B2B cold outreach trends for 2019 with insights by Litmus

byKaran Sharma, Guido Croce

2018 was an important year for the B2B outbound sales world. Both good and bad things happened that forced companies to adapt.

To lead your industry in outbound sales, you need to adopt up to date strategies. At hubsell we help companies achieve success with outbound sales. So, we have learned a lot of lessons from the past based on which we aim to predict what is to come in the next 12 months.

In this article, I am going to focus on what we learned last year and predict what the trends will be in 2019. Some of the points made in this post are inspired by a webinar hosted by Litmus.


What happened in 2018

As we plan our sales goals for 2019, let us examine the lessons we learned last year and applied to our processes.

2018 saw two key trends: saturation of email automation software market and enforcement of the GDPR. While these two developments are inherently incompatible, the second half of 2018 did not see a decline in cold emailing usage.

With email automation tools flooding the market, combined with a strong push approach to acquiring customers (which is inherent to email automation software companies), have led more sales professionals to use cold emailing tactics to generate opportunities.

The increase in popularity of cold emailing tactics among companies resulted in higher traffic of cold emails. This has lead to higher noise levels in the mailboxes of recipients which caused the quality of cold email campaigns to plummet.  So the entire practice suffered from negative press.

Even though B2B sales’ reputation has suffered, it also opened a door to a better status quo. The market will achieve a better standard of cold outreach while punishing malpractices (of which, I am sure, you have been at the receiving end).

The advent of GDPR and greater scrutiny of cold outreach tactics will force the outbound sales industry to improve.

When considering the impact of GDPR, one does get the full picture of what is going on in Europe. Some countries were more affected than others (Germany more than the UK). Overall companies had to adapt their outreach efforts to comply with new laws which made email outreach much less effective. Or, at the very least, challenging.

Based off of these developments in 2018, I can make a calculated guess as to what will take place in 2019, so let’s dive in.


Trends for 2019

At hubsell we strive to be at the forefront of our industry by providing the latest tactics to B2B opportunity generation. So, predicting future trends comes with the territory.

My predictions are based on three sources: what we have experienced at hubsell, what our customers are noticing in their industries, and what the market is tending towards.

Here is the list of trends for 2019:

  1. pure email outreach will become less effective but still relevant in companies’ strategies
  2. social selling will take hold and evolve from its infancy
  3. multi-channel will outperform single channel outreach
  4. quality in contact data will no longer be a point of differentiation instead it will be a point of parity
  5. thought leadership and an online social presence will become a point of differentiation strategy
  6. supplemental data and email interactivity will become a point of differentiation

So that is the list of things that I believe will take place this year. Let’s see in January 2020 how many of them were right but for now we, hubsell, and our customers are banking on these changes to happen.

Let’s discuss each one by one.


Pure email outreach will become less effective but still prevalent in companies’ strategies

In the past years, there was a growing belief that email was giving up its place to other forms of contact such as instant messaging or social media. However, there is clear evidence against this due to the multiple acquisitions of ESPs by big players in the market. Here is a list of the most relevant ones:

  • Oracle acquires Eloqua for $810 million in 2012
  • Salesforce acquires ExactTarget for $2.5 billion in 2013
  • Adobe acquires Neolane for $600 million in 2013
  • IBM acquires Silverpop for $275 million in 2014
  • Vista Equity Partners acquires Marketo for $1.79 billion in 2016

The examples of mergers and acquisitions prove that not only is email still relevant but it is a priority for these big companies. There are two main reasons for acquiring these ESPs. The first is to complement their own ecosystems with diverse technology. The second is to own more market share in their industries.

2019 will register a record-breaking use of cold emails due to its increase in popularity. This will result in the saturation of prospects’ mailboxes, which will decrease the effectiveness of this channel. Furthermore, GDPR rules will keep impacting the methods of companies (mainly the ones seeded in Europe).

Corporations intending to remain relevant will have adopt other channels of customer acquisition to keep up.


Social selling will take hold and evolve from its infancy

An alternative channel to the saturating cold email market in 2019 will be social media platforms that connect professionals.

Here are the two main ways social platforms will be used for cold outreach:

  • used for introductions to prospects
  • serving of ads with useful content

Social channels will become the main vehicles of business relationships, initiated by connection requests. These introductions are effective because they do not ask much of the target and are a building block of a ‘yes’ ladder. If the prospect has already accepted a connection request then they might as well listen to your well planned follow up message.

Conversely, a tactic that will serve to warm up cold leads is to serve a specific audience ads with helpful content. For example, you can upload a list of verified emails and expose them to case studies or full guides. These low intrusion ads will work to warm up leads to increase the effectiveness of your cold outreach campaigns.


Multi-channel will outperform single channel outreach

With data collection coming under higher scrutiny and the recipients being over targeted via email, committing to any single channel will be a sub-par strategy. In order to get a better ROI with cold outreach, you will need to start using different channels to connect with prospects. Focusing on one strategy like cold emailing will only get you so far in 2019.

Furthermore, by testing different channels you will be able to find the preferable method of outreach of your audience. This is possible with a software that reaches out through multiple channels at them same time. You will have an advantage over companies that will stick to a single sequential channel.

