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How to write killer (cold) emails that convert

Jul 26

Open up your email inbox and look at the tens, perhaps hundreds of sales emails. A large percentage of those will never be opened. This is your competition when sending sales emails. The ones that you send out have to be markedly better than the ones that sit unread in your inbox.

That puts a lot of pressure on having “the best” emails that work in converting prospects to leads. The truth is, there’s no one email template that is guaranteed to work each and every time. Getting prospects to convert is a process. It doesn’t take one email; it takes a sequence of emails. 

This article goes through the process of creating sales emails that convert. From how to identify and conduct research on your target audience to which CTAs to include and how to write good subject lines. It’s all in here.

This article is based on a Masterclass by Artyom Yaremchuk, the co-founder of Attendify, on writing killer emails.

Ideal Client Profile

The first step is to identify your target audience or ICP (Ideal Client Profile) and learn everything there is to know about them and the industry that they’re in. If you’re going after multiple industries, do it for each industry individually. Also, problems and your proposed solution differ based on the size of the companies in the industry.

An ICP has to answer three vital questions:

  1. Who would benefit the most from your product or service? What’s the ideal buyer persona like?
  2. Why your product or service specifically? What are the key differentiators that make your product or service 3-7x better than the competition?
  3. Why now? Why should someone buy from you right now and not postpone the purchase? (especially relevant in the COVID-19 era)

To help you find the answers, Artyom Yaremchuk from Attendify recommends doing your research in two parts. First, concentrate on the companies you’re going after or the firmographics of ICP research. Artyom recommends doing research using the following guiding questions:

Guiding questions for the ideal company profile

Once you’re finished with the company level research, move a layer deeper and go through a similar process for the ideal buyer. This is called sociographics. And here are some guiding questions for it:

Guiding questions for the ideal buyer profile
Guiding questions for the ideal buyer profile                  

   

The actual data gathering is done using publicly available data sources - company websites, social media pages (LinkedIn), different online search engines (Google, Bing), etc. Especially for sociographics, you really need to dive into people's personal and professional profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. All this data gathering can and should be supplemented by customer interviews and proprietary data that you already have on your current and past customers.

What you’ll end up with is a treasure trove of information that you’ll be able to use further down the line when working on crafting the actual emails. Having this extensive research at hand will make crafting the actual emails a lot smoother as you already have the needed information and can concentrate on other aspects of a successful campaign.

This work is tedious and not fun, but this initial research is what will largely decide the success of your emails. Don’t skip this step!

Before we can move onto writing the actual emails, there’s one more step - deciding on the cadence, structure, and content of the cold email campaign.

Campaign Cadence, Content & Structure

Campaign cadence is the process of finding the optimal time and frequency of contacting a prospect. Frequency - how many times in total a prospect is to be contacted. Time - over what time period all this happens.

Typically, there should be at least three and not more than eight touch-points with a prospect before giving up. Why?

“92% of salespeople give up after four “no’s”, while 80% of leads say “no” four times before they say “yes””  

Research has shown that 92% of salespeople give up after four "no's,” while at the same time, 80% of leads say "no" four times before they say "yes.” This is precisely why having a structured plan before you send your first email is so important - it’s easy to give up when you aren’t getting responses from your prospects. With a set structure, you’ll just move on the next email/call/message and continue till you have run out of steps in the cadence.

Another thing to note is omnichannel. You should never rely on only email, LinkedIn messages or cold calling. The key to success is going omnichannel and trying out a variety of channels to figure out what works and what doesn’t. 

Campaign Content

Based on your ICP research, you have your potential customer pains and gains on the one side, and your product/service pain relievers and gain creators on the other. You should make sure that those pains and big enough and your soultion is a "painkiller" or "antidote" rather than a "vitamin". Your job is to figure out which of those match on both the customer and the product side. The ones that match are the ones you should use as value propositions in your emails. The further along you are with the product/market fit, the easier this task is.

Apart from the value proposition, emails and messages can include all manner of content types, which depends on the kind of companies and prospects you’re going after and how much you already know about them.

For example, sending presentations to companies in the medical field or advertising agencies will work a lot better than sending one to a start-up. Buyers in those industries are used to seeing a lot of presentations and often prefer this over other mediums, while start-ups will want anything else but a presentation.

Mix your content up with videos, external articles, case studies, presentations, etc. Make sure it’s fresh and valuable to the reader.

Bring It All Together - Campaign Structure

To bring it all together (cadence, omnichannel touchpoints, content, value propositions), it’s best to write it all down. Remember, this is not about the actual (email) content yet; it’s about having a blueprint for writing the emails and messages that you’ll send later.

