One of the most cost-effective ways to market your business is through email. This has been true for a long time, and it’s one reason why even small businesses have started sending out promotional emails. Not only that, but basic email campaigns are relatively easy to plan and execute — especially with high-quality email marketing tools.
However, simply pumping out emails and sending them to your subscribers indiscriminately is unlikely to be effective. In fact, sending junk emails that aren’t relevant to your audience can easily backfire as people quit subscribing. Over time, they might even report your email as spam, making it harder for you to reach the right audiences.
Fortunately, effective email outreach is easy to achieve with a little bit of planning. You’ll want to plan for your audience, build your list, and write carefully crafted emails. This article will give some of my best tips. I’m also including some templates that can help you get started.
Why Email Outreach Matters
Email outreach emerged as a major marketing technique from the Internet’s beginnings. In fact, as email itself became a common and free method of communication for the average American consumer, companies were quick to leverage it for commercial purposes. More than 30 years later, email remains one of the most effective channels for lead generation and outreach.
Why is email so effective? Simply put, it facilitates direct and personalized communication at scale to connect with potential customers. Personalization, such as adding someone’s name or targeting the specific products that a customer is interested in, can be done quickly and easily. Better yet, especially in an age of smartphones, most people check their emails frequently.
Furthermore, email outreach gives you a unique chance to tell your brand’s story and make a compelling case for your offering. Besides blog posts, most web copy is short and to the point. While you can still present your brand’s value proposition this way, you’ll often need multiple pages to do so, such as an “about us” page and a “products” page. On the other hand, email lets you give a brief overview of both in one place and then follow up on your points in other emails.
Besides presenting your brand story and value proposition, you’ll also get an opportunity to build relationships and nurture prospects for future sales. People pay people (and brands) that they know well, so being top-of-mind and familiar helps to get the sale. This edge is especially valuable when you’re starting out, and if you have significant competition in your niche.
Finally, email is cost-effective compared to other outreach methods like cold calling or paid ads. To send emails, you write it once (including any segmentation), then let your email application do the rest. These applications are usually inexpensive, especially when you spread the cost among thousands of contacts. On the other hand, cold calling not only costs you phone service fees, but labor by the hour for every call made. Paid ads will also charge for each desired action, whether it brings results or not. This adds up fast.
#1. Research Target Demographics and Build Contact Lists
Even with the many benefits of email outreach, it’s important to maximize your reach and ROI. After all, you want to keep your costs to a minimum while also growing your business. The key to doing this is careful research into your potential customers. Armed with this information, you can build contact lists.
Your first step is to identify relevant target audiences, like job titles, departments, and industries. This is especially important in the B2B space because you want to make sure everybody who gets an email from you will find your product potentially relevant — even if it’s not something that the company needs right now.
Once you have a list of job titles, industries, and other specifications, it’s time to identify specific people and companies. Use tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator to source ideal contacts and get the information you would need to offer them a space on your email list. Then, categorize into hot, warm, and cold leads based on engagement. In other words, potential leads who have attended a conference and heard about your product are warmer than a decision-maker who is brand-new to the industry.
Finally, clean lists by removing invalid emails to maximize deliverability. You don’t want to pay for emails that simply get bounced back, whether that’s individually or in the form of a higher fee for a larger list.
Examples & Templates
Adding people to your email outreach list the right way involves more than simply adding an email to your general list. That can get you in trouble because of the CAN-SPAM Act, and will likely be viewed as a bit unprofessional. Here are some examples of emails that request an opt-in.
HR Managers, Chief Learning Officers, Training Directors (titles)
Are you tired of losing great employees because of [problem]?
I work for [Company], and we have a great solution to your [retention and recruitment or training] problems. Our solution can help you save time and money while helping your business operate more smoothly daily.
You can learn more about our solution here: [insert link]. If you’d like to schedule time for a chat to learn more, here is a link to my scheduler: [insert link].
Pharmaceutical, Technology, Financial Services (industries)
We get it — the cost of [materials, equipment, labor] keep going up and up. Remaining profitable in the current climate is more difficult than ever. Fortunately, [company] can help with our [mention product or service]. I’d love to talk about our cutting edge solutions.
You can schedule time with me here: [insert link]. If none of those options work, feel free to reply to this email with some dates and times that work best for you.
Attended your webinar (hot lead)
Thanks for attending our webinar [Title] on [date]. We’d love to talk with you about your experience and how [product or service] can help your business thrive.
