14 mistakes you are likely to make when doing cold outreach

As a company in the business to business market, one of the best ways to grow your customer base is by doing cold outreach. However, there are a lot of mistakes that are you may make when doing outreach that can really hurt the end result, so in this post, I want to share with you a list of mistakes that we have identified either through our customers making them or by being on the receiving end of them.

Before we start with addressing each mistake in detail, here’s a list of them divided into five topical sections:

Mistakes related to data

1. overlooking the process of segmentation

2. aggregating poor quality prospects’ data

Mistakes related to the sending process

3. not sending emails through your personal account

4. not sending the email to the recipient’s corporate email address

5. sending too many messages per day

Mistakes related to the content

6. writing spammy or clickbait subject lines

7. writing generic message copy

8. writing self-focused messages to prospects

9. adding too many CTAs in messages

10. not using CTAs in cold messages

Mistakes related to the structure

11. not setting up follow up messages

12. using only one channel to reach the prospect

Mistakes related to operations

13. doing the outreach process manually

14. not tracking campaigns performance

In this post, my goal is to explain what these mistakes are, what kind of damage they can cause and how to address them or prevent them from happening (again).

Let’s look at the number one mistake made in cold outreach.


1. overlooking the process of segmentation – necessary for personalisation

Each market that you go into needs a different approach based on its unique characteristics. Unfortunately, a lot of businesses make the mistake of reaching out to everybody in the same (generic) way.

“Recipients are 75% more likely to click on emails from segmented campaigns than non-segmented campaigns” – Mailchimp

Why it is a problem

It’s vital to personalise your content based on industry, company type, role, seniority and more. In some languages, it is even better to personalise based on gender, think here German, French, Swedish etc. By personalising your content and making it relevant you avoid sending one of the many generic emails that your target receives on a daily/weekly basis. The main consequences from not personalising your content this are:

  • writing subject lines not specific enough for the market – causes lower open rates
  • writing message copy not relevant to the market – lower engagement, positive replies and rapport with prospects
  • focusing on the wrong problems – prevents understanding your target audience and consequently to hook them into a conversation

Solution

Organize the different markets you want to target into separate groups based on geographic (ex: country), demographic (ex: age) or behavioural (ex: benefits needed) factors, to maximize results with your personalised approach.


2. aggregating poor quality prospects’ data – a known cause of high bounce rates

It is tempting to go for cheaper alternatives when sourcing for data, but unfortunately, it almost always leads to underwhelming results in the long run.

“54% of B2B sales leaders state the lack of quality data is their biggest barrier to success” – Ascend2

Why it is a problem

Poor quality data in itself can ruin your campaigns for two reasons 1) it increases your bounce rate which damages your domain health and lowers your conversions 2) it decreases engagement due to a lack of variables which doesn’t allow deep personalization.

Here are two common solutions broken down:

1) buy the services of quality data vendors – it can work but they can present some issues depending on the vendor, for example, data expiration due to employee turnover and a small number of variables per contact that do not provide much personalisation options.

2) hire and train an internal data research team – some companies make it work but it is not feasible for most due to high costs, length of training and possible resignations undoing the hard work done.

Solution

For most companies, a better solution is to find a reliable partner for data research that can provide your team with high-quality data enriched and verified by trained people. Even though the price per contact may be higher, the deliverability of your campaigns will be too.


3. not sending emails through your personal account – necessary to maximize chances of inboxing

This mistake consists of utilizing email accounts other than your own, for example, an alias email or a third party mailing server like MailChimp, to send cold emails to prospects.

Why it is a problem

Third-party servers like MailChimp can work for sending newsletter campaigns, but they are not suitable for cold outreach, for two reasons 1) the email service provider of the recipient will detect the usage of a third party server penalising you by lowering your inbox rate 2) the reader can actually see the details of this external server in the detail of the email.

Solution

The ideal scenario is to use your own professional email address because it is most likely the healthiest since you use it regularly to send personal emails to your existing customers and prospects. More importantly, you receive a lot of incoming emails from them as well. This helps to ensure higher deliverability.


4. not sending the email to the recipient’s corporate email address – critical to making sure the right person reads the email

Sending the message to the right target email is imperative to boost open rates. Some salespeople decide to send emails to the prospect’s personal email or general department email, which we recommended that you do not.

Why it is a problem

Targeting the prospect’s personal email (usually free emails providers, like @gmail or @hotmail) is not a good choice for three main reasons 1) it can be considered an intrusion in the person’s privacy and they will not appreciate it 2) in all countries in the EU and in most of the rest of the world it is not allowed without an opt-in 3) the recipient may feel that the message is not relevant to them personally even if it relevant to them professionally.

In the same vein but not as severe, targeting role-based emails (e.g.: info@hubsell.com or marketing@hubsell.com) is also not a good idea for two reasons 1) this email account can be viewed by multiple people that may or may not be the relevant decision makers and when addressed as a group with cold email they will be much less likely to respond than when it is a targeted and relevant message to a single decision maker.

