Why Aren’t My Emails Generating Any Response?

You know you’ve got a great product or service, one that can change the world (or at the very least make it a little easier for your customers). Yet when you email your prospects, you hear nothing. What gives? How come some people get crazy high reply rates while all you’re getting is digital tumbleweed?

I’m an SDR at Reply, helping fill our sales funnel with qualified leads and booking meetings. We see great results from our cold emails, with reply rates of over 25%. If you’d like to reach more clients and boost your response rate, check out these 9 reasons your emails might be failing.


You have the wrong contacts on your list

Every email campaign starts with your list, the people you’re reaching out to. It can be tempting to email everyone all about your amazing, life-changing service, but that’s a surefire way to a low response rate. Instead, an effective campaign starts with an ideal customer profile.

Bonus: Find out the biggest mistakes people make creating buyer personas.

Get started by talking to your marketing team about your ideal customer. Find out what kind of companies they are, how many employees they have, their location, etc. For example, at Reply, our ideal customers are SaaS companies with 1-200 employees, in the US and Europe.

Once you’ve found your ideal company, you then want to drill down and find the ideal contacts at the company. Who will use your service? What’s their job title? For a smaller company, this might mean reaching out to the CEO. You also need to think about who makes the buying decisions.

In my experience, when a company has more than 50 employees, there’ll be someone higher up you need to speak to. So, in our outreach, we’ll include them, as well as the end user.

Once you have a clear picture of what your customer looks like, it’s time to build your list. At Reply we look for accounts manually, using tools like Angellist and LinkedIn Sales Navigator, to find right people.

You can also filter databases using your ideal criteria.

Action: Review your contact list to make sure all the leads match your ideal customer profile, for users and decision makers.


You’re using the wrong email address

If you’re going to get a response, you have to use the right email address. Yes, it sounds obvious, but you’ll be amazed how many campaigns I see with bounce rates of 25% or higher. Usually, it’s a result of buying outdated lists of leads (more on that later).

When you’re looking at your list, you need to be confident that those addresses won’t bounce. Personally, that means aiming for a bounce rate of 5% or lower.

To find the right email address, I use Name2Email, which generates common address patterns for my leads. You can then use a tool like Sales Navigator to confirm which emails are right.

What about general email addresses, like [email protected] or [email protected]? Traditionally, people avoid these kinds of addresses. But, since GDPR, I’ve noticed a lot of salespeople saying these are better as they aren’t private, personal addresses. So don’t rule them out.

Action: Manually check to see your email addresses are still valid


Low-quality contact lists

Closely related to using out-of-date emails, lots of people end up with outdated contact lists.

This is usually because they’ve used third party lead databases, or bought their lists from a shady outfit. It might seem like an easy way to build up a contact list, but if the list isn’t up-to-date, it might hurt your campaign more than it helps.

For example, if some of the fields are low quality or outdated you can end up sending something like “Hi john” (with that lowercase first letter) or “Opportunity for Google Inc” (thanks to incorrect company info).

How likely do you think a prospect is going to reply after receiving an email like that?

It’s clear your message is automated and you’re more likely to get flagged as spam than get any kind of positive reply.

I actually tried this out to see which way is better and purchased a 5,000 contact lead list. 50% of the leads were wrong, with outdated or incorrect information. Only half of those leads were any good.

I get why this happens. Going through a thousand names to check all the details are correct is a difficult and time-consuming job. Unfortunately, if you’ve bought your list that’s exactly what you need to do. You need to go through those entries manually, look for mistakes in company names, first/last names, and all those other fields.

To make sure this isn’t a problem in the first place, I recommend building your list manually or outsourcing the task to a reputable company.

Action: Manually review your lists for quality, or better yet build them yourself.


Wrong subject line

Ah, subject lines. They may be the shortest part of your email, but they’re also the most important. They’re the first thing your prospects will see, and will help them decide whether to open your email or send it straight to the trash.

Still, I see plenty of subject lines that are too long, too short, or just plain too salesy. There’s a science around writing a great subject line, and it’s important you learn it.

Thankfully there’s a lot of articles on the subject for you to teach yourself. However, if you only do one thing, make sure you avoid using spammy words.

Your prospect’s email provider will likely block the email from ever reaching them, and it’ll hurt your email reputation. Even if it does somehow make it through to the prospect’s inbox, it’s unlikely they’ll ever read it. So always avoid spammy words like Opportunity, Free, Ultimate, etc.

When it comes to the ideal subject line length, I’ve found 3-5 words performs best, so try to stick to that.

Action: Make your subject line short and clear for best results


Using a bad email template

Now, we’ll get to the actual email. There’s a whole bunch of problems I regularly see people make here:

  • The email’s too long. People are busy, and if it looks like an essay they’ll likely save themselves the trouble of reading and delete it.
  • It’s too salesy. People don’t like to be sold to. We tend to skip ads if we can, and avoid salespeople if possible. If your email sounds like a desperate used car salesman, people won’t hang around.
  • There’s no call to action. Once people get to the end of your email, you need to tell them what to do next. If there are no links or clear actions to take, they won’t do anything except move onto the next email.
  • It’s poorly formatted. Even if the content is great, if it doesn’t look great people will assume it’s not. That means making sure it’s properly laid out, with no glaring spelling mistakes.
  • It’s the wrong pitch. The email has to be relevant to your prospect. If you’re pitching a product or service that doesn’t help them in some way, you’re both wasting your time.

