Cold email and email marketing are both powerful channels that you can leverage to grow your business. But, they’re used for completely different purposes.

In this article, you’ll learn what each channel is best for, the key differences between them, and, I’ll show you how to run a cold email campaign to generate new leads for your business.

  1. What is Cold Email?

  2. Why Use Cold Email?

  3. What is Email Marketing?

  4. Why Use Email Marketing?

  5. Four Key Differences Between Cold Email and Email Marketing Campaigns

  6. Step-by-Step: How to Run a Cold Email Campaign

Let’s dive straight in.

What is Cold Email?

Cold email outreach is the process of sending emails to people you have never interacted with before with the intent to get a reply and start a conversation.

It’s a powerful sales channel because you can start a conversation with key decision-makers at almost any company in the world, no matter where you’re based.

To send a cold email, you’ll need to build a list of people, source their contact details, then write personalized emails that spark your recipient’s interest.

Here’s an example of a cold email sent by AppSumo:

Even though the recipient will never have met the sender before, the cold email has a clear value proposition, is well-researched, and is easy to reply to.

Why Use Cold Email?

Cold email is an excellent channel for:

  • Starting conversations with new potential customers

  • Building partnerships with other professionals in your industry

  • Securing promotional opportunities for your business

  • Booking interesting guests for your podcast

In short, you can use a cold email to open a dialogue between you and someone you’ve never met before.

What is Email Marketing?

Email marketing is the process of using email as a channel to promote your products and services to an audience who is already familiar with your business, and has opted-in to receive marketing emails from you.

It’s an important marketing channel for businesses because it’s one of the few channels that gives you full control over your message to your audience.

Once someone is on your email list, you won’t need to pay for ads to get in front of them, but can continue to build brand awareness and grow your relationship with your customer base.

Why Use Email Marketing?

Common use cases for email marketing include:

  • Sending a weekly newsletter to your subscribers

  • Sending customers a series of onboarding emails after they signed up

  • Running promotions to upsell or cross-sell new products or services to existing customers

Almost every business with a digital presence can use email marketing to benefit them in some way and studies have shown that the ROI on email marketing can be as high as 45:1.

Source: The ROI of Email Marketing [Infographic] - Litmus

It’s a key channel to invest in if your brand can benefit from having an audience.

Four Key Differences Between Cold Email and Email Marketing Campaigns

1. Your Recipients

The first major difference between cold email vs. email marketing is the people you contact.

In email marketing, your recipients have specifically asked to join your list. 

Reasons for joining could include:

  • To receive your weekly newsletter

  • They opted in to receive updates when buying your product

  • They subscribed in exchange for a lead gen magnet on your website

Over time, your email list will grow and it won’t be long before your email marketing campaigns are being sent to thousands of people on a regular basis.

You can run email marketing campaigns to a B2B or B2C audience.

In cold email campaigns, you’ll build a list of prospects using sales prospecting tools. Your lists will be smaller, highly targeted, and you’ll only reach out to B2B prospects.

The people on your list won’t necessarily know your brand, and they won’t have previously been in contact with you.

Cold email isn’t suitable for sending outreach to B2C audiences. Laws like the CAN-SPAM Act and the GDPR often prohibit sending cold email campaigns to consumers who aren’t working in B2B companies, so don’t even attempt it.

2. The Tools You Use

Your email marketing tool stack can include tools like:

  • Mailchimp

  • Drip

  • ActiveCampaign

Source: Mailchimp

These marketing automation tools include features like form builders to collect new subscriber emails, visual email template builders, and detailed email analytics to track your campaigns.

Some will even include ecommerce tools that link with your online store or payments provider to easily generate new sales through your campaigns.

Email marketing platforms typically charge based on the number of subscribers you have. Over time, you’ll need to pay more as your email list grows.

These tools are excellent at what they do, which is helping you keep your email list engaged over time.

On the other hand, cold email tools like QuickMail are designed to help you send emails to people you’ve never met before.

They include features such as:

  • Easily personalize email templates to each prospect in your campaign

  • Email deliverability tools to ensure your emails land in the primary inbox

  • Automatically send follow-up emails if someone doesn’t respond

  • Track key metrics like response rate, click-through rate, bounce rate, and more

  • Integrate with your CRM and other sales tools used in your business

They typically charge a fixed monthly fee and have different tiers based on the features you need to use.

Email marketing and cold email software serve different purposes, so it’s important that you choose the best one for your needs.

3. The Intent Behind Your Emails is Different

This difference is the most fundamental one:

  • Your email marketing efforts exist to continue a conversation with your existing audience.

  • Your cold emailing efforts are there to start a conversation with a cold prospect.

This means you need to approach the two channels in a completely different way.

When you send an email marketing campaign, it’s to a warm audience. That means it’s acceptable to directly promote a product or have a call-to-action that involves something high-commitment: clicking a link, booking a call, or using a coupon code to buy a product.

If it’s a cold email, you need to approach your recipients differently. You’re asking for time out of your prospect’s day, so your main focal point needs to be on starting a conversation – not pitching your product or service.

Once someone replies to your email, you can then continue the conversation in a meeting and share more details.

4. The Format of Your Email

Most email marketing campaigns include highly visual email templates.

Here’s an example from Alltrails:

Source: Really Good Emails

This type of colorful and visual email template works well for email marketing purposes.

They’re optimized to generate brand awareness, get high click-through rates, and move recipients toward a purchase action.

