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The Fundamentals Of Executing Profitable “Outbound” Email Marketing Campaigns
If you think "email marketing" only involves subscribers and existing customers, let contributor Daniel Faggella open your eyes to another possibility.
In this article, we’ll cover a topic that’s beginning to finally gain steam in the modern tech-marketing world (but, in fact, has been around for years) — “outbound” or prospecting e-mail campaigns.
Understanding how to effectively utilize outbound e-mail marketing is a skill that will save your business tremendous amounts of time and money. We’re going to review a newer method of prospecting for important potential clients who require a phone conversation or personal meeting to finalize a sale.
I’ll also provide you with case studies of real companies using profitable outbound campaigns, and ideas for how to set up your own outbound email marketing campaign. For a short video tutorial on outbound email, you can see this article on my blog.
Inbound Vs. Outbound Email Marketing
First, we should define outbound marketing. “Inbound” marketing is the process of clients filling out lead-capture forms or e-mail subscription forms on a primary Web site or something of the like: people are coming to you to sign up for your marketing campaign.
In opposition to inbound marketing, outbound marketing requires you to actively reach out (to non-subscribing) people directly through email. HubSpot has some interesting insights on the “Inbound vs. Outbound” debate about email, too (here’s the article I found on its blog about this exact topic).
There are rules, however, for going about an outbound marketing campaign. You cannot amass a list of random email addresses and enter them into an auto-responder list like GetResponse or HubSpot because not only is this against most auto-responders’ terms of service, but individuals who do not choose to opt into the e-mail list can claim spamming, and that is actually illegal.
To comply with the CAN-SPAM act, you must e-mail individuals without subscribing them to ongoing communication that they didn’t opt into.
Outbound email marketing is useful when you can identify your target market directly and when their customer lifetime value warrants the effort of contacting them individually. When a business wants to “buy a list” in a particular industry, it can make use of an outbound marketing campaign instead or in conjunction with list buying.
For example, businesses that refurbish computer products may contact universities to negotiate a contract under which these universities would send them products that are broken. To do this, they could purchase a list of a certain number that they can call or send traditional mail. They could also put together an email list to send them outbound marketing pieces quickly and cheaply.
A legal software company may use an outbound email campaign to contact the owners of law firms. A PR firm seeking to work with highly-funded green-tech and solar companies could buy a list from a broker or amass their own list.
Similarly, a consultancy looking to contact SaaS owners could utilize outbound e-mail marketing to sell very specific consulting services. Again, any of these businesses could buy a list, but it’s wholly more effective and efficient to make their own lists.
Before recent advancements in the practice, outbound marketing used to be conducted in the following way. You would search for the companies you’re looking for individually, perhaps narrowing your search by geographic location or specificities about the business you wish to contact. Then, you would manually send an email with your pitch to the small number of companies you found an email for. Maybe you would collect the emails in a spreadsheet, but this wasn’t the first thing that came to mind.
Executing “Outbound” — List Building & Campaigning
The new approach to outbound marketing is much more effective and is actually cheaper. Perhaps you were paying an employee $15.00 – $20.00 an hour to search for companies you wanted to send emails to. Now, you can hire a freelancer on Odesk or a similar website for just $2.00 an hour.
I’ve found that Odesk is more cost efficient, but there are other sites, like Elance, that you can also use. Not only is there a cost benefit to using a freelancer, but oftentimes people on freelancer sites will specialize in tasks like these. All that’s required of you is to send them the search criteria, and they’ll accumulate a massive list of prospective clients for a mere fraction of what you may have been paying an employee.
Additionally, these applications allow you to sequence emails. For example, say someone doesn’t reply to the first message you send out within four days. A second email can be sent automatically upon the beginning of the fourth day.
Another incredibly useful aspect of automated emails is the ability to split-test your subject lines. To do this, come up with a subject line for approximately a hundred emails. Perhaps this one addresses the administrator you’re emailing by his or her first name. We’ll call this Subject Line A. Then, come up with a second subject line for a hundred more emails. This time, it speaks to the value proposition and benefit of the product. We’ll call this Subject Line B.
Using a tool like those mentioned above, you can determine which subject line is generating the most opens and, if there are links in the email, the most clicks.
So in this case, let’s say Subject Line B has the better open rate. You can then decide to scrap Subject Line A and use Subject Line B for the emails you’re going to send to thousands of potential clients.
The effect of this is astronomical. If you’re reaching out to thousands of potential prospects, and the open rate of your emails is increased by just two or three percent, that’s going to account for a significant monetary difference (assuming you’re also converting efficiently) than if you were sending out your emails manually.
Bear in mind that if you collect a list of 4,000 contacts (let’s say they’re real-estate brokers, for example), you can easily segment these groups by state, by specialty, or by gender, and potentially send unique and tailored outbound campaigns for each “segment.” I’ve written at length about the benefits of early segmentation, and with outbound, the benefits are just as evident.
Old Vs. New Outbound Marketing Methods
So, let’s review the differences here between the old way of going about an outbound marketing campaign and the new way of doing this.
Using the old way, you were paying an employee $15.00 an hour to accumulate e-mail addresses. You didn’t use automated emailing, instead sending emails one at a time manually to individuals. Split-testing wasn’t possible, and so there was no improvement in your marketing strategy.
Using the new way, however, you’re going to be paying a freelancer $2.00 an hour to collect e-mail addresses. All emails will be automated, and therefore, you’re able to reach hundreds of prospective clients at a time. Split-testing is possible, and an improvement in your marketing strategy is then inevitable.
Real Examples Of “Outbound” In Action
Explanations are great, but examples are better. Here’s a few examples of how we’ve used outbound marketing to drive revenues for our own clients:
Example 1: We had a video marketing business that needed to reach out directly to fashion company CMOs to sell them on $25,000 video marketing projects.
Using the old method, the business was paying expensive American employees based in a Boston office to manually search for emails and send one-off messages to CMOs. These email addresses were rarely saved, and they were deliberately never contacted again. There was no persistence in their marketing, and so, there were few results.
Using the new method, hundreds of fashion CMO email addresses were found daily by a team of Odesk freelancers. Up to four automated emails were sent out using YesWare at any given time, generating appointments quickly and easily. All of the email addresses were organized and saved for future outbound campaigns.
Example 2: A natural products business needed to reach out to small natural products retailers in California, Oregon, Washington, New York, and Vermont to get its products on their shelves.
Using the old method, the business made a few one-off phone calls and sent a few random emails at random times.
Using the new method, a list of hundreds of retailers were accumulated quickly by an Odesk freelancer. Four automated and personalized emails were sent out three days apart from each other. All of the emails that were opened were tracked by a Gmail-augmenting tool. The retailers that opened the e-mails were contacted immediately by phone.
Now that you understand the basics and have seen some examples, coming up with your own outbound marketing campaign is the next step. To create an effective one, it’s important to think about the benefits you can provide to your prospective clients. Detail these benefits in the subject line and body of your e-mail; however, keep the e-mail short and succinct.
Companies do not have time to read an e-mail that is too long. Additionally, it’s important to address concerns that your readers may have in the email.
For example, small, all-natural products retailers have to think about fitting products on their shelves. To remedy this concern, we emphasized in the body of the emails that the retailers only had to make an initial order of half a dozen bottles of the product.
It’s important to remember that although the technical aspects of outbound marketing can be given some of the credit for a campaign’s effectiveness, it is the ability to write persuasive and compelling emails that is critical to success. Keep sharpening those copywriting skills, and good luck using outbound as another powerful marketing strategy in 2015.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.