Outbound Email Sequence Tips: 13 Tips to Write the Perfect Email Cadence
This article explains how to think about writing your sales emails, plus a simple step-by-step process at the end.
What You Should Know About Outbound Email
Copywriting bridges the gap between the perspective of the reader--where they are mentally--and the objective of your efforts--what you want them to do.
Outbound emails are extreme exercises in copywriting. Always keep in mind your objective for the email and the perspective of the reader.
With outbound email, it is unlikely that every email will be read in its entirety. In fact, it's unlikely any single email will be read in its entirety, so each one should be a winner with a complete message.
Because of this, you have to swing for a home run on every email by keeping the single concept clear, including enough information in a short format, and tying it all together with a strong CTA.
These are not marketing, lead warming emails that provide content value. These are cold, outbound sales emails. Each email should have the power to convince the reader to take the step you want in the call to action--the objective.
However, you have to remember that you have limited time. People have to crush through their email inbox and get on with their day, so you only have a few seconds to convince them to take a step.
That means your email needs to be short--no more than 3-4 "chunks" of information like a sentence or short paragraph.
The email also needs to stick to one core idea so that it is not confusing. The core idea should be one of the benefits of using your offering. Your benefits should be so perfectly communicated that a single one can accomplish the goal.
In this article, we'll clarify:
- How to think about the perspective you'll write for
- How to determine the objective of your email
- How to build up enough momentum to persuade the reader to take action
- How to use copywriting and persuasive frameworks in your writing
- Tips for email copywriting in general
- A step-by-step process to put all this into practice
Know your reader, put yourself in their shoes. See clearly what they want and what they don't want.
When you write, and when you proof your email copy, take the time to put yourself in the reader's perspective and read each email as if you were the person you're trying to convince.
If you can successfully internalize the perspective of the reader, you'll be able to feel yourself disconnecting or reaching for the delete key at points when your copy is weak.
Here are some tips for understanding your reader's perspective.
2. Don't write about yourself
If you only take one thing from this entire guide, it should be that you are writing for someone else. Put yourself in their perspective.
Do they care that your company name is "XYZ Blah Blah" and you've been in business for 20 years? Of course not!
They care about what you can do for them or why they should delete your email. Every brain in every person crushing through their inbox is looking for the first reason they can tap the delete key and make your message vanish.
So, put yourself in the seat of the person you're writing for and be absolutely, brutally concerned about every word and concept, especially those in the beginning.
You have about 3 seconds to hook a prospect on your email before it gets trashed, so the first words have to be so relevant that they make your reader excited.
Instead of talking about yourself, like that annoying guy at a backyard BBQ, talk about the benefits your reader will get from using your product or service.
3. Use Benefits, Not Features
Benefits are the result of your product or service features being used in the reader's unique situation.
Make a list of the features of your offering, imagine your ideal customer using them, and then write down the benefits that person will get from them. Those are your talking points.
Benefit - something that produces good or helpful results or effects or that promotes well-being (Merriam-Webster)
4. Instead of Talking About Yourself, Build Credibility with Social Proof and Statistics
There's a universe of difference between my telling you:
"This article is the best outbound sales email writing article in the world"
"After reading this article, salespeople with little copywriting experience saw a 67% increase in their email conversions"
Social proof, whether a testimonial from an un-incentivized third party or a general concept shared by experts, is extremely powerful for increasing the perceived authority, or position, of your offering in the mind of a reader. Statistics and studies have the same effect.
Empty stats and claims, like "we've been in business for 20 years" or "we're the best," actually cause a reflex action known as *delete*.
Another way to hook the reader, build credibility, and show social proof all at once is known as a story. If you have a story you can tell that is compelling, brief, and exciting, use it! Use it first thing in the email. Stories are the most powerful tools words can create.
5. Know Your Reader
Relevancy to the reader is everything. Hopefully, your segmenting, targeting, and buyer personas are well enough understood that you know exactly what is going on in your prospects mind and can speak to it.
If I'm an IT manager and I see an email selling design services--*delete*--I don't care. However, if I'm an IT manager and I see an email about data replication software that cannot possibly ever crash even in the apocalypse, I might be interested. I'll definitely be interested if my data replication software crashed that morning and caused me pain.
Remember, copy bridges a gap between where your reader is and where you want them to go.
If you are targeting the right people, that gap should be relatively small and you should write as if the reader already wants what you're offering.
Your job is just to make them think about how great it will be when they take the step you want them to take.
Now that you know how to think about the perspective of your outbound email writing, you have to carefully consider why you're writing.
