Every company needs a constant stream of new leads or opportunities flowing through their pipeline to stay ahead of the game, this is a fact, and it’s why you are here. You are either about to embark on a cold outbound journey and are looking for the best ways to do it, or you have been doing it and getting lackluster results. Most companies we come across fall into that second category, and that’s why we wanted to share the 5 main reasons your cold outreach campaign isn’t getting you the return you desire. We will be looking at the following:

  • Why cold outbound is not a marketing function
  • The dark art of email deliverability
  • Not all prospects are created equally
  • The delicate balance of copy
  • Let data be thy guide

These are the five factors that you need to focus on to get the maximum return from your cold outreach campaign, so let’s dive in and get that ROI. 


Cold outbound is not a marketing function

When a company wants to start a cold outreach campaign the initial thoughts go to “getting leads” and filling the top of the funnel with MQLs. The sales team is then tasked with closing these leads with their superior sales skills. So it is understandable that the first port of call for the leadership is to get marketing involved. In most businesses this is the job of marketing, right? 

If you think about how this is done traditionally, it’s usually accomplished through blog posts, articles and ads that are crafted to appeal to a specific audience. The messaging is not specific to the individual. This audience-based approach is where most companies go wrong with cold outreach. 

An email is one to one. The message needs to feel like it’s written for you, or to you. Even if the cold prospect knows it’s a cold email or cold outreach, that email needs to resonate on an individual level and connect on a human level. It can’t be written in the traditional marketing manner. This is something we see all the time, marketing teams writing these long general emails that nobody has the time or desire to read. This is what can really affect your cold outreach ROI. You need to unlearn that way of writing. Marketing teams struggle to embrace that shift and when tasked with cold outreach copy, they revert back to the comfort of blog and article type content.

Sales teams can offer the best insight into cold outbound campaigns. They are in the trenches, daily, working with prospects. They know what people respond to and what works well. It’s so easy to get caught up in the need to generate demand that you forget to connect first, on a human level. In this day and age, you first have to start a conversation before you can start the process of generating demand, especially in a cold email or LinkedIn message context. 

The key takeaway here is that a change of mindset is required to get the best ROI from your cold outreach. The marketing mindset is to educate and to generate leads, where the sales mindset is to knock on a door and initiate a conversation. If you apply the latter to your cold outreach you will see a greater ROI.


The dark art of email deliverability

Once you have fixed your mindset and have crafted your message correctly to initiate conversation, the next focus needs to be deliverability. This is the foundation of email outreach success. We find that this is one of the most overlooked aspects of cold outreach campaigns. The assumption is that once you click send, everyone on your list gets that email, but in reality this is not the case.

Email deliverability is a dark art and requires a unique set of skills. This is not something you can just let your IT department handle, there are so many nuances that go into it that often companies end up burning their domain without even realising it. It’s not about getting one or two criteria right to improve deliverability, it’s a delicate balancing act of multiple factors that lead to greater deliverability.

It’s like the wild west, there are no predefined rules that you can learn to improve deliverability. Each email provider has a different set of rules, which they don’t share, on what classifies as spam and what factors affect domain reputation. Upsetting this delicate balance can drastically diminish your deliverability.Then all the hard work of prospecting and writing great copy ends up in a spam folder. 

Here are a few tips to help you in getting started with improving your email deliverability and protecting your domain’s reputation:

  1. Go to www.mail-tester.com to test your domain and get a report on the level of authentication your domain may have.
  2. Watch your email volumes, the fastest way to burn your domain is to send high volume emails from the get go. Starting with 10 to 30 emails a day is what we would recommend, and then slowly and steadily ramping up to larger volumes over a 3 to 4 week period. Patience is key. 
  3. If you are looking at doing anything over 100 emails a day, we recommend setting up a whole new email infrastructure and looking into things like subdomains.

A good analogy to remember, from Lemlist, is to think of your prospects’ inbox like a new hot night club. Everyone wants to get in, and they have really good bouncers. Before they will let you in they are going to check your ID, to make sure you are the appropriate age for the club. They then will look at your dress code to see how well you will fit into the club. 

