While researching acquisition channels that consistently work for founders for my Zero to Users report, I discovered many founders were having success with cold email.
What surprised me, however, was how many of them were using email marketing services (that aren't supposed to be used for cold email) to do cold outreach.
Take Contento ($800/mo), a guest posting marketplace, for example. When asked how Contento attracted users and grew their business, one of the answers their co-founders cited was cold email using HubSpot, an email marketing service:
We use HubSpot for the actual email sequencing, as it works well both for tracking all the email metrics we need and the customer lifecycle.
On the publisher's side, there are many blog posts all over the internet containing lists of blogs/publisher sites that accept guest posts. I've written scripts and tools to scrape the information, gather the email addresses using tools like Hunter, and massage it into our outreach funnel.
We do a similar thing for brands. We've actually ended up developing some secret sauce to automate our prospecting for digital marketing agencies. We collect the emails and massage it into sequencing in HubSpot.
If case you didn't know, HubSpot is an email marketing service. However, you're allowed to send email via Hubspot once someone gives you a permission to do so (by entering their email on your website, for example). That means every email you send through HubSpot's platform is going to an engaged visitor - rather then someone who has never heard of you. In fact, cold email is against HubSpot's Terms&Conditions:
What's happening in theory and practice are 2 different things, however. Although HubSpot (and other email marketing tools) say you can't send cold emails through the platform, I've discovered founders doing it regardless (and some of them getting results).
Take Inbox When Ready ($1.2k/mo), a Chrome extension in email. Instead of HubSpot, they used Mailgun, (another email marketing service), to send emails:
I got most of my first 100 users via manual outreach. I made a list of several hundred people who I thought would be interested in trying Inbox When Ready and contacted them individually, mostly by email.
I wrote a short email with a clear subject line. I sent the emails via Mailgun's free SMTP service, which makes it easy to track open rates and spam complaints...
Fortunately, this didn't get them banned. Not only that, but it got them actual results as well:
(I received zero spam complaints, which I took to mean I was emailing the right kind of people in a reasonable way). About 20% of recipients gave the extension a try.
This doesn't change the fact, however, that they were using an email marketing service where you're supposed to send mass emails to people who are part of an email list that gave you permission to send them emails.
I'm part of several Facebook groups like lemlist family or Cold Email Closers that discuss cold emailing strategies. You'd expect people there to know their stuff on cold email. But even some people there don't seem to realize there is a difference between email marketing and cold email. This is a screenshot from a recent post on a FB cold emailing group:
Notice the comment. "Anybody using Sendgrid with dedicated IP?"
Again, Sendgrid is an email marketing tool that allows you to send email to an existing list, not to someone who's never heard of you.
This is why I wrote this post, so I can get your input.
My take: No, in theory. Most email marketing providers have a "complaint rate" (for Amazon SES, it's 0.1%). This means if more than 1 in 1000 people mark your email as spam, you're going to start getting problems with deliverability. This is just one of the main reasons.
But, as I've mentioned before, theory and practice are 2 different things.
What's been your (or someone you know) experience in sending cold email via email marketing tools?