The Average Cold Email Response Rate in 2023 (and How To Improve It)

The Average Cold Email Response Rate in 2023 (and How To Improve It)

Worried about your cold email response rate? Then sending out cold email campaigns may feel like Russian roulette.

Is your pitch good enough? Will the prospect reply? Do you even have the right email address? 😬

Cold email success goes hand in hand with a good average cold email response rate. And there are usually three reasons why your emails aren't getting a reply. You're sending it to a generic address. Your email is about you, not them. Or, your offer sucks.

If you avoid common cold email mistakes, like crappy subject lines, and center your email on the prospect, you can boost response rates and fill your pipeline faster.

This guide is going to walk you through how to do just that.

Cold Email Open Rates vs Response Rates 101

I know you’ve been there.

You spend a ton of time crafting a cold email campaign. You gather up a bunch of prospect emails from LinkedIn. You hit send.

Then what?

Email metrics like open and response rates show you if your outreach campaign has been a hit—or a miss. Your open rate tells you how many prospects opened your email, while response rates track who replied.

Simple enough. But let's dig a little deeper. Open rates alone aren't a great metric to track cold email success, but they do show if certain components, like subject lines, are working. Combine open rates with your response rate, and you'll get a clear picture of whether email copy and messaging are resonating with prospects.

Here's how to do the sums 👇

How to Calculate Cold Email Open Rates

Take the total number of unique opens and divide it by the number of prospects who got your email.

Calculation: 100 unique opens / 500 successfully delivered emails x 100 = 20% email open rate.

Why track only successfully delivered emails? Because tracking your email deliverability or bounce rate is a separate (albeit important) topic. Right now, we only want to see whether your email is motivating people to action.

I love using the 30/30/50 rule to calculate a good cold email open rate. Any sales campaign worth its salt should get a minimum 30% open rate. A rate that's lower than that will drag down the rest of your sales process.

How to Calculate Cold Email Response Rates

As I said earlier, cold email open rates aren't enough to paint a clear picture of how your campaign is doing, which is why calculating response rates is so important.

Just divide the number of unique email responses by the number of emails sent to prospects.

Calculation: 36 unique responses / 80 successfully delivered cold emails x 100 = 45% response rate.

Again, watch how many of your emails actually made it to your prospect's inbox, and use the 30/30/50 rule to measure your success. Anything below 30% and your email copy or offer need tweaking.

Pro Tip: An email tool like Close takes the heavy lifting out of calculating these metrics. It tracks response rates automatically for different cold email campaigns and does it in real-time.
Cold Email Response Rates in Close

Why Cold Email Open Rates and Response Rates Matter

Your main goal is to get a lead from your email list to sign a contract. And paying attention to cold email open rates and response rates can help get you to the finish line faster.

Picture this: you send out a (heavily researched and painstakingly written) cold email to three different prospects. One is intrigued—they read it and respond. Another opens it and ignores it. The third doesn't even click it... your email goes straight in the trash. 🗑️

You won't know which prospects are interested unless you track these numbers. You'll waste time following up with two prospects who may not be interested (especially the one who threw your message in the bin).

What is the Average Cold Email Response Rate?

According to research, the average cold email response rate is just 8.5%. This will depend on how effective your subject line and email copy are and your overall outreach strategy.

But jump on Google and ask what the average cold email response rate is, and you'll get 100 different answers.

A content specialist says anything between 2-5% is a good benchmark, while a CEO thinks a higher rate at 6-10% is more realistic. It's different again for the marketers and sales reps over on Reddit running campaigns. They say the average response rate hovers anywhere from 10- 20%.

What's up with the differences? 🤔

The reality is average cold email response rates are a referendum on how much effort you put into your messages. According to Backlinko research, sending multiple follow-ups to a prospect can double cold email response rates. And research by AWeber found when it comes to subject lines, less is more—82% of experts keep subject lines to 60 characters or under.

The rates are all over the place, and some folks are clearly having more luck than others. Yet, according to a McKinsey study, cold email is still 40 times more effective than social media. The data tells us every ingredient in your email, from subject lines to CTA, impacts your average cold email response rate and ultimately—your sales funnel.

Let's take a closer look at these ingredients👇

4 Factors That Affect Your Cold Email Response Rate

The difference between a cold email campaign with a 1% and 50% response rate will depend on personalization, timing, and your overall pitch to a prospect.

