B2B Glossary


What is a Cold Email?

Cold emails are emails sent to contacts with whom the sender has no connection. The method of obtaining this contact information is typically purchasing a list of emails. In a business context, marketers or salespeople typically send cold emails promoting offers, incentives, or information to a purchased list of contacts in the hope that some will become qualified leads for their product or service.

Cold email is part of cold prospecting or reaching out to a contact unaware of the company’s product or service through social media, phone, email, texting, or any other platform.

Benefits of Cold Email

Cold email requires minimal effort, and the sender may experience pure luck in turning a cold contact into a lead. Companies that invest time, effort, and resources in cold emailing can learn about their buyers. A test-based approach can uncover some buyer intelligence.

For example, sending small batches of cold emails with different subject lines may result in understanding messaging that resonates with the buyer. However, cold emails becoming a trustworthy source of buyer intelligence is unlikely, as 91.5% of cold outreach emails are ignored (Backlinko and Pitchbox).

While cold email is an outdated and annoying practice akin to telemarketing, 74% of businesses still purchase cold contact lists. The pitfalls of this tactic, however, far outweigh its minimal benefits.

Read more: Ironpaper Market Research Report - The State of Cold Email in B2B

Challenges of Cold Email

The pitfalls of this tactic have increased over the last several years as regulations have tightened and the practice has gained traction on a wider variety of platforms. 

Breach of privacy

Individuals want more privacy, and cold emailing directly goes against that wish. People simply do not want their information given to companies who will not do their research and will instead spam them with useless information; it’s annoying and intrusive, and it decreases the credibility of the company using this tactic.

Regulatory violations

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes down pretty hard on purchased email lists, leaning more toward European opt-in requirements. While GDPR is an EU regulation, it covers emails that are sent from businesses based outside Europe. If a company sends emails to European contacts (either knowingly or unknowingly) without their consent, they may be in breach of GDPR.

Spam complaints

When a company sends cold emails, many may be marked as spam. Email providers track the number of people who reported email as spam out of the total messages sent, also known as spam complaint rates.

The email provider flags senders with high spam complaint rates, and those businesses may face blacklisting. Ensuing emails could be blocked by ISPs, meaning customers who want that information will no longer get it, or all future emails will go directly to the junk folder. Removing an IP address from blacklisting is doable but not without substantial work.

Damaged reputation

Every time an email is sent, it strengthens or hurts the company’s email sender rating. Internet and email service providers aim to deliver a high-quality experience for their users and limit any content that isn’t valid, relevant, or interesting.

A sender score, or email sender rating, is similar to a credit score, and it determines how many of your messages make it through filters and is given priority status in the inbox.

Fractured relationships

Unsolicited bulk email received by any business isn’t just unwanted but opens up numerous long-term risks that could hurt the viability of a brand. These risks include being subject to consumer-protection laws, security implications, reducing deliverability rates, being seen as annoying, investing in high-cost/low-return efforts, and burning bridges with desirable organizations.  

Ultimately, the decision to employ cold emailing will be determined by a company’s bandwidth to invest in the slow-burn process of improvements without cutting spending in areas that drive growth. 

Ironpaper Insights on Cold Email



of B2B companies purchase cold email lists.


Nearly half of B2B companies that are successful lead nurturing companies feel that “email blasts or newsletters” are the least successful method for engaging or nurturing leads.


of B2B companies that are only mildly successful or not successful at all at lead nurturing report that contacting purchased lists results in sales opportunities.

Tel 212-993-7809  

Ironpaper ®
10 East 33rd Street 
6th Floor
New York, NY 10016

Ironpaper - B2B Agency

B2B Marketing and Growth Agency.

Grow your B2B business boldly. Ironpaper is a B2B marketing agency. We build growth engines for marketing and sales success. We drive demand generation campaigns, ABM programs, B2B content, sales enablement, qualified leads, and B2B marketing efforts. 

Ironpaper Twitter Ironpaper Linkedin