Email prospecting is super important for most modern sales strategies.

But what exactly is email prospecting, and what’s the best way to get started?

Glad you asked 😃

What Is Email Prospecting?

We’ll start with the basics.

A prospect is any individual who fits the mold of your target audience – but who hasn’t yet demonstrated interest in buying your stuff.

In other words, they fit your target audience, but they’re not a customer yet.

Prospecting, then, is the process of finding prospects. That means identifying them, getting their contact information, reaching out to them, and hopefully pushing them one step closer to a sale. I’ve written in detail about sales prospecting in the past, so I won’t overexplain this.

Email prospecting, by extension, is just using email as your primary communication medium while prospecting.

It looks like this:

  1. You define your target audience.
  2. You find email addresses and names of people who might be prospects.
  3. You email those prospects.
  4. You start conversations with some of those prospects.
  5. And eventually, some of those prospects become customers.

The 7 Pillars of a Successful Email Prospecting Campaign

What does it take to be successful with email prospecting?

I’ll do a brief summary here and explore most of these points in detail later on:

1. Audience targeting.

First, you need to identify the “right” target audience and get the information of people who belong to that audience. If you’re too generic in your messaging, it’s not going to click.

If you email the wrong people, they’re going to ignore you – or worse, report you as spam.

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2. Discovery and contact info gathering.

You need to gather information and assemble lists of potential email prospects.

There are many ways to do this, but there are also many ways it can go wrong – such as not getting enough leads, gathering too little information, and dealing with inaccuracies.

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3. Message deliverability.

Email prospecting doesn’t really work if your messages end up in the digital ether somewhere… You have to make sure your messages are actually getting delivered.

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4. The subject line.

Okay – message delivered. We’re good now, right?


The vast majority of your recipients aren’t going to open your message – unless you give them a good reason to.

You need a compelling subject line or your introductory messages are going to fall flat.

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5. The body.

It’s an achievement to get someone to open your email. But you still haven’t won them over.

Your next job is getting them to take action. And you do that with the body of the email.

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6. Scalability and efficiency.

Realistically, if you nail all the above factors,

you’ll be well on your way to a successful sale. But if you want to do this efficiently and reliably, you need a repeatable, scalable system in place.

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7. Measurement, analysis, and improvement.

You’re probably not going to be very successful with your first attempt at email prospecting.

Even if you follow all the “rules,” it’s going to take some time to get to know your audience, A/B test, and find winning subject lines and email templates that convert.

That’s why it’s super important to measure, analyze, and improve your work over time.

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7 Steps to a Proper Email Prospecting Campaign

Okay, now let’s get into the actual steps required to get started with your first email prospecting campaign (or optimize the one you already have!).

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Step 1: Create your customer persona

Everything starts with developing a customer persona – a set of traits and characteristics that define the audience you’re targeting.

What is it that makes a person want to buy your products and services? What is it going to take to build a relationship with them?

What are their values, and what’s the best way to appeal to them with a single email (and a single subject line)?

Once you formally define who your target prospects are, you can start actually email prospecting.

Just be aware that if you haven’t based your target audience decision on research and logic, it’s going to negatively impact the other phases and elements of your strategy.

Step 2: Find prospects

There are dozens of potential channels to explore, and hundreds of prospecting tools designed to make it easier – and pull prospect information automatically.

For example:

  • Online marketing.
  • Content marketing.
  • SEO.
  • Social media marketing.
  • Networking.
  • LinkedIn and social media.
  • Prospecting tools.

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Step 3: Write the perfect subject line

You know, some people argue that the subject line is the most important part of any email.

And to an extent, I agree with them.

If you have a crappy subject line, no one will open it – so literally nothing else even matters.

Plus, with a great subject line, you can set a good tone and boost the value of the prospecting email that follows.

I’ve written a full guide on writing cold email subject lines, but these are some of the most important qualities you’ll need to capture in yours:

  • Conciseness. Don’t make it a point to cram in as much information as possible. Instead, your subject line should be short and sweet. Try to limit the number of words you include and keep your message near the beginning. You only have a few seconds, if that, to convince someone to open your message.
  • Directness. Get to the point. There’s some power in writing a subject line that’s ambiguous, teasing your prospects with something interesting. But for the most part, it’s better to come out with what you want. Something like, “Start saving 40 minutes a day” is better than “Ever wanted more out of your day?”
  • Originality. You wouldn’t believe how many emails I receive that are basically carbon copies of emails I’ve already seen. It’s the same subject line, altered only slightly, over and over again. Don’t do this! It’s important to come up with something original if you want to succeed.
  • Value. What does this prospect have to gain by opening your email? You have to make it worth their while. Promise them saving time or money – or let them in on some important information.

Step 4: Write your email body content

You’ll also need to follow up your amazing subject line with body content of your message that motivates action.

  • Conciseness. It’s not just about the subject line! Conciseness is a valuable quality of almost any sales or marketing content. Your message needs to be short and to the point if you want people to read it and absorb it in full.
  • Personalization. Personalize your message as much as possible. It’s not enough to replicate the same template and send it to hundreds of people. At the very least, you should be customizing the name, the greeting, and a few details of the message to suit the individual prospect you’re trying to reach. It will be seen as much more relevant and much more impressive.
  • Conversational nature. You can try to write a formal, polished email while prospecting, and for some audiences, it might even work in your favor. But for the most part, email prospecting is easier if you maintain a conversational tone. Talk to this person in your normal voice and reach out to them the way you would a friend. It’s a quick and easy way to build rapport.
  • Facts/statistics. You might have some impressive claims, but can you prove them? People will trust your messaging and be more likely to engage with you if you include some specific facts and statistics. For example, don’t just say “you’ll save time with our tool,” say, “our tool saves customers an average of 2.5 hours every week.”
  • Clear value. Make it obvious what the value of your offer is. Do you want people to download an eBook? Tell them why it’s going to help them. Do you want them to sign up for a free trial of your software? Explain how it’s going to improve their life. The more specific you are and the clearer you are, the more likely you’ll be to succeed.
  • A simple next step. Okay, so what’s next? Your email needs a call to action (CTA) and direction to some kind of next step, whether it’s clicking a link or replying to the message. Make it obvious and push your readers to take this next step.

If you’re feeling a lack of inspiration, you can reach out to content marketing copywriting specialists like Ivory Research to help write your email body content or subject lines.

Step 5: Send your email

Got the perfect subject line and body content? Good. Now let’s send that email!

There are lots of email outreach tools available. I’ve covered my favorites here.

Step 6: Follow through

As you’re talking with prospects, at some point you’ll transition from prospecting to sales; the prospect will become an opportunity, then hopefully, a full-fledged customer.

To execute this successfully, you need to follow up.

Many prospects won’t respond to your first message, or even your second or third. You have to keep on them and continue pushing to open a dialogue.

Remain persistent without bombarding your prospects with spammy messages.

Step 7: Measure and adjust

It’s important to pay attention to how your prospecting emails are performing. How many opens are you getting? What about clicks? Closed sales?

Look at the messages that are most successful and least successful. What’s different between them? What are the key lessons you can learn from this?

Objective metrics and detailed analyses can help you tweak your email prospecting strategy to perfection.

Should You Use a Template for Email Prospecting?

In marketing and sales, templates can be super useful. And I definitely encourage you to take a look at prospecting email templates before writing up some of your own.

However, don’t get overly reliant on them. Originality and personalization are keys to getting taken seriously, so if you’re sending out repetitive templates that your customers might have seen in the past, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice.

Try to write your own content and make tweaks to it over time.

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