Not many things are more controversial in the marketing world than cold email.
“You mean SPAM?!”
No, actually, we have laws like CAN-SPAM, CCPA, CASL and GDPR that are very specific about when and where and how you can email new contacts without it being spam or illegal. In most of the U.S., you can email anyone as long as you include a street address and an unsubscribe option.
“But have they opted in?”
Right, if it’s an opt-in list, those are people you’ve already done some marketing to (even if they just viewed your website), so that’s not a cold list. Those aren’t net new contacts. And opt-in is not required by law everywhere for every purpose. Including an opt-out method is all you need to do for this in most of the U.S.
“But isn’t it just wrong to send email to people who haven’t opted in?”
Well, morality is a bigger question… but if it’s not wrong to show ads to people who didn’t ask for ads, then cold emailing isn’t any different. If you do believe advertising is wrong, well, you’re in the minority of business people, and most successful businesses do some kind of advertising somewhere. Some companies rely on door-to-door sales, and you don’t get to opt-in before they knock on your door.
“But don’t people just ignore spam anyway?”
Well, again, spam is really just two things: illegal email, and/or email that your email server thinks is spam. Let’s just call it unrequested email. We call a lot of snail mail “junk mail,” but it’s suddenly not junk mail if you decide to use the pizza delivery discount your mailbox got “spammed” with, is it? And this is the most important point:
“WHAT?! How can SPAM be valuable?”
As in the pizza coupon example, if I send you info about a problem you need solved, and you reply and we get it fixed, then I’ve created value. We’re more likely to call it “spam” if we receive something irrelevant to us. So again, as in much of marketing, relevance is key, and creating value is how we prove relevance.
“How do you write relevant cold emails?”
As with all marketing, you start with the targeting- who fits what you offer, and what are the problems you solve? The more accurately you can target those people, and the more compelling your value message is, the more response you’ll get, and you can do so well that you don’t get ANY spam reports. We have cold email campaigns for ourselves and clients that are getting 44-75% open rates due to high degrees of targeting and deliverability, plus really compelling messaging. Most companies don’t do that well with their warm, opt-in emails.
“But does it really work?”
One company we worked with during COVID-19 got 353 leads (responses to cold emails), setting over 150 sales appointments and capturing 3 new sales. I’m certain we would have had many more sales in normal times, but unfortunately COVID really slashed most people’s budgets. Point being, this process does work very well, and even in difficult times.
“How do you get it to work so well?”
I can’t reveal all our strategies and tactics here, because we need to keep a competitive advantage! But the keys are targeting (quality list acquisition), ensuring high levels of deliverability, and staying in the inbox (of course staying out of the spam box, but also staying out of Gmail’s categories like updates, social, and promotions. Your cold emails are wasted if most people don’t see them.
And then there are the messaging strategies- most people aren’t great at getting a response with their marketing, and cold emails are even more difficult. Not only “why should I open this?” but also, “who the heck are you?” and “why should I care?” If people’s response to your cold email is, “Not opening that- looks like spam!” or “Some rando salesperson with a lame message not relevant to me,” then you’re not going to get any traction with them.
“Don’t some salespeople send cold email all the time?”
Typically, salespeople write bad emails that don’t work. Getting sales appointments is a marketing job and salespeople usually suck at marketing. But salespeople THINK they’re great at marketing. If that’s true why do they have so much trouble getting leads?
Sales and marketing go together like PB&J. We understand sales (because we do it, too), but we’re brilliant at marketing. We’ll get you the leads. You close them. But don’t make us send some salesperson’s crappy emails, because they won’t work.
And most of the decision-makers in sales know about these problems.
“So how do you acquire good emails?”
Hopefully it’s not by scraping or guessing! A lot of services out there do scrape, but not everyone’s email is online, obviously, so that won’t work very well, or in every industry, or for every job title.
Or they guess people’s emails by knowing what formula a company uses for its email addresses. But this isn’t the best way.
Having a good email database requires a lot of data input, and it needs to be updated regularly, especially in a time like COVID-19 where many people are changing jobs or being fired or furloughed. So, it’s best to get your emails from a really big source, a company that mainly does that, because it’s a big effort with lots of government compliance issues to consider. We work with a partner, Brothers Data, with a database of over 140 million people just in the U.S.
“How do you maximize deliverability?”
There are some key things to avoid doing, like sending way too many cold emails at once from a new account, sending lots of emails to low quality email lists, not validating emails ahead of time, certain keywords you need to avoid putting in your messaging, and of course, sending boring, long, hard to read, or irrelevant emails that people will get annoyed with and mark as spam.
There are more than blacklists out there you want to avoid getting put on – there’s also sender reputation on various servers. Big email-sending providers like Gmail and Outlook pool all their info together to prevent spam and phishing. If you do it wrong, your email account will get shut down, or, at best, everything you send will go into spam mailboxes that no one reads.
So you can maximize deliverability with good email lists, good sending practices, and good messaging. Again, we have some campaigns where emails are opened at over 70% open rates, and that’s partly because we maintain great deliverability. Without deliverability, you won’t get opens, because people won’t even see the emails.
“Wow, Brian, how can we hire you to do all this?”
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.