will separate your cold email agency from the competition.

Once you have your prospect list ready, it’s time to start writing out your email templates in QuickMail.

5. Writing High-Performing Cold Email Templates

Your cold email marketing agency needs a system for writing high-performing email templates.

Cold email agencies using QuickMail have sent millions of emails and tested hundreds of template variations.

The best have several elements in common:

  • They start off with a personalized opening line (like we’ve looked at above)

  • They quickly introduce the value proposition

  • They include social proof to build trust

  • They make it simple for the recipient to reply

If your templates can check those boxes, you’ll be ahead of most other cold email agencies.

The way you convey your clients’ value propositions needs to be simple:

  • “We help real estate agencies improve close rates by 50% with our process automation software.”

  •  “My team and I help SaaS companies grow their email list 5x faster with full email client management.”

The social proof needs to show that your client gets the rest they say they can:

  • “We’ve work with clients like [well-known company #1] and [well-known company #2]”

  • We recently helped [client name] generate 54% more ROI from their campaigns with our targeting strategy.”

Your call-to-action (CTA) needs to be simple:

  • “Sounds interesting?”

  • “Do you have 15 minutes on Thursday to talk about this?”

Each element can be simple but must be relevant to your client and their ideal customer.

If you need more inspiration, check out our cold email template examples here.

Here’s a good example from RepurposeHouse:

They share a quick opening line, then dive into the problem they solve for clients. They namedrop some big-name clients and then share a personalized video for every prospect.

The call-to-action is simple but direct, and the prospect knows exactly what the next step is.

Don’t worry if you follow this process and your email templates look completely different from the example above. As long as the templates resonate with the recipients, you’ll see excellent results.

6. Sending Multi-Step Cold Email Campaigns

When your templates are ready, it’s time to load them into QuickMail.

As you write your templates, include attributes wherever you want to include custom information from your prospect list, such as a recipient’s first name, company name, or your opening line.

These attributes automatically fill with the information from your prospect list and every template is personalized.

If a prospect doesn’t respond to your first email, you can add a delay and an automatic follow-up.

After the delay, you can send a follow-up email template that gives your recipient another chance to see your client’s pitch and get a response.

When your email campaign is ready, you can preview each step, get your client’s approval if necessary, and make it live.

All you need to do next is wait for the replies to come in and report back to your client when your prospects confirm a meeting.

7. Managing Multiple Client Email Accounts

One of the biggest challenges cold email agencies face is scaling with software that isn’t made to.

QuickMail allows you to manage all of your client accounts in one place and effortlessly scale your agency operations.

You can store all accounts in the same organization, and won’t need to log in and out to check how each client campaign is performing.

Your team can jump in and out of any client campaign to make edits, update templates, or fix potential problems without the risk of affecting other client campaigns at the same time.

As well as that, your QuickMail account has an audit log. 

This tracks all changes that are made to your account so you always know who and when updates were made.

As an agency owner, this ensures you always keep tabs on what your team is doing and don’t risk client accounts being negatively affected by accidental changes.

If you can stay organized, it’ll be far easier to help your clients get the results they need.

8. Tracking Results and Reporting

Your cold email agency needs to have a clear system for identifying interested prospects and closing new meetings with them.

To help you track every positive response, you can use QuickMail’s Opportunities inbox.

This gives an overview of every response your campaigns generate. Any member of your team can jump in and respond to leads and help move the conversation toward the result you want – a meeting.

As well as that, every key campaign metric is automatically tracked.

You can easily build reports for clients, with information on:

  • Open rate

  • Click-through rate

  • Reply rate

  • Unsubscribe rate

  • Bounce rate

  • Meeting booking rate

You can even run A/B tests on individual email templates to ensure you’re maximizing the results you’re generating.

5 Tools to Use in Your Cold Email Agency Stack

As you build your cold email agency, you’ll need to consider your software stack.

Here is a selection of essential tools to help you get the best results:

  1. QuickMailSet up and run cold email campaigns for all of your clients in one place. Send automatic follow-ups to boost responses and track every key metric you and your clients care about. Try it with a free 14-day trial.

  2. UpLead: This B2B database is a more affordable alternative to ZoomInfo to build prospect lists for clients based on technographic, firmographic, and demographic data. You can export leads with verified email addresses and use them in your outreach.

  3. Calendly: A meeting booking tool that syncs with your client’s calendar, enabling you to easily set up meetings and be confident that your clients are aware of it.

  4. Pipedrive: A CRM to help you track responses and see the status of every potential lead for your clients. You can also use it to manage your own agency sales pipeline.

  5. Zapier: Your agency can use Zapier to create custom workflow automation to fit almost any scenario. For example, you can create ‘Zaps’ that send you a notification in Slack when a prospect replies, or automatically send your client an email when they get a new meeting booked. You’ll save tens of thousands in custom software development costs.

Source: Example QuickMail.com workflow automations with Zapier

Don’t go overboard with tools when you first start your agency. 

As you build workflows and get more clients, your processes will need to change. Be ready to adapt, and you’ll see the best results.

Wrapping Up

If you’re thinking about starting your own cold email agency, it’s an excellent idea. The business doesn’t require huge investment to get off the ground, will generate cash flow fast, and it’s scalable.

When starting an agency, always ensure you know who your ideal client is, what your value propositions are, and have an understanding of how you’ll acquire clients.

Once you have your first clients, you can follow the steps we’ve looked at to easily run your cold email processes and scale up to manage multiple client accounts with ease.

When you’re ready to launch your agency, you can try QuickMail with a free 14-day trial to see how it can help you get the best results from your cold outreach.