Cold Email Response Rate: Benchmarks and How to Improve

Sam Brodie

December 16th

The effectiveness of cold emailing is often debated. Some say it is one of the most effective marketing tools, while others claim the response rate is often too low to justify it. Yet, cold emailing is undoubtedly a powerful sales instrument if you manage to tick the right boxes.

For the most part, it all comes down to broadening your reach and building relationships with potential customers – and each reply means another relationship that could lead to conversions. So, how many emails do you need to send to get responses?

Well, it depends.

If you’re emailing a list of carefully curated, high-quality leads, you might only need to send a handful of emails before seeing the results. Unfortunately, such lists are rare, so the numbers will usually be much higher.

Here’s an in-depth explanation of this issue:

Important Statistics

At this point, you probably know that cold email can be a powerful tool for promoting your business. Although you could use other methods, such as working with an link building company or improving your online presence on social media, cold email remains a viable and relatively cost-effective solution.

However, when it comes to cold emailing specifically, it can be difficult to gauge how effective your campaigns are. Let’s take a closer look at the numbers:

Open Rate

For marketing emails, according to MailChimp, the average open rate for emails from different industries is just 21.33 percent.

This is a good benchmark, but for cold emails, you should expect a higher open rate. First, if you’re using a healthy email account to send your emails, you’re more likely to land in the primary inbox instead of spam or a categories folder.

Second, if you’re writing relevant subject lines and opening lines, you can pique your recipient’s interest in a way that more predictable marketing emails can’t.

From what we’ve seen for cold email, a 40% benchmark is a good starting point, with some more targeted campaigns earning as much as a 60%+ open rate.

That means that, if you’re targeting correctly, you can expect 2-3 successful opens for every 5 cold emails you send.

Reply/Response Rate

Reply rate is usually the most important statistic in cold emailing, aside from win rate. And from what we’ve seen the rates are usually pretty low (2-5%). This can be discouraging, but keep in mind that cold email is a numbers game.

Sending emails to 50 different recipients to get 1 response may seem like waste of time, but if you’re sending to 50 new recipients each day, that means potentially generating one new, targeted lead every day.

If you scale that up, sending to, say 200 recipients each day, you’re potentially generating 4 new leads every day.

And if you can increase your reply rate to 4-5%, you’re more than doubling the number of targeted leads you’re generating.

Win Rate/Conversion Rate

Ultimately the goal of a cold email campaign is to get your recipient to take a certain action. That action could be to buy your product or service, it could be to get them to insert a backlink back to your site, it could be to have them host you on their podcast, it could be to get them to publish a guest post, etc.

Win rates can vary dramatically depending on the ultimate goal. For sales campaigns with a high ticket price item, win rates are often below 1%. For podcasts, we’ve had win rates as high as 15%!

As with reply rates, it’s important not to get discouraged and to keep in mind that cold email is a numbers game. Establishing your baseline win rate and then trying to improve on that number is the name of the game.

Click Through Rate (CTR)

The click-through rate (CTR) – or the percentage of people who click on at least one link in your email – is often less relevant for cold email as the goal is usually a reply instead of a click. However, some cold email strategies involve trying to get someone to take an action (like booking a meeting) directly from a link in an email.

These CTRs are usually in the range of 1-5%.

When it comes to cold emails, CTRs will depend on how accurate your targeting is. Personalized subject lines, for example, can have a big impact on how many people click through. If you have a list of businesses that are looking for the solutions you offer, then your CTR can be much higher.

Why do we mention it? Because for every single cold email you manage to get open, there’s a decent chance that the recipient will also click on one of your links. And so, if you create an email that accurately shows off what makes your product or service special and persuasively explains why they should want it, then there’s no reason not to anticipate success in reaching leads who may be interested in learning more about it.

Calculating Your Response Rate

There are actually 2 ways that you can calculate response rate.

First, is:

Number of unique replies / number of emails delivered * 100 = percentage reply rate. 

For example, if you send out 500 cold emails and receive back 50 replies, your reply rate would be 10%.

The one that we prefer is actually:

Number of unique replies / number of recipients * 100 = percentage reply rate.

Calculating this way captures the overall effectiveness of a campaign (which can include many follow-up emails in the sequence) to its recipients rather than just a particular email’s effectiveness within a sequence.

Note that not every email you send reaches the recipient – some will go to spam, others will bounce back, and so on. Some tools can help you automate this process – including Postaga.

Factors That Affect Your Response Rate

The biggest risk with cold emailing is ending up in the recipient’s spam folder. Understandably, nobody wants irrelevant messages in their inbox, so spam filters are getting increasingly sophisticated. The first step to prevent this is to avoid the common cold email campaign mistakes – which we’ve listed in our other article.

