You got a new product and need a hack to get it into the market. This hack costs $124, and it Proxycurl to a million dollars in annual revenue. This is my go-to market plan right after I finish building Proxycurl, and I will break down how I did it in this post.
The goal here is to send cold emails at scale without going into spam. I always believed that to get customers, and I have to talk to them. I did not have money for ads, but emails are almost free, right?
Now, It is no coincidence that this hack cost us just $124. We are a bootstrapped company, and whatever we do has to be cheap in actual dollar cost as well as the manpower cost to implement and maintain it. And given that I intended to send tens of thousands of cold emails, including follow-up emails, I ruled out outsourcing the solution to any SaaS plans because I do not believe there is any solution that is cheaper than sending emails via Amazon SES.
In a nutshell:
- Something cheap.
- Uses Amazon SES to send emails.
- Something fast to implement.
- Something that is easy to maintain.
The "hack" stack
I picked Sendy as my email delivery tool. Sendy cost me $69 as a one-time payment, and I get to host Sendy in perpetuity. Amazing! I can also send as many emails as I want from it without paying more, unlike other SaaS, which will make me pay more the more I use it.
Officially, Sendy is a newsletter app. As a newsletter app, it has an editor for me to craft an email to be sent to a list of email addresses. It even handles unsubscribes! It's perfect for cold email outreach (for me). The only thing that it does not do natively out of the box is to send automated follow-up emails. I work around that by creating new email campaigns for the same audience list.
To receive emails, we use Gmail. Google Workspace, to be exact, with our own custom domain. This works the best for deliverability, and it is fairly priced.
Then, I use a custom domain. In our case, we used a proxycurl.co. You should never use your official company domain for cold email outreach if you care about email deliverability for official emails. So, I added this custom domain as an additional domain under Google Workspace, and voila, all official emails will get the additional domain alias of proxycurl.co. With a custom domain, I verified an outreach email [email protected], with Amazon SES, so I can send emails from Sendy with this custom domain.
All emails replied to [email protected] will land in my official [email protected] inbox. The problem is that sometimes, responses go to spam. So I do have to check my spam inboxes from time to time.
I use Crunchbase Pro to seed my email list. General emails of startups to be exact. Here's the thing. I knew that people who needed my solution would need it badly. Our solution is an immense painkiller. So my job was really to reach out to as many possible companies and identify any company with this immense pain. Ideally, you built a painkiller, and you are ready to talk to your customers. I use Crunchbase Pro for this very problem of building a list of emails. As of now, it costs $49 for a Pro account, for which you are able to export lists in sizes of up to 1000 rows at a time.
I verified my emails with a third-party email address verifier. We use a few, so I won't advertise here. Such services are a commodity, so it is in your interest to find the cheapest possible solution here. The problem is that emails from Crunchbase Pro are mostly stale, and that they might bounce. You do not want to be sending emails with a bounce rate of more than 5%. That will get your account in trouble with Amazon SES. So verify your emails so that you can minimize the bounce rate and keep your Amazon SES account in good standing.
In summary, my cold email outreach hack comprises of:
- Sendy ($69)
- Google Workspace ($6)
- A custom domain named similarly
- Crunchbase Pro account ($49)
- Email verification service (depends)
Costs altogether: $124 (excluding costs incurred on Amazon SES, which is usually just a few dollars, and the costs of the email verification service)
Step by step guide to sending cold emails with the "hack" stack
1. Building an email list from Crunchbase Pro
First things first, I got my devs to set Sendy up. I can't provide guidance for that but if you are stuck, you can always look out for a ready-made hosted option. Once it is up, I added my Amazon SES credentials to Sendy and Sendy was ready to be used.
Next, I used Crunchbase Pro to search for companies
In the following industries:
human resource tech startups
Based in the US
Who have raised at least a Series A round in the two years.
Then I'd export the list with general emails in them.
2. Verifying emails
Armed with a list of emails, I verified the list of emails that I had built in the prior step with my favourite email verification service. I made sure to remove invalid emails that bounce. However, I kept catch-all emails though as I know that sometimes the CEO do read them and emails will not bounce.
- Remove all invalid emails with an email verification service.
- Retain catch-all email addresses.
3. Upload emails to a Sendy list
I created a list on Sendy and uploaded the verified emails to the list. Given that these emails are general emails, I made sure to add the company name under the
Name column. So that I can at least customize the email templates with a company name.
4. Draft the email campaign (here are my email templates)
I think you are smart enough to know how to draft an email campaign. Instead, I will show you the email templates that I used:
Initial outreach email:
Do you guys scrape Linkedin profiles? Can you connect me with your CTO? I can help with scraping 1M Linkedin profiles a day.
Let me know!
Follow up email:
Hi! Following up from my last email. Any thoughts about it?
Follow up email #2:
Hi! Checking in with you again, any thoughts on my last email?
It is vital that you send follow-ups! My response rates increased 400% with follow-up emails.
5. Send the emails!
With your email template drafted, you are almost ready to send the email Make sure to have a subject, and a
TEXT version of your email to maximize deliverability.
Before you launch the campaign, check for spamminess of your email by sending a test email via https://www.mail-tester.com/. Correct the issues that mail-tester tells you. Ideally, you should be 10/10 for no spamminess. That's what the score I get.
With the above-described email template, I had the following results:
- 40.96% open rate
- ~5% response rate
- 1.2% unsubscribed.
- 0% bounced
- 0% marked as spam.
I had video calls booked for a full two weeks in my calendar with one email campaign like such.
In the next email, I will tell you exactly how I sell as the only sales rep at Proxycurl. Follow me on Twitter or subscribe to our mailing list here if you want to be notified of my next post. In the meantime, feel free to tweet your questions to me!