According to MailChimp’s research, cold email open rates range from 15 to 28 percent, however, many of us can likely report rates much lower. The truth is that with traditional cold emailing you’re throwing darts at an open dart board and hoping they will stick, somewhere. You have little control over where it will land. With this shotgun approach, the recipient often turns out not to be the right target for your campaign in the first place, or, even when this individual is relevant, your messaging may not be well aligned with that type of buyer. This can be frustrating, costly and time consuming – yielding far less than ideal results. There must be a better way!
Problems With Today’s Lead Generation Approach
Most marketers agree, the traditional lead generation approach practiced today is not very effective. It requires substantial time to do all the manual activities related to building a contacts database, configuring campaigns, tracking results, and optimizing for performance.
Typical cold outreach initiatives start with building an email list for each campaign using social media and third-party commercial databases. Utilizing certain search criteria, the contacts will be identified as your target audience. However, there are many non-relevant people on the list that are impossible to detect and filter out other than doing it manually. As for the relevant ones on the list, you have no means of segregating them into more granular groups based on their interests and job responsibilities.
If you have a list of 5,000 people, for example, found using a search term “customer service”, you have thousands of contacts with varying roles and responsibilities. Their titles are written in hundreds of different ways, so you can’t manually go and select the ones you need. In your list, there will be many people not even relevant for your offering, but you have no feasible way to filter them out. Doing this manually would take days or even weeks.
The relevant professionals on your list would also have different job functions. Some of them will be tactically tied to the contact center and its operations, for example, while others will have more executive level positions focused on big-wheel initiatives. You know you should be articulating the value proposition of your product to each of these groups differently, but you really have no means to separate one type of buyer from another.
Today’s dart board outreach campaigns often move ahead with a single email message that all 5,000 contacts will receive. Given this scenario, it is easy to see a disconnect between you and the receiving end. On the one hand, reaching out to contacts that aren’t even relevant will lead to minimal open/response rates, making it look to you like there is lack of interest in your offering. On the other hand, your relevant potential buyers will have different interests in what they would want to know about your product. One group is looking for tactical examples in the form of case studies using your contact center widget by other customers, while the executive level individuals likely will look for return-on-investment type of information. Your one-size-fits-all standard messaging at best will be intriguing only for a portion of your relevant audience, resulting in a lack of engagement by the remaining contacts.
Automated, Personalized, Omnichannel Outreach
With continuous and rapid innovation happening in natural language processing (NLP) algorithms, lead generation solutions will be able to take advantage of this technology and demonstrate a much higher level of automation and personalization, supporting a well-coordinated omnichannel outreach targeting the whole market.
The specialized algorithms will be able to conduct search in an automated fashion and mine the Internet and social media sites (like LinkedIn) to find precise targets who match the ideal customer profile (ICP) and buyer persona. Using advanced filters like job function, job responsibilities, industry and company revenue, the identified individuals will be segregated into homogenous groups.
In this manner, the desired level of personalization of outreach messaging will finally become possible. Marketers will be able to narrowly segment that 5,000-person list into smaller groups such as:
- Director of Customer Service from $250M-$500M businesses in the UK who manage the day to day operations of multiple contact centers.
- VP of Customer Service from $1B+ companies located in the U.S. who are responsible for improving relationships with customers.
- Customer Service Specialist from companies with less than 10,000 employees in the cable industry in Australia who oversee the organization’s customer service policies and initiatives.
The ability to segregate these three types of potential buyers into distinct market segments allows marketers to craft customized messaging that will resonate with the hot buttons and day-to-day needs of each group – much more so than a single, do-it-all generic email. This personalized messaging can easily replicate the value proposition already validated with existing customers in each of these industries and individuals in these specific decision maker roles.
With these AI-powered segmentation capabilities, you will have up to date information on each contact in each of your market segments. If an individual changes his or her employer in their LinkedIn profile, for example, in any way that might impact which audience segment they fall in, this individual will be automatically moved to the new segment or excluded from outreach as not relevant anymore.
