The Ultimate Guide to Digital Sales & Outbound Prospecting

The Ultimate Guide to Digital Sales & Outbound Prospecting.jpg

Don’t you just love the smell of a good email marketing campaign in the morning? Nothing quite beats the feeling of opening up your inbox and gleefully rummaging through dozens, if not hundreds, of unread emails all trying to sell you and your business something you don’t need.

Wait, no? That’s not pleasant? You say that if you could, you’d have voodoo dolls of the worst offenders and do unspeakable things to them?

Well, we’re right there with you.

If you don’t want your own B2B emails to find their way into the spam or trash folders—and, more importantly, you want protect yourself from hexes, curses, and other nefarious anti-spam magicks—then this ultimate guide is for you!

A Song of Fire, Then Ice

When developing a B2B cold email marketing campaign, one of the hardest parts is developing a strong template that won’t have recipients rolling their eyes and marking your company as spam or Ctrl+F’ing “Unsubscribe.” One business’s cost-cutting, time-saving solution is another’s I’m-never-getting-those-three-seconds-of-my-life-back, after all.

That’s why it’s crucial to master your emails before you go on to send the exact same one to hundreds of people. And one of the best ways to practice is to use warm emails.

With warm emails, you’re not only using a highly curated list of contacts, but you’re also curating the content of each email based on the research you’ve done on that particular contact. It’s a lot of work, but by putting in the sweat equity with warm emails, you’ll be able to determine which strategies work well for your business while also actively drumming up business for your company—not to mention that your warm emails will have less of a chance of ending up on someone’s spam list.

That human touch you give to your warm emails will go a long way, and everything you learn about warm emails can then be applied to your cold email templates later down the line.

I Got a Value Proposition You Can’t Refuse

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One of the truths to email marketing campaigns—and just marketing campaigns in general—is that nobody cares.

Nobody owes you, your product, or your service any attention whatsoever.

That’s not cruel; that’s life.

You’re more often than not a complete stranger to your reader, so keep that in mind. While you do want something from them (their business), the ideal situation is a win-win. You win by receiving their business, and they win by gaining some value from you.

What you get out of things is pretty much a given, so focus instead on what they might want from you. What value can you provide them? In other words, give them a value proposition that they’d be crazy to refuse.

If You’ve Got a Problem, We’ve Got the Solution

Humans are curious, risk-averse creatures. For example, we would rather avoid pain than seek pleasure (if that weren’t the case, dating would be a whole heck of a lot easier). Think about all the times you thought about doing something but realized it wouldn’t be worth the hassle.

This type of energy conservation or risk-aversion is a survival mechanism that has been ingrained into all of us.

So take advantage of it!

When talking about your product or service, it’s important to talk about it in terms of a solution rather than a simple improvement. Your solution avoids the pain of the problem, rather than providing the pleasure of an improvement.

You can also think of it as, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” In order for a business to purchase grease, they first must be aware that they have a squeaky wheel. It’s the difference between, “Improve client retention!” and, “Stop losing so many clients!”

Show, Don’t Tell

Don’t be afraid to give the reader a little insight into your process. After all, if you’re providing them a solution to their problem, they’ll want to know a bit about how you’re going to be able to do that. Your reader is smart and familiar with their industry, so treat them accordingly.

At the same time, don’t throw around jargon or buzzwords for the sake of it. Write as if you were discussing with a friend what it is you do: the point here is understanding, clarity, and brevity, not fancy and impressive-sounding words.

United We Stand

The strategy of throwing a bunch of offers at the wall and seeing what sticks is a great way to get your reader’s hand to hover over that delete button. Even worse, being vague and all accompanying in your subject line will just dilute your message and intrigue.

Focus on a single value proposition in your email. Your business may have multiple solutions to multiple problems, but by focusing on just one, you prove to the reader that you sought them out specifically because you could help them with a particular problem.

You can think of value propositions like brewing a pot of tea: the more ingredients you put into a pot of tea, the more muddled the flavor and more diluted each individual ingredient becomes. If this pot of tea is someone’s first introduction to how you brew tea, you want it to be a solid and singular experience.

Don’t Plug Your Product

While you may have a product or service, your goal in your first cold or warm email shouldn’t be to plug said product or service.

Sound a little counter-intuitive, right?

Instead, what you’re selling yourself on is your ability to help, your solution, rather than the means for that solution. Focus on the problem, your business’s context (how your business helps others), and what the results could be for the reader.

You can always talk about specific products or services down the line: the important thing in cold emailing is to sell the reader on the idea that you’ve got the solution to their problem, that you’ll be able to take care of them.

