When it comes to lead generation, both cold email and LinkedIn messaging have their advantages and disadvantages. Generally speaking, cold email tends to have a lower response rate but allows for more customization, while LinkedIn messages have a higher open and response rate but are more restrictive in length. The best approach depends on your goals, target audience, and resources.
Studies have found that the average open rate for cold emails is around 20-30%, while the response rate is only around 2-5%. However, for LinkedIn messages, open rates tend to be around 40-50%, while response rates can be 5-10% on average. So you’re likely to get more responses from LinkedIn outreach overall.
That said, with cold email you’re often reaching people outside your existing network. Response rates will vary greatly depending on factors like the quality of your list, email copy, subject line, sender name, and follow-ups. With LinkedIn messages, you’re limited to people who are already connections, so there may be fewer relevant targets.
Level of personalization
A major advantage of email is the ability to completely customize your message for each prospect. You can draw on specific details from their LinkedIn profile or website to craft a personalized email that really resonates.
With LinkedIn messages, you’re limited to 1300 characters, so you can’t say as much. The UI also makes it trickier to fully customize each message. You’ll probably end up sending a lot of similar sounding messages, versus the tailored emails you can craft.
Types of prospects
Cold email tends to work better for reaching high-value executive level prospects, like VPs of Sales, Marketing, HR, etc. Even at a low response rate, it’s worth the time investment to craft thoughtful emails to those decision-makers.
LinkedIn messaging can be great for roles like software engineers, marketing managers, recruiters, etc. People who are on LinkedIn regularly and likely to be open to messaging. For higher-level execs who get bombarded with LinkedIn messages, email will cut through better.
Quality of connections
With LinkedIn messaging, you’re limited to either 1st degree connections, or 2nd/3rd degree connections if you have a paid Sales Navigator account. Either way, you’re messaging people loosely within your network.
For cold email, you can target decision-makers at companies that fit your ideal customer profile (ICP), regardless of whether you have any connection. So the quality of prospects may be higher, even if the response rate is lower.
Following up is crucial to convert cold outreach into warm leads. With email, following up is straightforward. You can set reminders to re-email anyone who didn’t reply after a few days or weeks.
On LinkedIn, you can only message a person once unless they connect with you first. So following up requires either sending connection requests or hoping they respond to your initial message.
Both channels allow you to start relationships that lead to sales opportunities. However, email has more room for personality and relationship-building. You can ask smart questions, demonstrate expertise, and share valuable resources to nurture a connection.
With short LinkedIn messages, you’re limited in how much rapport you can build. But a message exchange can be a stepping stone to connecting on LinkedIn or a later email exchange.
To scale cold email, you either need manpower or automation tools. Hiring an outbound team or using software like Mailshake or Outreach can help you reach more prospects without burning yourself out.
With LinkedIn, it’s easy to manually message dozens or even hundreds of people daily thanks to LinkedIn’s UI. Some tools like Sales Navigator also help you scale by suggesting relevant prospects. But it still requires hands-on work.
Avoiding spam filters
One big cold email challenge is landing in spam folders. Factors like sender reputation, email content, and number of recipients impact deliverability. LinkedIn messaging avoids this hurdle.
That said, best practices like sender authenticity, relevant subject lines, and avoiding spam trigger words can help cold emails make it to inboxes. Using services like Mailshake can also improve deliverability.
Adherence to policies
With cold email, you risk recipients marking emails as spam or unsubscribing if messages aren’t relevant. Constant spam complaints could also get your sending IP address blocked.
LinkedIn messaging comes with its own restrictions, like one-time messaging and daily limits on messages sent. Violating LinkedIn policies could get your account restricted or banned entirely.
There is no definitive “better” option between cold email and LinkedIn messaging. Each has pros and cons and is better suited for particular use cases and types of prospects. Generally, cold email provides more flexibility and room for personalization at a lower response rate, while LinkedIn messages get higher open and response rates but have format restrictions.
The best approach is to leverage both tactics, understanding when each makes the most sense based on prospect seniority, existing connections, ability to customize, and importance of deliverability. With smart targeting and messaging, both channels can become valuable drivers of sales opportunities.