Why you're writing and sending these emails is the most important thing to get right, it is the goal or objective of your emails.
Do you want people to buy, sign up for a demo, reply with a question? What you decide is the goal of your email should take into consideration the distance and nature of the gap between where your reader is and where you ultimately want them to go.
For example, imagine your reader is currently walking and taking public transport everywhere she goes and you want to ultimately sell her a car. If you start by talking about which model of car is better than other cars, then your message will fall flat and your email will be deleted. She doesn't care about cars. The gap is too big.
You have to start by convincing her of the pride, joy, and efficiency of driving (these are social, emotional, and functional implications we'll discuss later). So, the objective of your emails might be to get her to sign up for a test drive. You can make it sound fun, easy, and risk-free.
However, if your reader just wrecked her car and needs to buy a new one right away, your email will need to convince her to buy the car you're selling instead of other cars that she could buy.
7. Make your call to action crystal clear
Make sure your call-to-action is crystal clear and impossible to resist.
Try to make the reader feel like they will miss out if they do not agree to your requested action. Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) is a powerful motivator.
The reason to take the step you request in your call-to-action should seem like "a no-brainer," and the more painful you can make it seem to refuse taking that step the better.
8. Build the Case for Your CTA with Psychology
You can help create mental momentum and destroy resistance for your CTA by making an outrageous guarantee, if you have one for your offering.
Think about constantly building the perceived value of your offer, while removing any potential pain or barriers that might be associated with following your call to action.
Also, try to use the word "because" when you're building the case for your call to action or justifying the reasons to fear missing out.
The human brain is constantly searching for a reason to pursue or ignore stimuli by filling in a subconscious "because" blank. Fill that blank for your reader by using the trigger word "because." This has been proven in countless studies to have a huge impact on persuasion, as detailed in Robert Cialdini's Influence.
Don't be afraid to ask for or even demand things. Just do it politely. The difference between pushy and persistent is politeness.
9. Copywriting Frameworks to Consider
Here are a few copywriting frameworks to help you think about the journey you'll take your readers on in every email.
This is the most important framework, and it applies to every email you craft. Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.
Attention--you have to get this first. This should be the goal of your subject line and first sentence.Interest--you have to connect with the reader and build interest. Use a story, stat, or testimonial. Say something controversial but true. Think about building momentum for the end--the call to action. This should be the goal of the middle of your email.Desire--as you build interest, you should start to encourage desire for your offering. You can turn interest into desire by hitting home with your benefits in such a way that the reader feels her life would improve by having your offering. You can also create desire by adding a concept of scarcity--such as "we're only making this offer to 20 new clients because that's all we can handle this year"--or using social proof--such as "72 out of the 100 Fortune 100 companies use our technology." This should be the final third of your email body.Action--this is the CTA. Make it clear and simple, make it relevant, make it personal, and if you've successfully built up your offering in the first three section, you'll succeed.
This is a marketing framework, but it is useful for thinking about the perspective of your reader. There are three basic stages to every customer's buying journey: Awareness, Consideration, Decision.
The journey to every decision starts with awareness of the problem, need, or improvement that could be made.
The aware person then moves on to consideration of the possible solutions or improvements--you and your competition, or doing nothing about it at all.
Finally, they arrive at the time of making a decision.
You should consider where your readers are in the ACD timeline when thinking about their perspective.
Outbound emails are best used in the consideration stage--when you should discuss your advantages over other options--and decision stage--when you should use social proof and outrageous guarantees to remove any doubts the customer might come up with.
A cold email at the awareness stage can also work well, however, you would want to write it with the goal of making the reader aware of the as-yet-unknown problem you can solve or improvement you can deliver. Build the problem or improvement up but remember that the reader will have to pass through the next two stages before making a purchase decision and you want to stay with them. Make the objective of your email something that will encourage them to enter the consideration stage with your offering strongly positioned in their minds.
This is a high-end sales psychology that works well for any persuasive writing. The core concept is to build up a problem in the reader's mind and also build up your solution. You'll want to guide your readers through these steps:
Situation--your customer's unique situation and any problems that could be solved or improvements that could be madeProblem--a specific problem you can solve and the details of that problem, or the problem of not taking advantage of an improvement that could be realized.Implication--the implications of letting the situation remain as is, how it will affect people around the reader, how it will affect the reader personally, what it will mean for the company, and so on. Remember, build up the perceived problem!Need-Payoff--the results of using your offering to solve the problem or make the improvement and what that would mean personally to everyone involved. You want to paint a happy picture in stark contrast to the negative implications you previously mentioned.
