When it comes to outbound email, there are many important things to consider. Here’s a few examples:

  • Writing to a specific audience based on persona and industry
  • Using the right tone and cadence
  • Keeping your email short, enticing, and readable (at an elementary level)

These are just some of the most important aspects of any great outbound email that create positive engagements. 

That said, there are other pitfalls that are more nuanced and less obvious to the untrained eye. At CIENCE, we write and review thousands of emails for our clients so curating lists of some of the great, not so great, and awful examples of cold emails only comes natural to us. It also keeps our eye on the ball as we continue to work on impressing our clients by scoring them appointments with their ideal customers. After all, the real value of outbound is gaining a competing edge over their competition, winning market share, getting more at-bats for sales teams, improving close rates and, of course, closing more deals. 

Without further adieu, here are our latest takedowns of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugliest outbound emails for June of 2020. For more outbound emails do’s and don’ts, be sure to check out April’s blog here.

June’s Best Cold Email

To start, let’s check out the best email. This one hits the mark on all of the points mentioned above. Most impressively, it delivers on relevancy with great personalization and an impressively clever compliment as an opener. 

Best Sales Email Example

Hooking your Prospect

Just check out that subject line, “How do you pay Jose Eduardo?” Talk about a hook that grabs attention!

Imagine you’re the person who hired that guy (or manages the guy who hired him) reading it. You’re likely to think, “I’ll bite.” If this outbound email doesn’t jump out to you, I don’t know what would. In an era where getting someone’s attention via email can feel impossible, especially in about (gulp) payroll issues, you can’t go wrong by getting experimental on subject lines via quirky questions and implications. Also, did we mention it’s only two sentences long? 5 gold stars for this sales development rep.

The Bad

This email isn’t the worst. But our standards are pretty darn high since many executives can receive up to 250 emails a day. According to Harvard Business Review, employees everywhere feel the crunch of losing 21 minutes a day filtering, reading and responding to emails. Everyone wants their time back. 

If you’re trying to reach decision makers using cold email, you better come with a great strategy and tight, impactful copy! 

In this email, you can get the sense this email is not great. This email uses the tried and true “best contact” method to open a conversation by trying to reach the right person in the organization to speak with, either on a marketing or operations team. 

Bad Sales Email Example. How Not to Write Cold Emails

So why does this one fall short? Let’s break it down.

Remember to Target your Lead with Precision

For starters, the target email address is CIENCE’s basic contact email. That’s strike one in outbound marketing. If you want to find someone on the marketing team, do some research and find the email address of someone you’re trying to target. 

As noted earlier, the sender is looking to be referred to a marketing director or business operations person within our (CIENCE) company.  A simple LinkedIn search would have narrowed this down to a few people (Outbound 101: Nail your sales research before sending the email). Also, assuming this company does actually use marketing research tools like Crunchbase (mentioned in the body’s opening line), they shouldn’t have even had to do that.

Keep It Short and Sweet

This email’s subject line is seven words with 15 syllables (too long to get someone’s attention as inboxes get more crowded). According to HubSpot, the best cold email subject lines are 3 words or less. 

And worse, the author didn’t even do their research. At CIENCE, our bread and butter is inbound and outbound marketing (including design and development for clients), so their incomplete and inaccurate lead data has them barking up the entirely wrong tree in the hopes of converting a potential prospect.

Also, when you finally get to the actual body of the email, the content is boring, the personalization (as mentioned) is nil, and their call to action (CTA) is far too open-ended. “Would Google Hangouts or phone call work for you,” doesn’t actually attempt to commit a prospect to schedule a meeting, instead it gives the option to choose a platform for communication. You’d do better asking if they can schedule a quick phone call next (insert date) afternoon.

You’ve heard the phrase, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. The same applies for outbound marketing. Rather than beginning (or opening) an email with something impersonal about how you found our company through a marketing database, this email should have included a personalized compliment about something CIENCE is doing (that likely could have been found through Crunchbase). In our experience that tiny bit of extra effort will skyrocket response rates.