Contacts Lists: The Contact-ining

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Curating a contacts list is an art all of its own. Who you choose to put on your contacts list matters, as it’s your target audience for your email marketing campaign. And a laser-focused target audience is the cornerstone of any successful marketing campaign.

You wouldn’t try to sell shoes to fish, right? (Well, we won’t judge. Maybe you’re onto something)

One of the key traits of a warm email is that you let the reader know that you specifically sought them out because you think you could help them with a problem. This all goes out the window if you’ve picked the wrong person or company to begin with. Even with cold emails, you’ll want to be sure you’re not just hitting the right businesses, but the right people within those businesses.

Setting My Sights on You

For your warm email contacts list you’ll want to be highly selective on who you email. The closer to your ideal client someone is, the better. Various factors to keep in mind are company size, industry type, physical location, and company branding. Companies who almost fit the bill for you can be added to your cold email contacts list for later use.

As for how to find the contacts, ach, there’s the rub!

The goal should always be to find the most relevant person in a company to reach out to, so step one will be identifying the companies that pique your interest to begin with.

Let the Hunt Begin!

An easy way to do begin your search is to utilize LinkedIn’s search function and try out a few keywords. You don’t have to limit yourself to industries, either! Try searching for the name of a business similar to yours or the service you offer, search under Jobs, and bingo bango bongo you’ll see a list of every company that lists that keyword as part of their job descriptions.

Smooth (Search Engine) Operators

Barring that, utilizing a little google-fu, you can use, for example, site:linkedin.com in the search bar followed by a company name and department or job title to hopefully find the specific person to email within an organization.

This is just one example of an operator used in a search engine to help focus your search. Check out this page on other handy operators to google with.

The Shyamalan Twist

“It was X all along!”

Don’t forget that you can look to current or former clients as potential contacts for your warm email campaign. In fact, they might be the most receptive to warm emails, since you already know a lot about them, they already know about you, and they will probably appreciate the personal touch in reaching out to them.

The Social Network

Depending on your company, it can be very helpful to join and participate in various online communities in your industry. Anything from Facebook groups to subreddits and forums can be a great place to not just cultivate potential clients but also interact with others in your industry and provide community value to them.

One thing to keep in mind is that you should only go this route if you genuinely interact with the communities and offer them some sort of value. Otherwise, you run the risk of just shamelessly plugging your company and getting banned. Communities will often have rules for how people with their own businesses should go about talking about their own businesses, so do your best to follow those rules to a T.

Contact Lists: This Time, It’s Personal

It may seem like a no-brainer, but don’t ever email to a contact@companyname type address if you can help it. Even a departmental generic address should be avoided when possible. The whole point of a warm email is to reach out to a specific person, so sending your thoughtfully crafted and well-curated warm email into the dark abyss of an office’s general inbox is a great way to roleplay as Sisyphus.

You can’t just simply ask for that information . . . right?

Well, One of the easiest ways is indeed to simply email the address you’ve come the closest to and just ask who best person to contact would be. Just a quick hello and introduction followed by asking who the best person to contact would be about [a brief 3-5 word description of what you do].

That’s it! As a bonus, you are now armed with the FYI that someone within the company has referred you (more on that below!).

Subject Lines: The Eyeballs of the Email

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If eyes are the window to the soul, then your subject line is the window to your email. This is the first major make or break point for your email—whether they read your email or not—so you need to do everything you can to make sure they open that email.

Value propositions aren’t always your friend when it comes to subject lines (though they absolutely can be used effectively), but you have a wide variety of techniques to employ. After all, the goal of the subject line is simply to get them to open your email. Anything goes, so long as you do so in good faith (no fake emergencies or otherwise underhanded tactics, please!).

Be Your Own Private Eye

This is pretty much just good advice all around, but do your research. Being able to show a reader that you actually cared enough about them to take an honest look into what they do for a living can greatly increase your chances of getting a response. Connecting what they do to your own personal life can be a great humanizing moment in an email and shows your reader that you’re an actual person, not some stranger trying to get at their money.

But while a film noir private eye might straddle the line between black and white, you should adhere to a higher code. We’ve all received those template emails that look like they just had a field in their spreadsheet for generic industry terms: “Hey [First Name], love what you’re doing with [X, Y, and Z]!”

If you’re going to put the time in to do the research, follow it up by putting a little time into making that human connection between what you do and what they do.

The Mutual Acquaintance

“So-and-So said you’d be best”

It’s simple, it’s straightforward, and most importantly, you’ve established a connection between you and your reader. The So-and-So in question will typically be the person who you got in touch with within the company to refer you to the right person. Or maybe you met someone at an event who mentioned the person you’re now contacting. Bringing up a mutual acquaintance in the subject line is a great way to get someone interested in what your email has to say.