Feel free to book a call with us so that we can learn more about how we can help you: [insert link]
Visited pricing page on website (warm lead)
I hope this note finds you well. I noticed [Insert something about this person] and wanted to drop you a line.
We saw you checking out our prices for [describe product or service]. I’d love to show you how our company can help [describe pain point your product or service helps solve].
Are you in charge of purchasing? If not, I’d love to reach out to the right person. Feel free to reply to tis email so that we can arrange the best pricing for your company,
Unknown awareness of your company (cold lead)
This approach is especially useful if you can identify a major milestone for the target professional or their company.
I was browsing [source, often LinkedIn or a trade publication] and noticed [mention milestone]. Congratulations!
As part of the [list industry] industry, I have great respect for the work your company is doing. If there’s any way I can be of assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out.
[your name ]
#2. Segment Contact Lists by Relevance
When it comes to email outreach, one size does not fit all. Companies come in all sizes, and each has different goals and challenges. So, even if your company primarily appeals to a particular industry, the same message will not appeal to every potential customer.
The best way to appeal to the largest audience possible is by segmenting your list. Split your list by industry, employee seniority, company size, or any other relevant variable.
Once you have segmented your list properly, it’s time to craft a good email pitch. The first step is to personalize the content based on segment-specific needs and interests. This step lets you address pain points more effectively. Then, send different offers or email content to each segment as appropriate.
Examples & Templates
Here are some examples of segmentation for your list. Each of these categories will have different needs.
Job Level: C-Suite, Director, Manager
Someone in the C-Suite usually needs to impress corporate stakeholders, such as the owners or major donors. Directors can have this too, but often, it’s accountability to the C-Suite for how they run a division. And managers must often get results from producer-level employees. The last group may not have purchasing authority themselves.
Company Size – Enterprise, Mid-Market, SMB
Enterprise-level companies have more “moving parts” than their smaller competitors. Multiple locations, complex regulatory environments, and other factors provide different opportunities for sales.
Industry – Healthcare, Financial, Tech
Healthcare is legendary for how many challenges they have getting paid – and need many products that are unique to the industry. Similarly, finance and tech need different products or use the same ones differently. Make sure your pitch matches the audience.
#3. Limit List Size for Personalization
If your business is relatively small, you probably have a relatively small email outreach list. However, even small businesses can have segments that are too big for effective personalization. This is where grouping your contacts into smaller groups can be beneficial.
For maximum relevance, under 1,000 contacts are recommended. For a small business, this might be a large segment of their customer base, and it’s easy to personalize.
However, if your list is over 1,000 contacts, segment it into smaller targeted lists. This helps you effectively target each part of your brand’s constituency. As you can imagine, large companies segment their lists into very specific categories.
Examples & Templates
If your company appeals to different industries: Three segments of 300 contacts each by the industry for 900 total.
Companies that cater to companies of different sizes: Two segments of 500 contacts each by company size for 1,000 total.
#4. Lead Subject Line with Primary Benefit
An easy trick to make email outreach easier is to craft the right subject line. Ideally, it should grab the reader’s attention, especially since people often make a split-second decision on whether they’ll open the email. One way to pique people’s interest is by telling people what’s in it for them.
One of the best techniques is to state a top benefit, offer, or value prop upfront. This keeps people from guessing what your email is about while also making them interested. You’ll never get accused of false pretenses this way, either. And if you track who opens your emails, the warm leads will be better quality.
Another option is establishing relevance quickly to motivate recipients to open the email. Especially in the B2B space, time is money, and reading useless emails wastes both. But if you give people a good reason to spend their valuable time, then there’s a fair exchange.
Examples & Templates
Here are some great examples of “primary benefit” subject lines.
“Increase sales conversion by 20% with our training.” This subject line will jump out at any sales-focused professional. That could be the sales manager, Director of Operations, or even corporate training.
“Complimentary sample of our vitamin supplements!” Health nuts and nutrition experts will jump with this one. The same thing goes with people who sell this type of product.
#5. Test Different Subject Line Formats
As with anything else in sales, one size does not fit all for email outreach subject lines. That’s because people react differently to various approaches. Furthermore, different products or services can demand different pitches to be effective. Here are some suggestions.
Ask a compelling question
Business leaders and consumers alike have burning questions or pain points. Asking a compelling question can draw people in with the possibility of having that question answered.
Example: “What’s your biggest sales challenge right now?”
Continue with a proposed answer and a solution to the problem. People will consider the time spent reading your email well spent.
