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Marketing with Personal Emails

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I believe in personal emails, I do them every day. I send personalized emails to my design friends asking for feedback on a logo.  I’ll ask my lawyer friends about how to incorporate my business. These are all personal emails since I already have a relationship with these people, but what about the ones I don’t have relationships with?

Email outreach is still one of the best ways to reach your target audience. (According to Salesforce, 77% of consumers prefer to receive marketing communications through email). Being able to send a cold email to someone you want to talk to is always nerve-racking, since you are putting yourself out there and being vulnerable. You need to research your prospect, understand what they are interested in, and of course, pitch yourself and your company.

There is a ton of information about automating these type of emails, or what I like to think of as the “science” behind cold emails. Getting people to know about what my startup does is always a challenge (small plug, my company helps you do this through blog posts), so I thought I’d try a little experiment in email outreach for business development purposes.

The goal I set for this experiment was to get as many people to learn about Cooperatize through a series of emails.

The important thing to note here is that my goal wasn’t necessarily to close a ton of business or develop long lasting friendships with people (these goals, of course, were by-products of this experiment and should be for any company). It was simply to get people to know. These emails would be like mini billboards that drivers along the infinite email highways would have see on their daily commute, or like the funny local TV commercials you are forced to see during breaks in national TV shows.

Setting Up The System

I won’t get into too much detail about how I set everything up, but the two main components you need for this experiment are the prospects (email addresses) and the email automation tool. To get a list of 10,000 leads, I used a combination of Elance and Odesk to find email addresses of my company’s potential prospects.

There is no shortage of email automation software to execute the actual task of emailing your prospects. Most of you are probably using Mailchimp, which is great for sending newsletters with fancy formatting and designs. With email automation, I needed something that combines bulk emailing with CRM (customer relationship management). Platforms like, and Drip are good at getting this job done. These platforms come with all sorts of bells and whistles like support desks and on-site communication with your customers. At the end of the day, I just needed a tool that could send out hundreds of emails a day with an ability to follow up. I chose, since it had a free trial.

Making the Emails Personal

If you do a quick search for “best cold email templates,” you’ll find a variety of templates that so-called marketing gurus claim have resulted in a 60% response rate. Needless to say, I’m skeptical of these numbers and my results were much more modest. I just looked at a few of these templates and created a cold email that incorporated various elements from each template.

Making your email “personal” is the biggest challenge that email automation software, in my opinion, aims to solve. A good read about how personalized emails can go wrong or breach certain ethical considerations is this article from Sixteen Ventures. A few strategies I used to personalize:

Follow up. I mentioned already that the follow up email continues to keep your message top of mind. I only scheduled one to two more follow-ups after the original email, so as to not completely piss off the person I was cold emailing. I listened to a podcast where a marketing guy said it took him 67 follow-ups until he got his prospect to convert as a customer. I wouldn’t be that relentless with your email automation, but that just shows you how aggressive you can get!

Time delay. Spacing out the follow up emails ensures your messages aren’t clogging up the inbox of your prospect. I had set a period of five business days for the first follow up, and then another six days for the final follow up. Additionally, I also made sure that we would only send emails during normal business hours. All these features should be a part of your email automation software so that you can customize the “rhythm” of your follow-ups.

Non-founder email. This may cross into the questionable practices of email automation, but I essentially created a fake email account to send the emails out to my prospects (if you happen to receive one of my automated emails, trust it was in the name of email science). The Sixteen Ventures article mentions the pitfalls of automated messages that come directly from founders (for example, that automated email you get from the startup founder when you first sign up for that startup’s service). I had this fake email account forward directly to my email address so I knew when someone responded to my cold emails.

The results

I am still in the middle of the experiment but here are some early results:

  • 24% open rate on the first outreach email across all templates
  • 4.5% response rate to all emails
  • 1% sign up rate

My results are much more modest compared to the astronomical rates I’ve read about from the marketing gurus out there. In terms of reaching my goal, however, getting 24% of people to just open the email and read a few sentences about what my company does is pretty cool. How they felt after they read the email, well, could’ve been anything from pure disgust to exuberance. But they saw it.

I could have experimented with the email length, the call to action, or the follow-up length. Regardless, I was able to experiment with different email templates and subject lines through the automation software to figure out which emails worked and sounded more personal, versus the ones that felt spammy. If you have any questions about the experiment, hit me up at

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