The State of Cold Emailing in 2023: What’s Hot and What’s Not [WEBINAR TRANSCRIPT]

The State of Cold Emailing in 2023: What’s Hot and What’s Not [WEBINAR TRANSCRIPT]

At our recent virtual event, the Cold Email Deep Dive, we had a panel discussion dedicated to the state of cold emailing in 2023 – the trending tactics, best practices, common mistakes, and more featuring industry experts:

  • Marcus A. Chan – Sales Coach, Author, 3X Salesforce Top Sales Influencer, and LinkedIn Top Voice
  • Nick Persico – Director of Sales & Marketing at Close
  • Eric Nowoslawski – Growth at Clay, Founder Growth Engine X, Outbound Strategist, and Startup Advisor

In this panel discussion, we’ve touched the following questions:

  1. Are cold emails still effective/relevant in 2023?
  2. Are there any notable trends and shifts in how cold emails are being received and responded to?
  3. What should personalization look like for a compelling cold email that would stand out from the crowd? And what are the best ways to achieve that?
  4. Can you speak to the balance between volume and personalization/customization? What are the reasonable KPIs for cold emailing – balancing the more personalized but fewer, versus the larger scale and less personalized, or is there a middle ground there?
  5. What are some mistakes beginner SDRs are making when writing those cold emails?
  6. What’s the future like for salespeople and what’s the future like when we’re talking about emerging technologies, tools that are changing, or even revolutionizing cold emailing?
  7. Is there a perfect amount of time for a campaign to run before moving on to another, even if it’s performing?

Watch the panel discussion (+ more) on-demand

We’re sharing the transcript of the discussion for those of you who prefer text over video. Enjoy!

1. Are cold emails still effective/relevant in 2023? 

Marcus: I always laugh when someone asks me: ‘Hey, do cold emails still work, do cold calls still work?’. The truth is, most of those strategies do work if you know what you’re doing. If you don’t know what you’re doing then it’s not going to work, that’s just a reality. 

But, you know, I think especially in today’s time, buyers are more skeptical than ever, they’re busier than ever, and they have less time than ever, which means lazy emails frankly won’t cut it. 

I find, generally speaking, when you stick to solid prune email fundamentals that stay in style regardless, those are always going to work. You know, that’s doing stuff like making sure it’s personalized to them, actually relevant to them, simple subject lines. 

Simple, short copy that’s written at a fifth-grade level or lower, not just saying ‘book a meeting’ right here, but actually asking for interest, and relatively short (less than 100 words). Generally speaking, those are going to work really well if you do a couple of those types of fundamentals. They are so effective if you do it right. 

Nick: Yeah, same, I’ll echo the same. If you think about the context in which you’re sending cold emails really matters. You know, let’s use the most common example which is an actual salesperson, whether it be a business development rep or sales development rep (BDR, SDR). I think too often I get emails in my own inbox going directly for what they want, which is going for scheduling a call when they haven’t even asked me what I care about or if this is relevant to me, or they haven’t provided any value to me. 

The cold emails that I respond to – and think about your own email inboxes – are the ones where they provide the actual value. In a SaaS context, in an industry context, that’s usually: Do they provide you with some report, or data, or analysis that is unique, sort of intellectual property, or analysis or data that that company has about that particular industry?

If you send me something like, here is the state of real estate in this particular area, and I can go in, I can look at the data, and I can be better at my job as a result of knowing that information that you gave me – I’m going to give you a call. Maybe not on the first email, it’s going to take a few, so you have to do it in sequence and follow up over time, but that to me is what is most effective and something that I think will always work, regardless of how much noise is coming in. If you just really focus on providing value first, then people will reward you with their time in return, and just make that transaction very genuine and purposeful.

Eric: I think we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think that it was effective in 2023. The only thing that I would just add on because I definitely agree with everyone, is it also just really depends on your offer.

We’ve had offers where we sent one sentence on behalf of our clients, and nothing else, just that one sentence, and it works because they’re in need, they have a need. We didn’t have to personalize, we didn’t have to do anything crazy, but they need what we got. 