Use urgency or exclusivity
Great deals can’t be for an unlimited time, or you’d go broke. Similarly, you can’t always offer the same value proposition to everyone. If you’re offering something special, then let people know in your email subject line. They’ll know you’re selling something, but that’s often a good thing.
Example: “Price increase announced soon – lock in lower rates today!”
I’ve seen Amazon and other tech companies do this, especially with pricing for services like Prime. A version of this technique also works well for sales, such as the Black Friday specials. Whatever it is, make people think they need to buy NOW!
Try emotional appeals
No matter how you think about this, emotions are an important driver of purchasing decisions. Whether it’s your kid (or grandkid) who just can’t live with that trendy toy, much-needed self-care, or the promise of an edge in business, most of us have bought on impulse. An emotional appeal can help capture potential sales.
Example: “Don’t let them fall behind”
Fall behind on what? Your recipient will have to open the email to find out. Hopefully, you have the best solution that’ll help the recipient’s employees, children, or clients stay ahead of the trends.
# 6. Keep Subject Lines Short Yet Personalized
Concise subject lines result in higher open rates. This is unsurprising when you consider that people are busy. While long subject lines can make people not want to open your email, if you can quickly show people what your email is about, you’ll boost the open rate.
Similarly, personalization increases open rates. When you personalize something, it gets people’s attention. If nothing else, you spent a bit of extra effort to indicate who your message is for. And in many cases, personalization indicates that the offer or pitch is created with the recipient in mind.
Personalization is usually easy, even for the subject line. You can include the person’s first name, the company name, or even an offer. Sometimes, you can do both and make your subject line very compelling instantly.
Example: “New pricing for [Company]”
Here, you’re offering a great offer to specific companies. It could be that the deal is being offered to everyone on your segmented list, but the addition of a company name makes this subject line stand out. Furthermore, people will want to open the email and see what the discount is.
Example: “Complimentary samples, [First Name]”
Who doesn’t like free stuff? Hopefully, it’s not your recipient. But people get a lot of sales pitches every day. At certain times of year, there’s a lot of free stuff, too. By personalizing this subject line, you’ll set your email apart from other companies offering freebies without personalization. Besides, the recipient may feel special when getting the attention.
#7. Lead with Relevant Pain Points
Businesses and consumers alike have pain points that can be addressed with various products and services. One of the most effective ways to do email outreach begins when you identify issues and challenges your prospect likely faces. These can be anything from better skincare products for teenagers with acne to factory machines that are less expensive to run than legacy equipment.
Once you’ve discovered customer pain points, it’s important to show that your products are a great solution to them. Accordingly, you should start the email by demonstrating that you understand those problems. This gives you an opportunity to establish yourself and your brand as a credible voice in the industry.
Naturally, you’ll want to start the email by stating the problem.
Example: “As a healthcare provider, we know insurance claim denials can be frustrating…”
Now, talk about the problem a bit more, such as how much money the practice may be losing. Then, mention how your brand can help them reduce denials and recover unpaid bills.
Example: “As a homeowner, you’re paying higher energy bills each year…”
Inflation is a sticking point, for sure. Many homeowners need to save money these days, so suggestions on how to spend less on energy may be helpful.
Of course, this approach can work for any kind of product or service.
Further Reading: 8 Best Email Marketing Best Practices for 2024
#8. Focus Email on Providing Value
Nobody likes to waste money, and they don’t like to overpay for the products they need, either. Therefore, an effective email outreach technique is to emphasize how your product can help recipients achieve their goals or address issues they have. In other words, this technique works well with pain points as a lead-in. You can do this in one email or as part of your funnel series.
While you discuss value, you should include metrics and proof points that quantify the value. Maybe it’s an improved ROI or a way to decrease costs. Or, your product might perform better than the competition.
Example: “Our solution has reduced claim denials by 35% for providers like you.”
Here, the benefit is increased revenue. It also might improve efficiency for the provider because they don’t have to fight the denials. The question is how much the cost of the service will be offset by more revenue and lower costs.
Example: “9 out of 10 customers see a 10x ROI within 6 months.”
A specific, quantifiable result will catch the attention of almost any business owner. Naturally, there are exceptions to the rule, quantified by the 10% who don’t make the mark.
#9. Use a Conversational and Helpful Tone
Boring emails, like other dry texts, often don’t get finished. Similarly, people don’t like to feel that you are lecturing them. To combat these issues, adopt a warm, consultative communication style. This provides engaging copy that makes people part of the conversation.