Here are five factors to watch out for before hitting send.

1. Personalization

Personalization is the bread and butter of any cold email campaign.

According to Woodpecker data, the average response rate for a personalized cold email is 17%, but it drops to 7% without it. Including a prospect's name, company, or pain points in your subject line or copy can massively increase your chances of a reply.

But don't get complacent. Simply adding a {first name} tag doesn't really count as a personalized email. Victor Eduoh shared in a Close blog about cold emails that he gets tens of outreach emails every week…. And some are more successful than others.

Here's one that didn't pass the test:

Cold Email Response Rates Personalization

What do you notice?

It's so generic. It doesn't even mention any of Victor's pain points or interests. There's a reason why he ignores most of them.

But not all cold emails are this sloppy. One of my all-time favorites is this cold email sent to Mark Cuban that landed $500,000 in funding.

Cold Email Response Rates Personalization

It's short and hits on Cuban's interests, like combatting online misinformation. The sender also hints he is aware of Cuban's recent discussions about the subject—another great personalization hook that proves this isn't just some generic cold email template.

Check out some of my favorite cold email personalization tips and templates here.

2. Your Pitch

Ask yourself: why are you sending the cold email in the first place?

Not all cold emails need to go straight for the sale. But they do need to have a goal, whether it's booking a meeting or just getting a reply from a prospect. The secret sauce to a good sales pitch is what I call the 1, 2, 3 email hack: be relevant, get to the point fast and make it easy for prospects to respond.

Put yourself in your prospect's shoes. They don't even know who you are, so you need to give them a reason to read your email. Try to make it about them by asking a question about their biggest problem or challenge. Here’s an example:

Cold Email Response Rates Pitch

Notice that I didn't end it with a generic ask like booking a meeting or product demo. This cuts friction. All the prospect has to do is reply with a single number. Easy.

3. The Desired Call-to-Action

Sales CTAs are one of the most crucial ingredients in any cold email campaign.

Without one, prospects don't know what to do next. And CTAs work. WordStream data suggests adding a single one to a sales email can increase clicks by an eye-watering 1617%.

Once again, CTAs need to be tied to the goal of your cold email, so ask yourself whether you want your prospect to:

  • Just reply to you and get the conversation started
  • Book a meeting to talk about your product
  • Realize your service is valuable and feel like they should learn more
  • Sign up for a free trial or demo

You can also use your CTA to highlight social proof of your product or overcome objections by pointing prospects to case studies. Remember to keep it simple and make it easy for your prospect to say yes than no.

Here's more from me on CTAs 👇

4. Your Timing

Finally, the timing of cold emails will impact whether or not they are opened and get a response.

Email timings are a contentious debate in the sales and marketing community. Moosend studied 10 billion emails and found emails sent out on Thursdays had the highest open rates. While Omnisend also analyzed 2 billion emails and discovered open rates were highest at 8 am, 1 pm, and 4 pm, and click-through rates peaked on Fridays.

Cold Email Response Rates Timing

But there's no hard and fast rule on when you should be messaging prospects, so don't rush and send your emails at 8 AM just yet. The best time to send cold emails depends on your own data and target audience… not some random study.

That's where your sales tools come in.

Close gives you real-time insights into how cold emails sent by you and your entire organization are performing, when they're getting opened, and if prospects are replying. You can even created automated sequences and get a clear report on how each email performed.

My advice is to take this data and use it to optimize email send times.

5 Strategies To Improve Your Average Cold Email Response Rates

Successful cold email campaigns can fill your pipeline with prospects and improve conversion rates. The good news is it's not rocket science to boost that number. Simple tweaks to subject lines and follow-up strategies can improve cold email response rates.

Here are five of my best cold email optimization tips.

1. Use a Descriptive and Intriguing Subject Line

The first impression of a cold email is everything. And the first thing your prospect will see is a subject line telling them why you're contacting them and what's inside the email.

Subject lines are so important that 47% of prospects will decide whether or not to open your email based on what they say. They're also important because 69% of email recipients mark emails as spam depending on subject lines.

Yikes.

First, stick to some basic cold email subject line rules. Make sure it's clear and brief (preferably under five words with a max of 60 characters).

Then, decide on your hook. Focus on a prospect's problem (example: first steps to improving your [issue you're helping with]) or use a sense of urgency (example: your site needs this!) to grab their attention.

