At Outbound Assist we provide fully-managed email outreach campaigns for our clients, so we write a lot of emails and get a lot of questions about writing cold emails.
Below are a few guidelines we use for our emails that have proven successful.
But first, in the interest of full disclosure, we believe in a hybrid sales development approach that combines cold-emailing and warm-calling. We cold-email first and then our clients’ sales development teams warm-call interested prospects. We don’t buy into the argument that emailing and calling are mutually exclusive.
Our cold-email guidelines:
We try to keep our cold emails under 200 words. We state the problem that the prospect is likely encountering, how our client’s product/service can fix it, and then a closing statement like: Let me know if you have any questions. You can learn more at Client’s website.
In the first (introductory) email, we do not include a strong call to action or request a meeting. We simply try to draw the prospect to our client’s website and offer to answer any questions.
We follow up with 5-7 educational emails, each highlighting an aspect of our client’s value proposition and including a clear call to action — meeting request, demo request, etc.
If the prospect doesn’t respond, we send several short final follow-ups that effectively say: Hey you’ve been reading my emails, but I haven’t heard back from you. Are you interested, or should I call it quits?
All of this might sound a bit overwhelming if a sales development rep were to do it on her/his own, but we use a sales automation platform to manage most of this activity. It manages the emails, builds an activity feed for each prospect, and uses AI to identify interested prospects.
It enables us to automate most of the early sales development activity so that we can focus on providing a human touch in campaigns, setting up meetings, and enabling our clients to make warm-calls.
Which outbound B2B lead generation strategy is the best?
When I ask the cold-callers, they reply that cold-calling is the best B2B lead generation strategy and that cold-emailing is a waste of time. When I ask the cold-emailers, they say that their method is the best and that cold-calling is dead.
Clearly there is some confirmation bias in play, and everyone I’ve asked seems to believe that emailing and calling are mutually exclusive.
But at our company we use email and the phone together to create very effective sales campaigns.
We use multi-phase, behaviorally responsive email campaigns to create product awareness, get attention, and educate targeted decision-makers. Our software tracks all prospect activity and uses AI to tell us which prospects are interested. Then our sales development reps use the phone to warm-call the interested prospects.
Using the two methods together drives down customer acquisition costs and drives up lead generation. We don’t need a lot of costly sales development reps to research leads and make cold-calls.
Our software finds the leads, sends the emails, and tells us who is interested.
We have a small sales development team that spends 90% of their time warm-calling prospects that are already educated and interested.
So perhaps the cold-callers and cold-emailers should get together, because the best solutions come when you use all available tools to focus on the task at hand — generating leads.
AI and machine learning are completely changing how complex B2B products are sold. Just a few years ago B2B products were sold by sales execs that managed the complete sales process from prospecting through closing.
Then the prospecting function was separated, and the concept of a Sales Development Rep was born. The SDR prospected for interested leads, qualified them, and handed them to the sales exec for education and closure.
The sales development role involves a lot of repetition and pattern recognition — things that computers are good at. Software developers recognized this and built sales automation platforms. Now the sales development function is being taken over by machine learning and AI.
We are already using a sales automation platform that finds decision-makers that match the ideal customer profile for our products, finds their email address, engages them in an email campaign, and monitors their behavior to see if they are interested.
All of these things were done by our sales development reps before. Now all our SDRs do is make warm calls to interested prospects that were identified by our software.
Now we have 1 SDR instead of 9, and we see this trend accelerating across many of our clients. I suspect the relatively new role of an SDR will be short-lived as sales automation platforms proliferate and supplant this part of the B2B sales process.
There has been a great deal of fear, uncertainty, and doubt created around GDPR, particularly when it comes to sales and marketing.
To add context to the GDPR discussion, let’s remember that the GDPR was created to protect the data rights of individuals – not businesses.
The EU clarified this intent when they wrote: “The proposed Regulation on Privacy and Electronic Communications will increase the protection of people’s private life and open up new opportunities for business.”
Regarding unsolicited commercial communications, the EU working groups responsible for introducing the GDPR regulations have not finalized the language, and it appears that the ePrivacy Regulations governing B2B marketing emails will be determined by each individual EU country.
To understand how individual EU countries might address B2B marketing email, it’s helpful to consider the UK regulations, which are defined in the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR).
The topic of B2B marketing email is addressed specifically on page 44 of the PECR Direct Marketing Guide. Following are the relevant excerpts:
Note that the Direct Marketing Guide also provides comments (orange boxes) that discuss the impact of proposed EU GDPR language on the UK’s PECR regulations, so this should serve as an indication of the EU’s intent.
“142. These rules on consent, the soft opt-in and the right to opt out do not apply to electronic marketing messages sent to ‘corporate subscribers’ which means companies and other corporate bodies e.g. limited liability partnerships, Scottish partnerships, and government bodies. The only requirement is that the sender must identify itself and provide contact details.”
“144. Corporate subscribers do not include sole traders and some partnerships who instead have the same protection as individual customers. If an organisation does not know whether a business customer is a corporate body or not, it cannot be sure which rules apply. Therefore we strongly recommend that organisations respect requests from any business not to email them.”
“145. In addition, many employees have personal corporate email addresses (e.g. email@example.com), and individual employees will have a right under section 11 of the DPA to stop any marketing being sent to that type of email address.”
For reference, the applicable text of DPA Section 11 is as follows:
“An individual is entitled at any time by notice in writing to a data controller to require the data controller at the end of such period as is reasonable in the circumstances to cease, or not to begin, processing for the purposes of direct marketing personal data in respect of which he is the data subject.”
What does it all mean for B2B marketing email?
B2B marketing email will be permitted by the GDPR if you observe the following best practices:
• Provide a visible and easy to use opt-out mechanism.
• Remove people who opt-out from your list instantly and permanently.
• Do not use a deceptive subject line that is not relevant to the subject matter.
• Send B2B emails to people that are likely interested in the subject matter.
• Use an accurate sender field
• Include your physical address.
• Remember that sole traders and sole proprietorships have the same protections as individuals.
Excellent video from a GDPR attorney in the UK.
Because you should never believe what you read on the Internet – particularly from a single source – here’s a link to an excellent YouTube video made by the UK Business Connections Live channel.
The discussion on B2B cold email starts just after minute 50.
Note that nothing in this article should be interpreted as professional legal advice. It is our interpretation of the GDPR and related documents as they exist at the time of writing. You should seek the advice of an attorney if you have questions about GDPR.
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