In this guide we provide some cold email best practices and how to’s on getting started with cold email for driving SaaS demos. To be clear, this is specifically B2B outbound sales focused email from one company to another that has a likely “legitimate interest” (a GDPR compliant term) to hear from them.
For starters, it’s best practice to set up a separate domain for cold email outreach to protect the main domain. We use Namecheap, a cheap and easy to use registrar for domains and DNS and Google Workspace for email, although instructions should be similar for most tools.
Steps to Buy and Setup a Domain for Cold Email Outreach
- Buy a separate domain (i.e. "yourdomainmail.com", or "yourdomain.email"). Namecheap has .email domains for $5.
- Adjust DNS settings to redirect to your main site. Domains -> Advanced DNS -> Redirect Domain:
- Head over to Add Google Workspace - Business Starter ($6/user/mo) Consider paying 6 months in advance - this is another signal of legitimacy that has seemed to boost Sender Reputation.
- Go through the Google Worsspace setup process to Protect the Domain, setup MX records email on Namecheap.
- Another TXT Record will be added in Namecheap Advanced DNS when verifying you own the domain through Google Workspace. It will look like this:
- Create one or two email addresses per domain if the main purpose is for cold email. Add Email Signatures.
- Warm up the email using an email warmup service to start improving Sender Reputation. We like WarmupInbox - there is a 7 day free trial, and pricing starts at $12/mo per inbox. 2-3 weeks would usually be long enough to warm up an inbox in total (you can slowly start sending out emails after a week or so and ramp up volume from there).
- Depending on the number of domains you are using, it may make sense to forward all emails to one central inbox for easier management. In Gmail, navigate to Settings -> See All Settings -> Forwarding and POP/IMAP -> Add a Forwarding Address. Choose one central mailbox and repeat this step for all of the other email addresses that you don't want to log into.
There are also some steps we can take to improve “Sender Reputation”. The higher your Sender Reputation, the better the deliverability of your emails. Ready to start sending emails? Here are some tips for improving deliverability and response rates from cold email to drive SaaS demos and interest.
Best Practices for Cold Email Outreach - Improve Sender Reputation and Response Rates
- Personalized, relevant emails to recipients should improve engagement and response rates. This part is sales and marketing 101 - define your ICP (Ideal Customer Profile), hone your messaging, and use things like intent data signals to send the right message to the right people at the right time. More engagement = Better Sender Reputation.
- Sends should be from an actual person (sales focused email = high inbox placement) vs. a company account (marketing focused email, = tends to get stuck in spam filters)
- Make sure your bounce rate is low (clean data = higher Sender Reputation)
- Limit to business hours and business emails
- Include your company's physical address
- Drip/space out sends every 5-10 mins vs. large batches
- Limit volume from each mailbox, particularly in the first few weeks, months
- Set up campaigns based on engagement behavior. If recipient has never opened an email, move them to an 'every other month' list. Servers look at the relationship between senders not just 'is the email address passable'.
- Maintain an opt-out or unsubscribe list and can synch that with a CRM. If you are doing something that causes your unsubscribe rate to increase, stop.
- If your organization is sending a large amount of email, consider Email Deliverability Software like Sendgrid
DKIM Setup for Cold Email Outreach
Consider setting up DKIM (Domain Keys Authenticated Mail). From Apollo , DKIM is “an authentication method that uses cryptography to add an encrypted digital signature to your organization's outgoing emails. In this method, your mail server uses a private key to encrypt the email data and receiving email servers retrieve the corresponding public key to decrypt it. This ensures that your email is genuinely sent from your domain and hasn’t been altered on its way to the recipient. It also raises your spam score, which increases the chances of your emails being delivered.”
In Google Workspace, Go to Admin → Apps - > Gmail:
→Generate New Record
→Go to Namecheap, Advanced DNS, Add TXT record. Copy and paste values and create a new TXT record like this:
→Back at Google - Click “Start Authentication” (might have to wait a minute or refresh, try this a few times)
→Check Status in Google:
When DKIM setup is complete and working correctly, the status at the top of the page changes to: Authenticating email with DKIM
How to Verify DKIM authentication is working:
- Send an email message to someone who is using Gmail or Google Workspace. (You can't verify DKIM is on by sending yourself a test message.)
- Open the message in the recipient's inbox and find the entire message header.Note: Steps to view the message header differ for different email applications. To show message headers in Gmail, next to Reply, click More Show original.
- In the message header, look for Authentication-Results. Receiving services use different formats for incoming message headers, however the DKIM results should say something like DKIM=pass or DKIM=OK.
If the message header doesn't include a line about DKIM, messages sent from your domain aren't signed with DKIM.
Should look like this:
Set up an SPF Record for Cold Email Outreach
If you are using just Google Workspace for sending emails, this simple SPF record will work:
v=spf1 include:_spf.google.com ~all
->Add this as a TXT Record in Advanced DNS settings at Namecheap:
Setting up DMARC Records
Allow 48 hours after setting up SPF and DKIM before setting up DMARC. A very basic DMARC record looks like this:
_dmarc TXT v=DMARC1;p=none;sp=quarantine;pct=100;rua=mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org-> Add this as a TXT record back in Namecheap Advanced DNS
How to Check DMARC, DKIM Records
MXToolbox has a handy SuperTool for checking DMARC, DKIM, DNS setup:
Set up a Custom Tracking Domain
If you are using tracking pixels at all to track email opens or clicks, setting up a custom tracking domain will be a huge help. Tracking pixels are sometimes automatically flagged and hurt deliverability. A custom tracking domain is a secondary (or sub) domain name related to your original domain. Email outreach automation providers like Apollo.io have capabilities to set this up.
Cold Email Outreach Deliverability Checklist:
- Validate your lists and send only to verified emails
- Ensure DNS/DKIM/SFP and DNS records are setup and in order,
- Use a custom tracking domain,
- Use an email warming service like WarmupInbox
- Slowly ramp up sending
If you do all of the above, you should be able to safely get to 50 total emails/day from each email address. So with 1 sending domain and 2-4 email addresses on that domain you should be able to get to safely sending 100-200 cold emails a day from that sending domain. Want to send more? Get more sending domains and email addresses there.
Cold Email Outreach "Done for You as a Service"