Expert Interview Series: Simon MacTaggart of Growth Copy on Writing Cold Email Campaigns That Get Results

Expert Interview Series: notebook, pencil and microphone

Here we go with an Expert Interview Series to ask the most experienced influencers in every niche questions you have always wanted to be answered. And the first interviewee is Simon MacTaggart of Growth Copy covering topics like composing a perfect cold email copy, common mistakes while writing it and things every person that deals with it should know.

You’ve got quite a copywriting background, tell us a bit about how you got started and where you’ve worked?

I started out studying copywriting and advertising strategy at the UK’s Falmouth College of Arts, back in the 90s. One the UK’s three leading programs for creative advertising, which was staffed by some wonderful tutors, including Alastair Crompton (author of The Copy Book and The Craft of Copywriting), and Alice Kavounas Taylor (author of Strategic Thinking For Advertising Creatives).

After graduating from Falmouth, I started out at one of London’s great ad agencies of the time, BMP DDB. We had a small office up the corridor from legendary copywriter (and creative director), John Webster. John’s generosity, patience and guidance played a huge part in shaping my early copywriting skills.

After BMP DDP, I was fortunate to work at many great ad agencies including Wieden+Kennedy, Grey, and St Luke’s.

And then after ten years of this, I fancied a change from the traditional ad agency set up, and got more and more involved with digital direct response copywriting and content creation – for a wide range of tech focused B2B and B2B2C businesses.

Do you have a favourite ad you created during your ad agency copywriter days?

I guess the Nike women’s ‘Snack’ ad is one of my favourites. Created around fifteen years ago, while at Wieden+Kennedy. I think it still works well today, because it’s born out of an insight – as with all good copywriting – that resonates with the target audience.

Nike ad: I only snack on fruit

And now Growth Copy, tell us who it’s for, what it does and why you started it?

Growth Copy is the culmination of the last two decades strategy and copywriting experience.

We’re a strategically led, persuasive copy and content blog and consultancy – staffed by a small team of digital copywriting and content writing pros, specialized in helping fast-growth B2B and B2B2C tech companies.

Across all business and consumer markets the one experiencing an unprecedented level of innovation, has got to be the B2B and B2B2C tech space.

Yet, while there are tens of thousands of exciting new tech businesses creating innovative tools and products, their messaging often lacks deep strategic insight and as a consequence is often generic and unconvincing.

This is the problem Growth Copy fixes by ensuring our clients messaging – including cold email sales campaigns, inbound email marketing campaigns, web pages and content pieces – are based on deep strategic insight and persuasive copywriting that differentiates, and resonates with the target audience.

Growth Copy Logo

Are there similarities between creating a traditional advertising campaign and a cold email template campaign?

There absolutely should be!

But for most cold email campaigns that I’ve seen, created internally by businesses – the strategic or planning process that is the foundation of all great messaging seems to be missing.

And this usually results in messaging that doesn’t resonate and achieves poor response rates.

The single most important document in an ad agency is the creative brief, a strategic plan. And there’s usually a whole department – the Planning Dept – in an agency that’s responsible for creating this, before handing it over to a creative team consisting of a copywriter and art director who will then use this to help create the messaging and supporting imagery.

This strategic plan usually starts with eleven or so questions…

  • Product/Service: What, precisely, is your advertising selling?
  • Objective: What must your advertising achieve?
  • Target Market: Who is the primary focus of your advertising?
  • Strategy: How will your advertising achieve your objective?
  • Proposition: What’s the ‘hook’ that will attract the target market?
  • Support: Why does the product interest this target market?
  • Competition: Who else is fighting for your target market’s attention in this area?
  • Mandatory Elements: What has to appear in the advertising?
  • Tone of voice: Describe the campaigns character in – maximum – three adjectives?
  • Desired audience response: What do you want your target audience to do, feel or think? (As a result of this advertising)
  • Media Requirements: Where will the advertising appear?

The insights and pain points that are uncovered during this planning question process are the key to creating compelling messaging that resonates with a target audience.

While some of these ad planning questions don’t apply or can be replaced with more relevant questions for cold email – the general concept of starting with a series of strategic planning questions, applies to creating a cold email campaign, an inbound autoresponder campaign, web page copy, content pieces or an ad campaign.
And at Growth Copy we’ve developed our own set of strategic planning questions for each channel we provide copywriting services for.

You’ve just published The Ultimate Cold Email Copy Mistakes Checklist, tell us about it?