Be Authentic and Cut the Buzzwords

Some may also argue the buzz word of “synergy” turns people off, but that’s more subjective. To quote PRDaily’s commentary on the overzealous use of the word “amid” during the pandemic, “If your copy sounds like corporate drivel, it is.”

Lastly, while it’s very nice to show concern for the welfare of a potential prospect during a difficult time, to do so TWICE in one email by adding a p.s. just reads disingenuous–another great way to influence someone to say “please stop emailing me.” It’s a fine line, but you can definitely walk it with a little social grace. Bottom line: stop apologizing and get to the point! 

The Ugliest of Ugly Emails

Last and most definitely the least original and readable, we have our ugly email. The following breaks so many basic rules of cold email writing, it was hard for us to decide which part of it was worst. We’re guessing the majority of cold emails you receive look something just like it… sadly. 

The Worst Cold Email Ever! Bad Sales Email Example

Here’s a quick list of what’s broken in this ugly cold email: 

  1. The Subject line is long and a bit gimmicky
  2. The email body is far too long
  3. The content is unfocused
  4. It asks four different questions
  5. It doesn’t read like a 1:1 email
  6. Five links (including the signature)
  7. It’s entirely overwhelming

As you can see, this email is pretty ugly (oxymoronic, we know). We mean that literally. Don’t even read it first. Just look at all the bolding, the “>>” symbols, and one-sentence paragraphs. It’s overkill on every front, and you wouldn’t want to read this content on a website let alone in your inbox.

We’ll give them a little credit for a slightly intriguing subject line with a question. However, because that question ends 8 words deep into a 10-word subject line (shoot for 5 words max if feasible), you’ve already lost your potential prospect. Also, because it’s gimmicky, the “forgive me” from a complete stranger may just read like a lame and irrelevant trick to get you to read it.

Remember to Personalize

Aside from using our CMO’s name, this email has no personalization and thus no clear understanding of what CIENCE is. Like we said earlier, targeting your prospects means doing some research and taking the time to get to know them. This guy made no effort at all.

Focused Questions and CTA

If you want to help steer a prospect into your marketing funnel, it’s’ a good idea to avoid distracting them. With four bolded questions and two links in the body of this email, anyone willing to read this will have their eyeballs bounce all over their screen with no clear understanding of what {marketer name} wants. When selecting a methodology for an outbound marketing campaign, it’s important to focus on a select CTA in order to guide prospects smoothly towards your conversion goals. This email simply fails to do that.

EXTRA OUTBOUND TIP: The Salutation

This is a bonus tip from CIENCE on signing off your emails. Your old staples of “Regards,” “Best regards,” “Sincerely,” might not cut it in 2020.

People love to sign off an email with something that sounds professional, empathetic, and, let’s be real, traditional and dated. But like everything else, sometimes it helps to disrupt the system. Take a risk and try something a little different! We’re not saying to jump off with “toodles,” “Catch you on the flip side,” or “Later gator” to hit up a C-Level prospect, but who’s to say it won’t grab the attention of someone who deleted your last “Respectfully,” email? Shake it up and you may just find an uptick in responses.

7 Ways to Optimize Your Cold Email

Following up on the 7 reasons the cold email failed, here are the 7 Tips you can use to create a great outbound email designed to increase open rates, response rates, and lead to more qualified appointments. 

7 Tips to Optimize Your Cold Email. How to Write Sales Emails.
Is the subject line intriguing and 3 words or fewer?
Is the email body short, to the point, and value-driven?
Does your email answer your prospect if they ask: Why me? Why now? Why should I care? 
Do you have one focused Call-to-Action (CTA)?
Is personalized used to make it feel like a 1:1 conversation is taking place?
Have you closed the marketing loop with a persona-driven Landing Page? 
Does your focus on “just one thing”?

 If you’re looking for some additional tips to get more leads from outbound marketing, check out our guide to writing better cold emails, or book a meeting with our B2B Outbound Specialist. 

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Briant Wells
Marketing Manager at CIENCE

Briant Wells is the Marketing Manager at CIENCE Technologies. He began as a content writer and campaign strategist, working on over 200 b2b multi-channel outbound campaigns for 100+ clients. He loves writing, telling jokes that may (or may not) fall flat, and surfing to clear his mind.