Solution

Better email addresses to target are direct corporate email addresses such as john.smith@hubsell.com because your message will be read by the person you are targeting (or in other cases by an executive assistant) while not intruding in the recipient’s personal inbox.


5. sending too many messages per day – email providers/social networks are meant for day to day amounts not mass communication

Too often do salespeople equate activity with results and in the same logic believe that a higher number of emails sent results in a higher number of opportunities. In their defence, when taking the absolute numbers then sure when you target 1000 contacts per day vs 100 you are almost always going to get more responses that in the former case than the latter. However, when you consider the same two outgoing volume in conversion rate then the latter is always going to outperform the former.

“Radicati Group estimates that employees send around 37 emails a day” – Radicati

Why it is a problem

When you send too many emails per day at the same time it raises a flag for the email provider since it’s considered spam-like behaviour. Consequently, this can hurt your domain health, increase the chances of your domain ending up on a blacklist and of your email not getting inboxed.

Solution

Make your campaigns look as manually written and sent as possible, by limiting yourself to no more than 100 emails per mailbox per day. The time interval between them should be randomized, not spaced out evenly or sent all at once.


6. writing spammy or clickbait subject lines – a big no if you want to avoid infuriating your prospects

Using scammy or over promising subject lines is a sure fire way to let your prospect know that you are not genuine or sincere with them, but unfortunately, it is still very common among sales and marketing professionals.

“69% of email recipients report email as spam based solely on the subject line” – Invespcro

Why it is a problem

When you use spammy subject lines the recipient will usually feel a lack of authenticity, a salesy vibe and the impression that it’s all about you and not their own needs or pains.

When you use clickbait subject lines, even though your open rate might go up, your positive reply rate (usually the most important metric) will go down because the content of the message will be inconsistent with the subject line and the recipient will end feeling cheated.

Solution

Subject lines should summarize the content of the email in around 60 characters and make it enticing for the recipient to open without embellishing or lying.


7. writing generic message copy – one of the top reasons for low positive reply rates

Highly personalised cold emails/messages are key to successful campaigns, but it’s still frequent to see generic copy that does not relate well to the prospect and their interests.

“50% of companies feel they can increase interaction within email by increasing personalization.” – EDQ

Why it is a problem

Generic messages lack specificity for the reader because 1) each market requires different jargon, messaging and approach 2) decision makers can be in different departments that focus more on one aspect of the business than another, for example, marketing ROI vs acquiring sales leads. Sticking to default identical templates will result in lower overall conversions and interaction.

Furthermore, message copy that is not personalised will trigger spam sensors in your outgoing server (basically your email service provider) since every email looks the same (with the only difference being a few words), which in the long run will damage your domain health.

Solution

Take your time writing your email/social media messages templates and make sure they are specific for the industry, department, seniority, company size (and any other relevant data point) of the recipient.

One way to accomplish this is by using software that allows dynamic placeholders that are fully customizable and adapt to the recipient’s conditions, increasing your overall conversions and protecting your domain.


8. writing self-focused messages to prospects – better to focus on them and their needs

Sometimes we all talk too much about our own products instead of focusing on the prospect’s needs/pains and how we can help overcome them.

Why it is a problem

Have you ever met someone that after only talks about themselves? Was it a good experience for you? I going to make a guess and say that it was not a good experience for you.

People who are all about themselves lack First off, this mistake shows a lack of empathy and real connection building ability, the exact same rule applies to cold outreach as well but even more harshly. You mailed the prospect, the prospect did not ask you to mail them and share information (if they did then all good) The prospect does not care about how good your product or service is (at least not until they are interested). The prospect has their own problems and needs to keep up with, and that is exactly what you the sender should focus on, their needs, and their problems.

Solution

When first contacting the prospect concentrate on getting their attention and establishing a relationship by highlighting their pains/needs and how you might be able to help them. Start by setting a low commitment engagement with the aim to learn more about their pain points. Only then can you convince the decision makers that your product is the solution to their problem (if it is truly so, of course).


9. adding too many CTAs in messages – a surefire way to confuse the recipient

A common mistake sales and marketing people make is sending cold outreach that has too many requests or CTAs.

“One study found that click-through rates increased by 42% when the number of CTAs in an email decreased from four to just one” – Marketingsherpa

Why it is a problem

Including too many CTAs is not a good strategy because you are asking them to do too many things. See it like this, you are reaching out to someone that you do not yet know and you are asking them to take an action. The action that you want them to take (by following the CTA) should be the most relevant and important thing they can do in the context of the outreach.

Solution

Add one Call to Action in your emails/messages that incentivizes the prospect to follow the next step, which is usually to schedule a call. This will grow your positive replies and improve your overall numbers.


10. not using CTAs in cold emails – CTAs are mandatory to show your intentions clearly

I already made the case against having too many CTAs, but having none is also a mistake that should be avoided. Having no CTA transmits a lack of clarity on exactly what you want the recipient to do and if you do not know how will the prospect?.

Why it is a problem

If the prospect doesn’t understand the outcome you want from the email, at best they will read your email and move on to the next one and never think about you again, and at worst they will resent you for wasting their time and angrily reply to understand what is it that you want.

