Cold emails: is personalization worth it?

Email remains as ubiquitous as ever – to the tune of over 144 billion being sent per day in 2012. Furthermore, businesses are increasingly turning to inside sales as a primary method of prospecting. So how do you make sure that it is your email that stands out in the inbox of a potential client?

Today’s insight emerged out of a question one customer recently asked – is it worth the effort to personalize your emails to potential clients? While no one would disagree that personalizing your email is more effective than relying solely on a template , the obvious drawback is the amount of time it takes to write a personalized, genuine, thoughtful message. Today, we share some of our test results on the impact of personalizing your email outreach and provide you with a few insights to take away in your own outreach process.

To conduct this test, we started by taking a list of potential customers and dividing it into two groups: one where the email was personalized for the subject line and opening paragraph, and one where an email template was used with no modifications. We then sent the emails at roughly the same time of day, and tracked the open and response rates for both groups.

Now you might be asking, what exactly does personalization entail? There are many possible approaches: we found positive responses to ideas such as congratulating the contact on a recent promotion or sharing an article where their company was featured. This is where you have room to be creative — just be genuine in your personalization.

Our Findings

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Personalized emails returned a 3.5x better response rate than our non-personalized set, and open rates were also 23% higher. As expected, the response rates are better in the personalized group – but does it still stack up when the extra time and effort is considered?

The key metric we look for here is minutes to engagement – or how many minutes of emailing it takes to get one email response back. This number will vary depending on the pace of the writer, but in our own tests we found that a personalized email took roughly 2x as long to write as a non-personalized one. For the purposes of this post then, we’ll estimate a personalized email as taking 10 minutes to write, and a non-personalized one at 5 minutes.

So if you sent 100 emails…


From the above, personalization efforts are definitely worth the time, as the extra time required to personalize is offset by a much higher response rate.


A few insights to leave you with as you conduct your own outreach:

    • To optimize for sales efficiency, calculate your team’s minutes to engagement ratio to find out if email personalization is worth the extra time and effort in your outreach process. Also keep in mind that everything measured improves.


    • Email personalization is most effective when working off of a highly targeted lead list of potential customers and where you are confident in the quality of the contact information. Take the time to find the companies and associated contacts where you think your product or service would be a great fit.


  • It always pays to know your potential clients better during the initial outreach process. Doing the personalization research firsthand will help you learn much more about the client right away, and benefit the relationship over the longer term.

Have any questions or thoughts on our findings? Let us know – we’d love to hear from you!

Written by Sammy Lau

Sammy is the Growth Manager at Canopy Labs, working in marketing, digital communications, and brand outreach. He was previously at the United Nations, and is a Loran scholar. Get in touch with him @SammyLau!


  1. Bob Fischman

    Very interesting confirmation of the personalization approach–thank you. Developing an effective, personalized, and short subject line is often a challenge. And, of course, personalizing the email does not assure that it does not wind up in junk or spam. I wonder if the research was able to ascertain the quantity of unopened mail that went unreceived. Would also like to know what tool was used to confirm a mail was opened if there was no reply.

    1. Sammy Lau (Post author)

      Hello Bob – you’re certainly correct! There are a variety of tips on how to avoid your emails being marked as spam. Here’s a quick and helpful guide!

      To answer your questions, we use tools such as to verify that the email address we have is correct before sending the email – and we also use Yesware to track our email opens and clicks!

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