Praise Is the Highest Form of . . . Praise

Who doesn’t love receiving a nice, genuine compliment? Emphasis on the genuine part!

If you’re sending an email to someone who revolutionized the way you think about your business, don’t be afraid to tell them that they did so. On the less extreme side of things, maybe your research on their business taught you something new: don’t be afraid to tell them that, either.

“If I Told You You Had a Nice Email Body . . .

“. . . would you hold it against me?” After the first hurdle of the subject line is overcome, you now have a few lines at best to hook your reader and convince them to keep reading. While the subject line was a simple pass/fail test, the body of your email is the weighted final exam. This is where you’ll utilize everything you’ve learned about your reader, your product or service, and marketing in general.

Don’t Be a Stranger, Now!

You may know stuff about your reader, but they more than likely don’t know you. When you introduce yourself, it’s important that you describe yourself in a way that has some kind of personal context for your reader.

Starting off by talking about yourself and what you do may seem like the natural course of action, but in terms of value, you’re not providing much to your reader. Sure, it may seem obvious to you that what you do has value to them, but that’s exactly what you’re trying to convince them of: don’t start with your conclusion!

Instead, connect yourself to the work they do.

In other words, begin by showing that what they do has value to you.

This is why doing your research is such an important step. If you haven’t taken the time, how can you expect them to take the time?

1-800 CONTEXT: My Brand

This is more a comment on the general “feel” of your emails as opposed to any one specific component, but it’s nonetheless an important piece of the successful B2B email puzzle.

For some businesses, it may be a good idea to distance the feel of their writing from the stiff and stuffy professional business tons, while other businesses may find that that level of professionalism and maturity lend an air of competence. The important thing is to stay on brand, but more important than that, you want the email to sound like an actual human being wrote it.

Regardless of the industry, you’re reaching out to a human being at the other end of your marketing email campaign. Reach out to them as one human being to another while keeping in the spirit of your company or personal branding.

Be Sincere, Or Be Straightforward

If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all (and get to the point of your email). Lots of guides will tell you to heap on some praise or show off that you did research (hey, even we told you that!).

Only do this if you can be sincere about it.

Nobody likes a brown noser, especially if it looks like you took a passing glance at what they do and put together some generic compliment that doesn’t really speak to the specific recipient.

A good way to show that you care is to connect what they’re doing to your own personal life, but this is only a viable strategy if you actually have that connection. This has the added benefit of helping remove that “stranger danger” label from you.

At the same time, don’t spit on someone and tell them it’s raining. If you’ve got nothing of value to add, then get right to what will have value for your reader.

Your Jargon Can’t Save You Now!

A great way to alienate your reader is to give them some car salesman speak. It also has the unintended side effect of making your language sound incredibly vague. Your value proposition should be impactful and to the point, so write in terms that speak to the results your reader would want to see.

That’s not to say you should avoid talking about your process: in fact describing a bit about how what you do works can be incredibly valuable. The important thing is not to couch it in obfuscating language in an attempt to seem impressive.

Numbers, Like Hips, Don’t Lie

It never hurts to talk statistics and numbers, which can help add credibility to your value proposition. Offering to give or attaching case studies on previous clients can be hugely beneficial to establishing your authority in the industry and helping your reader come to a decision. It also helps prevent your own writing from feeling too pressuring, as you offer the information for the reader to look at at their leisure and let them come to their own conclusion.

Testimonials aren’t numbers, but they’ll also go a long way in enticing the reader.

Calling Them Out . . . To Action!

The call to action is a vital part of marketing content, and your cold or warm email is no different! If you’ve gotten your reader excited about you and your business, you need to direct that energy somewhere, and the easier and more pinpoint you can make that directed energy, the better.

It’s as simple as asking the reader if they’d like to take 15 minutes to talk to you and giving them a window of availability to pick from.

Give clear concise instructions on how/when to reach you. Do as much of the work as possible so the reader only has to think “Yes.”

Don’t Forget to Say Grace

Whether if it’s in your opening email, your follow-up email, or your response email, you should be sincere in your thanks. If they’re reading your email, they’re using their time to do so. Show them that you care and value their time.

Nothing puts a sender on the spam list faster than being pushy, ungrateful, or manipulative in their tactics.

Serve yourself a slice of humble pie!

The Life Cycle of the Cold Email

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As you work your way through putting together the perfect warm email, there will come a point where you will say to yourself, “I wish I could send emails much faster and with less effort!”

Enter in the cold email.

Being honest, one cold email is not as high-impact as one warm email, but what the cold email lacks in specificity it makes up for in its far-reaching nature and ability to reproduce at an extreme rate.