In general, several factors may affect your response rate, including:

  • Intent – Try to identify whether the recipient is likely to be interested in your products or services. The more relevant your offer, the better.
  • Communication Channel – Some channels are more “intrusive” than others. For example, LinkedIn InMail has a better chance of getting through than an email sent to a personal Gmail account.
  • Personalization – If you acquire the recipient’s name and other personal information, make sure to use it in the email – even a personalized opening sentence can make a big difference.
  • Call-to-Action – Similarly, a strong and relevant call-to-action can encourage the recipient to take the desired action, such as visiting your website, even if they have never heard of your brand before.
  • Follow-Ups – Just because the recipient doesn’t reply to your first email does not necessarily mean they aren’t interested. Sending a follow-up can often be enough to get a response. That is, provided you don’t come across as too pushy.
  • Target Groups – Certain cold mailing companies allow you to segment your target groups, which can make a big difference in terms of response rates. For instance, you might get better results by targeting small businesses rather than individuals.
  • Inbox Placement – If your emails aren’t ending up in the recipient’s primary inbox, they’re less likely to get a response

Defining a Success

When launching a cold emailing campaign, it’s important to set realistic expectations from the outset. The way in which you measure success will depend on your goals – and certain niches have a significantly greater chance of achieving success than others.

This factor may increase the number of emails you need to send to get responses. However, if your goal is to increase brand awareness or build relationships, even a handful of responses could be considered a success.

And finally, one of the defining factors of your emailing campaign is the conversions. Sure, increasing traffic and building brand awareness are essential, but if you can’t turn those leads into conversions, you may want to tweak your strategy further.

This isn’t to say such a campaign is unsuccessful – but does it cater to your needs?

How Many Emails Should You Send

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s look at what we’ve learned. The question of how many emails you need to send before you get responses depends on a number of factors – including the niche you target, the quality of your list, the amount of effort you put into crafting your message, and your ability to set realistic expectations.

Ultimately, it comes down to trial and error.

We could say that it all depends on your particular case, and you cannot predict if you will get a reply or not. Still, there is a certain probability that you will get a response from specific people who fit your criteria.

So, if you are targeting specific companies, have a high-quality list of contacts, and are willing to put in the necessary effort, you might be able to get great results with just a few thousand emails.

Conversely, if you are targeting a broad audience or have a low-quality list, you might need to do a little more than send out a few generic messages.

Woodpecker reports that implementing custom personalized snippets allowed them to up their response rate from 7% to 17%, which illustrates how important it is to put in the effort.

You also need to keep your scale in mind – how many emails do you think you can send in a day? If you have an extensive list and are convinced you can get through it quickly, you may want to test out a higher number of email providers. Google Workspace only allows you to send 2,000 emails a day (with the paid plan), so if you consider the timing and other elements, you may want to lower your expectations.

We’ve already covered the email-sending limits, and the conclusion is clear: you don’t want to go overboard, as your ESP could temporarily or permanently ban you from using their service.

The Ideal Number of Emails to Send

Needless to say, you don’t want to spend the entire daily quota on the first mail only – you need to have some space for follow-ups and other messages. And so, you should aim to message 50-200 new prospects every day. This way, you’ll still be in the green and can easily recover from any potential mistakes.

If you’re sending to 50 prospects per day, that works out to about 1,500 recipients per month, or around 18,000 a year. This may not seem like a lot, but if your conversion rate is around 3% (including follow-ups), that’s still over 500 conversions per year, which is quite a significant number for emails alone.

But you don’t have to go that far to land a deal. Suppose you are creating a cold-emailing campaign for a growing payment processing provider. They offer a great service, but they’re not well-known yet. You can create a target list of 250 potential clients and write a personalized message to each of them.

You don’t have to set specific open or reply rate goals – with such narrow targeting, your open rate may go up to 100%. And each reply can be followed with a 1:1 conversation and further nurturing. From there, the conversion rate will depend on your skills and the quality of your offer.

How Many Emails Will It Take to Get a Response?

This is the million-dollar question. Is there a certain number of emails you can send out before you get a response from your subscribers? Do you have to wait for the perfect amount of time to pass before you get your first reply?

Such an approach would be ineffective, to say the least. Instead of waiting for the increase in the sales figures alone, you should instead monitor other metrics, from email opening rate – which you can measure quite precisely – to social media interactions, time on site, and even unsubscribe rate.

The bottom line is that there’s no magic number of emails you can send. Instead, you should work out a system that fits your industry and budget. You can try out a variety of tactics to see what works best for you – crafting great subject lines, sending personalized messages, or even following up with a phone call.

The number of emails you send is important, but equally important is the quality of your list and the effort you put into crafting great messages.