It's best to move through the situation and problem briefly to connect with the reader, then bounce back and forth between the implication and need-payoff points to simultaneously build up the negative implication of not heeding your CTA and the positive implication of following your CTA. This push-pull is highly effective.
10. Social, Emotional, Functional
Throughout all of your message crafting, consider and speak to the social, emotional, and functional implications to the reader in every message. If you can hit on all three you'll have created a convincing argument.
For example, if we're trying to convince someone that using a specialized social media marketing agency will boost their business, we would discuss the social, emotional, and functional results from the problems of not using our agency as well as the benefits that could be had by using it.
"If your social media strategy is sub-par, your company is vulnerable to negative reviews (social), your customers might feel you're out of touch (emotional), and your sales may dry up over time as people research you on social media and decide to pass on your offering (functional). However, with fast responses and strategic message control from AgencyX, the value you'll provide on social will position you as an authority (social), your customers will be delighted with your information and responses (emotional), and sales will grow as people are attracted through your top-of-funnel social processes (functional).
11. Subject Line
The most important part of your email is the subject line, because if it doesn't work, nothing else gets read. The subject line should generate electrified attention, stand out in the monochromatic, plain-text world of inbox subject lines, and be relevant to the information in the rest of the email.
Oh, and it cannot be spammy with caps and symbols. Emails with those kinds of subject lines are removed by spam bots before they even have a chance to embarrass you by being seen. Subject lines should also be short, because not much text fits on the subject line preview in an inbox.
Often, it's best to write your email first, or at least know the single, clear point and CTA you want to make, and then write out 5 or 6 possible subject lines that fit the characteristics in the first paragraph of this section.
After writing a handful of subject lines, read through them. One should stand out above the rest, and you should feel a tug somewhere in your stomach when you read it.
12. Test, Test, Test
Even with all the considerations above, you're relying on best practices and feelings. There are always improvements that can be made, always lessons to be learned.
Advertising tycoon David Ogilvy said, "Never stop testing and your copy will never stop improving."
Test subject lines, then test body copy.
13. The Best Words
Use exciting words and visual metaphors.
"Our software instantly connects with your entire stack and provides insights" doesn't have the mental smack that "Our software reaches through your entire stack like a digital ghost octopus, understanding and showing all of its connections on a beautiful dashboard."
Ok, maybe that wasn't the best metaphor but you get the point.
"You'll be happy with the marketing materials we produce" is boring. "Warning: you may experience extreme ecstatic states and run around the office screaming 'Yaasss!' when you see what we make for you" is a lot more interesting and mentally stimulating.
In general, think like a writer about words. Blurted > said. Dominated > won. Genius > smart. The catch to all this is that creative words are like dance moves, if you don't know them well, don't use them in public.
Using striking words does not mean trying to sound smart with jargon. Outbound emails need to be fast, simple, and easy--remember?
Don't write as if you're introducing a Victorian-era scientist to a bunch of ivy league deans. Write like you would speak, or better, write like the reader would speak.
Forget the red marks from your middle school English teacher. It doesn't matter if your writing is grammatically good, it only matters that your writer connects with the reader and accomplishes the goal.
On that note, you should know your reader's industry and what words or abbreviations will be considered normal versus those that would be seen as pretentious and exhausting.
Finally, don't think about the pink elephant. See how powerful words are? You thought about a pink elephant, and I'm your Jedi master. Now imagine being able to do that with your readers. That's right, imagine. Imagine is a powerful concept and trigger word you can and should use to get your readers to picture all the good or bad things they'll get, miss out on, and experience as a result of how they decide to act on your offering. Use it.
Step-by-step outbound email writing process
a. Make a list of all your reader's pain points, hopes, dreams, and fears. What are they motivated away from? What are they motivated toward?
b. Write down all the points.Write down all the features of your offering and then imagine an ideal customer using them. The good things that happen from those scenarios are the benefits--write those down.
c. Now connect and combine the pain points and desires of your reader with the benefits that could alleviate those pains and fulfill those desires. Now you have ideas for your messages.
d. Take the most powerful messages and expand them into one email each that starts with an enticing thought, a hard-hitting fact, or an interesting story. Think AIDA.
e. Proof the email from the perspective of the reader and remove or rework anything that isn't electrifying and momentum-building.
f. Check your CTA, is it clear and simple? Is the gap between your reader's perspective and the objective you want them to reach too far?
g. Now write a handful of powerful subject lines and pick the winner.
h. Send, review, change, test, repeat--using the best practices in this guide
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