Sjors is currently running, and executing marketing and sales activities at pr.co to help global brands execute modern PR strategies.
Our customers vary from rapidly scaling company to global brands.
It all started with The Next Web, a tech publisher and conference organizer here in Amsterdam. They have a lot of journalists, all writing about tech, and so they were receiving pitches every day from companies wanting to be featured.
Most of these press releases came in as these hideous pdfs. Don’t get me wrong, the stories were often amazing, but the documents themselves always looked pretty crappy.
The Next Web quickly realized there was a need for a tool where people could easily upload their press release, add all the videos, all the quotes, everything a journalist might need, all in one great looking package.
Pr.co was born.
We built a team around this idea and started creating these communication tools. We also started to focus on communications teams as well, rather than just journalists.
Right now we’ve created a toolset made up of 5 tools that streamline the process and allow companies to build branded newsrooms, create stunning content, share with media contacts and track the results.
Exploring Outbound OptionsI joined the company as a growth hacker three years ago and grew into the sales director role.
When I started we didn’t do much outbound though. Most of our leads were generated by inbound, and we wanted to see if outbound was a viable channel for us.
We were lucky enough to get connected to Google for Entrepreneurs, a subsidiary of Google that helps promising startups with whatever challenges they’re facing.
Richard van Cleeff, sales leader at Google, mentored me and helped us with our outbound campaigns. He helped us focus on conversions and how we should write our emails, making sure those campaigns were as good as we wanted them to be.
Initially, we tried many different kinds of outreach tools, such as Prospect.io, as well as various Gmail plugins. The main problem was you couldn’t really personalise those emails.
Every campaign of ours has a default template, but we’re a PR company. We work with people in communications, the kind of people who can instantly see if we’re just using a standard template, one that’s being sent out to hundreds of other people.
Like in PR, SMYKM (show me you know me) is also key in outbound sales. You can’t do that with a mass-email and expect good conversion rates.
We don’t believe in the whole spray-and-pray ideology. We wanted to be able to truly personalise those templates to our prospects, to really research them and their niche and use that in our outreach.
The biggest problem was how we wanted to slightly change every email before it goes out. Personalisation is essential, and a standard template with some dynamic variables simply won’t cut it.
The Solution for Personalised EmailsWe couldn’t find any tools that would allow us to do that until we ran into Reply. Their preview functionality offered us exactly what we needed, allowing us to make our emails feel much more personal.
Reply offered us a platform where we’re sure that the right emails go out at the right time. It was an easy choice for us.
One of the other problems we had with previous tools was they didn’t stop sending emails after someone reacted, which was a real nuisance - that never happens with Reply.
Currently, we use Reply for all our cold outreach.
We work niche by niche, looking for every company in that niche that might be interesting for us. From there we find out who the right decision maker is.
In our experience, it’s often not a C-level executive at the company, but just a little bit below. Once we’ve found the right person we then research them and send out emails to try and get a conversation started.
Since we started using Reply we’ve seen open rates as high as 90.9%, and reply rates of up to 69.5%.
An additional benefit is how Reply has helped us scale up our operations. As Sales Director, one of my jobs has been to create a sales playbook.
This maps out our complete sales strategy, including a chapter on outbound outreach, so someone in our company with less experience could follow it.
I’ve mapped out every activity we do, from prospect management through to campaign creation and distribution.
Reply has provided a tool that’s able to scale up those activities to much bigger numbers, because in the end, this is a numbers game.
We still face challenges. One of the things we’ve been struggling with recently is timing.
We get beautiful conversion rates, but very often the timing isn’t right for the companies. We’re currently working on a new experiment to feed business data from vainu.io into our prospect management, so the timing is much better.
How to Write Cold Emails That Get ResultsWhen it comes to cold emails I’ve learned a lot from my customers in the PR and communications industries.
Their number one goal is to create a relationship between themselves and the journalist. You’re never going to get any business from anyone if you don’t connect with them first.
The first thing that really helped us is to work on creating a real connection, certainly before you try to educate someone.
You shouldn’t be telling them they’re doing something wrong, or something they should be doing better, but rather connect first. Nobody likes a know-it-all.
Secondly, remember to personalise! Don’t do a spray-and-pray campaign, sending out mass emails.
That’s not going to work. Use the preview function and show them you know them. Show in your first couple emails you did your research and there’s a valid reason for you to connect with this person.
I learnt this last tip from an article by Steli Efti, the CEO of Close.io. Once you get that first response, the chances are high it’s going to be a NO.
That’s okay. We call that a managed objection phase, which you always have to go through before a sales qualified lead. Be ready to manage that objection, and make sure you smile from ear to ear.
This way you’ll react with more empathy for the person you’re connecting with.
What’s Next for pr.co?PR has a PR problem, and rightly so.
News publishing is filled with reprinted press releases, knee-jerk punditry, advertorial nonsense and “churnalism.”
It’s no longer about the truth, accountability or a real story. There’s little incentive for publishers to even get close to an approximation of the truth.
What’s worse, all PR has a corporate agenda, and it’s not necessarily the truth.
Most of the time PR means corporate spin — not forming a healthy relationship with a target audience based on genuine value exchange.
In the long term we believe it’s possible using technology to fix what’s broken in public relations and bring it back to its original purpose.
This purpose was defined in the early 1900’s as “A management function, which tabulates public attitudes, defines the policies, procedures and interests of an organization...executing a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance” (coined by Ivy Ledbetter Lee).
It’s pr.co’s mission to help organisations tell truthful and inspiring stories that build confidence in the brand.
On a higher level of helping companies, we think the end goal should be to restore the trust between the public and organisations.
A brand's value equals the trust a recipient has in a brand’s ability to deliver promised value. We'd like to fix the PR problem public relations has and that can only be done by restoring the trust between the public, the media and organisations.
We hope you’ll join us on that mission.
If you're interested to learn more about how pr.co can help your company, Sjors'd be more than happy to walk you through the platform. Request a demo today.
To find out how Reply can help you and your team, we’re offering you a 14-day free trial, so you can try out all the features and see if it’s the right solution for you.