One industry I’ve never been able to get this to work, and if, Nick and Marcus, if you have been able to get this work – would love to hear how. We’ve done crazy stuff in cyber security – I was pulling the open port on their website, and then relating that to another company that recently got a hack through that open port, and then we would send them a guide on how to close that port. I didn’t even want a meeting with them, I just wanted some sign of life and nobody cared, it just didn’t work. 

So I think yes, absolutely it works, but it really comes down to what you are selling. Like, cyber security – you need Google ads instead of cold email because it’s just a time thing, not really an email thing. 

Marcus: I think too when you go into that specific industry, they’re also highly skeptical, given the nature of their works. I think when you bolt on the other components that you, gentlemen, have also mentioned as well, there’s a consistency and persistency piece that’s really important too. 

In the perfect world, we all wish we could craft the perfect cold email – they (recipients) immediately say ‘That’s amazing’, you have a 100% response rate, they book the meeting, they close on the first call – that’d be amazing. Sales will be really easy and it also would not pay as much if that was the case. But the reality is that level of persistence and consistency, and being in the omni-channel is so critical as well. 

Your example – cyber security. Besides the first email, maybe it’s a couple of different emails, then you also call, and then you also hit them with Google ads as well, maybe some retargeting, and before you know it – okay, now let’s have a conversation. 


2. Are there any notable trends and shifts in how cold emails are being received and responded to?

Marcus: Well, generally speaking, I work with a lot of sales reps, a lot of teams across the board, and they might sell pretty good open rates, replies have gone down a little bit, responses have gone down, booked meetings have gone down, and it’s definitely the nature of the market as well, where if funds are tighter and they’re entering into a recession or whatever you want to call it, when they feel like it’s not available – they might be less open to respond to the first couple emails. 

And that’s where it’s definitely key to be persistent and to consistently follow up and put them into a sequence and hit them in different channels to get them to actually respond and actually book a meeting. I think also what I see as well is a combination of the nature of the situation – there’s a lot of pressure from sales leaders to the sales teams to crank the activity up. 

And the reality is, as they continue to crank the activity up, what’s going to naturally happen is personalization will go down, the level of research will go down, so you get more of these templated responses. So it’s kind of like the harder you push the activity button on the teams – yeah, they’ll crank the activity up, but it comes at the cost of poorly crafted emails and sequences, which means fewer results. It’s just like a circular effect and it gets worse and worse, and then of course buyers get more upset and more frustrated. 

So you have to find a good balance right there, and it’s hard because I think as a sales professional you obviously want to do your job, you want to perform and book meetings, close deals, but you also have to deal with the pressures of an organization that wants you to hit certain KPIs because they might fire you if you don’t have those KPIs too.

Nick: The biggest thing that we’re still noticing is, as I call it – outrunning the bear, which is not new. When I first started in sales development, I don’t even think I cold-emailed with names, because I bought just a garbage list with no names on it, I just had emails, and I was saying ‘Hey there’ and I still booked meetings. It was crazy. 

You think about trying to do that today – not gonna happen. So I just see the level of the email that somebody would respond to. Even if they need what you have, if it looks like a spam email – they’re just not even going to want to respond to it. So I just see the level of outrunning the bear and what everybody else is doing, is just getting harder and harder.


3. What should personalization look like for a compelling cold email that would stand out from the crowd? And what are the best ways to achieve that?

Marcus: Yeah it’s interesting right, so I think many people define personalization in different ways because I get these cold emails and I’m sure you all get this kind of cold emails which are like, ‘Hey Marcus, saw you went to the University of Oregon, anyways, let’s jump on a call’.

I’m like, that’s not personalization. That’s you looked at my LinkedIn profile for three seconds. I’m like ‘What are you doing?’. 

So, when we think about personalization, it also has to make sense and be relevant to the rest of the flow of the email as well. That’s where I see a lot of people miss the boat where they try to drop some line of personalization but it doesn’t actually make sense. 

For example, I saw a really good email coming through the other day and they’re like ‘Hey Marcus, I got your new Wall Street Journal best-selling book, it was absolutely incredible, I loved this, this, and this!’. I’m like wow, this guy actually took the time to actually get the book, read the book, and say ‘Hey, in order to grow your business which I heard about on this page here, got a couple ideas on the X Y and Z. Would you be open for a conversation?’. I’m like, that’s pretty good. 

