Step-by-Step Guide to >35% Open Rates

Open rates

One of my clients in the pharmaceutical industry told me she receives upwards of 200 emails a day. A well-written, personalized email matters, but only if your prospect actually opens it. The absolute deluge of spam leads some to resort to rather desperate attempts for clicks and that can greatly affect your open rates.

“Hey, Cathy! F*ck you!”

That was the subject line of a cold email she got a couple of weeks ago. Did it “break the pattern?” I guess. Is it memorable? I suppose if you want prospects to hate you for life. When it comes to cold outreach, you want to make sure you start the conversation from the right place.

She actually did respond to their email. After typing 7 characters back in response–you can probably guess which ones–she flagged the email as spam, and she’ll never hear from them again. Bridge burned successfully.

So that’s a good example of what you shouldn’t do. What should you do instead? There are tons of blogs that talk about strategies to improve your email open rates but since we’re only discussing open rates today, I’ll be focusing on the subject line and preview text, and my secret sauce consists of 3 simple concepts.

  1. Be clear, but not salesy.
  2. Start the relationship before you reach out.
  3. Loop in multiple leads at once whenever possible.

Be clear, but not salesy

I’m going to assume you already have a well-researched ICP and a reasonable understanding of your customer’s journey. What you need next is a well-crafted, personalized subject line that speaks not just to your customer’s wants and needs, but your objectives, i.e., the reason for your email. Standard copywriting convention dictates you use some combination of –

{{results}} x {{time}} x {{objection}}

For example:

  • 9 weeks to improve your cost-per-click,well-crafted, or it’s free
  • Faster internet for less than $1 in minutes
  • Lose weight in 2 weeks without getting up

You get the idea.

These are easy to write and simple to iterate on, but I don’t like them for a few reasons. They always come across as too salesy and click-baity, for one. But also, people are fantastic at pattern recognition. We’ve been inundated with such messages for years now, and if you’re writing an obvious SDR outreach campaign, well, you’re likely to get binned. I lean towards direct, concise subject lines that tell the reader why I’m reaching out to them and what I want. This is actually salesier than a templated subject line, in many ways, but it works very well. I speak about it in my blog: The no B.S guide to cold email copywriting. Whether it’s getting a click or booking a meeting, you need a clearly defined goal and cut to the chase. It’s how I met my partner and the founder of CrowdTamers, Trevor Longino.

For example:

  • Interested in a chat about the {{Job}} you posted.
  • {{First Name}} invitation for…
  • {{Their Name}} – {{Your Name}} introduction &…

Clean, succinct, and direct. Surely it can’t be that easy. Can it?

Pre-Targeting & Context

No, it isn’t just my mesmerizing and direct subject lines. The pattern and persistence of my approach matter as well. When I used this approach to meet Trevor, he was looking for a salesperson on Indeed, so I did what I believed any enterprising salesperson would do:

  1. Looked up his profile on LinkedIn
  2. Researched all the C-level members on his team
  3. Tried to find who I’d be reporting to (turned out to be Trevor)
  4. Emailed 2 people at a time. Trevor + CMO, or CTO + COO

Even before I’d sent my first email, everyone I intended to contact on his team saw me drop by their LinkedIn profile. They also saw me follow their company page. I even liked and commented on a post or two. Before they’d even gotten any kind of outreach from me, my name and face were already familiar.

By pre-engaging in this manner as well as signing up for a newsletter of theirs or reading a blog post or two, it’s easy to get a better picture of what they’re doing and what they care about. All of this helps improve how receptive they are to a well-crafted message and ultimately, improves your open rates.

That context also, crucially, can exclude people. No point in sending sales emails to people when you are sure that no one at the company wants to hear from you.

Loop in multiple leads at once

I emailed the people at Trevor’s company 2 at a time with an unambiguous preview text: “I’m writing to explore working with you and NAME (CC’d) on sales. I’m a biomedical researcher…”

Looping two relevant people into the email at once accomplishes 3 things:

  1. I clearly have done my research if I know who else works in the company.
  2. It makes it easy for one person to pass the conversation off to someone else in the org chart. A common reply here reads, “I’m not sure I’m a good person for this, so I’ll let John, who you’ve already CC’ed, take the lead.” What was a cold conversation is suddenly a warmer one.
  3. It feels more personal. Most email is one faceless person to another faceless person. Once you loop several co-workers into an email together, you’re immediately taking advantage of the existing relationship between them–and suddenly, you’re communicating as part of their team. Ignoring an email from you ignores an email that their co-worker is going to have to take action on, too.

Follow up via email consistently, of course, and intersperse the email cadence with regular visits/follows/likes on their LinkedIn profiles for a polite reminder. I believe this is especially useful in a B2B setting where your prospects are deluged with spam, have their own deadlines to worry about, and may need a non-pushy reminder every once in a while.

I’ve used this simple approach and relatively non-intrusive process to help generate hundreds of meetings and a 7 figure pipeline for clients in many different industries. With a consistent approach, this takes open rates up to 30%, and replies are usually over 10%.

It’s more work, but if your ACV is high enough, wouldn’t that be well worth the effort?

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