5 reasons your email outreach campaign is failing you (+ tips to improve)

5 reasons your email outreach campaign is failing you (+ tips to improve)

Email outreach is a tried-and-true tactic for getting in touch with potential leads and increasing business revenue.

And while it can be time-consuming, many businesses employ email outreach as a core part of their marketing campaigns. This is simply because it often yields the highest ROI compared to other channels when done right.

Photo credit: Campaign Monitor

While it may seem pretty straightforward, email outreach can be very nuanced and not without its pitfalls.

I’ve seen businesses get open rates of 30% + whilst others are barely hitting 7%. So what exactly sets these businesses apart?

If you've dismissed cold outreach in the past or aren’t seeing the results you want from your email campaigns, here are 5 common mistakes you could be making and tips you can take to see improvements in your outreach efforts immediately.

1. You’re not being personal

Many people don’t take the time to customize messages for their prospects, use boilerplate content in every email they send, or simply neglect to include any kind of personalization at all.

And to put it simply, if you’re not personalizing your emails, then it will just be another cold email that gets lost in someone’s inbox forever.

Let’s take a look at two email examples.

Number 1...

And number 2...

I think it’s pretty obvious which email you’d rather engage with.

By sending personalized messages instead of generic ones, you can increase open rates by up to 15%.

Photo credit: Woodpecker

It’s been proven time and time again that hyper-personalized emails work, however, like the one from our example above, these emails take time.

That doesn’t mean starting from scratch every time.  You can still adopt effective email templates - just make sure you personalize each one.

So whether it's something as simple as including a personalized question in your subject line or a customized signature, by taking the time to make it relevant for each recipient, you should see an immediate improvement in your email campaigns.

Combine that with email and marketing automation solutions and you’ll effectively reach more people with increased response rates.

Here are some other tips on how to personalize cold emails:

  • Use the recipient's first name.
  • Ask a question in your subject line that is customized to them and their company (e.g., "I saw on LinkedIn that you're looking for more clients--how's it going?")
  • Look towards their social media pages for common interests that you can use to capture their attention.
  • Put into Google: site: {Domain Name} + “{Name of recipient}” and see if you can find any articles they’ve written. You can then read their articles and draw some points from them to include in your email.

2. Your subject lines aren't creative or direct enough

The main goal of the subject line is to capture your recipient's attention and get them to open the email. It’s a vital part of any email, yet it is still often overlooked as a tactic to improve response and open rates.

In general, you'll want to use clear and direct language when writing subject lines so prospects don't get confused about what type of email they’re receiving.

And remember, these people are likely very busy.

Avoid generic headlines such as, "Check out our product" or any other vague CTA phrase that has no soul.

Instead, try something more direct such as: "Hey there! We think we can help with X", "X problem solved!", or even just straight-up asking them if they'd like to see what you have for them.

It's essential to come up with subject lines that are clever, descriptive, and enticing, so they stand out against the rest of your cold emails in their inbox. It doesn't have to be long, just relevant enough so they see that what you're emailing them about is of interest and will entice them to open up their inbox to find out more.

You’ll find the following tips handy for improving your subject lines:

  • Don't make your subject lines too wordy. Be as concise and direct as possible.
  • You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Check out the subject lines that work best for other cold outreach emails and try emulating them so you can see what aspects make these headlines successful.
  • Ensure that your subject line is relevant to your email. You’ll likely irritate someone if the email subject line is, as they call it, a “click-bait”.
  • Consider a small cliffhanger to arouse curiosity. A sure way to increase open rates is to pique the interest of your recipient. One way to do this is by adding “...” to the end of your subject lines.

While subject lines are not an exact science, I find that the above tips give me the most open rates. Ensure that you also do your own A/B testing and see which version gets the most responses.

3. You don't have the right person or the correct email

Another widespread mistake I see with cold email outreach is sending messages to the wrong person or group.

This can often lead to the emails being completely ignored—and rightfully so. How can a salesperson answer your question say on a guest post request? Or if you’ve spent all your time on a personalized email to a specific recipient, and it reaches someone entirely different, then all that effort has been for naught.

So if you want to avoid awkward situations like this, here is a step-by-step guide to ensure you’re hitting the right person and email:

What are your goals and who is the likely decision-maker?

First, ask yourself what is the purpose of your campaign and who would be the likely decision-maker that can fulfill your request.

As an example, if you wanted to write a guest post, it is likely that you’ll be finding someone who has the title of “Head of Content”, “Editor” or “Marketing Manager”. This will be dependent on each individual structure of a company.

Pro tip: Be careful not to roll too high up or down. In the guest post example, a CEO of the company may be too busy to reply to your request, and the content writer may not be able to make the call. You’ll have to use a bit of judgment to hit the right contact from the get-go.

Find the right decision-maker.

Then, look at the roles of the company on their website or use social media to find the right contact.

You can do so on LinkedIn by first searching the company name, and under the “People” tab, enter in the relevant position or role of the decision-maker you’re after.

Find the right email.

If you’re lucky, sometimes the decision-maker’s email may be listed on their social media or on the company website. However, this is hardly the case.

