Definitive Outbound Email Guide: Part II
- Definitive Outbound Email Guide: Part II
- 1. How to find accounts? (Generation)
- 2. How to identify leads in these accounts? (Generation)
- 3. How many leads to generate? (Generation)
- 4. Where to find emails economically? (Generation)
- 5. How to verify emails? (Verification)
- 6. How to enrich leads further? (Enrichment, Personalization)
- 7. What process should we build to do this repeatably and scale it?
- Daily lead gen process
- In Conclusion
- What’s Next?
- This guide is best suited for B2B companies looking to send 1-10K monthly emails (50-500 / day).
- This guide covers outbound cold emails. We will be publishing separate guides covering transactional emails, marketing emails, product update emails, etc.
- You can refer to each part atomically to debug wherever you have issues. I've helped 6 YC companies set up/fix their email stacks in the past 6 months. Want to open-source this information for the benefit of all founders.
- This is the culmination of 100+ hours of research on this subject. I’ve tried to cover as many tools and questions posted on other forums.
Recap: If you’ve gone through Part I, you should have your cold emailing domain with Google Workspace setup, fully authenticated, and warmed up to start reaching new customers.
Part II: Lead and Campaigns
In this part, we’ll go deep into leads. As before, we’ll also make quick comparisons of tools along with my recommendations.
A 10-second glossary before we begin —
- Account: a company that matches your criteria for being a potential customer; an account can have multiple leads associated with it;
- Lead: a human at a target company; a lead could be a founder, CXO, an end-user, or a decision-maker; a single row in a database of prospects, has multiple columns like first/last name, a verified email, and other fields needed to personalize email copy.
- Sales Engagement Platform (SEP): Apollo, Lemlist, Instantly, Outreach, etc.; A tool that supports building sequences, tracks opens and clicks, supports a/b testing, and can deliver analytics at the campaign/account level.
- Lead generation and targeting are crucial for successful outbound email campaigns.
- Identify accounts by segmenting and pattern-matching ideal company profiles.
- Identify leads within accounts by targeting specific personas and iterating based on market pull.
- Generate 2-3x the target email volume to account for verification losses.
- Find emails economically using providers like Apollo, then verify them independently using tools like Zerobounce.
- Enrich and personalize leads to improve response rates; aim for a personalization score of 3+.
- Build a repeatable and scalable lead gen process using Google Sheets and carve out time every day to generate leads.
- Monitor KPIs daily # of verified leads generated and bounce rate to gauge success.
- Disciplined and consistent lead generation is key to landing more customers via outbound emails.
If we can crack a repeatable, scalable system for lead gen, we’re already halfway to hear the sound of new revenue flooding the company’s bank account.
This is the highest ROI section in the email guide, so read carefully and take your time.
I’ll say it once more, lead generation is the most crucial step for any successful outbound email flywheel. It’s so vital that some cold email pros will tell you upfront that who you target is even more important than your email copy.
It is critical to identify who exactly needs what you’re selling and consistently get in front of them. Even poorly written emails can get surprisingly good results when someone has a hair-on-fire problem.
Before we can do that, we need to answer the following questions:
- How to find accounts?
- How to identify leads in these accounts?
- How many leads to generate?
- Where to find emails economically?
- How to verify emails?
- How to enrich leads further?
- What process should we build to do this repeatably and scale it?
As we address these questions in a second, also keep in mind the 4 steps in the lead generation process:
Output: CSV files with leads that we can import into any SEP.
1. How to find accounts? (Generation)
Start with Apollo, it has 250M+ leads, and you can test it out for free. They have advanced filters like funding raised, technologies used, etc., that many other (even more expensive) platforms don’t. Companies are doing eight figures in revenue solely from using this tool.
This is too vast to be covered in this guide. In case you need a little help here, feel free to reach out to me. The gist is to identify parameters by which we can segment and pattern-match our ideal company profile.
For example, let’s assume we’re a FinTech that does corporate cards and expense management.
Relevant filters here include geography, funding, headcount, and estimated revenue. The best way to discover these is to talk to as many (potential) and existing customers as possible to zero in on where the demand is.
2. How to identify leads in these accounts? (Generation)
Now we move on to our Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). If you’re Pre-seed/Seed stage, I’d recommend starting out with 2-3 different personas until you find the segments with the most market pull.
In our example, this could be CEOs, CROs, VP of Finance, Finance managers, or accountants. The desired end state is to have multiple segmented lists of prospects to contact, with verified emails enriched with various personalized fields.
The most common mistake founders make here is outsourcing this too soon. If you’re an early-stage company, figuring out the answers to the above seven questions requires a lot of experimentation.
I recommend that founders do this themselves first to get a feel for the process. There’s a fair bit of experimentation and iteration involved initially. Once you have a repeatable process, lead gen should be delegated or outsourced. You can do this with interns, VAs, or freelancing lead generation experts.
Another popular way of doing lead gen is to buy ready-made lists (look under Email Audience Development on Upwork). Do keep in mind that this has become a gray area (illegal in some jurisdictions) concerning privacy laws — sending marketing messages to individuals who haven’t explicitly opted in — caveat emptor.
