The majority of this masterclass has focused on using email as a means of building an engaged audience and generating revenue by selling or recommending products to that audience.
While growing a community surrounding your content can work well in many categories, it isn’t ideal in others. You can easily build a mailing list in niches that cater to hobbyists and general consumers, but it’s much more difficult to grow a mailing list if your company sells a very specific product to certain types of people or businesses.
If your company makes a very niche product with a relatively high price point and only has a few thousand potential customers, you are much better off approaching your prospective customers on a one-on-one basis rather than doing traditional list building and trying to attract an audience.
For example, if I ran a farm implement dealer that sold tractors, balers, and combines to local farmers, there might only be a few hundred farms that would ever purchase equipment from my business. My potential customer base simply would not be large enough for building a subscriber list outside of my existing customer base to be worthwhile. This doesn’t mean email marketing isn’t a valid marketing strategy for this business, but it does mean I would need to take a different approach.
I would still send email with news and product information to my current customers, but that wouldn’t be my only email marketing efforts. Instead of waiting for local farmers to sign up to receive email from me, I would need to use email as an outreach tool and try to schedule appointments with farmers or invite them into my dealership.
This marketing strategy, known as email prospecting, involves sending personal email messages to certain members of specific organizations in hopes of accomplishing a specific sales objective. When you send a prospecting email, the prospective customers that receive the message won’t have opted into your mailing list and generally won’t know who you are prior to receiving your email.
At my fictional implement dealer, I might try to get referrals from some of my existing customers. I would then send a cold email to the referral and ask if there is any equipment they plan on buying in the next 12-24 months, and show them what the dealership has that might be able to meet their needs.
Email prospecting won’t necessarily replace the need to collect opt-ins on your website, build an email list, and send a mix of content and marketing material to your subscribers in hopes of generating sales. Even large B2B companies with extremely high price points publish white papers that require a reader to opt into their mailing list before getting access to the white paper.
Think of email prospecting as a complement to your existing list-building efforts. While traditional autoresponder messages and broadcast emails will engage subscribers that complete opt-in forms on your website, email prospecting will engage potential customers that have never heard of you or your business. Both work together in a complementary manner to generate new business for your company.
Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing
Inbound marketing refers to marketing activities that draw customers into your business by creating compelling content and earning your potential customer’s attention. Gathering opt-ins and sending autoresponders and broadcast emails to your mailing list are both inbound marketing techniques. Outbound marketing techniques involve actively identifying potential customers through list gathering, social networks, and going out and getting their attention.
Cold calling, cold emailing, running commercials, placing advertisements, and attending trade shows are examples of outbound marketing techniques. The remainder of this chapter will focus on outbound email marketing, also known as email prospecting. Email prospecting is the process of identifying potential customers for your company’s products or services and sending them a cold email in hopes of getting their attention.
Isn’t Email Prospecting Considered Spamming?
Throughout the first several Modules of the masterclass, I recommended that you only email people that have expressly opted in to your mailing list. However, I also suggest that sending a cold email introducing yourself to prospects can be an effective marketing strategy if you run a certain type of business. These two statements can seem somewhat contradictory at face value, but sending someone a personalized cold email introducing yourself is very different than spamming them.
Spamming occurs when a marketer sends a large volume of unwanted commercial email over a period of time. Sending one or two targeted messages to a specific person at a business for a specific reason is not spamming. It’s the difference between sending a few people a single, personal letter and incessantly sending 5,000 people mail they don’t want. Sending cold emails for business development purposes is a generally accepted practice in most industries.
Identifying Potential Customers
Amidst your inbound email marketing efforts, potential customers will self- identify themselves by signing up for your mailing list. When doing outbound email marketing, you will need to go out and identify potential customers that you can approach.
You probably already know what types of people or businesses are your potential customers. You just need to find the specific prospects that meet your criteria.
There are several ways that you can identify potential customers:
LinkedIn has become an increasingly popular way for salespeople to identify potential customers. A user’s LinkedIn profile will provide detailed information about their career and personal interests, which makes it a perfect tool to find potential customers. LinkedIn has advanced search tools that let you home in on specific types of people easily.
While it is a great way to identify potential customers, you shouldn’t use LinkedIn to contact your potential customers, because many users don’t check their LinkedIn messages. Your message may then get lost among the many less-targeted marketing messages that subscribers receive.
