This Week’s Big Deal: Crafting the Perfect Outreach Email

April 22, 2019

Sales Outreach Email

Editor's Note: As 2020 approaches, we're looking back at some of 2019's most popular posts on the LinkedIn Sales Blog. This one ranked No. 6.

Twelve million.

That’s how many outreach emails were analyzed by Backlinko and Pitchbox for their new study, designed to determine what’s working and what is not in today’s environment.

“We looked at subject lines. We looked at personalization. We even looked at follow-up sequences,” says Backlinko Founder Brian Dean.

What did this deep dive uncover? We pored over the findings and pulled six takeaways that modern B2B sellers need to know. Use these data-driven insights to take your sales outreach emails to the next level.

6 Key Findings About Sales Outreach Emails

In the digital era, email has become one of the primary methods for getting in touch with a new prospect. We all know how important it is to get it right with that initial outreach. Here’s what the voluminous data from Backlinko and Pitchbox showed.

Longer Subject Lines Get More Responses
This is somewhat counterintuitive. “The shorter, the better” is a mantra that has always been impressed upon me, in this age of short attention spans and crowded inboxes. But the new research casts doubt on this presumption. Super-quick subject lines actually get lower response rates than more robust ones.

This is likely due to specificity. People want to have a clear idea of what’s inside an email before they open it. I know some salespeople have a tendency to run with brief and cryptic subject lines in order to capture a recipient’s intrigue, but the data suggests we’re better off providing a fuller description. One illustrative example shared by Dean in the article is using “Quick Question About Your Latest Blog Post” instead of “Quick Question.” Per the study, the sweet spot for subject line length falls into the 36-50 character range.

On LinkedIn, we recently shared tips for optimizing InMail subject lines for better response rates.

Following Up Greatly Improves Response Rates
Meanwhile, another commonly held perception was reaffirmed by the new analysis: following up makes a big difference. Findings show that a single follow-up email can boost response rates by up to 65.8%, and sending three or more messages further helps your chances.

“With 100+ emails to sift through per day, the chances of your single outreach email getting seen, opened and replied to is pretty slim,” writes Dean. “But when you send more than one message, you have yet another chance to stand out and push through the noise in someone’s inbox.”

Of course, there is always a delicate balance between being persistent and pesky, so be mindful of that. Ideally, you’ll always have a distinct reason for following up. Instead of “Just checking in,” it’s better to have a legitimate driver for the new email, such as, “Found another piece of content you might love,” or “Hoping to connect before I leave town for a week.”

Personalization is Essential
No one should be too surprised by this. We’ve known for some time now that B2B buyers don’t just expect personalization; they demand it. The research shows that personalized subject lines boost response rates by 30.5% and personalized message bodies improve them by 32.7%.

We’re not doing ourselves any favors by sending out the same canned outreach to a bunch of people. It’ll take a little more time to add personalization elements when drafting emails. But the effort is worth your while, and there are ways to become more efficient. For example, you can use Sales Navigator for Gmail to pull up a contact’s LinkedIn profile within the Gmail app, making it easy to tailor your outreach beyond simply including the person’s name.

Links to Social Profiles are Helpful
One interesting finding was that links to one or more of your social media profiles in the email signature seem to have a positive effect on response rates. “Messages that contained links to social profiles in the sender’s signature had a 9.8% higher average response rate compared to messages without them,” reports Dean. This includes an 11.5% increase with LinkedIn profile links specifically.

Recipients want to know that the person reaching out to them is, in fact, a real person. Linking to your social media profile makes it easy for someone to click through and learn a little more about you. Even if they don’t click the links, there’s a certain level of reassurance in simply seeing them there.

This is a nice benefit of using InMail on LinkedIn. When someone receives a message from you, they can see your face and click your name to go straight to your profile page. And if you’ve optimized your LinkedIn profile for B2B selling, you may want them to do just that.

Wednesday is the Best Day for Outreach
In the chart below, we see there wasn’t a huge difference in response rates based on day of the week, but Wednesday had a slight lead, followed by Thursday. As I think about my own inbox habits, this makes sense. Early in the week, I’m often catching up on emails and trying to get my arms around my tasks, while later in the week I’m tying things up (and maybe thinking about the weekend already). The middle is when an outreach message is most likely to catch my attention.

Expanding Your Outreach Increases Your Odds
“We looked at the effect that reaching out to several contacts at the same organization had on outreach conversions,” writes Dean. “And we found that, compared to a single contact, sending emails to more than one contact improves response rates by 93%.”

As buying committees become larger and more distributed, we need to expand our reach. Identify numerous key stakeholders within an organization, and try to get in touch with all of them. One handy tactic is to send the same PointDrive link to each of them; you can consult the tool’s analytics to see who engaged with what content, and who they shared it with. This, in turn, can help you identify other strategic contacts.

Increase Your B2B Sales Outreach Success

The patterns that emerged from this analysis of 12 million emails are hard to ignore. If you find the data interesting, I recommend checking out Dean’s full post on the email outreach study, as there’s plenty more to sort through. But start with the six we’ve highlighted: These few small considerations can make a big difference when it comes to driving responses.

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