Cold email is a powerful growth channel for SaaS companies. We used it to start and grow QuickMail, and our customers now use QuickMail to send cold email campaigns to generate new leads and get more SaaS customers.

In this article, I'm going to share the steps you can take to leverage cold email to grow your SaaS business, looking at the fundamentals you need to know, tips for writing emails that get better response rates, and steps you can take to automate the whole process.

  1. Cold Email for SaaS Companies: Does It Work?

  2. Using SaaS Cold Email to Find Your Company’s First Customers

  3. How Many Cold Emails Can You Send Per Day?

  4. Building a Prospect List for Cold Email Outreach

  5. Step-by-Step Process to Sending Cold Emails That Get Replies

  6. What Kind of Results Can You Expect from Cold Email Marketing?

  7. Tools to Power Your SaaS Cold Email Outreach Efforts

  8. When to Start Using Automation Tools and Outsource a Cold Email Campaign

  9. Cold Email for SaaS: It’s All About Building Relationships

Let’s dive in.

Cold Email for SaaS Companies: Does It Work?

Cold email is the reason our SaaS company, QuickMail, exists in the first place. But, cold email works equally well as an acquisition channel for SaaS companies in almost any B2B market.

For example, TeamUp, a fitness, studio, and gym management Software-as-a-Service company, saw a 46.6% reply rate to their cold email campaigns, resulting in meetings booked, and new recurring revenue generated.

Demio, a webinar software company, set themselves a challenge to land as many new qualified customers as they could within seven days. Cold email was a cornerstone of their strategy. They used QuickMail to automate the process, and the result was this:

A calendar packed full of meetings with warm leads and decision-makers. At the end of their campaign, they landed 500 new customers, all using effective cold email campaigns.

Even though you don’t need to send as many emails as Demio did, whatever industry you operate in or want to target, cold email can get you in direct communication with busy decision-makers.

Using SaaS Cold Email to Find Your Company’s First Customers

Cold email marketing for SaaS products is an affordable acquisition channel — even when your SaaS is pre-revenue, you can send cold emails as long as you have an email address.

During the early stages of your company, there is one main thing to focus your cold email efforts on: starting conversations.

Treat your early cold email campaigns as a way to have conversations with people matching your SaaS company’s ideal customer profile. Don’t sell products or services to them, but get in touch to learn about how your idea can help solve pain points in their business.

If you’re honest about your intentions— which is to learn about their pain points and see if you can help solve them— you’ll be surprised at how many people will be willing to have a conversation with you.

If your emails resonate and your prospect targeting is good, you’ll be booking meetings to chat with your prospects within 1-2 weeks.

How Many Cold Emails Can You Send Per Day?

To get results, you’ll often hear things like: “send 500 emails per day” or “cold email is a numbers game”. In truth, it’s not.

If you can email 20 new people per day with a high-quality, personalized email, you’ll see better results than if you send 500 generic emails.

Another consideration is that if you send emails at a slower pace, you have time to make updates based on learnings from responses you’re getting, and can optimize your future emails accordingly. 

If you burn through your prospect list in one go, you won’t be able to learn from mistakes and most likely won’t get the results you want.

Building a Prospect List for Cold Email Outreach

The most important part of your cold email campaigns won’t be your email templates, the outreach software you use, or how well your emails are personalized.

It’s the people you reach out to.

If your prospects are a perfect fit for your solution, you can get away with a badly worded email, because your prospects will want to talk to you.

Here’s how to create a qualified prospect list:

1. Simple Ways to Source Qualified Prospects for Your SaaS Organization

There are lots of places to find prospects. You can use tools like ZoomInfo or UpLead, which are prospect databases.

Source: UpLead

Or, you can use a process combining manual research on platforms like AngelList and Crunchbase with an email finding extension like Clearbit Connect.

For example, you could find a company

Source: Clearbit

Once you have your prospect’s contact information, including their email address, make sure to verify their email with a tool like ZeroBounce.

This will reduce the chances of your emails bouncing, which can hurt your overall email deliverability causing more of your emails to get caught in the spam filter.

Before including prospects in an email campaign, it’s also worth manually reviewing that they are indeed a good fit. It’s better to email 20 perfect-fit prospects than 200 that are a mediocre fit.

2. Formatting Your Cold Sales Prospect List

Once you have a list of prospects you want to reach out to, you need to format them into a usable prospect list.

The easiest place for this is in Google Sheets.

Add each prospect you’re planning to reach out to into your spreadsheet, and include columns for information like:

  • First name

  • Last name

  • Company name

  • Job title

  • Notes

  • A personalized opening line for that prospect

Having this data structured will make it simple to upload to a cold email tool and use in your outreach. 