Facebook Fan Pages
Identify Facebook fan pages that are relevant to your potential customers. People will frequently self-identify as needing help to solve a problem by posting to that fan page’s wall and asking for suggestions. If you see someone that has written about a problem that your business can solve, send them a message through Facebook to introduce yourself and tell them how that you can help them.
People will also frequently self-identify problems they need help with by tweeting about them. For example, if you are a web designer, you might do a Twitter search for a phrase like “recommend a web designer” to find people who are looking to hire a web designer. On the date that I wrote this chapter, ten people have specifically asked if anyone can recommend a web designer to them within the last week. Search for multiple phrases people might use to indicate they have a problem you can solve. Once you identify a potential customer, tweet them, and you might be able to help with their problem. Try to get their email address, so you can send them an introduction email or their phone number to setup a call.
If you have an existing mailing list, you can use a process known as lead scoring to identify the subscribers most likely to become your customers. Lead scoring is simply the process of calculating an engagement score for your subscribers based on the actions that they take, such as reading emails, clicking on links, requesting free reports, following you on social media, etc. If someone is highly engaged with your content, they will be much more likely to become a customer of your business. By calculating a lead score for each of your subscribers, you can see which of your potential subscribers you should put the most time and effort into to acquire them as a customer.
Compile a List
Consider hiring a virtual assistant, an intern, or a relatively low-cost employee to help identify businesses and people that meet your criteria.
Have them collect all of the key information you would need to send a cold email and put it in a spreadsheet, including the name of the business, the location, the owner, the business’s phone number, and the owner’s email address.
For example, if you wanted to create a list of chiropractors, you could have an intern do a web search for chiropractors in specific cities in the geographic region you are targeting and add them to your spreadsheet. A list that you compile yourself will generally be more up-to-date and accurate than a list you purchase from a list broker.
Consider getting a booth at the trade shows that are frequented by your potential customers. While your first thought might be to get a booth at an industry trade show, remember that industry trade shows generally cater to people that work in an industry and not customers that buy products from that industry. If you were a chiropractor, you would want to get a booth at a trade show frequented by people that have back pain and not an industry show for other chiropractors. While at a show, collect as many business cards as possible, so you can follow up with potential leads via email after the show.
Ask for Referrals
Whenever you get a new customer, ask them whether or not they can recommend anyone else that might benefit from your company’s products or services. By getting referrals from your existing customers, you’ve instantly identified a new warm lead that you can follow up on.
Finding a Potential Customer’s Email Address
When you identify a customer through social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, their email address may not be listed on their social media profile. In some cases, you can get a potential customer’s email address just by asking them. If this isn’t the case, you will need to do some sleuthing on the web to identify a person’s email address, so you can send them an introduction letter.
Here are some ways to find a potential customer’s email address:
Google the name of your potential customer and the name of their business (if applicable). You may find other websites or other social media profiles that a person has created that do contain their email address. Make sure you go through the first several pages of search results in order to find all potential websites that may contain pertinent contact information. For more targeted results, consider doing a search of their company’s domain name. For example, you could search “site:marketbeat.com Matthew Paulson” to find references to me on my company’s website.
Make an Educated Guess
Most companies use a standardized format for their email addresses. For example, all Bank of America employees’ email addresses are in the format of [email protected]
If I were a Bank of America employee and you were trying to guess my email address, [email protected] would probably be a good place to start. If you guess someone’s email address incorrectly, the worst thing that will happen is the message will get returned as undeliverable. You can figure out the format of a particular company’s email addresses by doing a web search for the company’s domain name followed by words like “contact’ and “email.” For example, I found the email addresses of several Bank of America employees by searching for “@bankofamerica.com email.”
Make an Uneducated Guess
If you can’t figure out the format of a company’s email addresses, you can also use a service called Email Address Guesser (guesser.email) to generate probable email addresses for a person based on their name and their domain name. You can use a Gmail plugin called LinkedIn Sales Navigator (formerly called Raportive) to figure out if any of the probable addresses are accurate.
After setting up Sales Navigator in your browser, open a Gmail account and copy and paste all of the guesses created by Email Address Guesser into a new message. Hover over each address, and the user’s other contact information will appear if the email address is valid. For more information about how to do this in detail, UsersThink.com has put together a helpful article titled “How To Find Someone’s Email Address In Under A Minute”,28 which outlines the process.
