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Email Outreach Best Practices

Email Outreach Best Practices

Introduction

Email outreach is one of the most effective ways to engage potential customers, build meaningful relationships, nurture leads, and drive sales. There are a variety of outreach tools in the market that can help you automate sending and tracking of your email sequences. The probability of getting the desired outcome will be more if you follow the correct approach.

Email outreach involves sending sequences of emails with predefined scripts to a group of recipients on behalf of the sender, tracking open and click rates, email follow-up, and engaging in a conversation, identifying those interested in the offering.

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The process starts with assigning contacts as recipients to a specific campaign. Each campaign will have multiple recipients, one sender, and a script for each email in a sequence tailored to the market segment. Since campaign performance may depend on the sender, we configure only one sender per campaign to be able to measure such differences using campaign performance metrics.

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Sender then sends the first email in a sequence to multiple recipients and tracks all bounced emails. If the email is not bounced, it is assumed delivered, but it may have also landed in a junk folder away from recipients’ eyes. Then the opened recipient emails are tracked and clicks on hyperlinks are checked. The sender will wait for a reply, and if there is no reply, the next email in a sequence will be sent automatically. The recipient can choose to unsubscribe from emails. The goal is to identify recipients that are interested in setting up a meeting.

Effectively leverage the Email channel

In this article, we’ll address the most important email outreach best practices we’ve collected across multiple campaigns for multiple customers over the years. We’ll focus on cold outreach – the process of engaging prospects with no history of interest or contact. Email marketing best practices like opt-in newsletters will be excluded in this.

While your email outreach campaign is running or completed, you can measure the overall campaign success using Email Outreach Funnel. Each step of the process has its own best practices and performance metrics.

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Recipients: Let’s start with a specific target group of email prospects. Each campaign will belong to a specific market segment and will have a script (email text) tailored to that market segment. 

It is important to segregate some most senior recipients for a separate manual, personalized campaign. This could be treated as a separate market segment or subsegment with its own campaign.

Sent: Emails should leave the sender’s outbox every day within the configured maximum email volume set by the platform. With multiple mailboxes, you can send a higher number of emails per month per organization.

Delivered: When an email address is incorrect, you’ll receive a notification about an “undelivered” email. It is important to keep the number of bounced emails as low as possible because this is a clear indication to spam filters that you are sending emails to people you don’t know. Email validation is one of the ways to reduce the bounce rate in your campaigns. 

Opened: While email may be confirmed as delivered, a spam filter may still put it into a junk folder away from the recipients’ eyes. This depends on your domain reputation, email provider, email automation, or may also be triggered by email content.

Success is when a good portion of your emails are opened by the recipients so that they could see the full text of an email. The open rate will depend on the sender, the email subject line,and viewable text in the email preview.

Replied: Only a portion of those who open and read an email will respond. The percentage of responses will depend on the recipient’s awareness of the brand, the sender seniority, and the content of the email.

Interested: It may take some active email exchange to confirm the recipient’s interest in a meeting. It is important not to lose track of those who replied so you can follow up with them at the right point in time.

Market Segments

It is important to personalize your emails by market segment at a minimum, so they are relevant to the recipients. You should send emails with the same script to no more than 1,000 recipients. This number will take about a month to complete a campaign and you don’t get stuck for too long with one and the same script. If one market segment has more than 2,000 people, you can split it into multiple segments or subsegments with its own lists of recipients. 

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You can then assign a separate campaign to each subsegment and do A/B testing on your script by running two or three campaigns in parallel. You can also run these campaigns sequentially and update the script for each next campaign (each market subsegment) based on what you have learned from the previous campaign. 

Personalized Campaigns

When targeting CXO roles keep all communications personal. To assure deliverability, send emails in plain text (without any hyperlinks or images), especially the first time you are contacting them. The first email should be personal and don’t need to have an unsubscribe link. An email with unsubscribe link may be noticed by spam filters, email would be categorized as spam and it will reduce the open rate (your emails would land in the junk folder).

Email Volume

Different ESPs have different spam thresholds for email volume. Our general recommendation is to send about 50 emails per day and not to exceed 100 emails per day per mailbox.

If you create a new mailbox for a sender, you will need to warm it up using special tools for about 4 weeks. After that, you should increase the email volume gradually. Start by sending under 5 emails per day and then increase by 5 emails every day until you reach 50 emails per day per sender.

Multiple Mailboxes

To increase the volume of sent emails you can use multiple mailboxes. In such cases, 2 mailboxes can send 50 emails per mailbox per day or 1,000 per month, and from 2 mailboxes 2,000 emails per month.

Email Validation

If you send emails to a non-existent email address those emails will be returned to you with a corresponding notification. When there are too many bounced emails from a single domain, this may hamper your domain reputation. Hence, you need to maintain the percentage of your bounced emails as low as possible, ideally under 1%. 

Email validation tools can be used to identify invalid emails, yet they are not perfect. You may try several products for double or triple validation. We have conducted tests using a dataset of bounced emails from a real campaign and tested how effectively different email validation tools discover incorrect email addresses. You can request this analysis by contacting us.