But, this type of email marketing isn’t an effective way to get in front of new potential customers and start conversations.

Instead, your cold email needs to be text-based, simple, and conversational.

Here’s an example of a cold email template to invite someone on a podcast:


It’s completely different from a marketing email in terms of the format. But, it’s more appropriate for a one-to-one email.

By keeping your email plain text, it shows you’re a real person reaching out with a one-to-one, unique message. It won’t blend in with the other marketing emails your prospect is getting every day and that’s going to massively increase your chances of getting a response. 

Next, let’s look at the steps involved in creating a cold email campaign that engages your recipients and gets replies.

Step-by-Step: How to Run a Cold Email Campaign

Step 1: Prospecting and Building Your List

The first step in any cold email campaign is to create your prospect list.

Your cold email prospecting process can make or break a cold email campaign, so it’s vital that you thoroughly vet every prospect on your list to ensure they’re a perfect fit for your product or service.

To help you find good-fit prospects, you can use prospecting tools like:

  • BuiltWith: Identify companies that will be a fit for your product/service based on the technology used on their website

  • ZoomInfo: Find any B2B decision-makers’ contact details and filter by title, location, and more.

  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator: Quickly build lists of relevant prospects based on their LinkedIn profiles and find the best person to contact at any company.

It’s best to use a simple spreadsheet to format your prospect list.

This will keep you organized and will make it easy to import your list into your cold email software. Here’s a free prospect list template you can use when you’re ready to start building your prospect list.

Once you have a list of target prospects, you’ll need to verify their email addresses.

You can do this inside QuickMail. Just choose to ‘Verify emails’ as you import your prospect lists using your email verification provider of choice, and it will automatically run inside QuickMail.

Any email that can’t be verified will be removed from your campaign. It ensures you won’t see many emails bouncing back, which could cause deliverability issues on your cold email domain.

Once your prospects have been imported to QuickMail, it’s time to create your email templates.

Step 2: Writing Your Cold Email Templates 

Unlike email marketing templates, cold email templates work best when they:

  • Are plain text and don’t include images

  • Use simple and concise copy

  • Focused on generating a reply rather than clicking a link or button

It’s also key that each email you send is fully personalized to every recipient in your prospect list.

The best way to do this is by including a custom opening line.

In your prospect sheet, create a new line and write out an icebreaker for each person.

For example:

  • “Loved your new podcast episode with [guest]. Found your points on [specific topic] very insightful.”

  • “Enjoyed your Twitter post on the tactics you used to grow {{}} this year, will have to test some of those.”

  • “[Mutual connection] let me know that I should reach out to you as you’re an expert in [niche]”.

If you open your email with a unique sentence, your recipient will instantly see that you’ve done your research into them, and they’ll be more likely to read your whole email and consider replying – if your email is relevant to them. It turns a cold email into a warm email and separates you from cold emailers who aren’t doing the same level of research.

Next, you’ll need to include a short value proposition.

This will be one or two sentences explaining what you’re reaching out about:

  • “I run a startup directory and have an email list of 20,000 founders and investors.”

  • “Our agency helps eCommerce brands improve their checkout conversion rates and grow their revenue”.

After that, you’ll need to show social proof. For example:

  • “We recently helped [client name] grow their sales by 120% through our paid ads strategy.”

  • “Our email list has over 10,000 highly engaged growth marketers who want to try out new SaaS products like yours.”

Finally, you’ll need a call-to-action (CTA).

The best cold email CTAs will make it simple for your prospect to reply to your email.

Here are some examples:

  • “Is solving [pain point] on your radar?”

  •  “Does that sound interesting?”

  • “Do you have 15 minutes available this week to discuss?”

If your email sounded interesting to your prospect, a simple CTA like these examples makes it easy for them to reply and continue the conversation.

Step 3: Scheduling Your Cold Email Campaign

Next, it’s time to schedule your campaign.

This is simple in QuickMail.

First, create a new Campaign and give it a relevant name.

Next, create your first email step.

You can use attributes to personalize the template and include unique information about each prospect in your template. 

But, even with personalization, not every prospect will reply straight away.

To boost your reply rate even further, you need to add follow-up email steps. To do this, add a ‘Wait’ step in your campaign and choose your delay.

After this, you can add a new follow-up email and continue the campaign.

Our data shows that 55% of replies to email campaigns come from a follow-up, so it’s an essential step.

You can add as many follow-up emails as you need in your cold email campaign, and they will run until someone replies, or until the campaign steps end.

Step 4: Tracking Your Cold Email Metrics

A key step in your cold email process is understanding your metrics.

QuickMail’s cold email software tracks everything you need to know about your campaign.

You’ll be able to track metrics like:

  • Open rate

  • Reply rate

  • Click-through rate

  • Unsubscribe rate

  • Bounce rate

You’ll be able to see how every email is performing at any given moment in time.

The best cold email marketing campaigns can consistently generate a 25% reply rate, so it’s a powerful way to generate new leads for your business.

Wrapping Up

Email marketing and cold email are two very different channels, each with its own purpose.

Email marketing is best for keeping in touch with your existing audience and customer base. You can upsell them, promote your latest content, and share updates that you know they’ll want to hear.

Cold outreach is best as a sales tool. You can reach out to cold prospects, and as long as you have something of value for them, there’s a good chance that they’ll respond.

When you’re ready to start sending cold email campaigns that get replies, you can start your free 14-day trial of QuickMail.