How to evolve your outbound email campaigns

The key to outbound marketing is keeping it simple and testing continually, according to Ryan Buckley, founder of content marketplace Scripted.com and email address locator Toofr. Ryan joined us recently to host a webinar titled Sales Outbounding: The Secret to Getting It Right.

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Outbound marketing, also known as inside sales or sales development, can start with cold calls or emails.

This is in contrast to inbound marketing, which targets visitors you already have – with blog posts, webinars, syndicated content, and SEO. The key to successful inbound marketing is to capture leads, typically as email addresses of interested prospects. This can be through requests for more information, access to gated content, or subscriptions to blog posts or newsletters.

Learning from the outbound experts

Outbound marketing is directed at prospects who are not engaged with you or your website, but should be. The goal of outbound marketing is to turn a cold lead into a warm lead and, ultimately, into a customer. Outbound marketing can be a great supplement to inbound marketing efforts.

To understand how marketers are using drip emails, Ryan surveyed 6,000 of Toofr’s users.

Drip emails are a key outbound marketing technique. To understand how marketers are using drip emails, Ryan surveyed 6,000 of Toofr's users.

Ryan says that when you're getting started and you're trying to identify your market, you may want to start with a shotgun approach, sending mass emails to undifferentiated prospects. Once you have established your product/market fit, you may want to switch from a shotgun to a sniper approach, using fewer resources to target a smaller number of cold prospects more effectively.

Start with a three-step drip email campaign

While companies with more-expensive products can send six or more emails, Ryan recommends starting with a three-step approach.

  • The first email is your initial approach to a cold prospect. The goal is to introduce yourself and prepare the recipient for the followup email. Ryan likes to use a question in the subject line of the first email. The body of the mail should be short, not more than 3 short paragraphs of two to three sentences. The tone should be conversational, so don't use bullets. If you're in sniper mode, mention two or three of the prospect's competitors and link to content you know they'll find relevant.
  • The second email is generally the best performing of the three, according to Ryan. He tries to make the second email look like a reply to the first message, using the subject line "Re: [previous message subject line]", which reacquaints the prospect with you and maintains the continuity of the thread.
  • The third email will yield far fewer results than the second. Ryan also sends this as a reply to his first message. He uses the third email to capture an introduction to another person in the prospect organization. Ryan says that if you're polite, you'll create a positive image and maintain a good relationship with the recipient – even if the prospect isn't interested at this time.

Drip email is evolving

In his research, Ryan found that respondents used longer drip campaigns for more-expensive products. The average drip campaign for deals over $10,000 was six emails.

Deal Size 2015 2014 Average Difference
$ (nothing to buy) 3 2 3 1
$100 to $500 5 5 5 1
$500 to $1000 5 5 5 1
$1,000 to $10,00 4 4 4 0
Over $10,000 6 5 5 1

He also found that the number of emails needed before a lead converted had increased from three to five for products costing more than $10,000.

Also, as conversion rates slow, the number of emails is increasing. Ryan found that the average number of emails per drip campaign had increased by one in the last year.

Build on top of your inbound content

Your drip emails should link to reference content on your website, to build credibility and capture leads (such as blog posts or white papers). Linking to relevant content on your site is a great way to demonstrate that you understand the reader's needs.

Quality content will improve the performance of your email. As your inbound content library grows, it will become easier to find the right content for each user.

Start small and experiment

Your conversion rates will improve as your experience increases.

Ryan recommends that you start with a small number of blog posts and emails and improve your content continually as you learn what works and what makes sense for you. At the same time, you should increase the number of blog posts you write and the number of cold emails you send as you gain more experience and deeper content resources.

Meanwhile, evolve your content. The titles and contents of your blog posts as well as the subject lines and bodies of your emails will improve over time.

Ryan's data suggests that the bounce rates for outbound emails have decreased slightly in 2015, and that email tools and techniques may be improving.

Other metrics

In addition, Ryan noted that there are more than a few metrics to consider when evaluating outbound campaigns.

A pure cost-per-lead basis may not be the best way to evaluate your emails. For example, if your margin on sales is high or you need to increase your customer base, you should be willing to accept a higher cost per lead.

Other metrics used by Ryan's respondents included handoffs, demos, opportunities created, open and reply rates, demos scheduled, calls made to leads, monthly recurring revenue generated, signed deals.

They key is to develop metrics that meet your strategic needs.

View Outbound Sales and the Secret to Getting it Right

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