Use a Paid Service
There are a number of paid services that will help you identify someone’s email address based on their name, geographic location, and the company they work for. Intelius (intelius.com) and Spokeo (spokeo.com) are two paid services that have large searchable email address databases. You can also use business specific search tools like Data.com (formerly jigsaw.com) and Toofr (toofr.com) to find the contact information for a specific person at a business.
Warm Up Your Prospective Customers
Before you begin writing a message to someone, try to find a personal connection with the person you are going to approach. People that you have no connection to at all are known as cold leads. Prospects that have some connection to you or have been referred to you by a mutual acquaintance are considered warm leads.
It’s much easier to sell to a warm lead than a cold lead, because people have a harder time dismissing those they have an existing personal connection with. If you can turn a cold lead into a warm lead by identifying a mutual friend, acquaintance, or interest, you are much more likely to have success from your introduction email.
In order to identify potential connections with your prospects, look at their Facebook and LinkedIn profiles to see if you have any mutual friends or connections. If you find a mutual connection, ask the connection if they would be willing to introduce you to the prospect through email. If the connection doesn’t respond to your request, it’s still worthwhile to mention the names of your mutual connection in your introduction email.
If you can’t find a personal connection, try to create one through an organization that you are both a member of, such as a university or a service club. If that’s not possible, you can try to create a personal connection through a common interest or hobby. Regardless of what kind of connection you create, having common ground with a prospect will get you a lot further than having no connection at all.
Writing Effective Cold Introduction Emails
After you have identified someone’s email address and have figured what kind of personal connection you can make with them, it’s time to send them an introduction email. Your introduction email should identify any common bonds that you have with them, let them know how you became aware of them, identify what potential problems they might have that you can help with, and provide a clear call-to-action detailing what next steps you would like them to take.
There are several things that you should take note of in this email:
Focus on the Prospect
The content of the message focuses primarily on the prospect and their needs. Start the email by using the person’s first name. Use lots of “you” language to make the message more personal, and focus on their specific needs, not what you have to offer.
Keep It Short
The above email is less than two hundred words long. Keep your first introduction email short so that it’s easy for the recipient to read. You can dive into detail on how you can help them in a phone call or in a follow-up email.
Create a Personal Connection
At the bottom of this email, I mentioned that we had two mutual connections on LinkedIn. The “P.S.” section of your email is a great place to tell someone how you are connected to them without interrupting the flow of your message.
Ask for a Next Step
At the bottom of my email, there is a clear call-to-action for what the next step would be. In most cases, your next step should be getting your prospect on the phone, so you can better qualify them and see if they are a good fit for your services.
Use a Relevant and Personal Subject Line
There’s a good chance your prospect’s email inbox is already full of other messages. You need to write an intriguing subject line to get your message noticed. Subject lines with a question mark work particularly well. Also use uncommon language that will instill curiosity in the recipient. An example of a subject line that follows these principles is “Strange question?” The subject line is short and will coerce a prospect into opening your message out of curiosity more than anything.
If you are looking for more resources about how to effectively write a cold email, Steli Efti of Close.io created a resource titled “5 cold email templates that will generate warm leads for your sales team!”, which provides several great examples of cold emails that get great response rates. John Corcoran has put together another great resource that provides guidance on cold approaching people on the OkDork blog titled “How to Connect with VIPs: 5 Tips for Cold Emails”.
Following Up with a Potential Customer
Don’t be surprised if you don’t receive a response after you send someone a cold email. Some of the most effective cold emails only yield a response rate of 35%. Sometimes people just aren’t interested in what you have to offer, and that’s okay. Not every prospect is going to become a customer. That doesn’t mean you should immediately give up on a prospect if they don’t respond to your first email.
It’s worthwhile to send one or two follow-up messages in the event that the prospect missed your first message. If you don’t receive a response after the follow-ups, your prospect probably just isn’t interested, and you should move on to the next one.
Don’t send an endless stream of messages asking prospects if they received your email or if they want to get in a phone call with you. When you’re emailing someone that hasn’t opted into receiving mail from you, you’re really crossing over into the territory of spamming if you haven’t gotten a positive response after the first contact.