I’ve seen quite a few list type articles on various B2B tech focused blogs with titles such as; ‘Top 6 Cold Email Mistakes Made By SaaS Companies’ or ‘12 Cold Email Mistakes Sales Development Reps Need to Avoid’, and while these content pieces can be useful, the problem is that they often convey that if the featured mistakes are avoided, then the writer can be sure to have created a good email campaign that will get results.

When, in truth there are so many more copywriting mistakes than these, that should be avoided, but this wouldn’t comfortably fit into a typical list type post.

So we’ve analysed pretty much every potential copywriting mistake and most importantly, which ones most or uniquely apply to cold email, and we’ve created a checklist of 75 cold email copy mistakes to avoid.

Which we give away, free!

The Ultimate Cold Email Copy Mistakes Checklist Cover

Ok, 75 cold email copy mistakes – which is the biggest one?

Without doubt, the number one, cold email copy mistake has got to be the copying of another company’s cold email templates vertibatum.

It’s so widespread it’s probably the number one cause of poor response rates and it’s easy to understand why the ‘free cold email template’ type content that is everywhere is so popular – it makes the promise of an immediate gain without the hassle or work of creating a bespoke email campaign, unique to a business and a sub-set of their target audience.

Third party cold email templates are like the weight loss pill offering immediate weight loss, without the hassle of meal and exercise planning.

And for businesses who don’t have strategic messaging talent internally, or know who to go to for this, I can see why this might initially appear to make sense.

So why create a cold email campaign – why not just send a single email to a prospect?

A cold email campaign should have a series of email templates that convey a different value proposition, address a different prospect pain point and add additional value in each email. Only then are you likely to discover what resonates the most.

Plus, we’re all so super busy, something might pop up in our inbox that we don’t have time for, but given the right day, we might take the time to open and respond.

A good email campaign can do this, and some. Where’s a single cold email to a prospect is just leaving business on the table for a more strategic focused and persistent competitor.

Simon MacTaggart

Simon MacTaggart

I know from previous chats, you’re not a fan of clients creating their own cold email campaigns – vested interest aside – can you expand on you’re thinking here?

Well, of course I’m a bit biased here :).

But, that aside most companies just don’t have the specialized talent in-house, with deep strategic planning or persuasive copywriting domain experience.

And while that is important, equally important is ability to look at the communication challenges independent of the client’s day-to-day operations and internal pressures.

It’s no different with consumer marketing communication. Look at one of the ad agencies where I used to be a copywriter – Wieden+Kennedy. They’ve been Nike’s ad agency of choice since the birth of Nike. Co Founder, Dan Wieden wrote the ‘Just Do It’ tagline back in the day.

And Nike are obviously massive now, so they could easily afford to replace Wieden+Kennedy and bring their whole communication in-house. But they don’t and probably never will.

Because Nike appreciate that the value of the strategic insights that they get from a talented third party agency like Wieden+Kennedy – whose staff are exposed to working on multiple client accounts – can not be matched by an equally talented internal team.

And you’re a big advocate for ensuring cold email works as part of an integrated messaging package that includes webpages, landing pages, blog posts and inbound email – can you tell us more about this?

Creating cold emails that get opened and resonate with a prospect is just part of the job.

To achieve maximum results, every piece of external written communication – web pages, content pieces – must be on point.

This is best demonstrated if we imagine for a moment a typical cold email prospect’s journey before possibly responding:

  • Prospect sees the cold email subject line which addresses a concern they have or offers a promise of relevant value – the prospects opens the email.
  • Prospect now reads the start of the email. The salutation addresses the prospect correctly and the opening sentence builds on the value conveyed in the subject line – the prospect scans down to read the value proposition in the email body.
  • Prospect now reads the body of the email and the value proposition resonates – the prospect now scans to the call-to-action.
  • Prospect now reads the call-to-action. The call-to-action is singular and a small ask considering the potential value.

So far, so good. And for many prospects that’s enough (it’s already more than most cold emails will achieve), so they will respond at this stage – agreeing to call or perhaps by giving a referral.

But for just as many, before they respond… the prospect is going to check out the sender’s web pages and content, and ask if the messaging is consistent with the cold email promise.

And only then, if every piece of the sender’s messaging is on point, will the prospect respond.

Lastly for sales leaders and founders reading this who would like their cold emails done for them by Growth Copy – what should they do?

Well, they should certainly get in touch! And if they’re Reply customers, then they should perhaps speak with their Reply customer success manager first, as we’ve just launched an exclusive Reply user offer, for Growth Copy’s done-for-you, Cold Email Development Campaign service.

You can get your FREE copy of Growth Copy’s The Ultimate Cold Email Copy Mistakes Checklist here.

Simon MacTaggart

Simon MacTaggart

Founder & Writer-in-Chief at Growth Copy

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