He has clearly personalized. He connected the personalization to what his little value proposition was, which I thought was really valuable, so I think it’s really key. Generally speaking, taking that level of time actually makes them feel like this is made for me, they get me. And when you’re able to do that, that’s where it’s going to hit home in a whole new way. 

A couple of other points I think it’s also relevant to bring up as well. You have to find a balance – you don’t want to try too hard, but if you can incorporate humor in your emails, that’s really powerful. It’s such a good tension breaker if you can do it in a way that makes sense, it’s not weird or kind of cringy – it’s gotta make sense. 

And the value piece – when in doubt, I think value is one of the best plays to do when you can provide something that the receiver will say ‘Wow, this report, this video, this training, this X will actually help me be better at my job’. If you can incorporate those types of things, you will have a higher likelihood of actually being able to have them respond, and if you were consistent and persistent with it, you combine all those elements over time, eventually – you’ll probably be able to book that meeting.

Host: A quick follow-up question: If I were to tell you that that email you’ve mentioned was still automated (meaning the person didn’t read the book, but they went so far as to find hyper-personalization outreach solutions), would you still appreciate that if you knew that this is probably automated but through some super advanced stuff? 

Marcus: If I can’t tell it’s automated, I frankly don’t care how they put it together. Whether they went and took my book, transcribed it, ran through chat GBT, got a summary of the five bullet points, I don’t really care how they got about it, but I’m like wow, this person gets me. Ultimately I don’t think people really care about how you got that information, it’s like wow, they’re speaking what’s in my mind. 

They’re passing what I call The Whisper test, which is like I always imagine your cold prospect is at an anniversary dinner with their spouse, it’s a really romantic expensive dinner and there’s like a nice restaurant, and you come up to them, they don’t know who you are, and you whisper in the in their ear ‘hey, I know all about you, I know you have pain point one, two, three, four, five. I know you want these specific things and I have a solution for you.’

If they’re like ‘Whoa, tell me more’, and they rush away from their spouse, that’s a level of depth you want to think about when you’re writing emails. It’s obviously hard to get to that point, but whether they use automation or whatever to get to that point, to me it’s not really relevant, I’m just like – whoa, they get me. They really get me and that makes me want to be more open to responding. And if I don’t respond, if they hit me up again with something similar over time, I’m probably like, okay, timing’s right, let me respond to this person, this person actually gets me.

Nick: I’ll say two things. I think, first, everybody focuses all of their attention on the first email when this is the email that is actually responded to the least. So why is everybody spending all their time on email 1 which never gets responded to or has the smallest percentage? You should focus all of your time on email three, LinkedIn message two, or call number two, like focus on what the content is later in your sequence. 

Those always seem to be after-thoughts for people and that’s when I, as a buyer, you know generally when I get cold emails, I’m the most interested is when somebody sends me message four or five I’m like okay, great they’re persistent, but the content falls flat or immediately just tells me something like ‘ah, this is not a fit for me’. If this doesn’t make sense to me – delete it, and then I’ll never respond to anything again because I’ve already decided in my mind that this is irrelevant to me or this is not going to bring me value. 

So focus on the whole package and spend more of your time on touch four, five, six, seven, not so much touch one or two, or at least give equal time, at least let’s start there.  

And then two, you have to give salespeople help today. You can’t just fully rely on the salesperson to bring in the scheduled calls and bring in closed deals on their own. That’s like looking for a unicorn, and you may have some on your team or you may find one and that’s great, but if you use a basketball analogy – you have to do a full-court press. If you think about the emails you receive every day, there are sort of two reasons for replying. 

One – I perceive the person emailing me as my peer or a person of authority – a founder of a company, somebody of an equal level to me, so this is somebody that I want to talk with and interact with just like on a social basis, almost independent of if I’m gonna buy their product or not. So when another founder emails me and they email me something relevant, I’m more likely to respond. That’s the one reason why you reply. 

The other reason is the perceived stature of the company that’s emailing me. If a company emails me, like let’s use a finance example because I’m getting a bunch of emails from them right now (sorry to put them on blast) is Brex. I get a ton of emails and touches and everything from Brex, and they’re pretty good and they do a good job of personalization, but the reason why I proceed with them is because I’ve seen this brand everywhere. They are doing a full-court press on me and all the channels that I’m in: Twitter, LinkedIn, retargeting, even Billboards, you know they’re doing the whole thing. 