We can relate the above analogy to two key factors of email deliverability, authentication and content. In our analogy the ID represents authentication, and you either have it or you don’t. A good way to measure this is to see your open rates, if they are below 20% then your email authentication measures may be a concern. If you are getting an open rate that is below 40% when sending from a standard inbox then it may be time to look at your content, the dress code in our analogy. 


Not all prospects are created equally

Prospecting is another area where companies lose ROI on their cold outreach campaigns. You want to get your message to the right people to empower you to start the right conversations. This is where the art of prospecting comes in. You have to do the hard work to get to know your ideal customer, there really is no substitute for that.

A shortcut that many companies take is to just buy a prospect list and hope for the best. This is a sure-fire way to waste time and money. The success of your campaign, and the ROI, depends on the quality of your data from the outset. These lists are often outdated, unverified and oversold. Using these lists usually triggers a whole list of other issues for your campaign that can quickly ruin your domain reputation and email deliverability. Just don’t use them. There are much better, more compliant ways to build a list. Remember the more you know about your ideal customer, the easier it is to find them legitimately. 

Regardless of how you build your list, once you have it ready the first task is to get it verified. This gives you a great indication of these email’s status and can help guide your strategy going forward. This is also not just a once off process, because of the speed at which data becomes obsolete you need to be verifying your lists at least once a quarter to maintain its integrity and to enhance your cold outreach campaigns. As an indication, you could lose as much as 30% of your list each quarter through just natural attrition. 

The key with prospecting is to know who you are selling to and to understand that the intention is to build a relationship or rapport with somebody at the company. Ideally you want this to be the decision maker, but you need to be open minded and not fixated on specific job titles and roles. If you shift your mindset around prospecting to potential relationship building it can open many other avenues to a favorable decision at the company. 


The delicate balance of copy  

As we discussed above, we don’t want our marketing team writing our cold outreach copy, so that leaves the job to the sales people. Most sales teams aren’t copywriters and most copywriters aren’t sales people. You need to navigate the delicate balance between good copy and on point sales messaging. 

The key to this is to make your email copy as human as possible. We like to think about a single person we know that fits the ideal customer persona and write it as if we were writing to them directly. There is a ton of cold email going around, and most of it is poor, so differentiate yourself by humanising your copy.

A primary place to start is with the intro lines, as this is the first thing the prospect is going to see. You want to make it as conversational as possible whilst talking to the pain points you know they are facing and empathising with your prospect. This is a great place to experiment with different intro lines and different methods of segmentation. You also want to keep it short, a good rule of thumb is to keep your email to under 150 words or about 3 to 5 sentences. As for your subject line, less than 5 words is ideal. This may sound like a challenge, but it is vital you keep it succinct and to the point, especially in a world that inundates prospects with information.

Something that we have seen quite a lot is people love to talk about themselves, and their company. This just doesn’t work, it’s very salesy and will turn your prospect off your brand quickly. Make the copy about them, their pain points and show that you genuinely care about helping them solve their problem. This will help increase the ROI of your cold outreach.


Data be thy guide

The real beauty of email as a cold outreach channel is the data we receive from each campaign. Other channels also provide good data, but the email data we get provides a very clear picture of what to do to help improve your campaigns and increase the ROI. For example, if we look at open rates, there are two very clear outcomes that can be changed depending on the data. It is either a deliverability issue or a content issue, depending on where your open rate sits. This helps focus our efforts on improving the outcome and not wasting time on testing multiple possibilities to figure out what to do. When coupled with standard A/B testing on subject lines and copy, we can really get a sense, quite quickly, of what is working and what to amplify.

The real impact of the data-focused approach is the ability to categorize your replies. This is something we do extensively, but not many other companies are doing right now. Categorizing replies provides a myriad of data points that help build your ideal customer persona and helps to paint a clear picture of who in your target audience is open for conversation and what talking points are resonating with them.

This iterative process is the key to success with cold outreach. Each sequence that is sent out builds a stronger case for what is working and helps to refine the process. Iteration helps us get the message to the right people, at the right companies who are open for conversation. This helps us really maximize the return ROI as we can get these insights much faster than other cold outreach methods. 

If you are starting out on your cold outreach journey or are an experienced campaigner looking to get better results, we hope these five points have stirred your thinking. At FueltoFly we live and breathe cold outreach and are glad we can help others with the lessons we have learned.