How To Get 129 Hot Leads from 1,303 Cold Emails (A Case Study)

You craft the best sales pitch you’ve ever written and email it out to 100 potential clients. You’re excited. You can’t wait to see how much new business this brings in for your startup tomorrow.

You come in at 8am sharp, grab a coffee and check your inbox.


What went wrong?

In the world of startup sales, an “interested” rate of around 1-2% is considered a good result for a cold email campaign. If you’re hitting that, you’re probably closing enough deals to make your sales efforts worthwhile… but it’d be a lot better if you could hit 10%, right?

This article will explain how we got 129 positive responses for our client, Maderight (the first online manufacturer), from 1303 cold emails. That’s a 9.9% “interested” rate.

From cold emails.

I’ll walk you through the process we use for our clients and show you how you can do the same.

Finding The Ideal Client

The first part of our process is always defining who to contact. Asking which leads are going to be most likely to convert. This is called creating an Ideal Client Profile (more info on that process here).

Essentially we define our client’s target audience in terms of objective parameters like company size, funding, industry, contact title, contact seniority, etc.

We’ve worked with hundreds of target audiences before, and we’re obsessed with data, so we use our internal resources (210M contacts at over 20M companies) to build a list consisting of only those contacts who fit the criteria.

You can find this company and contact information yourself online. Or you can get in touch with Personas below to build a highly targeted list of contacts for your business.

The 1,303 contacts for our Maderight campaign all fit the following criteria:

Owners/Directors/Presidents/VPs/Heads of operations/manufacturing/supply chain at 1-50 person fashion/apparel/retail/consumer goods companies.

Writing Emails That Convert

Once we’ve nailed down our ideal client list the next step of the process is to craft the email copy.

We interview our clients about their product to uncover the pains their product solves for their target audience/s. We get very specific about the tangible value and the unique benefits that your product offers, and we identify any objections that your leads might have right off the bat.

We keep the emails short and informal because we’ve found they perform better, and we write multiple versions to split test which value propositions and pain points generate the most interest.

These are 2 versions of the email copy we used for Maderight:

Version 1

We’re the first full-service manufacturer to make the manufacturing process easy, by bringing it online.

You’ll always know where each material is and which cycle of the production process it’s in. And you can approve everything from a single dashboard, without back-and-forth emails. Plus our minimum unit requirements are competitively low.

Version 2

We have a new way to make sure you get the best product possible, in the fastest time.

We’re the first full-service manufacturer that gives you an online dashboard to manage each element of your product through each step of the production process. That means you get less back-and-forth emails and less errors along the way. And our minimums are as low as 100 units.

Optimizing Your Cold Email Campaign

This is where the magic happens.

Before we release the emails to the entire lead list we send them out to smaller test batches and run every A/B test under the sun.

We design each follow-up email to introduce one new value proposition or pain point, or to combat one objection that the reader might have. That way we can determine which statements generate the most interest, by measuring the percentage of positive responses to each touchpoint.

Measuring only post-email stats like “meetings booked” or “deals closed” tells you nothing about how the copy performs. Likewise, measuring just reply rates or open rates leaves you completely in the dark about whether the response to the copy was positive or negative. The “interested” rate, on the other hand, captures the true impact of each line of copy and allows us to adjust future emails accordingly.

Here’s how we keep track of it for each version of copy:

Tracking the copy performance, the Personas way.

Next we run a detailed cohort analysis on the responses we receive from leads. For Maderight’s campaign this taught us that we get a...

  • 12% interested rate from companies with 1-10 employees, compared with a 9% interested rate from companies with 11-50 employees.
  • 14% interested rate from fashion & apparel companies, compared with a 6% interested rate from retail companies.
  • 16% interested rate from contacts with “product” in their title, compared with a 4% interested rate from contacts with “general manager” in their title.

Here's an example of this from another client so you can see what this process looks like.

All of this measurement and data analysis allows us to optimize the campaign for better performance. For Maderight we took the initial 7% interested rate up to 9.9% overall for the life of the campaign.

The End Result

Hi James - I am free until 11:30 if you are available I can hop on a call now.

Hi James, Sure, how about monday afternoon?

Hey James, I actually handle the majority of our manufacturing efforts. I took a look through your website and it looks very interesting. Do you have any time tomorrow to jump on a call?

Over the course of one month we’ve so far generated 129 “interested” responses for Maderight. Now they have a huge pipeline of hot leads whom they simply respond to and convert into closed deals.

You can get a high response rate on your cold emails too if you follow the process above and invest some time in measuring and analyzing your data. A little preparation and planning goes a long way when it comes to startup sales. Don’t let your startup miss out on new clients because you rushed through some of these steps.

If you have any questions about the startup sales process, we'd be happy to answer them. Give us a call on 415-669-4819 or send us an email at We’re based in San Francisco.

-Conor Lee, Founder & CEO, HipLead

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