The cold email utilizes everything you learned about your product or service while writing warm emails to create a series of templates meant to cast a wider net on a larger audience you couldn’t possibly reach with warm emails in a reasonable amount of time. Due to this nature, the cold email will rely heavily on the strength of your value proposition.

We specified that cold emails are a series, because they should rarely be merely a one and done affair. Cold emails should follow a cycle of follow-up emails and a final email that removes the recipient from your list (don’t go fishing in a dry lake, after all).

First Contact

Your first cold email will follow a similar format to your warm emails. You’ll still want to target the right people within a company, you’ll still want to keep things brief and get to your value proposition ASAP, and you’ll still have an easy to follow call to action at the end of the email. The main difference here is that you won’t be able to personalize each cold email.

As such, it’s best to be quick with your introduction and straightforward with your value proposition. They’ll either be interested or they won’t be, so try to keep things short to save everyone some time.

The Tasteful Follow-up

Give the reader a few days before you send a follow-up email. The follow-up email should be thankful for the reader’s time, but aside from that, how you go about things can vary wildly.

A follow-up email will reach one of two readers: either they ignored your first email or they’re sitting on the fence. The job of your follow-up email is to convince the reader that your product or service is the perfect fit for them.

You could bring in a personal anecdote that humanizes you to the reader, you could talk a bit more about your process and past clients’ experiences, or you could even offer something of value for free (for example, an eBook).

Start with the assumption that they’re on the fence, because if someone ignored your email before, they’ll either continue to ignore it or find themselves on the fence after reading your follow-up email (which they could potentially read again to convince themselves to respond).

“You must have missed my last email” is not a good place to start your email from.

Again, be thankful for their time and be humble.

Knowing When You’re Beat

At a certain point, your follow-up cold emails are going to become spam. It’s important to know when you’re beat and leave someone alone. If you’re unsure of when to do this, err on the side of caution. If the next series of follow-up emails has nothing new to add of value to the reader, then it’s time to write the breakup email.

As always, be grateful and thankful for your reader’s time and give them one last chance to connect with you, personally, if they have any questions.

Then move them off your contacts list for this particular campaign.

Optimization: Adapt and Improve

Your first cold emails, like your first warm emails, will probably need improvement in some way. Here, we’ll discuss the best way to go about improving your cold email templates, adapting and improving until you’ve got an effective cold email marketing campaign.

Started from the Bottom

Ever play the browser-based flash game Pandemic? In it, you play as a virus looking to evolve and spread throughout the world.

There are many ways to go about playing, but as a general rule, if you come out guns blazing, the countries of the world will react in kind, shutting down their borders and preventing you from getting in. Instead, the ideal strategy is to sit back and fine tune yourself until you’re ready to take over the world.

This is your cold email campaign in a nutshell.

If you fire off hundreds or thousands of emails using a template that hasn’t been optimized, chances are you’re going to get ignored or worse: blacklisted or associated with spam.

So, in a sense, start from the bottom with just a handful of emails to figure out what works well for your email in your industry and slowly scale up. Work in small batches and keep tweaking things so that you don’t run out of contacts before your cold emails have reached their real potential.

Skynet Is Watching

Get yourself an email marketing tool. There’s no way around this.

For a successful B2B email marketing campaign, you need an email marketing tool to track your data and manage your email campaign.

Without data, you can’t experiment. Without experimentation, you can’t adapt, and a marketing campaign that can’t adapt will never become optimized.

There are plenty of email management tools out there. Mailshake and Yesware are just two out of the dozens available.

Split Testing to High Heavens

If you’ve read a marketing guide before, then you’re familiar with the split test and how important it is in pretty much all marketing content.

There are entire books written about split testing, but the idea is simple: You have two identical pieces of content (your control), but there’s a single element that’s different (the variable). By tracking each piece of content, you can see which version of your variable works better. Rinse and repeat, and each step brings you closer to optimization.

Not sure what kind of subject line would work best? Do a split test with identical emails but change up the subject line to see what draws in readers better!

It’s Okay to Pay

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Not the best writer? Strapped for time? Run yourself into a marketing rut? Whatever the reason, it’s okay to pay a copywriter, one that specializes in marketing and/or B2B content, to write or edit for you.

You don’t have to break the bank hiring one to do your whole campaign, but having them take a crack at an email template or two can be very illuminating and help you out in the long run.

An important aspect of any marketing campaign is the proper management of resources. This includes both time and money. So if your time is better spent researching contacts than cobbling together some words, it’s perfectly fine to hire some monkeys with typewriters.

Have you had a successful cold email campaign? What strategies do you employ to hook your readers? What’s your favorite subject line to use?

Share in the comments below!