What’s more, lead generation automation software will help bring data from multiple sources and easily combine person’s professional background from one source with individual’s contact details (email and cell phone numbers) available in another source and social media activities from a third source.
Modern lead generation solutions will enable businesses to expand their outreach from email as a single channel to omnichannel outreach that includes social media (i.e., LinkedIn), SMS messaging, voice mails, and eventually messaging (chat) platforms such as Messenger or WhatsApp.
These additional communication channels will improve the engagement with the audience based on their communication preferences and habits of each specific person. According to growthonics.com LinkedIn InMail open rates are 36% higher than traditional email outreach.
Similarly, campaignmonitor.com reports that, “SMS open rates are as high as 98%, compared to just 20% of all emails. And, on average, it takes 90 seconds for someone to respond to a text and 90 minutes to respond to an email.”
Moreover, lead generation systems will soon be able to automatically conduct A/B testing on outbound messages and select the most appealing one, closely track responses and predict most interested individuals based on their engagement history with emails and website content.
Powered by AI-Based NLP Technology
Hyper-targeted lead generation will be powered by NLP that can derive meaning from text. This cognitive technology will enable keyword and sentence-based semantic filtering of relevant contacts based on their professional profile. The person’s true job function will be determined based on multiple data points such as seniority, interim job status, job function, job specialization, professional skills, familiarity with specific products, or software, etc. Using this technology, a list of contacts can be properly micro-segmented and then messaged-to accordingly.
Ontology is a commonly known term in the NLP domain – it is a dictionary of keywords, keyword synonyms and hierarchy (low level keywords may refer to subcomponents of the primary keyword meaning). This additional information will enable much more sophisticated search to find more people who happened to use one of these alternative keywords (synonyms) instead of the main keyword in the description of their professional background.
What’s even more important, NLP will enable much more precise filtering of relevant profiles within the search results. Those who are familiar with LinkedIn Sales Navigator love and hate this product. On one hand, it allows for a certain level of targeted search within the professional network, but it also has serious limitations. For example, if you search by keyword in the title only, you will find very few profiles. If you search by a keyword in the whole profile, you will get people who have mentioned this keyword in their previous jobs descriptions but left it out in their current job as it may not be relevant to what they are doing today.
Having a mechanism of an advanced filter, the lead generation system can take these search results from LinkedIn (or any other source), and very granularly look for where the keyword is used in the profile and what meaning that sentence has. This will enable exact confirmation that this keyword is the precise current responsibility of the person in their current job. The lead generation system will be able to automatically assign each (or almost each) person to a specific market segment – having a marketer’s dream come true.
Future State – Market Relationship Management
This new era of hyper-targeted contact segmentation is projected to translate into more affordable, precise, effective, and efficient large-scale outreach to the whole market. Next time you open LinkedIn, turn on your phone or check your email, you may soon find personalized messages that include not only your name in the greeting, but also a reference to a piece of information in your profile so specific to you that you will believe you are interacting one-on-one with a live human. In reality, this experience will be the magic of AI-powered NLP algorithms. When this happens, the marketers will revel in the fact they have just hit a bullseye on the proverbial dart board as they have successfully reached another potential buyer with the exact message designed for that type of individual.
These automated solutions will free up marketers’ time from routine tasks of data handling and data validation, allowing them to focus more on value added activities such as market research, market segmentation and providing tailored campaign messaging for each of the identified market segments.
With most of the outreach performed by an automated lead generation system, at a much lower cost point, marketers can infinitely scale their outreach to the whole market and do so in a highly personalized fashion. This will initiate a new era of market relationship management (MRM) systems that automatically engage your target audience as opposed to commonly-used-today customer relationship management (CRM) software for manually tracking engagement with few known opted-in contacts, prospects, existing customers, and opportunities.
The new year will usher in a new era of precise, affordable and highly efficient cold outreach. Those who adopt these new techniques will generate ample net-new sales opportunities and leave competition in the rear-view mirror.