Marketing / Email Marketing

How agency owners can leverage cold emails to generate more leads

Sujan Patel

Sep 11, 2020 · 8 min read

Toolkit for download in this article

How agency owners can leverage cold emails to generate more leads

You’ve won a new client. Congratulations! Hopefully, this is the start of a long and mutually beneficial partnership.

But that’s far from guaranteed. In fact, a third of agencies say their average customer life-span is just 12 months or fewer.

With that level of churn, there’s huge pressure on sales teams to keep their agencies on an even keel, let alone to actually grow the business.

To make matters worse, when it comes to winning new business, many agencies are making life unnecessarily difficult.

More than half say their primary means of acquiring new clients is through referrals, but sooner or later that particular well is going to run dry. And they’re ignoring the simplest and most affordable tool at their disposal: cold email outreach.

Here’s how to use cold emails to generate more leads and boost your sales efforts:

1. Find Your Niche

The greatest mistake an agency can make? Trying to be all things to all people.

Sure, being a generalist means you have a much larger pool of prospective clients. But unless you’re a big name – like WPP or Omnicon-scale – why would those clients pick you over someone who specializes in their market?

Chances are, if you’ve been in business for a while, you’ve naturally built a customer base that crosses over a few different markets. But it’s not too late to “niche down” your sales plans.

Start by looking for companies in industries where you have a great track record and that match your size requirements – shooting for the stars is one thing, but you’re wasting your time emailing the CMO at Coca-Cola or McDonald’s. Then look for the people within those organizations who have job titles that match those of your main client contacts.

Next, start browsing the job boards. Platforms like LinkedIn ProFinder and Dribbble are full of people actively looking for help with their marketing requirements. Sure, they might not think they’re looking for an agency – perhaps they think it’ll cost too much, or that an agency couldn’t possibly understand their product. It’s up to your sales team to persuade them otherwise!

2. Curate a List of Ideal Clients

There are only so many hours in a day. Presumably, you want your salespeople to spend the bulk of their time speaking to prospects.

Yet in reality, just 34% of a salesperson’s time is actually spent on selling. The rest goes to tasks like data entry, researching leads and attending internal meetings.

Given that they have so many other demands and distractions, it’s absolutely vital that the time they do spend selling is run as efficiently as possible.

To do that, you need to build a list of ideal clients:

  • The organizations that are a great fit for your business
  • The organizations that have the budget to pay for your services
  • The organizations that are most likely to be in the market right now
  • Specifically, you also need to track down the key decision-makers at those organizations – the last thing you want is for your time-poor sales team to spend hours going through databases to find the people they should be speaking to.

    For maximum efficiency, hire someone to create this list for you. Turn to Fiverr or Upwork, put together a crystal clear brief explaining the information you need, and put them to work.

    3. Make Sure Your Emails Stand Out

    You’ve found the people you should be reaching. Now, you want to give yourself the best possible chance that your emails will be read, understood, and engaged with. To do that, ensure that your sales team follows these four steps every time they write an email:

    1. Write an eye-catching subject line: Keep them punchy, because studies show the optimal length is 17-24 characters.

    2. Personalization: Increase your chances by personalizing your email. Refer to prospects by name. But go further by speaking about things that are specific to them, like their industry and the pain points they’re facing.

    3. Get to the point: If you can’t get your message across in three to five short sentences, your pitch is too complicated and people will stop reading.

    4. Include a clear CTA: Make it obvious what you want your prospect to do next, whether that’s reply to the email, book a meeting in Calendly, or download an ebook.

    While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to cold outreach, your email might look something like this:

    Hi Ben,

    My name is Jim, and I’m the Director of Sales at Better Careers.

    I saw that you have several open positions at your company, and I’d love for us to set up a meeting to discuss a potential, mutually beneficial collaboration.

    Would you be available for a meeting at your office or ours on Tuesday at 10 a.m.?

    Please feel free to suggest an alternative time or location if that doesn’t work for you. I look forward to hearing from you.



    4. Respond ASAP

    On average, 15-25% of emails get opened. Fewer still will actually get a response.

    Naturally, you’ll be hoping for higher numbers than those – and with effective targeting and personalization, you’ll get there. But even so, not everyone’s going to reply. So when you do get responses, be sure to strike while the iron’s hot.

    Unless they’ve just replied with “unsubscribe,” the fact they’ve responded indicates they have some level of interest in hearing more from you, so don’t keep them waiting. Nothing cools down a warm lead like making them feel you’re not even interested in winning their business.

    If they’ve asked for something complex that will require some research on your part, at the very least send them a holding email to let them know you’re working on it, and a deadline for when you’ll get back to them with the information they’ve requested.

    5. Send a Follow Up

    You’re busy. So are your prospects. They have a bunch of priorities, and replying to your email probably isn’t top of their list – but it doesn’t mean they’re not interested in what you have to say.

    One study from Iko System discovered that the first email in a sequence generated a response rate of 18%. By the fourth email, that rate had dropped to 13%. Yet by the sixth email, it shot up to 27%. In other words: persistence pays in the world of cold email.

    However, make sure you add actual value rather than just chasing up. Your follow-up email should look something like this:

    Hi [name],

    You probably deal with [pain point], so I wanted to share some advice that many of my clients have found helpful: [brief actionable tip].

    I have some more ideas around [improving X] — let me know if you’d be interested in hearing them.


    {{Your Name}}


    Email marketing gets a bad name because there’s a lot of unhelpful, poorly targeted, and badly written emails out there. You probably receive dozens of them a day.

    But done well, email marketing can be front and center in your agency’s sales efforts. It allows you to reach your prospects, give them something they can refer back to later, and add genuine value.

    Best of all, it can be done at scale. There’s only so many calls you can make in a day, but if you’re smart about personalization and use template copy in the right way, there’s really no limit to the number of prospects you can reach via cold email.

    Author - Sujan Patel

    Sujan Patel is a partner at Ramp Ventures & co-founder of Mailshake. He has over 15 years of marketing experience and has led the digital marketing strategy for companies like Salesforce, Mint, Intuit and many other Fortune 500 caliber companies.

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