So that sales rep is getting that push from that whole company, that whole brand, to where they’re likely to get responses, so then the actual messaging of that salesperson has less of a need to be perfect as opposed to what they’re doing. So when you put all of that into nice neat packages, think about who is sending the email, what is the persona that you’re using? If you’re using the founder then rely on that, or some industry-knowledgeable person. 

And make sure you’re doing all the things to help your salespeople stand out because if they’ve heard of the company before, they’ve seen you in other places, and they’re more likely to respond. So that would be the two things that I would focus on.

Eric: Yeah, and I think a resounding theme that we all have is reaching out with value. And sometimes we’ll work with clients or we’ll work with some of the Clay users and we say ‘You want to reach out with value’, and then they say ‘Great, I’m going to invite them to my webinar’. I’m like, no, you might think that it’s valuable, but they do not perceive it as valuable. 

So also drawing a line between what is actually legitimately truly valuable to the prospect and not just what you think is valuable and just like self-serving. It’s not even a Trojan horse because you can’t even get it through the gate, but truly doing things that are valuable.

I have a theory that I’m working on right now that I actually believe that there is such a thing as a perfect cold email, where it really can’t get much better than what you’re sending. What I mean by that is, so in our industry, maybe not Close because you guys are doing the CRM stuff, but for Marcus and I, if I were to send somebody a cold email, I’d say: ‘Hey, saw you’re in this industry and you’re selling to these kinds of people. I actually already ran a campaign for you and I got you five leads – they’re in this spreadsheet right here. Here are their email addresses, here’s what I said to them, and here’s what they responded with. If five leads aren’t enough for you, would you want to talk about how we could get you more?’. 

We have verticals that we just know we can print meetings for, and we just run this campaign for them. There’s no flashy stuff, well I guess we are programmatically creating Google Sheets, I guess that’s the flashy part, so they’re not all like going to the same Google sheet. 

But for them that we get crazy booked meetings off that because they’re like ‘Oh my God, you already got me five leads’, and I’m like ‘Yep, we have a system, we already know that this works, you could totally steal this system by the way and like never talk to me and you could just use the copywriting that we’re using and you could totally get away with it’. 

I would be very hard-pressed to say in our industry of outbound consulting, in order to get a meeting with a client, I can’t think of a whole lot of scaled ways that you could send a better email than that, and so I think it always comes down to how can you provide that person as much value as possible. 

I have another company that we’re running a campaign for that helps with tech stack analysis and redundancies, and we’re combing through all of their past job posts and all of their new job posts, and then making a matrix of all of the redundant technologies they have, and then delivering that to them and saying ‘hey, you have all these redundant technologies, you’ve got four databases, that’s too technical’, I’m already out of it. 

And we’re sending that as an email, and then I guess maybe I’m the odd one out here but we send these types of emails and all of our responses come from email one, and we still carry the data through all of the other emails but we get most of our responses off of email one. We send like 850 000 cold emails a month, and out of all the sequences except for like two, the positive responses are the highest on email one, and it’s because we’re focusing on ‘how can I bring the value of my product to the person for free in this email?’.

Marcus: See what I love about this is, and that’s amazing because when you think about it, when you put yourself in the buyer’s shoes the biggest risk to have is uncertainty. Well, it’s even worked for me even if it’s a cold email, but the level of value provided at that moment like for the five leads, let’s say for simple math each is worth 100K, that’s 500k in value in potential pipeline you just delivered for them in a first cold email. That’s value and that’s where it’s a level of research and preparation work that allows you to have greater throughput on your whole process, so I love that, that’s awesome.

Nick: I’m really hoping our business development team is listening right now because, Eric, we’re definitely stealing. As a SaaS company, we’re kind of adjacent to that, we’re still generating leads for people through automation, so that’s very interesting, we’ll see. I guess the question is how scalable it is for your specific business model based on your deal size and all of that, but as an approach, it sounds very interesting.


4. Can you speak to the balance between volume and personalization/customization? What are the reasonable KPIs for cold emailing – balancing the more personalized but fewer, versus the larger scale and less personalized, or is there a middle ground there? 

