From Signup to Closure: 7 Things to Remember While Sending That Cold Email

cold email best practices

Newsflash: people’s attention spans are now shorter than a goldfish’s.

That’s bad news for your cold emails, which have an average open rate of just 14-23% to begin with. Not only are you up against an unprecedented amount of inbox filtering and competition, you’ve got to bring your A-game if you want to actually drive results with cold email.

And guess what? Lackluster attempts like “Hey, I’m Jen, and I’m a sales rep…” just aren’t going to cut it.

Statistic after statistic tells us that email marketing boasts one of the highest ROIs of all marketing techniques (as high as 122% in some cases). But if you want to achieve top cold email performance, you need an approach that’s a little different from what other reps are using.

You need an approach that takes your prospects from signup to closure as effectively as possible. Here are seven tips to help get you there.

1. Do Your Homework

Your middle and high school teachers were onto something. Showing up prepared, having done your homework, doesn’t just get you great grades. It can dramatically impact the performance of your cold email campaign as well.

In terms of marketing, “homework” might involve:

  • Researching the recipient’s company to be sure you understand how your solution would support their unique business.
  • Looking up each recipient’s digital footprint so that you can mention content they’ve created or shared in your message.

A ounce of prevention here isn’t worth just a pound of cure. It’s worth closed-won opportunities and lucrative new business.

2. Build Context

The idea of examining your recipient’s’ digital presences before sending deserves further exploration here, because doing so has the potential to turn cold leads into warmer ones.

Imagine that you take any of the following steps with people you’re about to cold message:

  • Following them on social
  • Commenting on their blog posts
  • Engaging with them on forums
  • Sending them non-sales emails (for example, sending your congratulations on a recent guest post)
  • Attending in-person networking events with them
  • Joining Slack groups in your industry where they’re active

Now, when you send across your “cold” email, the recipient won’t think of you as “Jen, the sales rep.” They’ll think of you as “Jen, the sales rep who thoughtfully took the time to share my blog content and congratulate me on a recent win.”

Which one do you think is more likely to get a response?

3. Personalize Your Messages

Personalization is a hot topic in email marketing these days – and with good reason. According to some estimates, “Personalized emails deliver six times higher transaction rates” than standard messages (though the same survey acknowledges that 70% of brands fail to use them).

Personalization isn’t just a smart business practice. It’s a strategic advantage as well, compared to brands that aren’t yet using this strategy.

Personalizing your messages involves making sure that the content you send in your cold emails is tailored as closely as possible to your prospects’ needs. For instance, you wouldn’t want to send a message promoting a product someone has already purchased, and you wouldn’t want to build your email around pain points the recipient isn’t actually experiencing.

To get inspired about all that’s possible under the umbrella of personalization, check out the following case studies:

Once you have a better idea of the types of personalization you’d like to incorporate into your cold emails, look into the features offered by the tools you’re using. If you have a marketing automation program installed, you may have access to a number of personalization options already – from form field replacements to CTA replacements.

And if your current tools aren’t up to snuff, it’s time to do some digging. Add the necessary new additions to your marketing stack to take full advantage of the possibilities of personalization.

4. Cut the Crap

Let’s be realistic: your odds of getting a cold email response are slim. Why waste what little opportunity you have with a bad message?

Keep the following three rules in mind as you work to cut the crap from your cold emails:

  • Be original. Avoid overused expressions or formulaic templates. If you decide to work off of existing templates to speed up your cold emailing process, customize them so that they match your tone and objectives (and so that you don’t get called out by a prospect who’s received the same message from another sales rep).
  • Be generous. Your cold email isn’t the place to talk about how much a sale would mean to you. Self-centered messaging repels readers. Keep the benefits focused on them instead by clearly stating the problem you’re solving and how your solution impacts them personally.
  • Be clear. Rambling off a message full of jargon or highly-technical terms doesn’t make you sound smart – and it won’t make your readers want to take action. Keep your message short, sweet, simple and easily-understood. Readers will delete messages they don’t understand.

Not sure if you’re hitting these marks? Do a gut check. Would you be happy receiving the message you’re about to send someone?

If you can’t honestly say yes, rework your email copy until you can.

5. Follow Up

This one is kind of a no-brainer, yet it’s amazing how many sales reps fail to take this crucial step: if you send an email and don’t get a response, follow up.

Don’t stop after one cold email. Where most reps go wrong is that they assume failing to receive a response means that the recipients aren’t interested. Some salespeople take it further, concocting stories in their heads about how they’ve irritated recipients or blown future relationships with unsolicited sales pitches.

The real reason most of your cold email recipients don’t respond? They’re busy.

Think about how you handle sales messages. Maybe one or two capture your attention immediately. But most messages hit your inbox when you’re tied up on other projects or are otherwise unable to fully investigate.

That’s why it’s so critical that you don’t give up after your first message. According to Yesware, you have a 21% chance of getting a reply to your second email if the first goes unanswered. That’s a huge number of potential leads or sales you could be missing out on by failing to follow up.

When building a follow-up sequence, consider the following from Tenfold:

“According to a study by Marketing Donut, 80 percent of sales take 5 follow-up phone calls after the initial meeting to close. However, it was found in this study that almost half of salespeople give up after just one follow-up. Having a persistent follow-up plan in place already puts you ahead of the curve.”

6. Watch Your Stats

In a perfect world, the same types of analytics tools marketers have to understand the performance of their websites would be available for email marketers.

But unfortunately, carrying out A/B split tests and other testing protocols on cold emails isn’t always possible, given the low volume most sales reps send and the inability to create an adequate control sample.

That doesn’t mean sales reps should throw metrics out the window. There are a number of stats you can still watch and learn from, no matter how large or small your cold email campaign is.

Personally, the only metric that matters to me is the response rate. But you may also find it helpful to track things like:

  • Open rates
  • Link click rates
  • Leads generated from cold emails
  • Closed-won/closed-lost rates

Test different messaging within your cold emails and see if there’s any impact on the metrics you’re tracking. Test different subject lines, opening lines and CTAs.

Your tests won’t be perfect or statistically significant, but they’ll still give you the insight you need to improve the performance of future messages.

7. Grow a Personal Brand

One final tip I want to share on the subject of improving cold email effectiveness has to do with growing a personal brand.

Imagine you receive a cold email, and you notice that the sender is someone you’ve seen writing for publications in your industry, interacting in forums or maintaining an active social presence. Are you going to be more likely or less likely to open that message than one from a sender you aren’t familiar with?

Of course, it’s the former. When you take the time to build a personal brand, you’re no longer an unknown quantity – or even a cold email at all. Instead, you’ll see more opens and better cold email performance, all because of the name you’ve built for yourself.

People build personal brands in all different kinds of ways, but a few to try might include:

  • Publishing thought leadership articles to your blog
  • Contributing guest articles to other industry sites
  • Developing content for LinkedIn Pulse
  • Producing SlideShare presentations
  • Speaking at conferences
  • Hosting webinars

Essentially, anything that puts your knowledge on display for your target audience has the potential to build your brand – and to increase your cold email success at the same time.

Use these strategies as a starting point for improving your cold email performance, but don’t think of this list as comprehensive. If you’ve got another technique, add it to the list by leaving a comment below:

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