I’ve made some of these mistakes myself. Back when I started working as an SDR, in my second week, I collected a list of 200 leads. I pushed all of them to our sales automation tool and ran the campaign. And after a couple of minutes, I noticed all my emails had a massive mistake: All of them started with “Hi .” It turned out the merge fields from my CSV file weren’t correctly uploaded to the sales automation tool!

It was my first and biggest mistake, but it taught me a valuable lesson. Always check your email thoroughly before hitting Send.

At Reply, we build new templates for each campaign. We keep a collection of high performing openings, pitches, closings, etc. We then pick and choose the best ones for the specific campaign.

There are two types of emails: Aggressive emails go straight to the sale: ‘Would you like to buy our product?’

On the other hand, I prefer to use Neutral emails. After finding a prospect, I’ll typically send an email a little like this: ‘Recently I was going through AngelList and I saw your company. I really like your product idea! I wanted to ask, do you use email automation?’

Often I’ll get replies thanking me for my email and we’re able to start a conversation.

Once you’re happy with your template, share it with someone in your target profile. For example, if you’re emailing CEOs or sales managers, get feedback on your email from your CEO or sales manager.

Action: Make sure your template is complete, correct, and tested with your target market.


Zero Personalization

The biggest and most important problem I see is people using a 0% personalized template. Maybe they’ll go as far as using a variable like a prospect’s name and/or job title, but that’s the limit.

Let’s be clear. Everyone knows B2B companies use automation software to personalize that kind of thing. It simply doesn’t have the same impact anymore. To be effective, personalization has to go much further.

At Reply, we use several variables in our templates. For example, we use personalized URLs, so the links they click on are customised to them and their company. As an added benefit, sign-up forms on the site are already filled in with their information, saving them time and increasing the chance of a successful sign-up.


For some of our follow-up emails we also use weather APIs to customise the email to the weather where they are, usually in a humorous way: “Hey, you’ve probably gotten a lot of emails like this, have you checked mine? BTW, I checked and it’s going to be 14 degrees and raining in London tomorrow, so remember your umbrella!”

Action: Make your emails truly personal to your prospects with custom URLs and other variables.


Forgetting to follow up

Following up is crucial for a campaign to succeed. I find that just 3-4 follow up emails will dramatically increase reply rates.

Rather than sending a new email, we keep all the follow-ups in the same thread as the original email. I’ve heard that CEOs in computer software companies get over 50 new emails every day, so I don’t want to fill their inbox with more emails than necessary.

Additionally, I want them to be able to see my original email.

My strategy is to encourage them to read that first email if they haven’t already: ‘Have you seen my previous email? I think Reply could help with your email automation…’ I’m still not trying to sell in my follow-ups. Rather I’m reminding them of the first email.

Having all the follow-ups in the same thread helps, as the original email is right there and they don’t have to go searching for it.

All the rules for email templates apply just as much to the follow-ups as to the original, so make sure they’re not too long, but rather correctly formatted and personalized.

Action: Follow up with anyone who doesn’t respond to your original email at least 3-4 times.


Sending emails at the wrong time

Just because you can send emails at any time, it doesn’t mean you should. For example, sending your emails on a Monday and Friday, or in the morning or evening could drastically lower your reply rates.


I’ve found, for our prospects, Tuesday/Thursday works best. However, as these times vary by industry, I recommend searching online to see what time works best for your prospects.

If you’re using Reply, you can easily find out the best day. All you have to do is click on the Statistics tab, then view ‘Reply rate by day.’ This will show you at a glance when you should be sending out your emails.

Action: Research your industry to find the best day/time to contact them.


Guessing rather than analyzing

Once you’ve completed the campaign, it’s tempting to think your job is done. However, just as your business is unique, so are your prospects. No matter how good your template is, there’s always a chance there’s another, better, way of doing it.

The solution is to A/B test everything. That includes the contacts, the subject lines, the email templates, the time of day and the number of follow-ups. For every variable, check what results you’re getting and optimize your campaign.

Reply users can take advantage of our A/B testing functionality, allowing you to easily test templates and campaigns to make sure your emails are performing at their best.

I recommend prioritizing any campaigns with a response rate of less than 10%. If you’re already getting 15-20% then I would be wary of messing with something that’s already working well.

Remember, we’re living in fast-changing times. Industries and trends can change overnight, and your top template may stop working. To stay on top of these changes, I recommend re-testing all your campaigns every 6 months.

Action: Set up A/B testing for your key variables, and remember to check the results regularly.


Getting high reply rates can be tricky, but it’s far from impossible. By taking the time to set up your campaign the right way and testing it regularly, you’ll soon find more of your ideal customers.

Interested in learning more about creating an effective outreach campaign? Pick up our free Comprehensive Guide On How To Nail Cold Email, including tried and tested templates you can start using today.

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