3. How many leads to generate? (Generation)
We’ll work backward from our target email volume to set a lead generation goal. Let’s assume we want to send 200 emails / day. It’s conservative to take that 40-50% of leads at this stage won’t clear verification. Keeping this in mind, generate 2-3x the target email volume. For our case, we’ll set a daily lead gen target of 400 leads.
As we build our company’s outbound playbook, we can more accurately estimate the lead efficacy %, depending on the accounts type and ICP we’re targeting.
4. Where to find emails economically? (Generation)
There are so many email search providers, with seemingly little variation in terms of the offering but widely varying costs. With our clients, we most frequently recommend starting with Apollo to baseline coverage (can find a lead) and efficacy (the email passes verification).
Price for 1K emails
my recommended tool
free plan is a joke (5 leads)
has a browser extension that doesn’t work on LinkedIn; free plan available
free plan available
great fit if you’re selling to early-stage businesses
pricing isn’t publicly available, but starts at $500+
LinkedIn Sales Navigator
no emails but great for finding accounts and leads; high synergy with other tools on this list;
1K emails is on their Pro plan, pricing isn’t publicly available
their site was down as of writing this; draw your own conclusions 🤷🏽♂️
powerful marketing automation tool; high synergy with SEPs and CRMs
5. How to verify emails? (Verification)
No need for analysis paralysis in this step. I recommend using ZeroBounce for all B2B companies.
This is a crucial step in the cold emailing process. From first principles, verification means sending an email to a given lead’s address, seeing if it delivers or bounces, and checking for a catch-all account — a user inbox or domain setup that will capture emails sent to any invalid addresses on the domain. Catch-all accounts make it impossible to guess email addresses by permuting prospect names (email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, etc.) Why does everybody want to make our job harder? 🤷🏽
Worry not because a good verification tool will ingest a list of emails (the CSV we prepared earlier) and weed out all the invalid and catch-all addresses for us.
Many lead generation platforms claim their emails are verified or provide confidence scores for each email. Don’t trust them. Verify your leads on your own. Your domain’s reputation is too precious to leave in another’s hands. So, run all leads through a dedicated verification service.
6. How to enrich leads further? (Enrichment, Personalization)
A perfectly personalized email will make a prospect feel understood and appreciated and that you wrote a whole email just for them. Think of personalization as the proof-of-work for outbound emails. Reciprocity suggests that your prospect is more likely to reply if they feel you invested time and effort in crafting an email for them. However, we’re chasing results and not perfection, so we need to hack it somehow to speed up the process.
A mental model we’ve used with great success is to score each element we can personalize. Aim for a personalization score of 3+ for your opening paragraph. We’ll explore this in more depth in the next issue of the email guide.
For now, consider the following:
I’m reaching out to software companies (+1 pt) in your niche who are looking to get a handle on their corporate spending (+1 pt).
I’m reaching out to environmentally-conscious (+1) logistics companies (+1) in Long Beach (+1). We have launched a corporate spending card for small businesses with less than 50 employees (+1).
In general, higher is better, but a score of 2 should be enough to start getting replies. At the bare minimum, we should add their first name and company name somewhere in the email.
7. What process should we build to do this repeatably and scale it?
I was recently consulting with a founder who had acquired 3 domains, with 5 email accounts set up on each. So naturally, I asked him:
“How many emails are you sending out every day, around 500?”
“Actually, we didn’t send out anything this week, I got busy with fundraising calls.”
It’s only too common to see companies going overkill on the email setup, but having extremely weak follow-through and daily emailing discipline. Don’t let this happen to your company. Use the lead gen process below. It only takes 20 min.
Daily lead gen process
- Carve out 20 min on your calendar to generate new leads every day.
- Use Google Sheets to put down all your leads. Steal my lead gen template and tweak it as needed.
- Keep in mind, this is NOT your CRM. We are only generating fresh leads that will be exported as a CSV file and ingested into your SEP. The SEP is responsible for syncing with your CRM (more on that in part III of the cold email guide).
- Name it with today’s date and the filters you’re using: 20 April | Founders | US | 5M+ raised | 10-51 employees
- Once you’ve started with a lead source (say Apollo), stick to it. This is because we want to monitor % of emails that are valid.
- Add 2-3x your target daily email volume of leads here.
- Upload this to ZeroBounce. Remove all the invalid, catch-all, and spam tram addresses.
- Add personalization fields to the verified leads. Feel free to experiment with generative AI here to help speed up this step.
- Export the file as a CSV. You’re done with lead gen for the day. 🎉
If you’re getting more than 3-4% bounces despite verifying the emails, switch to a different lead source. Once you discover a lead source and ICP that is predictably bringing you new customers, it’s time to delegate this step.
Primary KPI: daily # of verified leads generated
Secondary KPI: bounce rate
Congratulations! You are ready to start sending out emails and landing more customers. Just remember to set up a system so you consistently hit your target for lead generation every day.
If you need help with any of the above steps, we’re just a calendar link away. We’ve done this for multiple YC and non-YC companies, who’ve gone on to generated $100K+ in new revenue from outbound emails.
We’ll be releasing part III of this guide shortly, which will cover the best SEPs, copywriting guidelines for a 10%+ reply rate, and A/B testing.