How Reply helped entrepreneur Adrian Tan get open rates of 94%

The Resource Group comprises of a team of passionate corporate specialists that possess extensive experience in system implementation and human capital development targeted at business growth acceleration.
Adrian Tan
Adrian Tan
Co-founder at the Resource Group
Adrian is a strong advocate and an ambassador for innovation and tech in HR. He was named the HR Entrepreneur of the Year by SHRI in 2013 and enjoys writing about HR Tech.

I’m the co-founder and director of a HR consultancy business, The Resource Group. We help companies looking to transform and future-proof their HR practices, from recruitment to common band to performance management. Our target market is primarily small medium enterprises (SMEs) with between 20 and 100 employees, based in Singapore.

Before that, back in 2016, I joined a startup called Hacker Trail, a tech recruitment platform. I was the only person in business development, so I needed a way to scale up my outreach to my target audience. I needed some technological support.

That’s when Reply came into the picture.

I particularly liked the way I could create different pre-recorded email scripts and have them sent out automatically. Most importantly, if the recipient replied, the entire chain would stop. That way it felt very natural to the recipient.

Using Reply in other businesses

I brought Reply to many other businesses over the years. Along with The Resource Group, I’m also the co-founder of a resumé optimization platform, Career Hero. There we’ve been able to use Reply to reach out to a completely different target audience.

Around the same time, I started a personal blog where I write a lot about HR technology as well as interview CEOs and founders. I realized I was spending a lot of time sending out the same set of questions and it was a pain reminding myself to send them chaser after chaser after chaser.

So, I put everything together into a Reply campaign.

Now, every time I get confirmation from a new founder or new CEO that they’re interested in being interviewed for the blog, I simply add their email address and first name into the campaign. Everything else is automated.

I’ve also set up an integration with Zapier, so anyone who replies to my emails goes via Zapier into my MailChimp list and is automatically subscribed to my email.

Launching new products and services

For my main business, we’re mainly using Reply to drive awareness about new products and services. For instance, we recently launched a new service line where we help companies implement flexible working arrangements and formalize those policies.

To promote this we put together another Reply campaign to reach out to our existing mailing list as well as a new set of customers. Instead of just blasting it out through MailChimp, by using Reply we’re able to put in a natural drip sequence. With Reply, those drips seem very natural because once any of our recipients reply, the whole sequence automatically stops.

Once you've set up a campaign in Reply, you can set it and forget it. All you have to do is add new people to the campaign and Reply does the rest, letting you move on to other tasks. Because of the size of the business I'm running right now, Reply helps us prioritize our time and spend it more diligently and strategically.

The metrics also help us understand more about who’s opened our emails. I've seen times where someone might open up the same email 20 times but hasn’t replied to me. In those instances, I’ll find another way to reach out to them. If I have their number I might send them an SMS or a Whatsapp instead and check in with them. I’ll say something like: “You’ve opened your email 20 times, so what's going on? Are you interested? Could we have a discussion?”

Writing cold emails that get opened and read

I’ve been sending cold emails for many years and, through trial and error, I’ve picked up certain strategies to get better conversions.

In one of my previous jobs, we were commisioned by the Singapore Government to find unemployed citizens placements and get them back into the workforce. We’d use cold email to reach out to as many employers as possible. When we first reached out to them, it was a typical introduction to the company brochure.

The conversion rate was very bad.

So we changed the subject line. We turned it into a 'quick question.' Simple as that. Then we’d start our pitch and ask them our quick question: was this job posting still open or not? If so, we had someone who would be keen to take a look.

It was a very short email, but I think the key reason for the email’s high conversion rate was the subject line. In today’s world, if you leave your emails and don’t check them for a few days, when you open up your inbox you have a few hundred emails. You then have a choice: either live with it or try to filter through them as quick as you can.

How Reply helped entrepreneur Adrian Tan get open rates of 94% screenshot 1

If you say something like ‘quick question,’ that tells them this is something they can tackle very quickly. Why not open this message first?

I’ve also tried a few hacks to make each email feel like something I personally sent out. For instance, in my signature, I’ve deliberately included “Sent From My iPhone.” Initially, I didn't have that and just left the default unsubscribe link at the bottom of my emails. However, savvy people see this and realize it’s been sent by some kind of email marketing software, so they tend to ignore the email. But if I also include “Sent From My iPhone,” that tends to get around that.

Editor’s note: Reply offers three different options for prospects to opt-out of further emails, including via plain text, so your email can comply with legislation without having a massive unsubscribe link.

I also subscribe to Reply’s newsletter, where I pick up plenty of other cold email tips.

The results?

Recently our company was appointed a marketing partner for an event company from India. They're bringing an event over to Singapore and we’re functioning as their marketing. One of the key campaigns we created was reaching out to HR tech startups in Singapore and the surrounding region to introduce ourselves, let them know about the event and drive their interest to sponsor or exhibit at the event.

Following these strategies and using Reply, our open rate is 94 percent and the reply rate is 66 percent.

Building a personal brand.

Honestly, I wouldn't say I ever had the intention of building a personal brand. I became very interested in writing around 2005 when I jumped onto Blogger, back in the Blogspot era. At that point I was just writing random nonsense, letting people know what I had for lunch, that kind of thing. Things that nobody would want to read.

Along the way, however, things became more professional. I was running a recruitment agency back then, so I started writing about recruiting staff. Then I dovetailed into career management. I grew more focused and eventually I settled on writing about HR technology. Even today, no one else is writing comprehensively about HR tech, especially in Singapore. Because of that, I can easily rank high on Google.

Instead of trying to compete with everyone, look for an open space, somewhere you can easily get a high ranking in the search results.

When you’re writing and putting up all those articles it’s important to add in the element of personal opinion. Today there’s an abundance of information but a lack of opinions. Many people tend to shy away from offering opinions because they fear it will backfire. Some people may not like your opinion and you may get flamed online.

I’ve been flamed. When it happened to me the first time I was depressed for the entire day. I spent my time trying to write the perfect retort, to burn the writer. I did manage to come up with something, but it killed my entire day. I realized I shouldn't have wasted my whole day just worrying.

From that point on, I realized there was no point trying to put up something that would please everyone. If you want to please everyone, go and sell ice cream. Certainly, don't do any writing. Having an opinion helps people get insights into the abundance of information out there, and will help build your personal brand.

I tried experimenting with other email automation software, but none of them were as user-friendly as Reply. Nowadays there are just so many different SaaS platforms out there; from a user perspective, we only have so much time to try to get accustomed to something. With all the alternatives, I had to go through a user guide, onboarding, training, etc. I just don't have time for that. To me, using Reply is like the first time I used an iPhone. You just switch it on and you know how to use it.

That’s why I’m still using Reply today.

To learn more about Adrian and stay up-to-date on the latest in HR technology, check out his personal blog.

To find out how Reply can help you promote your business or build your personal brand, sign up for a 14-day free trial today.