What We Learned From Cold Emailing 175,000 Sales Prospects during COVID-19
Cold emailing is exciting to me right now. It works to drive new business. Even during a pandemic. And you can do it above-board (which is certainly easier in the U.S., outside of California).
What’s “cold emailing”? It means emailing new people for the purposes of letting them raise their hands if they’re interested in your offering. It’s a sales email.
Done right, most people welcome them, or at worst ignore them. Done wrong, and you can create ill will, get your domain blacklisted, or even be subject to federal or state penalties.
Over the last 6 months, we’ve been involved in dozens of outgoing cold emailing campaigns for 8 clients and for ourselves. We’ve sent roughly 175,000 emails in that time. I’ll give you the stats and insights on that in this post.
And yes, we have done it all in legally compliant ways. If you think of sales emails as “spam”, I’d urge you to educate yourself with this sales email Q&A article.
Can You Sell During a Pandemic?
I may have picked the wrong time to get into sales!
Actually, I’ve been selling services since 2005, but most of that time, I didn’t think of myself as a salesperson, I almost never used cold email for sales prospecting until 2018, and, frankly, the economy sucks right now, so it’s tough out there. This was a tough time to start doing 10-20 sales calls a week.
Many small businesses have lost a lot of business due to the pandemic. If you didn’t go out of business, count yourself lucky. If you are still surviving, what can you do to thrive?
You can do more for your existing customers. Sure, you may be worried, and this has been a time when anxiety and depression have risen. But, to me, the best remedy for worry is taking action. Since March, we’ve taken more aggressive sales action than ever before.
The smart thing about being involved in prospecting and sales during a time like this is that, in the dozens of sales meetings we’ve had since the pandemic started, we’ve had our ears to the ground. We’ve gained constantly updated insights about markets, budgets, operations, and more from real businesses — insights we couldn’t find anywhere else.
That’s one reason I’ve come to really like sales: In a time where we are more isolated than ever, we’ve been able to reach out remotely with Zoom-based sales calls and talk to more people than ever before. Chatting with business people helps with the isolation, and you also get the intel needed to pivot, not to mention… sales!
How Companies are Pivoting During the Pandemic
If you’re like us and some of our clients, “pivot” has been the name of the game in 2020. How are businesses changing to stay afloat or thrive during COVID?
- The focus of your offering: The market’s needs have changed, which is one reason we’ve promoted ecommerce and sales prospecting services more — businesses need more new ways to find revenue.
- Sales and marketing targets: Many people have lost jobs, and those still working are wearing more hats; some entire industries have lost so much revenue that they’ve cut many of their normal investments.
- Clever offers and pricing: People (and many businesses) have less money, so you don’t want to price yourself out of the market, which is possible without even raising your prices. Offers, deals and discounts have always been a great way in B2C to drive purchase decisions. When those deals have an expiration date, that creates urgency, which is often the key to getting new customers. Some businesses, not wanting to undermine the value perception of their offerings, choose instead to add in more freebies or bonuses or service, without lowering their prices.
The Stats on Cold Emailing Results
We’ve done enough of this to have some stats to pass on so that we can answer questions like:
- How many emails do we need to send?
- How many get delivered?
- How many go to spam?
- What % of people should open a cold email?
- What % of people reply?
- What % can we actually get scheduled for a sales call?
- What % become customers?
Naturally, all of these numbers can vary with a lot of factors, such as:
- How big is your market?
- How many customers do you need?
- How good is your targeting (list sourcing)?
- How good is your email messaging?
- Is there a product-market fit?
- How good are you at follow-up?
- How effective is your sales pitch?
Have a Look At the Numbers
For one client, initially, we sent 76,000 emails, but in the first phase, we had to test a lot of messaging and the client also was pivoting, trying to figure out product-market fit, and testing out multiple offerings. A number of those campaigns taught us that certain campaigns and offers were not interesting enough to get a response.
Overall, we got 136 positive leads out of 353 leads, from 76,000 sent emails, and that yielded 26 scheduled meetings. At that rate you have to send 3,000 emails to get one meeting. But that success rate includes all of our early flailing around to find product-market fit.
When we really found our stride with messaging and a little college trick, we got 24 of those 26 meetings, and 328 of the 353 leads. Using that strategy, we sent 27,000 emails, and that means we only had to send about 1,000 emails to get a scheduled meeting. Some of my newer emails are doing even better than that.
Deliverability and Open Rates
One big consideration in cold emailing success is deliverability.
Most warm-email providers — like AWeber, Constant Contact and Mailchimp — won’t let you send to cold lists at all.
To send cold emails to purchased lists, you basically have two options:
- “Slow-Burn”: You can send slower using platforms like Google and Outlook, and get higher delivery rates. One account might send 1,000 – 3,000 emails in a month. However, your open rates can be 20-60%, so you get, say, 600 email opens from that.
- “Fast-Churn”: You can send faster with more mass email-oriented platforms, but you often get lower delivery rates. You might send 30,000 emails in a month, but only get 2-8% open rates, so you get 1,500 opens. In my experience, to get appointments, you have to send about 3x as many emails with fast-churn to get the same number of appointments you get from slow-burn.
Yes, overall, fast-churn gets you more opens; however you’ll deliver to a much lower % of your list, so you end up wasting a lot of contacts. One thing you can do is combine the two methods, and do both.
The Quality of Your Email Lists
You can’t succeed at cold emailing with bad info, outdated info, or incomplete info. Some databases don’t have much info, and some of them are not 100% compliant with state and federal regulations.
You need things like company name, job title, and more if you want to personalize your emails. And in a world of spammy sales emails, personalization is critical.
If you do personalization well, you won’t just get responses — you’ll get responses where people thank you for personalizing, and feel bad if they can’t work with you.
But if you don’t have accurate, up-to-date personal info in your contact lists, you can’t do it.
Email and first name are not enough. That’s expected. That won’t make you stand out. You need more, and you need a list provider that has it.
Additionally, you need one that has fresh data. Not data from a year ago. Data from today, yesterday, or at worst a month ago. Keep in mind that 2020 has seen a ton of layoffs, so there are a lot of people who are no longer at the same company. Or may be unemployed.
My recommendation for a list provider is Brothers Data. They have all of that, and very competitive pricing. We do everything with their data.
There are many more tips for succeeding with cold emailing, but those are a few to get you started.
If you need help with your lists or email sends, or just can’t keep up with it yourself, reach out and contact us!
Brian Carter is a popular business expert and keynote speaker with Fortune 500 clients like NBC, Microsoft and Humana as well as small businesses. He delivers motivational keynotes with practical takeaways with the comedic flair of his stand up comedy background. His agency, The Brian Carter Group, creates marketing that excites customers and increases brand visibility, sales and loyalty. Brian is a bestselling author you’ve probably seen on Bloomberg TV or in Inc, Entrepreneur, The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times. He has over 250,000 online fans and reaches over 3 million people per year.