Systemizing the Process
In order to effectively develop your business through email, you are going to need to construct systems and processes to facilitate the process of sending cold emails. You will probably be dealing with many different prospects at once, and many of them will be in different stages. You might have a deal in place with one customer, while at the same time, you are pre-qualifying several more leads and are negotiating contracts with two others. It’s important to keep track of where you are with every prospect, so potential customers don’t fall through the cracks.
Here are the five stages of turning a prospect into a customer:
You think the person has a need, but they have not yet confirmed your suspicions. Prospects that you have emailed but haven’t responded are at this stage.
You have made contact with a prospective customer, and they have confirmed that they have a need you can meet or a problem you can solve.
You make a specific written proposal or offer to address the prospect’s need. Your proposal should contain pertinent information about what kind of work you would do for them, including scope of work and pricing.
Prospects at this stage have accepted your offer. They sign off on your proposal, complete payment, and become customers of your business.
Delivery and Fulfillment
After you sign an agreement and the customer makes payment, you deliver the product or service you sold them.
The system that you put in place should be able to keep track of where every prospect is at in these five stages. Each prospect should have a next action associated with them, so you know when to take the next step. You can use an advanced contact management system like Contactually (contactually.com) or something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of where all of your prospects are at.
There are also several software tools have been developed over the last few years that make following up with sales prospects over email much easier. These tools tie into your existing email account and send your prospects a series of automated follow-up messages (similar to an auto-responder series. If your prospect replies to one of your prospecting emails, the automated follow-up sequence ends and then you can pick up and have a human conversation with the prospect. One tool that does this is called Bluetick (bluetick.io).
Getting Started with Prospecting Through Email
When you first start doing email prospecting, commit to sending five to ten cold emails each week. You can even send these emails through your personal email account because of the low volume outbound of messages.
Each message that you send should be personalized to the recipient and their business. Never send a form letter. Prospects can recognize generic emails from a mile away.
If someone responds positively to your introduction email, try to set up a phone call or meeting with them to see if you can do business together. If a prospect says they’re not interested, move on to the next one.
If someone doesn’t respond to your email after four or five days, send them a follow-up email. If they don’t respond to your first follow up, you can send one final message if they are a particularly good prospect. If they don’t respond to your third message, you should move on to the next prospect.
There are too many fish in the sea to get hung up on one potential customer.
Email prospecting can be an incredibly effective strategy for certain types of businesses. If your company sells high price point products and services and you have a relatively small customer base, you should seriously consider whether email prospecting can complement your list-building efforts.
Determine whether inbound email marketing or outbound email marketing is the best approach for your type of business. If you determine that outbound marketing is ideal, complete the steps below:
- Identify the first ten prospective customers you want to approach and find their email addresses.
- Write a sample introduction email that you can use to serve as a template for future cold emails.
- Develop a system to keep track of which step each potential customer is currently in and what your next steps with them are.
- Send your first ten cold emails.
Recommendation: The Best Email Marketing Tools
You must choose the right email marketing tool if you are really serious about email marketing. There are many autoresponders available, so comparing them can be quite challenging.
Many online marketers use ActiveCampaign as an autoresponder to build their campaigns.
My online business depends on ActiveCampaign, which I have used for many years.
ActiveCampaign was founded in 2003. Businesses can connect with customers with its affordable email and marketing automation software.
Today, it offers a powerful email marketing platform and CRM platform with a history of more than a decade, so business owners can easily control email marketing.
My ActiveCampaign review is very comprehensive. Before deciding to use it, you may want to read it.
WordPress users looking for a cheaper email marketing tool may want to consider Groundhogg. Using Groundhogg will be more technical.
With Groundhogg, you can manage your CRM, Email, and Marketing Automation directly in the WordPress dashboard. You have complete control over everything.
When it comes to CRM and Email Marketing, most people are forced to use expensive SaaS platforms, so Groundhogg is here to change this. I recommend reading my Groundhogg review to determine if it is for you.
Along with a powerful email automation tool, I found a tool that allows you to send videos via email. With only one click, you can insert videos into your clients’ emails for massive traffic, conversions, and sales. This is not a GIF, but a video.
Email Videos Pro is said to increase engagement by over ten times and profitability by over ten times, according to the developers. Check out my Email Videos Pro review to see it is suitable for you.