One option for an outreach channel will be physical letters, an underused approach. Targeted correspondence will make a good first impression as they are manually written and sent. This increases the personal factor and their uniqueness in a digital-centric world.

Cold-calling will also rise in usage again but not in its traditional form. It will complement other forms of outreach to maximize interactions with prospects. For example, calling a prospect when they have interacted heavily with a touchpoint.


Quality in contact data will no longer be a point of differentiation instead it will be a point of parity

The GDPR reform of 2018 and the stricter guidelines of email providers will force companies to get better and richer data on prospects. If not, then they will not be able to keep up with the competition due to higher bounce rates and consequently lower conversions.

One way to curate higher quality data is to form an inside team focused on prospecting and providing verified data to the sales team. A drawback is that it may require a lot more time and money to train those people. A better solution is to partner up with a reliable vendor that does the first part of sales for you.

Buying lists of low quality, in which leads cost very little, will not be a promising strategy for 2019. Incorporating new channels to initiate conversations will require high-quality data to be effective. Consequently, the bulk data purchaser and seller will have a difficult time this year.


Thought leadership and an online social presence will become a point of differentiation

As more of business is digitalised, companies will be expecting established online presences. When a prospect reads your email, a common follow up action is to start checking your online presence. This means that if you do not have it set up properly then their impression of your company will be less than ideal.

The three main components of your online presence are:

  • the website
  • the content
  • the social presence

The website

Your website is the basic identity of the company, which can make or break the prospect’s first impression on you. Therefore, keep it:

1) up to date, by updating the copy and images according to the current product version

2) mobile responsive because a lot of traffic you will get will be through a smartphone

3) user-friendly, by optimizing the visitor’s experience with easy routes to their preferred destination.

The content

Another frontier is the content you put out. Having a blog/vlog is a great opportunity. You can display your expertise with tutorials, give a company inside view, or present case studies.

The social presence

Your social accounts also contribute to your image because that is how professionals are interacting with each other. Focus on one or two social platforms and set them up properly with consistent valuable content and matching branding. You do not need to have an account in every network. Just make sure you are posting quality content in the ones you are apart of.


Relevance of supplemental data, email interactivity and voice assistants

Supplemental data

The new updates of the main providers such as Gmail or Outlook enable sending additional data with your emails. That allows inbox providers to display more information to subscribers which will get more value out of the email. This leads to higher engagement with brands.

For example, in Gmail, Google has enabled new display elements in the promotion tab. Updates include an added logo, a discount code badge with its expiration date and a featured image.

Interactive emails

Interactive emails will also be on the rise in 2019. Users will start to expect interactivity to prove that the sender is listening to them. The cleaner and frictionless experience will also make it easier for users to connect better with brands.

Examples of interactive elements within emails are:

  • double-sided images that flip when hovered
  • text pop-ups from hovering
  • cart-like emails that provide a shopping experience inside the email

The features are added through progressive enhancements. An email can revert to its original static state if the technology is not compatible with the prospects’ device.

Voice assistants

Voice assistants are another rising trend as an interactive tool to explore messages. According to voicebot.ai, 3.25 billion are in current use and it is predicted that in 2023 there will be 8 billion.

Why does the growing use of voice assistants impact email? Recently, Alexa has started to read emails, enabling a new medium for subscribers to check their inboxes. People will be able to get ready for work while sorting through their emails read by smart speakers. That will influence the way different messages will be triaged by the devices.

To keep up with the voice assistant technology, salespeople will need to have familiar sender info. They will also need to write compelling, easy to understand copy that sounds good when read out loud. These tactics avoid getting the email deleted right away.


Summary

In this article, I shared what I learned from last year and my predictions for this year in the B2B outbound sales world. The purpose was to help salespeople keep up with the market and attract and close more prospects. Here are the main takeaways from this post:

The new GDPR laws hit 2018 hard, complicating or prohibiting a lot of the cold emails tactics used by companies. However, their popularity has still kept increasing.

Trends for 2019

  • email will be less effective but still relevant – email has become a lot more used to initiate conversations with prospects; this made it noisier and less effective; but multiple acquisitions of ESPs by big players prove its continuing importance
  • social selling will become a dominant strategy – social selling will rise to the top as a better channel for interacting and contacting prospects
  • multi-channel will outperform single-channel outreach – companies using multiple platforms to contact prospects will outperform competitors that stick to one; physical letters and case-based cold calling will be new prevalent forms of outreach in 2019
  • quality in contact data will be a point of parity – quality data will become mandatory if a company wants to be able to compete in the marketplace
  • thought leadership and an online presence will be more important – after reading your message a prospect will check your footprint on the Internet; so, set up your website, content and social channels congruently
  • supplemental data and email interactivity will become a point of differentiation – updates by email providers will allow more interactivity with brands through complementary data, dynamic messages and voice assistants with out-loud reading capabilities

These are my predictions for 2019, inspired by Litmus’ predictions too. Hopefully, they will help you think one step ahead of your competition so that you keep growing your revenue with outbound sales.



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