How to build a cold email channel as an indie hacker
You can build a thriving cold email growth channel for $250 in just a day.
This week on Heads of Growth, Valentin Wallyn is going to teach how to build an affordable cold email growth channel.
A couple of quick notes:
1. I'm changing Heads of Growth to less story/narrative driven and more instructional around how to build a specific growth channel.
2. This note reads like a sponsored post, but it's not! I've used FindyMail before, and thought Valentin would be the best person to interview. I have no affiliation with FindyMail.
Who is Valentin and what is FindyMail?
Valentin Wallyn is the CEO and founder of FindyMail – a tool that helps you collect accurate leads for sending cold emails, without spending a lot of time (or money) prospecting. The email finder and verifier acts as a standalone product, and can also be used with existing tools like Apollo or Sales Navigator, acting as a data provider on other sales tools.
Why is Valentin the right person to tell us how to build a cold email growth channel?
- He has built a tool to build and scale this specific channel more effectively
- He's used the channel to grow his own company (and of course, using his own product)
How to create a cold email growth channel
Step 1 - Setup your inbox
Don't send cold emails from your primary domain. Don't send emails directly from your product domain or work email. You want a secondary domain. If your domain is "product.com", use something like "getproduct.com" or "product.co". Get as many as possible depending on the volume you want to send.
After you purchase the domains, setup an email you can send from. Zoho works well and is fairly cheap. You could also use Outlook or Gmail, but then you'll have to manually setup DMARC, SPF and DKIM records (tools like Zoho do this automatically). Find more information about setting up these records here.
Check the security of your email and records to make sure that your email doesn't end up in spam. You can check your records for free here.
Finally, you'll want to re-direct the secondary domains to your primary domain to have an intuitive sales flow. If you have a similar domain, they can convert without even knowing the domain is different!
Step 2 – Warm up the inboxes you just created
You'll need to "warm up" the domain inbox or inboxes. This warm-up feature is typically included in modern cold emailing software, but there are also some standalone ones out there.
SmartLead and InstantLeads are two of the best tools out there right now because they include this feature, and also do multi-domain relations. That means you can have ~5 different domains in rotation sending emails. It's not something you typically see on more corporate software because it's a new way of doing cold emails. But it also comes at no extra cost. With older software, you'll have to pay for each individual inbox.
Plug your email into whatever service you chose and enter the warmup phase. The inbox will send emails to other inboxes and get replies automatically. This artificial activity prevents your new inboxes from looking brand new. This is important for reputation and will help with deliverability. The warm-up phase takes about 2 week or so, and throughout this 2 week period you increase the volume. After 2 weeks you can start sending out your ideal volume. Use the two week warm-up period to source your contacts and write the emails.
Step 3 – Source your emails
If you're just getting started and want a lower budget, you can take advantage of the 1 month free trial of LinkedIn Sales Navigator. It requires a credit card but can be canceled immediately to avoid full price. But since you don't need it every month, it's likely also worth it to just pay for a month or two.
On Sales Navigator, you can search for people with many filters. Job title, industry, keyword, etc. Use these filters to find your exact target market and who you are trying to reach. That means you'll first need to have a very clear idea of who your target market is.
If you aren't totally sure, try a few specific personas that sound reasonable to you. Test and see what works. But make sure whatever you're targeting is specific so that you know what ends up working.
Sales Navigator does not allow you to export data or emails, but that's where FindyMail comes in. The FindyMail Chrome extension will add an export button to the Sales Navigator UI. It will export your whole search with email contact info that you can then plug into the SmartLead campaign.
FindyMail costs $99 for 5,000 email sends. If you have a half decent strategy, you should be able to generate way more than $100 with that many sends. They also have 1k and 15k plans.
Step 4 - copywriting the campaign
There's no one correct way to write your cold emails, but there are many ways to go wrong. You might notice that most cold emails in your own inbox are quite poor. Pay attention to what makes them terrible.
The goal you want to achieve in a cold campaign is to get a reply, NOT get an immediate sale. Do things that optimize for replies. What you should do will heavily depend on your offer. For example, a self-serve product will need much lighter touches than something needing multiple sales calls.
Keep the cold emails very short (the shorter the better). That means cutting out all crap like "I hope this email finds you better" and all corporate jargon. It needs to be as conversational as possible. Use slang and abbreviations (appropriately). Try really, really hard not to be annoying. Put yourself in your target's shoes and ask if they'd like the email you're sending.
One great tactic is to ask a qualifying question that will start a conversation. You, as the salesperson, want to "qualify" the contact. There are data points you can't get without asking a person directly, and this is your chance to ask them. Make sure the question is meaningful and you'll be able to help the person in response. Stay away from generic and spammy things like "do you want to increase your sales conversions?". Many people get dozens or hundreds of cold emails a day. Stand out in an appropriate manner. When a lead is qualified, move them to your CRM with all info.
Some notes on metrics
- The only thing that matters is how much money you generate from your campaign. All metrics are derived from this. If you have a high ticket product and a conversion rate of 0.1%, that might be really good!
- Open Rates: if you setup everything correctly, you should have good deliverability. But it's still a great way to track the health of your deliverability and quality of your subject lines.
- If your domain is "burned" you'll notice a massive drop off in replies. Do take a look at spam reports. This will hurt your domain if you get a lot of them.
- Going up to much in volume too quickly. This is a big part of the warm up process. Even so, he tends to be quite conscious of his inboxes so he can keep them longer. Keep it to 20-30 emails a day per inbox (plus the warmup emails)
- It's good to have some follow up email. Send a similar email on the same thread after 2-3 days of not responding. After this he doesn't send much, most conversions come from the first email or first follow up. No need to send 7 emails to one person who isn't interested. There's a higher risk of pissing someone off.