It’s pretty common to tout inbound marketing as a great channel for growth (especially for B2B SaaS) because of its ROI, but we rarely talk about cold email outreach.
This is a tough nut to crack, but fear not, because my emails receive on average an over 50% response rate and I will tell you everything I have learned over the years.
What is Outreach Marketing?
In essence, it’s about reaching out to people who don’t know you (usually via email) and pitching them to do something for you.
It can be a pitch to have you featured on their blog (by writing a guest post), a pitch to try your SaaS, a pitch to answer some of your questions for market research purposes, or a pitch to share/link your content.
Why should you listen to me?
I have sent hundreds of thousands of cold outreach emails and I was tutored by one of the best outreach consultants in the industry.
People have thanked me many times for reaching out to them, while complimenting me for the pitch (“nice pitch!“).
I know what it needs to create and execute a successful outreach campaign and I am going to show you right away…
Fundamentals and Benchmarking
These are the numbers by which I evaluate every outreach campaign that I do.
When I start a campaign I want 33% of the prospects to accept my request/pitch and a 50% reply (regardless if it’s positive or negative).
As I optimize the campaign I aim for 50-70% acceptance rate and I stop paying attention to who replies and who doesn’t.
If you search around you will see that my benchmark numbers are among the highest and I am sure some people won’t believe these numbers. Sometimes it’s indeed pretty challenging to reach them.
When I start an outreach campaign I test pretty much everything until I hit my initial 33% acceptance rate.
Once I hit it, I start improving and iterating the messaging, while filtering unfit prospects to reach 50-70% acceptance rate.
If it takes too long to reach the initial 33% and can’t figure out why (sometimes it’s the X factor!) I kill the campaign.
Most strategies and guides will give you a template to start emailing people or tell you a tool to start gathering prospects.
This is the tip of the iceberg and at best it will get you average/mediocre results. Here is how to start instead…
Start with the Angle
Before every successful outreach campaign even starts, before you add a single prospect to your spreadsheet, *you absolutely have to figure out the angle first*.
What does this mean?
This means that you have to think of a way to pitch/present your request in a way that is likely for the other party to accept it, based on human psychology and who they are.
The question to ask is: “What can the other person gain for fulfilling my request?”.
They can gain from simple gratitude and feeling they helped someone who appreciates it (this is key) to earning money for their help or advancing their career/business through a potential collaboration with you.
Pro tip: usually, the more successful the prospects are, the less likely it is for them to accept your request in exchange for material or monetary gains.
For example, let’s say you want to reach out to C-level executives. You know that their time is limited, so one thing you have to do is keep your pitch short and to the point.
Chances are you won’t be able to help them, so your best bet would be to appeal to their “ego” and *truly* appreciate deeply that they took the time to read your pitch (regardless if they accept/respond or not).
Now, I know this isn’t the “fill-in-the-blanks” type of advice, but that’s what it takes to have extraordinaire results.
The more experienced you are, the easier it is to get the angle as accurate as possible from your first email.
To sum up this section, you move on to the next step only when you have thought out of a good reason for them to accept your request, based on their characteristics and aspirations (take a best guess).
Now that you have thought of an angle to present your request, it’s time to find potential prospects.
This is usually done by simply Google searching and then using a spreadsheet in Google drive to keep track of all of them.
Other good sources of prospects are from various directories or from industry specific organizations.
You want to start from the easier to “convert” prospects and then work your way to the top. That’s the more efficient and effective way to do it. If you and/or your company have been around the block for some time, target prospects 10%-20% higher than you.
The best workflow is to first enter all the data of the prospects you want to reach out to and when you are done, reach out to them.
Now, let’s choose our weapon…
Choose Your Medium(s)
Depending on what you want to pitch for and who, different means of contact can yield different results.
If you want to pitch your services or something other than a guest post, it’s best to find a specific person’s email and avoid generic ones like contact forms and “firstname.lastname@example.org”. To do that you can either use a service like emailhunter.co (great free service) or LinkedIn search and connect with them via LinkedIn.
In general, for B2B the best mediums are email and then LinkedIn. Occasionally, you can sweeten it by first asking them on Twitter if you can reach out to them. If they say yes, you can then follow them and ask them for their email.
On to the next step…
Write a Unique Outreach Template
After we have decided on the angle of what we are going to propose and found prospects, it’s time to write our email outreach template.
In essence we are writing the actual email we will send to the first prospect. Then we model all of the following emails after the first one.
I am sorry, but I don’t have a template I use. I write all the outreach campaigns’ emails from scratch following this specific process:
- Write your introduction (short and to the point)
- Write the pitch
- Write the call to action and thank them
- Read it again and delete 50% of the email (if you are just starting out, you should delete around 80% of the first email)
- Then read it again and do small adjustments (step 1: max 1.5 lines, step 2: max 2-3 lines, step 3: 1-1.5 lines)
- Go do something else entirely (like eating or sleeping) and then go read it a last time. Make changes if necessary
- Find what elements will you change in each email to make it personalized (name, etc).
- Write the subject line (your subject should be modeled after the email’s body and not the other way around)
Notice a couple of important points: one that regardless of your experience you have to delete about 50% of your initial email and two, that it takes time to lay the foundation, before you hit “send”.
But, these elements are what makes you get extraordinary results.
Every successful pitch has a follow up process. This is regardless of whether someone introduces you to someone or not.
Following up, even when you get no initial response, is an absolute must. Most inexperienced people never follow up, because they think that they are being irritating.
Mark my words: most successful people won’t respond to the first email. It’s a trial of shorts for them to see how bad you want it.
If you don’t follow up, you probably didn’t want it that much, but if you do follow up, then they might read what you have to say.
How many follow ups you do and how often depends on each campaign. I will always follow up at least 2 times and around 4 days after my previous email.
If you take nothing else from this article, take this: Always Be Following Up!
Iterations and Testing
Occasionally I don’t hit my benchmarking numbers from the get go.
When this happens is due to one (or more) of the following reasons:
i) Wrong angle
ii) Wrong/Too high prospects
iii) X factor
I will test a couple of different angles and different prospect profiles, but if I still can’t hit my benchmarking numbers or at least land somewhere close to them, I shut down the campaign, as the opportunity cost (time) becomes too high.
Don’t be afraid though, test different pitches and prospect profiles, see what works best and go with it.
To summarize our points, cold email outreach campaigns can be a growth mechanism and is especially useful in the early days of a startup. However, don’t think that’s only for scrappy and hustling startup owners, it can scale as GuideSpark did.
If you take nothing else from this article, take these:
cut your first email by at least 50% and always be following up.
Have any questions?
Let me know in the comments and I will reply as soon as possible.