Most prospecting tools will let you download your prospects into a CSV so you can easily use and format the data to fit your needs.

3. Writing Opening Lines and Adding Personalization

Cold email content needs to be personalized. The best way to do this is to add a unique opening line to every prospect you’re reaching out to.

When someone receives an email with real personalization, they’ll immediately see that you’ve done your research and haven’t added them to a bulk email list. 

Some ideas:

  • Highlight something you have in common (city, work history, education)

  • Mention something they shared on social media

  • Let them know you saw their recent company announcement

Whatever it is, your opening line needs to show that you’ve actively researched the person, and the email couldn’t be sent to anyone else.

When your prospect list is ready, you’ll have full sentences in it that will be included in your email body using attributes.

If you want to take it a step further, you can even add in a custom P.S. note to include at the end of your emails, and of course, you can include any other fields that are relevant to your outreach.

A major benefit of writing custom opening lines is that you’ll individually review every person on your list before emailing. 

If you notice someone is a bad fit, you can remove them from your campaign, or add them to another list to potentially reach out to later. Had you fully automated this process or ignored it, you’d risk sending emails to people who aren’t going to reply.

Step-by-Step Process to Sending Cold Emails That Get Replies

1. Uploading Prospects into QuickMail

When you’re just starting out, you can send your emails manually. Once you know how the process works, you can bring in tools to help automate repetitive parts of the process.

First, you’re going to need to upload your prospects into QuickMail (or your cold email tool of preference).

During the upload process, make sure to add the custom attributes so you can use them in your email templates.

You can also add prospects directly into your Campaigns or Buckets, so you can automatically segment people as they’re added.

2. How to Personalize Every Cold Email Template You Send

Next, it’s time to write your emails.

As I mentioned, your cold email templates matter less than you think. The key is that your emails are personalized, and the person you’re reaching out to is a good fit for your offer.

Keep your email copy simple, and focus on the main problem you’re solving for your prospect. The main goal of your email is to start a conversation — not to get paying customers for your SaaS tool immediately.

When writing your email templates, you can use attributes to add your personalization in.

For example, an attribute like {{prospect.first_name}} would turn into your prospect’s first name from your spreadsheet. 

The main benefit here is that you can write out one email template that includes your attributes, and send that to multiple recipients at once. Each email will be fully personalized using the attributes, and every prospect will know you’ve done your research into them.

When it comes to your call-to-action, the best cold email technique is to keep it simple and make it easy for your prospect to reply.

For example:

  • Does that sound like something of interest to you?

  • Do you have a few minutes to connect and see if this is something that may be of value to you?

  • Would you have 20 minutes available this week or next?

If the problem you’re solving for your prospect is interesting to them, they’ll be happy to engage. 

If your prospect doesn’t reply, you can send a friendly follow-up message. Let’s see how in the next section.

3. Automatically Following Up to Generate More Replies

Over half of replies to cold email campaigns come from a follow-up email.

It’s vital that you send prospects a reminder if they don’t get back to you. It costs nothing to follow up with a potential customer.

The type of follow-up you send will depend on where your SaaS business is in its lifecycle.

If you’re still in the customer interview stage, your follow-up email will look different to if you’re actively looking for sales using cold email.

Ideas for following up in the early stages of your company could be:

  • Letting people you’ve already talked to know about your company progress

  • Congratulating people if you see their company in the news to stay top-of-mind

  • Sending them updates about your product

The idea is to look for windows of opportunity that give you a reason to contact someone again. If you’re following up with nothing new of value, you’re wasting their time and potentially harming the relationship.

Once your business is running smoothly and cold email is becoming a key acquisition channel, your follow-ups can be more sales-focused, but still with the core aim of starting conversations.

To easily follow up in QuickMail, add a new campaign step and choose ‘Wait’. Add the number of days between your follow-ups, and then, add another ‘Email’ step.

You can write up your email here, and it will be automatically sent to your prospect if they don’t reply to your first email.

Depending on the situation, the length of time between your follow-ups can differ. For example, if you’re generating new leads for your established SaaS company, you can follow up after three to four days.

On the other hand, if you’re keeping early-stage potential customers in the loop about your development, you’d be better sticking to one email a month, or only when you have something worthwhile to update them on.

4. Best Practices to Ensuring Your Emails Always Land in the Inbox

An underestimated challenge with cold email is landing in your prospect’s inbox in the first place.

When you’re just starting out and sending cold emails for your SaaS outreach manually, you shouldn’t have much of a problem. As long as your SPF and DKIM records are in place, the text-based emails you send will most likely land in the primary inbox.

If you’re not sure whether your email account is set up correctly, use a free email deliverability tool like Check MX. Add your domain name in, and it’ll let you know if there are any issues.

