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  • Writer's pictureKady Potter

50% response rate to a cold marketing email: what worked for me

Since April, in between working on other things, I've sent out exactly 100 marketing emails.

Before starting, I checked out what the average response rate is across the board. MailChimp published some general stats in February of this year. They have click-through rates instead of responses, so not directly comparable. (I guess most marketers aren't in it for the replies.)

But the interesting thing to me is that none of those 'email opened' rates are above 30%.

I asked the people I contacted to reply to me. So far, I've had a 50% response rate. That's 50% who went ahead and replied, so the open rate is likely higher.

And 92% of those respondents took me up on what I was offering. That's... 46% engagement out of everyone I emailed? Compare that to 3-4% click-through rates in every segment MailChimp covered.

Now, those were cold, stone cold frozen leads. I'd never contacted any of those people before. They'd never heard of me. To engage half of them is, by all accounts, nothing short of a miracle.

Alright, what's the catch?

Not all marketing emails are created equal. Not all approaches and sales tactics work effectively. So, what exactly was I trying to do here?

The aim of my message was for people to order (with tailored discount coupons) from the website I was plugging. So the offer was twofold: the coupon values, and the prospect of getting free stuff.

What was I asking for in return? Reviews of the website and the service (and the lovely, helpful point of contact, hint hint) on their social media accounts. 'Influencer marketing' at its most basic, my friends.

I'm not going to post the entire text of the email. I can't, in fact - my company won't let me. What I'll do instead is walk you through my approach.

Make it personal - real personal

It's 'common knowledge' that emails get higher open rates if the recipient's name is in the subject line. That method has been tried and tested, and it apparently works.

I didn't do that.

What I did do was customise the body of the email. For every single person.

If you're working with a mailing list that runs into the hundreds, or thousands, tailoring every email like that isn't practical. It's easy enough to code the subject lines to include names, but making each message personal to the individual means manual labour.

Writing to 100 people took me hours.

Before hitting 'send', I went and checked all their social media profiles. I found out what they've been up to lately, and what kind of stuff they like. That went into their emails, as casual conversation and as direct links to products I knew they wanted.

It's understandable if you don't go to that length. But here's the thing. People appreciate reading an email that doesn't sound like it was sent to a mailing list.

They like free stuff, sure. They LOVE free stuff they actually want, that you already know they want. You don't have to spend most of your email convincing them that they want it, either.

And they love it when they realise you took a little time to get to know them. They told me as much in their replies. If you have time to spare, use it to treat your target audience as people and not as spreadsheet cells. With long contact lists, you could A/B test it on a smaller group.

Don't be a marketing robot

If you ask me, the problem with marketing emails is that they sound like they were written by marketers. I'm not keen on them either. (The emails, not the marketers.)

Aside from laying out the offer in clear language, I kept the rest of my tone informal. Not 'best mate' level, but definitely not business-y.

This was the only thing I could logically do. I'd already spent time building up that same TOV across our website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit. To write the emails in a different tone would've been jarring. Uncomfortable for me, and weird for them.

Marketer speak will always make you seem detached from the reader. I wanted my emails to sound helpful, not just like I was trying to shift product. And matching the tone of our other copy kept the brand image together.

Actually, go further - be yourself

And by this I don't just mean 'sign off with your name'.

Copywriters are paid to write in other voices. We do it all the time, and we're good at it. Like intelligent chameleons with keyboards. Adapting to different styles should be/look/feel effortless, in every situation.

There's something specifically about the 'ghostwritten' direct email that sounds disingenuous, to me. Maybe you disagree.

I think this is because it's easier to hide behind a brand name than a given name. An email from 'The team at Company X' doesn't pin it all on you.

"Hi [auto-filled first name], person who is definitely not me pretending to be someone else here."

Ever had an email like that? It rubs me up the wrong way.

This kind of direct contact is more effective if you stay yourself. Adopting a persona is mentally exhausting - trust me, I've done a lot of LARPing. There's too much risk of letting your guard down, or sending a weird follow-up that sounds nothing like your initial approach.

Be you. Be a human at the keyboard for once. Be genuine, and people will warm to that.

Give people some space to breathe

Hurry - act now!

Where was it I read that using 'hurry' in a CTA increases the click-through rate? I really can't remember. I tried looking it up, and it just seems to be widely accepted.

My finisher? "Please get back to me within a week."

Finished wiping the coffee off your screen and fishing your monocle out of the mug? I'll explain.

If you're targeting the right kind of influential people, they'll be busy. You've barged into their inbox, uninvited, and imposed on their time. Tacking 'hurry' on the end isn't going to endear you.

A week isn't that long, you know. The offer you're touting likely isn't as time-sensitive as your 'NOW NOW NOW' call to action makes it sound. With the reviews I wanted, the slow burn would look infinitely better than all 50 published on the same day. I was in no rush.

As Take That would say, have a little patience. Give people time, and when they come back to you they'll do so more informed, less stressed, and grateful.

Be brave and try a different approach!

That's how I managed it. Sometimes, it's okay to write an email that isn't by the book.

If you test any of this advice out in your own mailing campaigns, please tell me what happens. There isn't a 'one size fits all' marketing style. This worked for me - I'd be really interested to know if it works for you.


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