Domain Reputation

A large volume of sent emails triggers spam filters and they may reduce the reputation of your domain over a period of few months. Email Service Providers (ESP) will then start categorizing your outreach emails as spam. Your emails will be forwarded to a junk folder and your recipients will not see them. The open rate of your outreach emails will go down to less than 10% and the reply rate will go down to less than 0.1% of all sent emails. Even worse, your normal business emails to your current or potential customers from your company’s domain will also start going to your recipient’s junk folder.

To avoid the risk of damaging the corporate domain reputation that you use for your website and your business email, you can create alternative domains for sending outreach emails. For example, if your company domain is "mycompany.com," you can acquire additional domains like "mycompany.co" or "mycompany.io". Now, even if your damage your alternative domain reputation, the reputation of your company’s domain will remain intact. Internet users visiting those alternative domains will be redirected to your website on the corporate domain.

Email Providers

We’ve noticed that spam engines are more suspicious of emails coming from other ESPs. For example, Microsoft Office365 is much more likely to classify as spam an email coming from Google Workspace than an email with the exact same text sent from another Office365 email account. 

To avoid this risk, when you create alternative domains, you can create sender accounts with different email providers, one with Google Workspace, one with Office365 and potentially one more with another provider.

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There are tools that allow you to determine the email provider for each of your recipients. When you know that, you can create multiple campaigns and make sure that recipients on Office365 receive emails from your mailbox configured with Office365, and the same for Google Workspace. To other email providers, you can send emails from any of the created email mailboxes. 

Email Automation

It is also possible to use products like SendGrid that simulate your email outbox to send emails. These tools can provide a dedicated IP for an additional cost and they have the needed APIs to send emails. But, their main purpose is to send notification emails generated by your application. We won’t recommend using these products for outreach, since we haven’t seen any advantage ourselves. 

There are also popular products like Mail Chimp that are designed for email marketing when recipients are your existing customers and have explicitly subscribed to your newsletters or notifications. Such products typically block outreach campaigns to unknown recipients to protect their own domain reputation with the spam filters.

Email Content

Your email content can be plain text with some formatting, or it can also include hyperlinks, images, videos, attachments, and signatures, unsubscribe links, open rate tracking pixel with a hyperlink. 

While visuals can make your emails more entertaining and engaging, they will also give the impression of the impersonal marketing email, reducing the recipient’s interest. For email outreach campaigns, we recommend the appearance of normal business text email.

Hyperlinks are very helpful in directing your audience to interesting content on your website. We recommend using hyperlinks in the second or third email, but not in your first email in a sequence. 

Marketers tend to add UTM codes to the hyperlink to better track website visitors coming from different campaigns. While this is an option, UTM codes will also create an impression of a marketing email and may also be noticed by spam filters. Even if you hide the actual URL as a hyperlink, the UTM codes will be visible when the person lands on your website.

Outreach tools support tracking of clicks on these hyperlinks. For that purpose, they will redirect users to their own tracking website first and then redirect them to the destination URL. While this is a convenient method for click tracking, it is also an easy way for spam engines to identify emails sent by known outreach tools. The next level of sophistication is to track how much time each user (who clicked on the hyperlink) spent on your website.

You can add a plain image in the body of your email as an illustration, an image with a hyperlink to an article or a video. All of this can be done, but probably with people who responded at least once to your email, so you are with them in a bi-directional email exchange. Spam filters will see you are writing to someone who has already responded to you and will allow you to send them richer content and attachments.

Email automation tools embed an invisible pixel (tiny image) hosted on their website, so when a recipient opens an email, the image will be loaded from the hosted website and the website can track the image buffer. This indicates an email was opened, and they use this for “open email” tracking and reporting. While this is useful information, such pixels are easily recognized by spam filters as indicators of bulk email. This means it should be used selectively and for certain emails, this feature could be turned off.

Email Subject

How you write the subject line of your email directly impacts the open rate. We would recommend that your subject line in email text should be in line with the interests of your audience, which means it should crisply frame the solution or problem statement.

Some people configure their inbox to show just a few lines of the email body text in the preview. Google Mail purposely combines the subject line with your first sentence in the inbox listing. Hence, the first sentence of your email should be clearly written and in a continuation or expansion of your email subject line.

Email Text

There are varying opinions regarding email templates. Let’s look at them from the perspective of what you are trying to accomplish and your audience’s interests.

You want emails to be perceived as personal and not part of an email sequence. If you were to meet someone new in person, you would probably start with an introduction “Hi, my name is X, I am working at company Y, responsible for Z”. Your email is just an electronic version of your introduction, and you should probably follow the same approach as with in-person introductions. Authentic. Polite. Engaging.

Your goal is to inform your audience about your company and product. But from the audience perspective, your recipients are more likely to be interested in solving their own business problems and learning about how others may have solved similar problems. Hence, your email should clearly articulate the problem your product is solving first, without even mentioning your product or company. 

Real examples (like customer case studies) are one of the most appreciated types of content. But if this is your first email to a prospect, you should focus on clearly articulating the problem and how it can be solved. You can use case studies as well as 3rd party research and whitepapers as content for your follow-up emails.

The closing statements of your email should not be perceived as pushy or action-oriented. You should instead establish trust. Audiences these days expect to read about your company and product before they want to talk. Hence, you need to give your audience time to digest, do their own research, and come back to you later when they have a need. 

Finally, the footer of your email should be professional and actionable. It should include the sender's name, company name, title, and contact details. Your recipients should know that they have a point of contact at your company whom they can contact any time when they are ready.