Marcus: Well I think this depends on who you are talking to. l think if you’re talking to a leader who’s getting driven by the board to increase the KPIs for activity metrics, it becomes a very different response now because you could definitely go against them and be hyper-personalized, and be more effective with your emails, which we all know to be true. 

But now you might be at risk of getting in trouble getting put on a performance plan or getting people to yell at you because they want you to hit certain KPIs even if you have better results at the end of the day, which I’ve seen happen in corporations. Then there’s also doubt if you’re looking from a rep perspective – at the end of the day, hopefully, the number one case the company’s going to focus on is you getting results. 

So if you’re able to personalize at scale, and there are different ways to personalize it, there’s the level of personalization where it’s exactly to the point. Like ‘here are five leads I found for you’ – that’s super personalized. But then there’s also personalization for really relevant pains like ‘speaking with 50 other SAAS Founders on the west coast to the top three issues they run into’, and you can be pretty rubble on those as well. 

That’s still personalization too and you can send more of those emails so there’s still a big wide range but it’s hard for me personally to ever say ‘You must only send X number of emails’ because your situation might be a little bit different. If you’re a founder of your own company you can do whatever you want, if you’re a rep working for a company – you gotta play within the rules of the game that has been given to you so you don’t put yourself in a compromising situation. 

Nick: Yeah, where I come down on this in the scalability part, in terms of the volume of outreach that you can do – I really look at it from a Time Horizon. Basically, the number of leads that we’re going after and have access to is equal to the amount of time that you’re going to be able to run that campaign. Because what you should always be doing, or this is what I believe and have believed for the last decade, is that you shouldn’t do giant email blasts. 

You should take a small chunk of the list, and it’s going to vary for each industry and the deal size and all these different things, so I’ll let you make that determination, but let’s use a simple number of 50 or 100 new emails a day if you’re just a salesperson. You continue to do that, each time that you send the new batch you’re taking all the learnings from the previous batches and reincorporating that back into it. 

Because if you just send a giant bash of emails and you accidentally have a spelling error in there or you mess something up, you’ve ruined all of those leads for some amount of time, and then you’ve kind of burned that bridge. So just take tiny steps over time – that’s how I look at the scalability side of it. 

It’s not so much a question of how do we get a hundred thousand emails and email them tomorrow. No, maybe the total number is a hundred thousand, but then I divide that by the number of business days and I know that I can run this campaign for this amount of time, I’ve gotten this amount of leads to handle the sales team for this amount of time before they need new ones or they need to replenish them. 

And then on the personalization side, it’s really about finding what works for you based on some of the examples that we gave you earlier. We don’t need to relitigate all of that, it’s going to be different for everybody, you really just need to try different things and find what you think works. You probably have to do some in parallel and then some will work better than others, and just adjust as you go. It’s definitely always more than one thing. 

And the last part on the KPIs, I’ve always gone by the same mantra of if your response rate, not open rate, but the response rate is above 10% – keep doing it, make it better, improve, and get it to 12% / 15%. If it’s below 10% – it’s dead on arrival, you need to either throw it out, redo it again, or just stop and then reset. 

That pass/fail bar for me, and I tell all customers and clients, is a 10% response rate. You can find out how the response rate works for you, probably not just the first email, but probably after a couple of touches. That’s where you’re actually doing the percentage of people reached out to versus replies.

Eric: I think the single greatest thing that sales reps, sales leaders, marketing leaders, and CEOs can do is to get this question out of their brain and not even think about it. 

With the onset of how much data we have at our fingertips, I’m gonna say data again, you just need to know where to look for it or how to create it yourself. And then with the onset of AI, I truly believe there is no balance to be had between personalization and scalability. 

We sent for one customer 180k emails over the course of six months. Every customer was targeted differently if they were in one of three Industries, if their employee headcount was below 10, or if they had certain technology on their website. We were looking for Close, sorry about that Nick, actually no, they would work together, it’s an integration, but we would call out Close, and then if none of those things were true about the prospect but we knew doing an AI analysis that they were B2B and that they had SDRs on their team who could possibly use the tool, we still reached out to them.