The idea is to write down a rough draft of what you want to say at any touchpoint. As an example, let’s take a look at a campaign structure provided by Artyom:

Sample campaign structure
                Sample campaign structure                  

   

In the first touchpoint, the intro will include a reason for reaching out. The included value proposition will be about increasing sales and the ability to white-label the product/service on offer, while the CTA (call to action) centres around efficiency. Structuring a campaign like this gives an excellent great overview and is a huge help when work on writing the actual emails and messages starts. 

It will also guide the analysis phase as an accessible overview of the message compared to the numerical results. You’d need to go through this process with all your target customer profiles. Each customer group gets its blueprint with personalized value propositions, content, CTAs, etc. 

Each sequence/cadence must include a minimum of 100 prospects each. Each sequence might take various iterations. You would have to choose wisely on which activities to use your finite resources on; therefore, a list of a minimum of 100 prospects gives you an approximate estimation of the number of converted leads per cadence.

For an example of how omnichannel plays into this planning, here’s an example sequence from a famous sales expert, Becc Holland from Chorus:

Becc Hollands’ campaign sequence
                    Becc Hollands’ campaign sequence                  

 

Her strategy includes 16 touchpoints over 21 working days using a combination of emails, calling, and LinkedIn messages, while Artyom has successfully used a flow that includes just seven emails:

Email sequence example from PersistIQ - a sales automation tool
      Email sequence example from PersistIQ - a sales automation tool                  

The Email

Good emails are short, personal, and actionable. They’re free from buzzwords, and spelling mistakes/typos + provide value to the prospect.

The whole point of a cadence and a sequence of touchpoints is that they should be able to stand on their own - each unique and offering valuable information, yet still connected. Don’t send the same value proposition or the same CTA every time. Also, sending emails like Just following up, Just checking in or similar is not going to convert well either. 

What follows are the steps on how to craft each email so that it will be read and acted upon. You must go through this process for each and every message in your cadence. And don’t worry, your first emails will most likely suck - no one gets it right the first time around. Putting together cadences and writing emails is a never-ending feedback loop - send campaigns out, analyze what works and what doesn’t. Iterate. Rinse. Repeat. 

The Subject Line

While it’s tempting to come up with a creative subject line, in most cases, it’s best to skip the fluff and rail in on one that is targeted to the recipient's pain points and needs. Great subject lines are clear, actionable, and personalized. After reading it, the recipient has to be able to understand, at a basic level, what the email is all about and that it’s not just another mass email.

Samantha McKenna calls this approach with an acronym SMYKM - Show Me You Know Me. The crux of it is to show in the subject line that you’re familiar with the person being contacted. Be it that you quote their recent article or post, the university they attended, or a common connection. It should be clear from the subject line crafted this email specifically for you, the recipient. 

Depending on your end-goal, you can choose an example from below as a template and iterate based on your ICP. The examples include highly-scalable versions and ones that are more personalized.

SOME EXAMPLES:

  • Artyom, your prospects are talking to QuickMobileProspect first name + competitor name + pain point/action
  • KIMO + LinkedIn + Artyom
    Company name / university / organization + platform or a conference name that you’ve already connected on + name. This is semi-personalized, including enough info to drive a higher open rate.
  • Washington Nationals Game Thursday? RE: FSU + Adiran Lurssen + #samsales Consulting
    Invite + connection (in this case, attended the same university), a mutual connection name + a company name. 
  • Regarding your LinkedIn post on Leadership Principles
    A more personalized, less scalable version but has a high potential for driving a high open-rate.
  • Greetings from another nerd
    This very personal subject line was based on research done on the prospects’ LinkedIn page, where he talked about things he likes and called himself a "nerd.” This is a very personalized option and is not scalable, but could in certain situations, be well worth the extra effort.

Intro

Avoid empty phrases like “how are you,” ”I hope this email finds you well” and similar. You know it and the people reading it know that you don’t really care about how they’re doing. Forego the pleasantries and cut to the chase - the recipients don’t have a lot of time and so being on point pays dividends. 

Another critical point is personalization. You have to make it clear in the intro that it’s not another mass email. This requires personalization. Now, it's not possible to scale 100% personalization. So instead, you can use the 10/80/10 principle.

The 10/80/10 principle means that you personalize the subject line and intro, leave the bulk of the email the same, and again personalize the last 10%. This ensures that the email is personal enough to get through the prospects BS detector, but still enables scaling.

EXAMPLES OF GOOD INTROS:

“Hi Artyom,

Imagine getting the contact info of any prospect that engages with competitors like QuickMobile or DoubleDutch, or when they share industry news.”

Uses prospects first name - ✔️
Names competitors - ✔️
Is engaging - ✔️


“Hi David

Have you considered using a mobile app for Blockchain Technology Conference?”