If you buy a random list of contacts and send them generic emails, you’re as good as spamming them – and sending out copious amounts of emails will only worsen the situation.

On the other hand, if you take your time and craft a thoughtful message for your perfect target customer, you’ll be surprised by the number of responses you get – even if it’s just one or two.

To wrap it up, keep your number of prospects high, but not so high that you’re sacrificing on quality. Sending out 50 well-crafted messages with accurate segmentation will most likely get you more results than 200 generic emails sent to a list of unengaged contacts.

How Many Times Should I Follow Up?

Now that we’ve answered the question of how many emails you need to send in total, it’s time to focus on the follow-up. As 75% of successful deals come from follow-ups, it is a good idea to have a strategy in place for these as well – especially considering that the reply rate declines with every subsequent email.

So, let’s imagine you contacted someone – and they didn’t reply. Should you reach out again?

In short, yes. But there are a few things you need to consider first:

  • Bounced Emails – Needless to say, if your email wasn’t delivered the first time around, there’s no point in sending it again. A bounced email means the user does not exist or there’s something wrong with the email address.
  • Subscription Changes – If a contact decides they no longer want to receive emails from you, you need to respect that decision. Sending them more emails will only irritate and annoy them and increase your complaint rate, hurting your email’s reputation.
  • Spam Filters – Another thing that can happen is the email being sent to spam. It usually indicates a problem with your deliverability, and it’s worth investing in an inbox placement tool to see how your emails are performing.
  • Email Deliverability – Whether your email reaches the recipient’s inbox or not, depends on many other elements, including your sender score, email engagement rate, or even sending patterns and timing.
  • Repetitiveness – Last but not least, sending too many follow-ups that bring nothing new might be seen as a little bit annoying by your contacts. If the previous attempts were unsuccessful, maybe it’s time to try something else.

Note that the response rate to the first email is usually around 30%, to the fourth one, it drops to 14%, and in the case of the subsequent ones, it continues to decline. Due to that, it is safe to assume that anything above ten follow-ups is excessive, with 4-7 emails providing you with the highest chances of success. Recently we’ve actually been sticking more to 3-5 in our own outreach and that seems to be working well.

In Conclusion

There’s no magic number of emails you can send before you get responses – by nature, cold emailing is a numbers game. The more people you contact, the greater your chances of receiving responses.

Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean you should just buy a list of contacts and start spamming them with generic messages. Instead, focus on quality over quantity – target the right people, craft great subject lines and personalized messages, and ensure your offer is relevant.

Lastly, don’t forget to set realistic expectations. Just because you have a low response rate doesn’t mean your campaign was unsuccessful. Every campaign is an opportunity to learn and improve, and if you’re sending enough volume, you will still be getting wins.


What is the response rate of cold emailing?

In our experience, the here are some general response rates given the type of campaign:

  • Sales: 2%
  • Link Building: 2-4%
  • Podcast: 5-15%
  • Affiliate Generation: 2-4%

What is the success rate of cold emailing?

The answer to this question largely depends on a number of factors and the way you evaluate it. Generally speaking, when it comes to open rates, anything above 40% is considered successful, while a response rate of 2-5% is good, with anything over that being exceptional.

Given those numbers, win rates of 1-5%, depending on the goal of the campaign, can be expected.

That said, it’s important to remember that the success rate of cold emailing also depends on the list quality and the relevance of the email content. So, for a curated list of businesses that have a genuine interest in what you’re offering, the success rate you set can be significantly higher.

How many times should I follow up with an email?

Sending too many follow-ups that bring nothing new might be seen as a little bit annoying by your contacts and increase your spam complaint rate. Sending too few follow-ups can lead quality leads on the table and lower your response rate.

It’s crucial to find the right balance. The 3-5 attempt mark is usually a great place to start, as the response rate tends to peak at this point.

If you do not get an answer even after this number of attempts, it might be time to switch up your strategy and try something else.

What is the best time to send a cold email?

The answer to this question largely depends on your target audience. If you’re targeting businesses, it’s generally best to avoid Mondays and Fridays, as well as mornings and late nights. However, if you’re contacting individuals, each demographic will have different preferences.

How do I avoid spam filters when cold emailing?

Using an email warmup tool is a must when doing cold email. These tools help raise the reputation of your email by sending “warmup” emails to other inboxes in the tool’s network and then automatically opening them, marking them important, and replying to them to increase the overall engagement with your emails.

Besides using a warmup tool, paying attention to the content of your email is very important. Avoiding common spammy keywords (using words like “SALE” or “FREE” is never a good idea), using a professional-looking email address, and keeping your message concise.

Spam filters are becoming smarter and smarter, so the best way to get around them is to make sure your emails are personalized and relevant. Make sure that the email you’re sending is tailored to the recipient and that it provides value upfront.

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