How to Personalize Cold Email Messaging for Outbound Sales

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Founder at PilotNOW

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Ian has more than a decade of experience in outsourced sales and sales development, leading both small and international sales forces. As a serial entrepreneur, Ian has been on the founding teams of 4 startups and 2 acquisitions.

At PilotNOW, he helps companies all over the world design, execute and optimize outbound sales campaigns. 

Personalization is the customization of cold emails using research on the specific personas, companies, or prospects you target.

When done correctly, there is a long list of benefits to personalized messaging:

    • Catches More Attention in a Full Inbox
    • Gives the Impression of a Genuine, Well-Researched Message
    • Motivates More Positive Behavior Towards Your Emails
    • Helps Avoid Spam Filters with More Variations in Email Content
    • Generates More Responses & Top-of-Funnel Opportunities

While personalizing outreach to each individual will usually perform the best, this approach can be hard to sustain and even harder to scale with limited time or team resources.

The challenge with personalizing cold messaging is finding out how to craft emails in a way that allows you to send them at scale while still resonating with recipients.

Personalizing Cold Messaging: Before You Start

Before getting started, it’s important to understand that personalization is a balancing game between time you spend personalizing messages and the volume of prospects you can contact with your outreach.

While the right personalization can substantially increase conversion rates, each second spent personalizing emails for a prospect will limit the daily number of prospects you can reach overall.

Since you have limited time to personalize, you need to make sure the conversions you generate make sense at your volume.

If you’re targeting small businesses with a low lifetime value, the extra time it takes to personalize cold emails might not be worth the conversions and value you generate.

However, it might be worth a considerable investment in personalization for a campaign targeting 100 accounts that are each worth multi-million dollar contracts.

The time you can spend personalizing cold emails will depend on your specific situation. How many contacts are available for your outreach? What is the value of each customer? How many prospects can your team realistically personalize per day?

Types of Email Personalization

Marketers often get several data points when they target sales leads that are overlooked or unused. However, a little personalization can go a long way to differentiate your outreach to recipients.

Ultimately, the sky’s the limit for personalization. Hundreds of data points exist that offer creative opportunities for you to stick out from the crowd without wasting tons of time customizing for each recipient.

Simple Personalization

There are many opportunities to personalize using easy-to-find data you’d often get with tools like LinkedIn, LimeLeads, or

For example, everyone gets a company name and a contact name. You can customize these names throughout the email to add variations in your content and make it appear more genuine.

Another example is using a prospect’s phone number, their city, or their timezone.

These simple tactics let recipients immediately know that your message is unique and that you’ve done the research on them. 

Persona-Based Personalization

Rather than spend time personalizing to each prospect individually, you can identify information that is relatable to a group of people or companies.

Personalization based on personas allows you to resonate with people in specific roles, at specific types of companies, or those dealing with specific situations.

For example, you might find a common topic-of-interest for financial leaders at larger companies, marketing leaders at startups, or founders that just hired their first sales rep.

Another example is personalizing the social proof in your cold emails. Rather than dropping unrelated brands, you can personalize the clients referenced to a specific industry or geography.

Since personas are more time-efficient to personalize than each individual, you can scale to higher email volumes using this type of personalization approach.

Customized Personalization

Depending on your market and deal values, it might be worth investing the time to do hyper-personalized outreach to each recipient.

While it can be harder to sustain this type of personalization, it’s the most effective because your emails relate directly to the specific individuals reading them.

One example of customized personalization is reaching out with a count that’s relevant to them. The number of locations, products, or team members in their department is a unique way to frame your knowledge about their situation.

Another example is personalizing your messaging based on localized information that impacts them. If they’re battling unique competition or experiencing price increases, you can use this information to make it clear you’ve done extensive research.

Choosing Personalization for Cold Email

Your ability to personalize is limited by time. Every minute spent on finding personalization for one recipient is a minute you can’t use to reach out to another.

When choosing your personalization, you want to make sure it’s sustainable enough to consistently achieve the volume you need for a cold email campaign.

If not, you’ll end up stuck or struggling to maintain your outreach volume.

For example, there might be 5 CEOs out of 100 that have a quote relating to a specific topic or recently got funding, so these types of scarce personalization variables would be time-consuming and inefficient to collect.

Instead, look for personalization that can be commonly found for your target prospects. Search in places that can yield more than one point of personalization like a job posting or news article.

Personalizing Your Cold Email Campaign

It’s best to start simple by using the data you always have because it’s easy to implement and doesn’t take much time. You can always add more customization down the road.

As research for personalization, you’ll identify information that is unique to the companies and prospects you’re targeting and create a research process around efficiently acquiring that data.

Once you collect your personalization data, you’ll have to decide how and where to use it in the campaign.

While you want to prioritize your best personalization variables for your earlier emails, you still need to personalize the other steps of your cold email campaign to ensure every message is as relevant as possible.

It all comes down to the journey. Buyers are not always in-market or aware of the problems you solve when you first connect.

Sprinkle personalization in every step of your sequence so that you add value throughout your cold email campaign and keep your brand top-of-mind when recipients open their inbox.

From there, you should always be A/B testing because personalization doesn’t always work. Sometimes an approach is too niche, too direct, or misses the mark on the intended impact you expected.

Ultimately, you can only make assumptions about your personalization strategy until you see the results from sending to real people.

If your hypothesis is proven correct, then you can double down on the winning personalization. If it’s not proven true, then remove that approach and throw in a new one.

Just Getting Started with Cold Email Messaging for Outbound Sales? Here’s Ian’s Advice:

Don’t Listen to Anyone But Yourself

There are experts everywhere telling marketers to do this, that, or the other. However, every situation is different and it’s unlikely their advice alone will crack the puzzle for your business.

You know more about your product, your buyers, and how to approach outbound sales for your market. No expert has a magic bullet, so focus on building a sales prospecting system that can work for you.

Know Your Customers

Effective personalization is about what resonates with the specific people and companies you’re trying to reach.

Start small with personalization. However, you should strive to learn as much as you can about the hot spots, pains, and topics that matter to your target buyers.

Use A/B Testing

You don’t master personalization by reading a book or doing research on your customers once. You master personalized messaging by consistently doing it, reviewing the results, and improving over time.

Setup A/B tests and don’t get discouraged when your ideas don’t work. Instead, focus on learning lessons from each test and using those insights to move on to better emails.