But we used an AI-generated message saying ‘Hey, if you were to use our tool, this is what it would look like in your perceived sales process’, based on their company description. We did like a whole lot of AI stuff with those 180 000 contacts. We just looked this up because I was like I wonder how many emails that we’ve sent 180 000 contacts went through that campaign. We would send like 2 000 emails a day, we would consistently get like 20 to 30 positive responses a day, and there’s no SDR in the loop of that. 

We built that system one time and then we just pushed it forward. We use Clay, candidly I work for Clay and I love the product and this is how we do all of these things, but if you have things that you know they work, for instance, if they’re in this industry – we say this, if they’re this title – we say this, if this happens – we say this. All of this stuff can be automated. So for anybody who’s like ‘Oh, maybe it’s not possible to send them any emails and personalize all of them’, yes, it’s 100% possible.

You need to get your TQ or technology quotient training hat on, all of the IQ stuff and the EQ stuff that you did that were really important, and when you’re on the sales call – awesome, but to run these systems, you really need to upgrade your game. Do you know how to use APIs, do you know how to use webhooks, do you know how to do web scraping so that you can scale these systems? I don’t think in 2023 there’s any kind of balance we have anymore.


5. What are some mistakes beginner SDRs are making when writing those cold emails?

Eric: Not constantly updating the content. I still get cold emails about Covid. Which crisis are they talking about here, need to be more specific, given everything going on in the world? But yeah, that’s the most common mistake that I see, they’re just using something that was written by someone six months ago, and never bothered to check to see if they can improve it or make it better. 

Marcus: Yeah I’ll see that two-templated, two-cookie-cutter email which goes right to it. They took that sequence written by somebody else, that’s probably the first one. The second thing I see is not taking the AI Tech that’s available and applying common sense to actually use it. 

For example, I’ve seen some emails where clearly I know they went to ChatGPT4 and said write me a cold email about this and insert this. I could tell you they took it, copy-pasted it, and threw it into an email, and every volume was the same thing. They didn’t take this time to just trust but verify it, make the appropriate tweaks, and maybe give additional prompts to improve and enhance it so it actually fits a little better. So I think it’s definitely a huge pitfall, and I’m seeing this happen more often now.

And the third is not even embracing AI, and kind of hoping that ‘my company will teach this to me’ or ‘I hope someone just teaches it to me’. Here’s the truth – no one’s coming to save you, you have to go and save yourself. 

Whether you are a sales rep, a BDR, or a founder, you have to go out there and take control of the situation, learn about AI, and get the right tools. If you’re a founder for your team, to be able to utilize this tech, show them how to use the tech and how to apply critical thinking skills so they can prompt it effectively to actually help you improve your response rates and your booking rates. 

Eric: And the biggest mistake I always see, and I think this is so funny, is people will want to do things that if they were on the other side – if they were the recipient, they would not like. I literally had a phone call yesterday where somebody was like okay Eric, I got a big idea – we have 40 000 leads in HubSpot, 10 000 of them unsubscribed to us. The first people we should go after is our unsubscribe list, and I was like ‘Okay, hold on, let’s roll this back for a second. So, out of all of the people that we could possibly target in the world, you want to go after the unsubscribed people first?’, and he’s like ‘yeah, well because maybe they didn’t know what they were unsubscribing to’, and I was like ‘they really knew what they were unsubscribing to, I promise you’.  

So about what Nick said, if you send 100 000 emails, you won’t be able to email those people for a certain amount of time, that’s absolutely true, but I always ask people ‘what’s the cold email that you received two days ago?’, and they can’t remember. So we can absolutely re-talk to people, but if they unsubscribe – we shouldn’t talk to them, and that I think is the most common mistake I see. I ask ‘If a company were to do that to you, would you like it?’, and they say ‘No’, I’m like okay, we’re not doing that.

Marcus: Well that’s a good example, that’s poor targeting now. Why would you go after them when you know there’s no fish in that pond, why are you gonna go in that pond and go fish? 

Eric: Did you ever see Grant Cardone’s interview with Jordan Belfort and he was like ‘Zero interest is a level of interest’, and it’s like what are you talking about? Actually, no, it’s not, so that’s the biggest mistake I say. 