Solution

One strong call to action is all it takes to get the prospect to take the preferable action whatever it may be from setting up a time to talk, visiting a landing page, booking a meeting to RSVPing on a breakfast workshop.


11. not setting up follow up messages – crucial to squeeze all opportunities out of your campaign

Follow-ups are generally seen as an integral part of the structure of a campaign. See it as the continuation of the story that you started telling in the first step.

Why it is a problem

After dealing with hundreds of campaigns we’ve realized that a significant amount replies come from later stage follow-ups, which means that you would be leaving value on the table by not setting up an extensive follow-up sequence for your target recipients.

Solution

Create campaigns that have at 2 or more follow-ups with intervals of 3-6 business days. Keep in mind that that cultural and market differences will impact the number of follow up and the interval between them.


12. using only one channel to reach the prospect – it is time to expand the number of customer acquisition methods

Once a marketing channel starts to work for a company, it is common for them to start relying on it heavily which can happen with cold email outreach due to its success.

“38% of salespeople say getting a response from prospects is getting harder” – Hubspot

Why it is a problem

The problem in relying on a single channel to bring you new customers is that you are deciding through which channel your prospects can respond to you. Conversely, by reaching out to your market across multiple channels you give your prospects the chance to decide where they want to connect with you. Another issue with single channel focus is the noise, email is getting noisier and its lowering conversions require new ways to acquire customers. Companies that were relying exclusively on email are being forced to try new methods.

Solution

Combine a multitude of channels like email outreach, social media, cold calling and more, so that you maximize your chances of getting a response from the prospect by finding the space in which they’re the most active and/or approachable.


13. doing the outreach process manually – to scale your efforts there needs to be automation in place

In the beginning, companies should focus on things that don’t scale (as Paul Graham recommends), but once they start growing it is unfathomable to keep processes that require humans to do the work of computers.

“66% of sales representative’s time is spent on repetitive tasks related to data acquisition and outreach” – Hubspot

Why it is a problem

At the present moment, there are many great solutions in the marketplace for outreach automation, so having manual processes to do the same is a sub-optimal strategy. There are some exceptions for when you want to be super targeted but it is typically the case for enterprise sales and for connecting with very senior level corporate decision makers.

By putting into effect a system that makes your staff spend time on prospecting, researching, curating data and then reaching out manually, you are using too much time that could be ideally reallocated on tasks which do require human intelligence to be completed (commonly the bottom of the sales funnel activities).

Solution

Pick a solution from the marketplace that provides high-quality data and a multichannel conditional outreach tool that can automate your sales process. Consequently, you’ll be able to allocate your staff’s time to more productive tasks (disclaimer: we specialize in fixing this exact issue through our software)


14. not tracking campaigns performance – results in an untapped potential for outbound sales

Even if a sales department is only testing a market by sending a few 100 emails/messages, there is still a benefit to be drawn to have a performance tracking software so that you can learn from the process and plan for scaling it in the future.

Why it is a problem

By not measuring the main metrics of your campaign, you rely on wishing and chance in order for it to succeed, when in most cases the first few campaigns are mediocre at best and can always be improved.

Seeing it from another angle, without tracking you are not able to know the ROI of this form of customer acquisition, at a cost of being shut down due to poor performance, when it could actually work well.

Solution

Find a tool that enables you to track and deliver the data in an easily consumable way so that you can prove to yourself and your team the efficacy of cold outreach and improve it over time.


Summary

In this article, I analyzed the top mistakes committed by salespeople when setting up their cold outreach campaign, so that you can optimize your own. Here are the main takeaways from this post:

Mistakes related to data

1. create segments – divide markets based on key geo or demographic levels

2. attain quality data on prospects – partner up with a reliable data vendor

Mistakes related to the sending process

3. send emails through your personal account – use your @gmail or @hotmail or corporate email that you use a lot, to send email campaigns

4. send emails to the recipient’s corporate email – target the recipient’s work email, like john.smith@hubsell.com

5. don’t exceed the maximum number of daily messages – send up to 100 emails per mailbox per day with random intervals in between

Mistakes related to the content

6. don’t write spammy or clickbait subject lines – write subject lines that summarize the content of the email in around 60 characters

7. don’t write generic message copy – make an effort to personalize copy based on industries (ex: lingo used) and departments (ex: marketing vs sales)

8. don’t write self-focused copy – focus on the problems and obstacles of the recipient

9. and 10. use one CTA – invite the recipient to take action by inserting one strong CTA in the templates

Mistakes related to the structure

11. set up follow up messages – use the power of following up within the ideal amount of 4 to 7 sequenced emails/messages

12. use more than one channel to reach the prospect – cold emailing, LinkedIn, Xing, cold calling and other social media are all options

13. use software to automate your outreach – the only sustainable way to scale your cold outreach effort is by finding a great tool to help you put systems in place

Mistakes related to analytics

14. track campaigns performance – make the most out of your next campaigns by analyzing and improving every aspect of the previous ones

Cold outreach can be a tough nut to crack, but armed with this information you’ll avoid the main mistakes and be on your way to having more success with your next campaigns.



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