Uses prospects first name - ✔️
Names event/conference that prospect is organizing (personalization) - ✔️
Is engaging (asks a simple question*) - ✔️

*This question is simple, but it’s based on research that indicated that the company and/or conference in question have never used a mobile app for this purpose before.

Main Body

Your email has to answer one simple question - what’s in it for the prospect? This is the 80% of the 10/80/10 principle - the section that remains the same for all recipients. 

To do that successfully, your research and prospect segmentation have to be on point. Whatever you include in this part, it has to be relevant to everyone who is included in the sequence/cadence.

A good guide to follow is to make sure that the message follows the following formula:

                                    problem + solution + social proof

EXAMPLE:

“Imagine getting the contact info of any prospect that engages with competitors like QuickMobile or DoubleDutch, or when they share industry news

We are already working with a select group of B2B SaaS companies like Sysomos and Vidyard to help them identify the right prospect at the right time and would love to have you guys on board.”

CTA - Call To Action

Cold emails that convert are laser-focused on what the next steps are for the prospect - should they reply to schedule a call or a meeting, sign-up for a demo, download an ebook or a whitepaper?

To make it crystal clear, include a singular CTA (call-to-action). Want them to reply? Ask in the email for a reply (and don’t give an option for a Skype or phone call). Want them to click on a link to schedule a call? Write “click on the link below to schedule a call.” It’s just about writing out exactly what the expected next step is and not suggesting your prospects any other options.

EXAMPLES:

“Would you like to see how this will work for Blockchain Technology Conference? I can send you the link to a testable demo.”

“I’d love to show you our platform and to hear your professional feedback. Would you have 10 min for a "virtual coffee" next week?”

Iterate to Success        

Screenshot 2020-07-26 at 03.14.34.png

Once you have successfully run your first campaign and the results are in, then what? It’s time to analyze what worked and ditch & iterate on what didn’t.  You can start by combining the main indicators into a spreadsheet (like the example above). 

The main indicators you need:

  • Email analytics: # of sends, open rate, response rate (divided into positive, neutral, and negative responses)
  • Opportunity analytics: # of opportunities, deals, revenue 

Armed with these data, you can start the analysis looking at the open-rate and response rate to start. The open-rate will tell you right away how well your subject lines are performing. If the open rate is low, you’ll need to work more on your subject lines to drive a higher email opening conversion.

Be mindful of making decisions based on the overall response rate. You’d need to dig deeper and do basic sentiment analysis - categorizing the responses into positive, neutral, and negative sentiments. 

For example, a high negative response rate shows that you’re triggering your prospects, but unfortunately, in the wrong way. The same applies to the neutral responses -  you’re receiving a reply and that’s good, but there’s still work to be done on the content.

For a real-life example, let’s take a look at one by Artyom:

       

Screenshot 2020-07-28 at 12.32.56.png
                                                 

   

After sending the first email, his team analyzed the results and saw that improvements could be made to the open-rate as well as getting people to reply. With a new headline and reworked content, they managed to raize the reply and open rate by 6% with the second alternative.

Examples

To better drive home the points made in this article, let’s look at some examples of actual sales emails that Artyom received in his inbox from other companies (we've removed company names with respect to their privacy):

EXAMPLE 1

       

                                             

“We are in the process of,” “we are involved with,” “we can provide you” - all the content is about “me, me, me, me” of the email sender. Why should the recipient trust the sender based on this email? Zero personalization or research has gone into this email, and it shows. It’s pretty certain that 100 other companies received the same email. 

EXAMPLE 2        

Screenshot 2020-07-28 at 12.39.31.png
                 

While better than the above example - the same questions remain - why should I care about and trust this company? While offering zero value, the sender asks to commit 10 minutes of my time for a talk.

EXAMPLE 3

Screenshot 2020-07-28 at 12.39.14.png
                                                    

The research and personalization behind this email are what drives value. While not apparent to you or me, QuickMobile is a competitor of Attendify, and thus having a subject line like “Artyom, your prospects are talking to QuickMobile” made him interested in continuing the conversation.

In the email body, another competitor is mentioned in addition to two companies most likely familiar to Artyom and the industry he is operating in. The only personalized parts in this email are the prospects’ first name and the competitors’ names. The rest is non-personalized scalable content. Regardless, this email attracts attention and is a perfect example of the power of research and personalization.

Final Thoughts

Getting leads from cold emails is all about following the process - do the research, come up with campaign cadence, and craft the messages. Analyze the results, iterate based on your findings, and start again. Improving your campaigns is a never-ending process, and a numbers game - 90% of its success is owed to following the process and being persistent.


Artyom Yaremchuk

#B2Bsales #fundraising #teamscaling

Artyom Yaremchuk is the co-founder of Attendify. Attendify has over 4000 paying clients including companies like Google, Facebook and American Express. Artyom has run the B2B sales from ground up and specializes in cold emailing strategy.

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