The majority of this book 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 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 very specific 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-by-one basis than doing traditional list building and trying to attract an audience.
At GoGo Photo Contest, we have a very small set of organizations that could become our customers. GoGo Photo Contest helps animal shelters and humane societies raise money by helping them run photo contest fundraisers. There are at most 5,000 potential customers for this business in the United States. It simply wouldn’t be effective to use traditional list building strategies and hope that a meaningful number of animal shelters will sign-up for our mailing list and eventually become customers. The market’s just too small. That doesn’t mean that we can’t use email to market our business. We just need to take a different approach and use email as a tool to make individual prospective customers aware of our business and educate them about how our company can help them raise money.
This marketing strategy, known as email prospecting, involves sending personal email messages to specific people at specific organizations in hopes of accomplishing a specific sales objective. When you send a prospecting email, the prospective customers that receives the message won’t have opted into your mailing list and generally won’t know who you are prior to receiving your email. At GoGo Photo Contest, we send cold email messages to executive directors of animal shelters showing them how we can help their organization raise money through our photo contest platform. Through our cold emails, they become aware of the concept of a donate-to-vote photo contest and decide whether or not they want to use our service to help their organization fundraise.
Email prospecting won’t necessary totally replace the need to collect opt-ins on your website, build an email list and send a mix of content and marketing material for 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-in to their mailing list before getting access to the white paper. Think of email prospecting as a compliment to your existing list building efforts. While traditional auto-responder 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 complimentary 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 auto-responders and broadcast emails to your mailing list are both inbound marketing techniques. Outbound marketing techniques involve actively identifying potential customers through list gathering and social networks and going out and getting their attention. Cold calling, cold emailing, running commercials, placing advertisements and attending tradeshows 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 chapters of the book, I recommend that you only email people that have expressly opted into your mailing list. 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 on face, 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 message 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 sending 5,000 people mail they don’t want over and over again. Sending cold emails for business development purposes is a generally accepted practice in most industries.
Identifying Potential Customers
In 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 specific businesses or people that meet your criteria.
There are several ways that you can identify potential customers:
- LinkedIn – LinkedIn has become an increasingly popular way for sales people 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 hone in on specific types of people easily. While LinkedIn is a great way to identify potential customers, you shouldn’t use LinkedIn to try to contact your potential customers because many users don’t check their LinkedIn messages and your message may 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 particular 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 on a fan page’s wall, send them a message through Facebook to introduce yourself tell them how that you can help them.
- Twitter Search – People will also frequently self-identify about problems that 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 that 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 different phrases that people might use to indicate that 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 that you can send them an introduction email or their phone number to setup a call.
- 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 of the business, the owner of the business, 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 that you purchase from a list broker.
- Trade Shows – Consider getting a booth at the tradeshows that are frequented by your potential customers. While your first thought might be to get a booth at an industry tradeshow, remember that industry tradeshows 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 tradeshow frequented by people that have back-pain and not an industry tradeshow for chiropractors. While at a trade show, collect as many business cards as possible so that 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 that you can send them an introduction letter.
Here are some ways to find a potential customer’s email address:
- Google Them – 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 does contain their email address. Make sure to go through the first several pages of search results in order to find all potential websites that may contain pertinent contact information. For a more targeted search, 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@example.com. If I were a Bank of America employee and you were trying to guess my email address, firstname.lastname@example.org would probably be a pretty good guess. If you guess someone’s email address incorrectly, the worst thing that will happen is that 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.” I could easily use the email addresses I found to figure out the standard format of Bank of America’s email addresses.
- Make an Uneducated Guess – If you can’t figure out the format of a company’s email addresses, you can also 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 Rapportive (www.rapportive.com) to figure out if any of the probable addresses are accurate. After setting up Rapportive 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 an email address’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 email titled “How To Find Someone’s Email Address In Under A Minute” (http://usersthink.com/find-email/) 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 (www.spokeo.com) are two paid search services that have large searchable databases of people’s email addresses. You can also use business specific search tools like Data.com (formerly Jigsaw.com) and Toofr (www.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 you 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 people who 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 email of introduction. If you can’t find a personal connection, try to create a connection 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 some kind of connection to a prospect will get a lot farther 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 to 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 with what next steps you would like them to take.
Here’s an example of an introduction email that I might send if I were offering consulting services:
Subject: Help with your website?
Hi [Name] –
We haven’t had the opportunity to meet yet, but I saw that you had posted on Twitter that you are looking for a digital marketing expert to help generate more traffic to your website. I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself and see if there’s an opportunity for us to work together to generate more traffic to your website.
My company, Matthew Paulson Consulting, works with small to medium-sized businesses like yours and helps them grow their social media following and collect more email opt-ins with the ultimate goal of driving more sales. We’ve helped several other [category of business] businesses like yours and think that we could do a lot to grow your audience online.
Would you be available for a phone call tomorrow or the next day to see if there’s a way that we can help generate more website traffic and leads for your company?
Feel free to respond this message or call me on my cell-phone at (605) XXX-XXXX at any time.
Matthew Paulson Consulting
P.S. I saw that we are both connected to John and Jenny Smith on LinkedIn. I went to college with both John and Jenny. They’re a great couple. Love those two.
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 email.
- Ask for a Next Step – At the bottom of my email, there is a clear call-to-action and what a next step would be. In most cases, your next step should be getting your prospect on the phone so that 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 that 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 that work 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 cause a prospect to open 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!” (http://bit.ly/1rDxJie) 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” (http://bit.ly/18NKGz6).
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 percent. 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 that 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 one or two follow up emails, your prospect probably just isn’t interested and you should move on to the next prospect. 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 one or two messages.
Systemizing the Process
In order to effectively do business development through email, you are going to need to develop 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 at the same time you are pre-qualifying several ten more leads and are negotiating contracts with two others. It’s important to keep track of where you are at with every prospect south at a potential customer doesn’t fall through the cracks.
Here are the five stages of turning a prospect into a customer:
- Pre-qualification – You think the person has a need but they have not yet confirmed they have a need. Prospects that you have emailed but haven’t responded are at this stage.
- Qualification – You have made contact with a prospective customer and they have confirmed that they have a need that you can meet or a problem that you can solve.
- The Offer – You make a specific written proposal or offer to address the prospects need. Your proposal should contain pertinent information about what kind of work you would do for them, including scope of work and pricing.
- The Contract – Prospects at this stage have accepted your offer. They sign off on your proposal, make 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 it so that you know when to take the next step with each prospect. You can use an advanced contact management system like Contactually (www.contactually.com) or something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of where all of your prospects are at.
Getting Started with Prospecting through Email
When you first start doing email prospecting, commit to sending 5 to 10 cold emails each week. You can even send these emails through your personal email account because of the low volume of messages that you are sending. 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 setup 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 prospect. 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 the best approach for your company, complete the steps below:
- Identify your first ten prospective customers that 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 that you write.
- 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.