In 2014, the team was sitting in a coffee shop cranking out work on our lead generation service InspireBeats.
“Hey, I think that dude’s prospecting on LinkedIn!”
Our business development lead David pointed at guy working at the next table.
Our founder said: “Go and talk to him.”
David went over, explained what we did. Turns out the person working ran a software as a service company and was looking for customers. Once David explained the way our company finds targeted leads for SaaS and can do it much faster than the manual process he was going through, that coffee shop guy quickly became our customer.
That’s how we found our first few clients: one by one at a coffee shop. Once that became unsustainable, we switched to cold emailing.
David now sends over 150 emails a day to potential clients, and now we regularly add at least 8 new retainer clients to our service every single day. Explosive growth for any startup.
So what goes into a good cold email? Here are 6 things we learned over the last year about how to get your cold emails read, opened and responded to.
1. It’s Not Just About the Subject Line
There are articles everywhere online about how to write a great subject line. They go into detail about what works and what doesn’t and how to get somebody to open email.
What they don’t mention is the text just after the subject line, and it’s effect on open rates.
We used to start each email with something like:
“My name is Alex and I’m Chief Marketing Sumo at InspireBeats…”
What we learned doing this is that people don’t want to open emails that they know contain a sales pitch, even a relevant one.
What works better is to start your emails off with something targeted and personalized to their needs.
Here’s a great opening line:
“Just found your website and really impressed by your client list, congrats on landing McDonald’s!”
By starting your email off with a compliment, the reader is much more likely to keep reading and ultimately respond.
Speaking of lines that get people to open an email…
That Said, Here’s How to Write The World’s Greatest Subject Line
There are a couple things you can do to write a subject line that gets people to open the email, ranging from fantastic to downright mischievous.
Make It Personal
The best subject line we’ve found is something that includes a very personal and custom message to the reader.
For instance: “Congrats on the funding round” or “Heard you were looking for a CTO”
The more personal you can get the subject line, the more likely your targets will be to open the email.
What Are The Worst Subject Lines?
Obviously, when you’re sending thousands of emails a week – it’s smart to find shortcuts, but one thing we found doesn’t work are super general subject lines for instance:
“Working together with <<Company>>” …. terrible.
It’s too general and blends in with the other cold emails clients get every day.
And Don’t Be Misleading..
Another thing we saw a lot of, and tried ourselves with no success, are emails that try to trick the user into opening them. For instance:
“Attention!” or “Mark, Please Read!!”
These types of emails do get opened – but the response rates are much lower than usual mostly because they are super annoying to your potential customer.
How to “Fake” an Introduction
One subject line we’ve found works really well are lines that include an introduction. However, if you’re reaching out to a list of 1,000 cold leads, finding an intro to each person can take forever, so a trick we’ve found works is to go onto your potential customer’s page and find a brand they’ve worked with in the past, then write a subject like:
“Need a web developer? Found you through Tyson Chicken”
THAT is a subject line that gets opened.
And in order to keep it ethical, all you have to do is mention where you found them in the email. Something like:
“I found your site, noticed you worked with Tyson Chicken and just had to reach out!”
That way you’re pointing out right in the email that you aren’t affiliated with Tyson Chicken, but the client is already most of the way through the email by that point, and you’ve hopefully hooked them with your benefits.
Only Email Highly Qualified People
Last point about subject lines is that the quality of leads matters as much if not more than the content of the email.
You want to go in depth when searching for companies to reach out to, so that you only reach ones that are looking for a service similar to yours.
This means if you’re a mobile app development firm, only reach out to companies that are either hiring developers on AngelList, or have a low rated app in the App Store.
If you’re running a marketing firm, go after companies whose founder has attended a marketing conference in the last 6 months, etc.
By targeting people that have certain “buying signals” you’ll substantially increase both your open and response rates.
2. Spend At Least 2 Minutes Researching Each Prospect
In order to find the right information, I recommend spending up to 2 minutes researching each cold email target.
Spend a minute going to the company website and making sure that they’re a good fit for your service: browse it see if they have job postings for what you do, or if you’re in website development for instance, check to see if the design of their website is bad.
The next minute spend researching the individual target: go to their twitter account and try to find something you guys have in common: Did he tweet about craft beers? Mention that in the email. Do you guys own the same dog? Mention that.
3. End Every Email with a Question?
Something a lot of sales teams miss is a question at the end of an email.
They’ll say things like: “If that sounds interesting, let me know!” or “Happy to hop on the phone if that sounds good.”
The issue with ending an email with a sentence is that it takes the reader too much work to respond.
These people are busy, they don’t want to have to think of a response to a cold pitch.
Instead it’s better to end emails with a yes or no question like:
“Does that sound like something the team would be interested in?” or “Can we hop on a call next week?”
It’s also important to note that every email in your sequence should end with a question that keeps the conversation going, not just the first email.
4. Call People If They Don’t Respond
Our typical cold sales process involves 5-7 touchpoints. That means by the time a client usually respond to an email, they’ve seen our fact up to 7 times. One way to do this is to email them seven times over a few months, but I find that to be way too slow.
Instead what we do is:
- Send the first email
- Like a few of their posts on Twitter
- Connect with them on LinkedIn
- Send the second email
- Give them a call
Calling a prospect either right after they’ve opened your email, or just after a positive response is an easy way to get your sales team in front of them.
5. Use Nicknames, and Good Information
Another important note is that using the right information will set you apart from 90% of the companies out there sending cold emails.
Does your prospect have a nickname? Do they go by Chris or Christopher?
You can easily find out by checking social media and seeing what other people call them – then use that nickname.
It should go without saying, but calling someone the right name will make them more likely to respond.
6. Test Everything and Constantly Tweak
When you start a new cold email campaign, you’re going to be bad at it. It’s the same as any new skill.
What’s helped us get better quickly is tracking. We use tools like YesWare to track open rates and response rates. This data helps us write better headlines and reorganize the content in each email to get better responses.
You can use data to do the same thing.
7. Follow Up to Non-Responders At Least Once A Month
The final tip is to always follow up, and keep following up until a prospect either tells you yes or no.
With our outreach packages, we have prospects that we still email once a month on behalf of clients up to 8 months later, and the surprising thing is every once in awhile somebody in the funnel for months will turn into a client.
If you did research and know they’re a good fit for your product or service, keep messaging them – send them articles, updates on what you’re doing, and whatever else you can think of until they have no choice but look you up.
Repeat these steps until you hit one million in ARR!
Alex Berman is the Chief Marketing Sumo at InspireBeats, and all-in-one lead generation solution for Software as a Service (SaaS) startups, companies and agencies. Over the last year Alex has generated of $12 million dollars in leads for clients.