Remember, your prospect is busy. 30 other sales reps are emailing them and trying to get a reply. Make your subject line stand out.

Pro Tip: Email marketing tool Sendlane also suggests avoiding "curse words" in cold outreach emails as they increase the chance of being tagged as spam. Cut out words like free or winner, so you don't land in a prospect's spam folder.

2. Include Prospect-Specific Content

Remember how I said personalization is important?

You need to give cold prospects a reason to give a shit about your email. It gives you credibility and, more importantly, shows the prospect that you're not just sending them a generic bulk email without doing your research. I usually look for a client in the prospect's niche that Close has already helped crush it to show I know what I'm talking about.

Here's an example:

Cold Email Response Rates Example Email

Experiment 27 Founder Alex Berman also swears by including prospect-specific content. He recently explained how he generated $400k ARR in just 30 days using customization and advanced personalization. His team uses a mix of customized case studies and cold email campaigns to close deals by sending out niche messages to a target audience.

Listen to how he did it here 🎧

3. Keep the Email Brief

Cut the fluff and get to the damn point.

Internet users have an attention span of just eight seconds. That's how much time you have to get a prospect interested in what you've got to say. Hubspot research found emails with 50 to 125 words have a reply rate above 50%. The shorter the better.

Don't hide the prospect's pain point or your pitch in the fourth paragraph. Chances are, your prospect won't even make it that far before clicking out of your email and deleting it.

That's not to say you can't write an email with more than one paragraph. Just make sure every paragraph counts. Check out this cold email from Jake Jorgovan:

Sales Email Response Rates Example

The first paragraph is personalized and tells the prospect who he is and how he found them. The second goes for the knockout punch: the problems Jorgovan found with the prospect's website, how he can fix them, and a case study to prove it.

It wraps up with a value proposition on how the prospect can get the same results.

The result? Jorgovan closed the prospect and netted $4,250.

4. Always Use Company Email Addresses

A surprising mistake a lot of sales reps make is not using a company email address when connecting with potential customers.

Don't be tempted to smash out a cold email on your morning commute before double (and triple) checking you're doing it from your business email. It builds trust between you and your prospect and keeps everything professional.

This rule also applies to prospect email accounts.

Never message a generic info@ or hello@ inbox if you can avoid it. Instead, use a tool like Hunter or Voila Norbert to find their company name and email address.

Vladislav Podolyako, the founder & CEO of Belkins, uses these tools to find six-figure clients for his agency. He uses ideal customer profiles to narrow down chosen industries and then finds prospects using domain searches and email verification tools.

Once he has the email of a high-level prospect or decision-maker, he sends out a personalized and targeted email like this:

Cold Email Response Rates

This cold email netted Podolyako's client a $1 million deal 🤯

5. Get Smarter With Your Follow-Ups

My last tip is to get smarter with campaign follow-ups and keep going when everyone else has given up.

In almost every email outreach strategy, following up is how you win. The problem is there's only so much time in a day salespeople can dedicate to following up with cold leads. I let Close do the dirty work for me using automation and follow-up email sequences.

Sales Email Sequences Close

Here's what a typical cold email follow-up sequence looks like:

  • I send out a cold email to a prospect. The automated sequence kicks in and takes over if I don't hear back.
  • The day after the first cold email, a modified version of my first email is sent as a follow-up
  • If there's still no response, Close sends another follow-up email for me. This one highlights my original ask/CTA and asks if they can introduce me to the right person in their organization to talk to further

The sequence will then either send a break-up email or sparingly contact the prospect over the next couple of months to try and get a bite. And although Close is doing all the work for me at this point, I still get in-depth insights into how each campaign is performing thanks to sequence reporting.

Start Creating Effective Cold Emails

Cold email response rates can be a sales rep's Achilles heel.

But it pays to optimize your cold email outreach efforts. Small tweaks in your prospecting efforts can pay off big and help fill your sales funnel. Focus on your prospect and how you can add value. Mention a project they're working on or open up a conversation about a problem they're dealing with.

Close can effectively put the entire outbound sales process on autopilot. From templates to tagging and reporting, Close gives sales teams accurate data so they can see how well their cold emails are landing.

Ready to sell smarter, not harder? Take Close for a test drive.

Want to learn more about how to write killer cold emails? Click below!