I highly recommend you turn to email outreach tools to find the correct email address. Not only can you automate finding emails if you have a list built for your outreach campaign, but you are also guaranteed to find more accurate emails in a few clicks than manually scraping the web yourself.

All tools have different features, and sometimes you might need to use separate ones to find the email and release the campaign. Still, they can save a lot of time, and you won’t be left wondering whether you have the correct email or not.

Ask directly if you can’t find anything.

Sometimes, despite all your efforts, the only thing you find is the general support email. In cases like this, the best thing you can do is explain your goal or question and ask who is the best person you can turn to.

4. Your goals don’t align with your recipient’s goals

The best cold email outreach campaigns are all about building a relationship and showing genuine interest in working together. The last thing you want to do is come off as insincere when reaching out to prospects.

So if your contact list includes people who have no real reason to care about your product or service (i.e., it doesn't solve their problems or meet any of their needs), then not only are you wasting their time but yours.

That’s why your ideal prospect is someone who will convert into a faithful user of your brand and not someone who will either ignore you or join for a few days and then leave forever. You can do this by targeting people whose goals align with yours—they have a need you can fulfill.

This is especially true in many app marketing campaigns where the data shows that the average app loses a staggering 77% of its average daily users within the first 3 days after the install and 95% within 90 days. This situation arises from the result of an incorrectly set target audience.

Photo credit: Andrewchen.com

Therefore, it's equally important to keep in mind customer retention as well as customer acquisition. And doing this is much easier when you’ve done your research and reached out to the right people.

In other words: when you reach out with an air of sincerity, then there is a much bigger chance of everything lining up perfectly. The response rates will likely be through the roof from day one, making setting up future follow-ups much easier.

Here are some tips you should adopt to ensure you find prospects that might have a genuine interest in what you’re offering:

  • This goes without saying, but do your research. Using tools such as Google and LinkedIn can be of great help, especially in finding out the right niche and more about companies and that you're not familiar with prior to reaching out.
  • Sometimes, there is a chance of finding ex-employees of a certain company. So make sure you double-check that they are still in the same industry at the very least. If they aren't associated or listed within those circles, sending a cold email outreach campaign would come off as spam instead of being helpful.
  • When building out your email list, pay special attention to where your audience is opting in from. Whether it’s pop-ups from an article or forms on your homepage, where they opt-in can be a key indicator of whether your outreach goals are aligned.

    As an example, if you’re promoting a weight loss product to your existing mailing list and someone has opted in from an article on how to gain weight and muscle, then sending that email to them may not be the best fit.

    Thankfully there are many email list-building tools that can help you segment different subscribers so you can get this key step right.

5. You're not following up enough

One of the most common mistakes you could be making in cold email outreach campaigns is not following up often enough.

Now there are many trains of thought here. Some people believe you should follow up until someone responds, while others think that once they don't respond to your first outreach email or first follow-up email, there's no point in following up further.

So which one is right?

There's no definitive answer here that applies to all situations, but in general, you should follow up at least twice, extending the time between each follow-up email.

For instance, I’ve found that a 2-5-1 rule can be quite effective. The first follow-up email should be sent 2 days after no reply, the second follow-up email should be sent 5 days after the last email, and then the third follow-up email 1 month after the last email.

You can be certain that if they haven't responded after 1 month, then they’re likely not interested.

If that sounds like a chore, it definitely can be. That’s why it’s helpful to have tools that can help personalize and automate the follow-up sequence in just a few clicks. Take the Close email platform as an example:

By following up a few times, you're giving prospects another chance to see your email and realize the value of what you have to offer them. They may also just be busy people that get flooded with offers and emails—so it’s your job to remind them of your offer.

Here are some best practices on email follow-ups:

  • Try to schedule a follow-up email 48 hours after your initial outreach attempt.
  • Don’t just repeat the first email or ask if they saw it. Try to add something new, which can be that extra push prospects might need to turn from prospects to clients.
  • Still, don't be overly persistent and continue following up daily if prospects are ignoring or declining offers multiple times—this will likely hurt your chances of converting them since it might come across as spammy.
  • In your last email, apologize for the persistence, but still leave your contacts at the end, in case they change their minds.
  • A simple tactic that can be quite effective in increasing response rates of cold emails is simply adding, “In case you don't get my first email” into your follow-up campaigns. By doing so, it shows prospects that while maybe they missed your original campaign you still care enough to reach out a second time! The end result is that prospects are more likely to open your emails since they know what it's in reference to and don't feel like there's any form of 'pest' factor involved.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, improving your email outreach isn’t rocket science.

While it’ll take a bit of time and a fair few testing—I’m confident that if you implement the tips that I’ve outlined in this article, you’ll see almost immediate results with your open and response rates.

And remember, you don’t have to do it alone. Tools like the Close email CRM can make your email workflows significantly easier, so you can send out better emails faster.

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Jessica LAJessica La is an AI Consultant with over six years in the start-up, data, and content industry. In her blog ByJessicaLa.com, she explores all things AI and is passionate about the unique ways individuals and businesses can improve, innovate and grow.