Similarly, you should avoid overly salesy or promotional language. People don’t like being “sold to,” and would rather feel like they made a decision to buy something because the item provides value. In other words, you should focus on being an advisor rather than a sales rep. Especially when you have a range of products that appeal to different customers.
Example: “I’d love to brainstorm ideas on how we could help…”
This sentence indicates that there may be more than one option available, which is very effective with prospects who might not be certain what they need. At the same time, more knowledgeable prospects may want a gut check to ensure that they are buying the right item before committing. And of course, this phrase sounds highly collaborative, which customers love.
Example: “Let’s set up a quick call to explore some options for addressing this challenge…”
Here’s a similar way to invite collaboration and not make the reader feel you’re trying to sell a particular solution. Especially in a more technical niche, collaboration can be the key to overcoming objections and besting the competition.
# 10. Include a Clear and Actionable CTA
While many emails carefully explain product features and effectively present use cases, customers often need a nudge before they respond to the information. However, it’s relatively easy to address this flaw in many email outreach campaigns. Sometimes, you only need to tell the reader exactly what you’d like them to do next.
Of course, as with many other things in sales, one size does not fit all. You should craft your call to action in a way that fits the type of lead you’re interacting with and what you are selling. If you send an email to a cold lead, then use a softer approach. For example, you can ask the customer to respond for more information.
Once your sales prospect is more engaged with your brand, or after you’ve sent them information, you can use a stronger call to action. Asking somebody to request a demo or a free trial can be very effective at this point. Similarly, if the customer asks for that demo or free trial, you can send more emails to encourage the purchase.
Example: “I’m happy to send over our product guides if helpful.”
Product guides are a great way to help people choose between various options in your product line. And if you have more limited offerings, guides can also help customers see the possibilities or decide if a product is right for them. Then, it’ll be time for them to contact sales (or not).
Example: “Click here to reserve your free trial.”
By now, your potential customer has a good idea about what your product has to offer. However, free trials are great because they let customers try before they buy. And by using the term “reserve,” you’re making this offer look exclusive.
#11. Personalize with Name, Company, Role
Personalization is a great way to show people that they are more than just a number. Otherwise, commercial emails can seem a lot like spam. Or, at a minimum, like your company is doing email outreach without considering individual customers. While I already mentioned personalization above, this technique isn’t just for the subject line. Rather, there are other places where you can customize text.
First, include the recipient’s first name in the subject line and the body. Doing this takes a bit more effort and reinforces their value as a potential customer. It also makes the email more like somebody sat down and wrote it just for the recipient.
Next, if you’re advertising for a B2B brand, reference their company name and position. Here, you’ll show the potential customer that you have done your homework and are not just deploying a “spray and pray” approach. Sadly, people who design email campaigns frequently skip this step.
Finally, demonstrate knowledge of who they are. You can mention the types of challenges they are facing on a role-specific level. And if your recipient has done something significant or occupies a key position in the industry, mentioning this helps you provide a rapport that would otherwise be more difficult. Of course, you might have to write an email like this by hand instead of using a mail merge.
Further Reading: 15 Best AI Email Writers to Check Out
Examples & Templates
This tip is more complex than most of them because it requires more individualized efforts. However, here’s an example of how you can combine the personalized subject line and body.
Subject: “Thoughts on this, [First Name]?”
Notice how this example invites the recipient’s input. Yet, they must open the email to discover the reason why you want their input.
Body: “As [Company’s] [Title], you likely grapple with…”
Here, you are engaging the recipient in a discussion about an industry issue or a company pain point. This technique is especially useful if the industry is undergoing changes or facing specific challenges. An example from a few years ago would’ve been when supply chains were especially snarled due to global events. A specialty shipping or supply chain management company would have had significant opportunities.
Of course, you’re only limited by your imagination when using this technique.
#12. Reference Previous Interactions
Eventually, and hopefully, sooner rather than later, your email outreach will focus on hot leads. When people have interacted with your brand and shown interest, it’s time for a new approach: nurturing leads and converting them into customers.
The most important aspect of this stage in the customer journey is building on prior interactions. To do this, remind them of past communications, site visits, events, and other relevant details. You may need to jog their memory, or you might find that the customer is eager to hear more about something they know about already.
No matter the customer’s state of mind, referencing prior interactions shows you have an established relationship. Especially in business marketing, relationships are golden and bring in the most opportunities.