When you're ready to start increasing your email sending volume, that's where you need to be careful—sending a high volume of emails at once can cause ESPs like Google and Outlook to treat you with suspicion.

To get around this, use an auto-warmer (MailFlow is free to use and integrates natively with QuickMail).

An auto warming tool will add your email account to a network of inboxes, and send and reply to emails in that network. The positive engagement shows ESPs that they can trust you. When you go to send a cold email campaign, your warmed-up email address gives you a stronger chance of landing in the primary inbox. If you want more details on warming up your inbox, make sure to read our guide here.

In your MailFlow reports, you’ll see how many of your emails are landing in the primary inbox compared to landing in the spam folder, or other inbox tabs.

What Kind of Results Can You Expect from Cold Email Marketing?

Millions of emails have been sent on our platform and we have access to the cold email metrics those campaigns generated. 

Here’s what kind of results you can expect if you put real effort into a personalized cold email marketing strategy:

  • An open rate of 60% and above is a good benchmark.

  • The top 25% of campaigns see a 20% reply rate and above.

  • Your bounce rate should be under 3%.

These are just benchmarks, but if you’re getting results significantly below those benchmarks, it’s worth pausing and evaluating if you’re missing any key ingredients to a successful campaign.

Questions to ask include:

  • Is your prospect list well qualified?

  • Are you asking too much of someone in your email template?

  • Is your call-to-action easy to reply to?

  • Are your emails landing in your recipients’ primary inbox?

 If you get these things right, the benchmarks above will be easily achievable.

Tools to Power Your SaaS Cold Email Outreach Efforts

1. A cold email tool: We’re biased in favor of our own cold email platform, QuickMail. Once you’ve gathered a few replies from sending emails manually and have a clear idea of your ideal customer and the type of email that resonates with them, you can start to scale up. At that point, a tool to automate your cold outreach will be essential. QuickMail has all the core features you need when you’re just starting out, or scaling a cold email outreach program with your team.

2. Spreadsheet: Google Sheets is perfect as you can collaborate easily. You’ll need a spreadsheet to organize your prospect lists, and you can even build a lightweight CRM if you need to. Plus, you can link QuickMail with Google Drive and automatically import prospects that you add to a Google Sheet, removing a manual step from your workflow.

3. Prospecting tools: Tools like Anymail Finder, UpLead, and RocketReach are all going to be useful when it comes to sourcing prospects. Directories like AngelList, Crunchbase, or Clutch can also be valuable sources when you’re looking for companies matching your ideal customer profile.

4. CRM: Once your cold outreach campaigns are running smoothly, you’ll need a way to track your pipeline. A CRM like HubSpot, Pipedrive, Salesflare is ideal. Most have similar features, so choose one that you like and supports your needs. You can also connect QuickMail to almost any CRM using Zapier.

5. Email verification tool: To ensure your emails don’t bounce, use an email verification tool. Dropcontact, ZeroBounce, and NeverBounce are all good options. You can also integrate them with QuickMail and verify emails at the same time you’re uploading your prospects. Anyone with a risky email address can be automatically removed.

There’s no perfect software stack that will propel you to cold email success, but these are some basics that you will need to use.

When to Start Using Automation Tools and Outsource a Cold Email Campaign

We all want to automate repetitive, boring tasks. But, when it comes to starting a successful cold email strategy, I’d recommend starting off writing every email and sending them by hand, one by one.


You’ll get a detailed understanding of what's involved in the process. Within one to two weeks, you’ll have learned all of the basics (assuming you’re sending emails every day). You’ll understand what can be automated and what can’t.

From there, you can start using a tool or outsourcing tasks to a VA or team member, but you’ll be able to do it effectively.

Cold Email for SaaS: It’s All About Building Relationships

Cold email sometimes gets a bad reputation because a subset of people use this type of marketing as a channel to blast out thousands of emails to unsuspecting recipients, with zero relevance or personalization.

The way to succeed with cold email is by treating it as a tool to build relationships.

In the early days of your SaaS company growth, your cold email will be a way for you to connect and learn from people in your target industry, in exchange for the promise of you creating a useful tool for them.

In the later stages, cold email is all about showing potential customers how your established SaaS tool can bring real value to their business. 

If you treat your cold email sequence as a relationship-building process, your SaaS business will naturally grow as a consequence of having conversations with people at companies in your target market.

As well as that, always focus on what your business goals from your outreach are.

For example, is your goal to send 500 emails per day? No. Your goal is to generate three replies from qualified leads per day and have conversations with those prospects.

Keep that in mind, and you’ll stay focused on the right metrics and goals.

Ready to begin a great cold email strategy? Start a free trial with QuickMail to test drive all our features.