6. What’s the future like for salespeople and what’s the future like when we’re talking about emerging technologies, tools that are changing, or even revolutionizing cold emailing?

Nick: I guess I could jump in really quickly here. The way I see it is, the volume is going to continue to go up, not go down, and the filters that people’s inboxes will have on them will increase. Mainly the email clients that people use or the actual email service providers, we even see this with iOS updates of opening all the emails so everybody’s open rates are you know junk, to a certain extent, and it seems like others will follow suit. 

So with those two things that I think are pretty much certain, it’s just locking in and continuing to focus and all the things that we talked about today, and just know that it’s going to get harder and harder over time, but the value of a response will go up because it is more difficult to get one – these things happen in concert with one another. 

So I think the future is bright, it’s just the rules will change, the guard rails will change, and you just have to adapt and continue to adapt over time. But all of us working people are spending more time in our email inboxes, not less, so that’s also true too.

Marcus: I mean we’ve definitely seen a major emergence and rise to the tech advancing, better tools, more advanced tools. Other tools like Reply – are very cool with the level of customization that you can create with the AI. We’re going to see them improve over time, that’s just a reality, so they’ll be even better and better.

But the constant is gonna be the people operating the tech. So I think the future is really going to be as a leader or a founder – how do you find and hire the right people, pay them the right compensation to properly use the technology to its full extent? And I think it’s kind of like when social selling started getting really big. Today is not new at all, but how many still struggle with it because they’re not set up for success. 

So as these new tools emerge and companies are adding them on to utilize them with great results, if you want to maintain and increase the results in a tough time of getting responses, then you have to hire the right level of talent, compensate properly, train them, and set them up to win so they know how to be effective operators of those tools.

Eric: Yeah, I really agree. I think another thing about the future of cold email is that it will come into the ad network more than it will be in this outbound strategy, and let me unpack that a little bit. I love playing guitar, I use all the time, they have AdSense on the platform. When I first started playing guitar, the only ads that I would ever see were ‘hot singles in my area’ and not relevant to me at all. I was 12, I couldn’t do anything about that, like why am I seeing it? 

Now, I am on Ultimate Guitar on Saturday night and I’m getting ads for things to buy in my house, camping gear, I do a lot of bike riding, I do a lot of CrossFit, and these are the ads I get. I literally got a rogue ad for something that I had in my shopping cart. I was like ‘Oh my God, these ads are so freaking good!’. 

So I think cold emails are going to keep going to this point where the only reason you’re going to be on my email list (and you’re going to know it’s AI-generated, but I don’t think you’re gonna care) is because you qualified for a trigger – there’s a specific keyword in your company description that makes you a right fit, you just hired your eighth sales rep and between eight and ten is when we know that you got this issue. 

And I’m blasting you right then and there to say ‘Hey, you just hired your ninth sales rep, and usually you need a way bigger upgrade to your CRM or your sales engagement platform when you’re crossing this team boundary,’ or ‘you just hired a new SDR manager.’ Whatever it might be, you’re only going to receive an email because it’s relevant to you and it’s going to take somebody talented on the back end to build systems like this. 

Then everyone’s going to know everything’s AI-generated, but at least if it’s AI-generated, you’re like ‘This is true, we did just bring on an SDR manager, we do need to build up the system. We’ll take the meeting,’ and I think that’s where cold email is headed. 


7. Is there a perfect amount of time for a campaign to run before moving on to another, even if it’s performing?

Eric: I don’t know, I feel like it depends on the industry, what’s the product, what’s the service. What we’ve started doing in the agency, because I really want to weed out people that I just can’t help, and there’s no way to know that I can’t help them until we start a campaign, what we have noticed though is, when I ran through all of our customers that became our best clients – their first campaign right off the rip worked. 

And all the customers that drain a lot of our time and our energy because we have to keep redoing the copy, and we have to keep redoing the strategy, we have to keep redoing everything – we could try two, three, four things before we find something that works. And then sometimes, nothing ever works, even if we try really sophisticated things.

So what we’re doing now is we call them flight tests, where we’re like ‘Look, if this works – you should be able to get a positive response after a thousand emails’, and then we’re gonna take it forward and keep optimizing your campaign from there. We have these templates that they pick from, and then we send out a thousand emails, so we use a thousand as possibly a test. 