“I enjoyed speaking with you at [Conference] last month.”
This example reminds the recipient that you’ve met in person – and that you have ties to the same industry. It’s a technique that works well across industries, and with the return of business travel, it’s relevant again.
“I see you visited our pricing page last week…”
#13. Customize CTAs Based on Interests
Even though you may want the same outcome across potential contacts in an email outreach campaign, there may be several ways to get there. After all, different customers have various needs that your brand can address, and they’re likely at different stages of the buyer journey.
Luckily, there are easy ways to address all segments of your audience. If you offer content or resources aligned to their needs, it’s easier (and more advantageous) for them to respond. This way, potential customers can see the value of your products or services, whether it’s through problem-solving or cost efficiency.
After you’ve demonstrated the value of your products to a particular audience, suggest next steps or meetings tailored to their role. For instance, not everyone who’s a stakeholder has the final purchasing authority, even if they are very influential in any given decision. You should vary your approach accordingly.
Example: “Let me know if you’d like to see a sample analysis for [Company].”
This one works great for industrial companies that need environmental monitoring or sample-based quality control. You can adapt it for other industries like IT, as well.
Example: “I’m happy to provide our implementation timeline template to help with planning.”
Big changes (and sometimes small ones) take time, and they often involve some disruption to business operations. By offering to help plan a transition, you demonstrate that your company supports its clients before, during, and after the sale. Businesses often feel more confident buying from companies if they are less worried that their employees will spend a lot of time dealing with the aftermath of significant changes.
#14. Follow Up 3-5 Days After Initial Email
As marketers, we know that it takes several marketing touches to convert a customer. Email outreach is no different – especially because business people and consumers get a ton of emails daily. It’s easy to read something and forget to respond or fail to take action. So, if you don’t get a response to your first outreach email, you can follow up and re-establish contact.
Briefly reiterate your product’s value proposition and include a new incentive. For instance, you might switch from a free sample to some kind of discount or throw in some swag. This technique not only sweetens the pot but also provides an opportunity that might be more attractive than the original offer. It could be that your first one wasn’t appealing for some reason.
Your follow-up can also reiterate the benefits of your products and services differently than you did before. Sometimes, people need another pitch.
Example: “Just wanted to re-emphasize that we could help [Company] reduce churn by 10-15% based on past clients…”
From here, you might want to explain why – and invite the potential customer to learn more.
#15. Continue Nurturing Non-Responsive Leads
Obviously, not every lead will respond to your initial efforts at contact. There are many reasons for this, such as not understanding why your product is what they need now, or not having the purchasing authority. Besides, it could be that the time isn’t right.
Rather than giving up on these leads, place non-responsive contacts into nurturing email sequences. Then, send periodic educational or promotional content to stay top of mind. At some point, these dormant leads can reactivate and turn into sales.
Examples & Templates
Nurturing leads can take many forms, from customer education to major announcements and promotions. Here are some ways to create effective outreach emails.
Industry update content piece
Most industries undergo changes occasionally. Whether it’s a recession, inflation-related stressors, new developments, or regulatory shakeups, industry leaders must stay current. If you provide industry updates to your cold leads or inactive customers, this help will be appreciated. At the same time, you’ll help establish and maintain your company’s reputation as an industry expert. Both of these can help you sell products in the long run.
Invitation to an upcoming webinar
If your company is holding a webinar or other virtual event, invite your unresponsive leads. Some of them might not be interested in buying something from you right now, but they may accept an offer of information. After all, webinars tend to be less high-pressure than a sales call. And if you talk about industry trends or something similar, you’ll provide value to both sides no matter what the lead does.
Announcement of new product feature
When your R&D department makes a great product better, brag about it to your entire email list. The announcement will look different for current customers than for prospects, but both groups need to know how the feature works and benefits them. Often, you’ll find that new features bring in new customers. It could be, for example, that the people on the sidelines didn’t think your product had enough features – or that it was missing critical functions they really wanted.
Either way, everyone wins.
Email outreach often feels like more of an art than a science, and there’s a lot of truth to this. For instance, writing an email is an art insofar as you must find the right words to say for each market segment. On the other hand, marketers have developed evidence-based techniques that increase conversion rates and improve ROI.
With all of these techniques, you should be able to find several that work well for your company. In addition, many of them adapt between B2B and B2C companies. Often, the value propositions are similar, such as saving money or doing something better than before. Either way, you have nothing to lose by giving these a try.
Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash