Emailing is definitely a powerful channel to make users come back to your app. Most people check their emails on a daily basis and lots of experiments can be found to take advantage of this behavior. But, can we use emailing as a weapon to reach potential users faster? If so, what are the tricks and the tools to make it happen?
The answer is yes. This tactic is called cold emailing. I will first show you how I managed to get a 42% click rate (which is HUGE) for one of my cold emailing experiment. Then, we will dive into the process and all the best practices that will save you time and increase your impact.
About this Experiment
The idea is to reach new people who may be interested in reading this blog. This is all about growing a company so startupers seems like the perfect audience to target. We will have to find where they hang out, to guess their email address, to draft an attracting template and to shoot them an email one by one while making sure we avoid to fall into the spambox. Many salesforces at B2B companies use this tactic intensively to reach new prospects.
So let’s get started. As my content was in the early days written in French, I looked for all french startups listed on MyFrenchStartup, F6S and AngelList. Founders can be found inside each page and good for us, their personal Linkedin is available. We will fill a spreadsheet with every link, but are we going to do it by hand? Hell no! Our time is important and we have two smart solutions to overcome this issue.
- Hire a freelancer on Upwork or Freelancer (the choice is yours, both are great places). Just submit a job offer, look for data entry experts and it should be good.
- Build a simple spider with PhantomJS/CasperJS to scrape all the links and to display them in a terminal (which I did). It does not take a lot of time when you are used to these tools but if you are not, choose the solution above to go faster.
Once your spreadsheet is ready, it is going to be time to guess the emails and create a new column with them. Here again, two solutions are available.
- Use EmailHunter or any other similar tools (Anygrowth, SellHack etc.). In case your spreadsheet is quite big, you can of course hire a virtual assistant on the marketplaces discussed above to avoid using them yourself. The two main problems I have seen with these tools is that the level of confidence is not very high (around 60% from my personal experience) and they are only useful if you are looking for professional email addresses.
- Hire a data/entry expert to delegate the whole stuff about guessing. (hundreds are listed here). Test a few of them before sticking with one as they are not all perfect to work with. I know some of them who are very reliable so feel free to ask me in the live chat. What you will get at the end is a spreadsheet which includes all the valid email addresses you were working for. This is the option I almost always choose. Email cost varies between $0.13 and $0.30 each and I am confident the base is clean (there is no spamtrap).
Remove the Linkedin column as it is not relevant anymore and install YetAnotherMailMerge (YAMM). This plugin will help us to send one-to-one customized emails through your personal Gmail address, which is the ultimate solution to avoid the spam box.
Here is the spreadsheet I got from my freelancer including 2,651 emails of potential readers:
Let’s now draft our emailing template. If you are using YAMM, the email should be available as a draft in Gmail (see this video). But, before we start, here are the best practices you should follow:
- People do not have time so avoid writing long emails at all cost. The size of your content should not exceed the length of 3 or 4 tweets or your response rate will be low.
- Email marketing sucks. Tailor your message, write it in plain-text and avoid images when you can. This should seem like if you were a connection sending him something he desperately need.
- To improve your click rate, do not add more than one link. One email should aim for one particular action, not several. Do not make the mistake to confuse everyone. If you also ask for a high investment upfront, it might not work (or you will have to segment very precisely and customize the email like crazy).
- You absolutely have to use a strong referral in the first sentence. Don’t forget that you are coming from nowhere. This is not up to them to figure out why you ended up here or how you found them.
- Do not let anything to chance: if you are looking to sell him your product, giving a quick demo of your product converts well (this of course depends of your CLV). Make it clear at the end that you are very busy but that you are available as soon as he needs you. You could also put your phone number in your signature and see how it goes.
- You should come up with a list of titles and test the performance of each of them on your samples. Getting the title right and escaping the spambox are the two most important factors to increase the open rate. If you include your recipient’s name or company in it, the open rate will skyrocket.
- Avoid every template you can find on Google. Your message must be personalized so this does not make sense.
Here is the mail I sent to each of them.
You are now ready to send your campaign. If YAMM has been properly configured, it should be available as an add-on for all your spreadsheets. Once, your campaign is sent, a MERGE_STATUS column will appear. It will be updated in real-time with one of the following values: EMAIL_SENT, EMAIL_OPENED or ERROR.
Metrics and Tracking
There are the four metrics you should usually look at when you send a cold emailing campaign:
- The opening rate. Mainly useful to assess if you got trapped in the spambox. I am not sure about how reliable YAMM is to track this metric so I will not rely too much on it. Of course, tweaking your email titles is another way to improve it.
- The click rate. This will be our main KPI. It will be tracked with a goo.gl link hidden behind https://www.hackisition.com/. If we can reach a click rate above 20%, we will conclude this experiment as a victory and optimize the whole process.
- The response rate. This one is important, especially when you are trying to onboard the recipients to give them a demonstration of your product. This is not our concern here but this metric will help us figure out the relevance and the attractivity of our email.
- The complaining rate (or unsubscribe rate). Bad segmentation and bad copy unfortunately lead to high complaining rate.
At the end, I reached a click rate above 42%. Not bad for a cold emailing campaign with no follow up. So, let’s take a few minutes to think about what I did right.
- The name of their company was mentioned in the title and within the message.
- My email was short with one highlighted blue link (keep it that way, I previously made a test with a green link and click rate decreases).
- But, more importantly I was using a strong referral in the first few words. They were all french startupers and most of them knew the company where I work (TheFamily). For sure, it helped me to be less intrusive, to create more proximity and to bring more credibility. I was less a stranger and they gave me their attention. Validate yourself the stronger you can, people want to know who is emailing them and who you are is already a first answer.
- I did not use this trick in this experiment but if you have a mutual connection, that is basically the strongest social proof you can have. Mention her and you will be less a stranger. This is why you mostly get connected to business angels through someone else’s introduction.
- Ending the email by saying that I would be glad to help them solve a problem they may have also made it more friendly. More than 130 people replied and it took me one entire afternoon to reply individually to everyone. Give them something they want to incentivize the response (in my case it was free advice but I also could have tried to connect them to someone else) and don’t forget to ask if they also know someone who might be interested by what you have to offer (this will increase your K-Factor). In my case, I encourage them to subscribe to the newsletter and they are automatically added to my welcoming drip campaign.
Of course, not everyone replied in a nice way. I got 2 emails asking to be removed from the hitlist, 2 aggressive replies and one angry tweet. Not bad for a 2,651 emails sent. I have had worse.
Feel free to comment below and to share your personal experience with cold emails. You can also ask me for more details or share with me ideas to optimize this experiment.
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