But if you’re an SDR leader or you’re working at a company, you gotta figure this out, you don’t have my option where I just won’t take you as a customer. Then I would say like a thousand to two thousand contacts, as long as your TAM is big enough to handle that, like you’ve over 40 000 people in your Tam or something. 

A thousand or two thousand contacts are kind of where if you’re not getting positive responses, you need to go in another direction. 

But yesterday I got a Slack message from somebody who sent 100 emails and he said he didn’t book any meetings, and he was mad at my YouTube video because of that. I was like no, no, you got to send more emails, that’s totally fine. So yeah, I guess I would call it that number.

Marcus: Yeah I think It’s tricky in the sense because you know Eric is spot on there, there are so many factors outside of it, because like think about something we mentioned before, like what’s the marketing environment that’s been curated for that prospect? Is there a really good social media presence, are there retargeting ads, are there Google ads, have you done keyword ads, etc.? 

So you have different things that can also juice it, and then you also add in, is the rep good at omni-channel – are they making calls as well, are they also hitting them up on LinkedIn or Twitter or threads or wherever they’re at, are they engaging around? So there are different things that can really enhance and improve it, and what if that rep is not very active on social media versus one who has a really good brand on social media?

So you can see obviously, a rep who’s got a great brand on social media, if they’re engaging with that prospect – they’re probably gonna have better responses as a result too because of it. So there are so many factors they have to incorporate, and I don’t think any answers are really binary – yes or no, there are ranges to it, there’s definitely a range of two, so you have to make the best decision for your own business with those things in mind. 

Nick: Yeah, personally it is more of a reflection of the size and scale that Close has reached. At a little over a decade into this, we think of our business in terms of quarters, you know we live quarter to quarter now. When we look at a campaign, the number of resources going into it, and like Marcus is talking about omni-channel, there’s a lot of stuff going on, so it’s sort of a quarterly thing. And then halfway through the quarter, we check to make sure what course corrections we need to make, or is it just so bad we should stop? And that’s sort of the stopgap to decide where we’re going to go with this for the rest of the quarter or make any adjustments halfway through.

For startups the opposite is true – you live day to day, so you should look at this on a weekly basis. And then in between is the monthly folks, where that lives too. Like what Eric and Marcus are talking about, I just think purpose the duration of time to the duration of time that you’re living in as a business. In startups, you live and die by the day, and in our world, we live and die by the quarter. And you’ll find where you should live, and you’ll adjust based on that.

Marcus: I don’t want to miss this point, it’s also a sense of, you have to know your data. ‘What are your metrics showing you?’, and ‘How are you solving that problem?’ What I mean by that is, let’s say you fired off 20 000 emails, and you’re not booking any meetings. You might say: ‘Oh, that’s a bad sequence.’ But then, if you’re looking: ‘Oh, actually, the open rate’s zero percent’, you actually have a deliverability issue. 

So the issue may not be necessarily the sequence that you wrote or the template. It might be a deliverability issue, so that’s why knowing your metrics is so key, so you can identify what the constraint is in your sales process – whether it’s top funnel or any public process – and then you focus on optimizing for that, you solve for that problem.

Eric: For startups who are like ‘When should we deviate?’, another hard rule, and this is kind of funny, but I think it should be out there. A hard rule that we have is if we’re trying something new, and somebody curses at us. If anybody sends any kind of curse in an email, whether it’s the first hundred emails or we get to like the thousandth one, and we even got positive responses first – we kill the whole thing. 

If you sent 5 000 emails and there’s that one person who curses at you, then we ignore that, but if we’re trying something new – we just kill it immediately, because then we’re totally getting this wrong. Technically, what you should be getting is people saying ‘Hey, not interested’, ‘Not at this time’, or like ‘I don’t handle this’, or anything like that. If you’re targeting super wrong. you’ll start getting curse words, and that’s when we just kill everything.

Host: Interesting. All right guys, thank you very much. We’re going to be wrapping up. I wanted to again thank all of the speakers. I wish we could probably do like two hours of these discussions because at least personally for me, this is extremely valuable. But again, thank you very much guys, and yeah, I look forward to doing more sessions with you, thanks.


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