May 18, 2020

Experiment: How We Challenged Cold Email Best Practice & Doubled Overall Engagement

Having sent thousands of personalized cold emails on behalf of our clients this year, we have spotted a gap in the traditional "best practice" which is worth sharing.

Barry Moroney




Experiment & Test is one of our core values, and given the data at our disposal from running so many campaigns simultaneously, we are in a unique position to challenge traditional methods and prove results on a monthly basis.

When it comes to enterprise sales, the traditional best practice for the number of emails to send in a cold outbound drip sequence is said to be between 6-10 touches over a 30-60 day period, depending on the complexity of the solution being offered. Historically, we have usually opted for 6 touch email campaigns, as any additional touches always felt as though they were being shoehorned in simply to align with this best practice.

Below is an example of the basic principles we have used on multiple occasions:

Note: Personalizations are unique to each individual in email 1 and 2. Custom variables like {{first name}}, {{company}},  etc. are used throughout the sequence, though we do not consider this to be classed as ‘personalization’.

As you could probably imagine with highly personalized messaging in the opening emails, the highest response rate comes from these followed by an enormous drop off the further into the sequence we go. Unhappy with the typical results from emails 3-6, we decided to A/B test a recent campaign with a different approach and found some very interesting results.

We cut the sequence down to four emails by removing email 5 and merging emails 3 and 4, leaving the below format:

The Results

As they followed a very similar format, emails 1-3 had very similar results in both approaches. What happened afterwards was interesting, however, with the experimental approach leading to a 6% response rate in comparison to 0% from the traditional approach. Our hypothesis is that prospects become disengaged by the time they reach a “breakup email” with the traditional approach, whereas this was not the case with the experimental approach and lots of additional responses were provoked.

The Greater, Unplanned Benefit

While a 5% increase in responses is fantastic, there was an additional benefit to this approach regarding long-term deliverability and open rates which we had not originally considered. By removing 2 of the 6 emails sent to each prospect, we decreased our overall sending on this particular domain by 33%. Email service providers severely punish domains which send emails that people do not reply to, so by removing this 33% of all emails sent (which happened to be the emails with the lowest engagement), we almost doubled our engagement percentage (against all emails in the sequence) from 3.33% to 6.25%.

Maintaining a healthy domain should always be your top priority when it comes to outbound sales and finding an opportunity to double your overall engagement rates should never be sniffed at. Efforts like this are the difference between a 65% open rate and a 25% open rate on your future campaigns.


One experiment is not enough to rule out a traditional best practice, however, based on the increased results and, more importantly, the impact that reduced sending has on long-term deliverability and open rates, we will certainly be adopting this approach wherever possible going forward.

Need Help?

To stay ahead of the game with your outbound sales efforts in 2020, let Leadable worry about the ever-changing best practices and look after it for you so that your sales team can focus 100% on meeting clients and closing deals. Book a 15 minute phone call to see if there is a fit.

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