A short while back, I wrote about some of the worst cold emails I’ve received. Unfortunately there are far more bad examples of cold emails than there are good ones.
I’ve gotten into several debates recently (I know...hard to believe) about the efficacy of cold emails in the first place. I find the opposition to cold emails comes from two camps:
- Those who simply (and falsely) believe that there is no place for outbound tactics today.
- Those who feel that email is the problem. Their argument is basically some form of, “People don’t check email and don’t respond to email anymore [editor’s note: this is an opinion and not a fact - the fact is they do and we have the data to prove that]. Salespeople should skip the email and just pick up the phone.
While I disagree with both camps, I do have more empathy for the second group. If you want email to work you must be willing to pick up the phone. And to those who pick up the phone, I would advise them that the intelligent use of email can increase the effectiveness of their calling efforts by 50%.
While it’s true that most email boxes are overloaded, and it’s (very) hard to get noticed in a recipient’s email box, it is possible. Frankly, I don’t know any channel where you can find qualified prospects today where it’s easy to get attention, and if you know of one, please email the information (I promise I won’t share it with anyone).
When crafting initial emails (I much prefer this term to cold emails), there are some specific rules you should follow.
Before I get to the mechanics of writing a good email, let me address three important points about the overall process.
Getting attention is a process not an event
If you’re planning on sending one email (or making just one call) I’d recommend skipping the entire process altogether. If you’re looking to gain an important person’s attention, you must earn it over time. No matter how good your email is, one or two won’t make a dent. You must be able to create multiple emails that both stand on their own (as your recipient may not have noticed a previous one) and build on others.
Content is an important part of outbound
At Imagine, we call our outbound campaigns the Inboundy Outbound campaign. The reason for this is that we follow the same methodology we do when implementing inbound: first attract, then convert and so on. The emails and calls we make are intertwined with the content we are creating.
Email is the start of the conversation
Stop selling in your emails. I’m not going to buy your enterprise solution based upon any email you send. What I may decide to do is talk to you. The focus of your email should be to answer the question, “Why should you talk to me,” not “Why should you buy from me?”
The Keys to Creating Successful Cold Emails
Now let’s get to the keys of writing an effective initial (cold) email.
Have a highly targeted list
There is no such thing as an effective cold email “blast.” To break through the noise, an initial email must be highly personalized (and I don’t just mean using their name). The more you can make your email feel like it’s written just for the recipient, the more effective it will be. This means you want to be clear about the persona you’re writing to, and the issues you’re identifying in your email.
Immediately make it about them
I’m still surprised by the number of emails that start, “Hi...my name is Bill and I’m with Acme Widget Co.” First off, I know who’s sending the email because I see that in my email reader. Second, and more importantly, I DON’T CARE!!
Make it about your prospect right off the bat. Pinpoint the issue that you know has a high likelihood of being on their radar. Build your credibility off the issues your prospects care about.
Provide insights that demonstrate you bring value
We received this email from a major company involved in the marketing and sales space:
Really? Seriously?! Let me just drop what I’m doing to give this person 15 minutes.
Here’s the question I have for the person that designed this email: What insight have you shared that demonstrates that if I give you 15 minutes you won’t completely waste it?
If you don’t address this, the likelihood of success is small.
Give them enough to matter, but don’t waste words
There’s a lot of debate about the proper length of emails in general and initial emails specifically. My answer is that they need to be long enough that you can communicate something that matters (like providing a real insight), while eliminating everything your prospect doesn’t care about.
I’ll admit that the emails we write border on being too long, but I’ve found conclusively that a longer email with value out-converts a short email with no value.
The length of your email is highly dependent on who you are communicating with, their experience with your product/service and how they process information. My recommendation is to be very disciplined in how you write your emails and templates, and test to see what works for you. You’ll probably find length is different for different campaigns.
Provide multiple ways for them to advance
Another problem with the email above is that the only way that I can advance is to give them 15 minutes. They’d be far better off if they provided an opportunity for me to get something of value and by offering different ways I can move forward.
Always create value
Here’s the acid test I use for every email we send. If someone never responds to us what benefit will they receive for having read the email. That’s why insights and points-of-view are so important. They ensure that your prospect gets some value just for having read the email.
A Cold Email Made To Stick
Let’s put these rules together and write a sample email. The email I’m about to share is the first of a series that we use when trying to initiate a conversation with Victor VP Sales. Victor is the VP of a mid-market company and oversees a sales team of 5 - 20 people. He’s responsible for growing sales materially. Additionally, in this use Victor works at a professional services firm.
While writing this email certainly takes more time, the payoff is worth it. Before you send out your next cold email, be sure it meets the criteria I’ve shared here.