An email inbox, even one with a work domain, is a personal space. Imagine walking down the street as someone approaches with a giant grin and says, "Hi [FirstName]! I'm so happy to see you!" How would most people respond?
The response depends entirely on what sort of relationship these two people have. The grinning speaker could be a close friend, a blast from the past or a total psycho. Same message, same delivery, vastly different results based on what's gone before. That's exactly how potential customers react when they receive a cold email.
Cold emails do generate open rates, but how many are intentional? Did a mobile app open the message automatically? Did the buyer open it just to set up a more accurate spam blocker?
Cold emailing, just like cold calling, can be hazardous to a company's revenue streams. Social selling is a more reasonable way to spark conversations with new buyers without scaring off a significant percentage due to inappropriate familiarity. Here are the cold, hard stats to back up that assertion.
10 Percent Solutions
Salesforce.com warns that email bounce rates around 10 percent pose a serious risk to sales pipelines. The problem is that most industries see email bounce rates in that neighborhood, according to an in-depth analysis of over 200 million emails by Constant Contact. Real estate emails have the worst response record, with 13.44 percent bounces, but marketing emails from consultants of all kinds are nearly there, with 10.10 percent rejections. This is not about relevance, but about trust in the sender.
Is that email one-in-a-million? That's not good enough. Marketing Land reported that in 2015, U.S. firms sent around 1.47 million emails every month. The number of marketing emails was 18 percent higher than transactional ones. All companies are struggling to be heard over all that cacophony in the inbox. The answer isn't in a better subject line. The best way to improve those odds is with a bigger network.
Friend of a Friend
LinkedIn's business blog reported that prospects are five times more likely to engage with sales professionals who share a second-degree connection. Along the same lines, prospects are 70 percent more likely to book an appointment with members of the same LinkedIn group. Businesses have a lower tolerance for mistakes in an uncertain economy, which has put increased pressure on buyers to only deal with people they know.
The Productivity Killer
On average, people check their email 15 times a day. That tendency is not going to last much longer, though. Productivity experts suggest that checking three times should be the max, with regular inbox purges. Email security best-practices and productivity hacks are survival skills in volatile markets. As a result, prospects have become far more selective about which emails they open.
Right Job, Wrong Tool
Because social media channels have become widely accepted as business tools, email is no longer the best way to carry out company research. Today, email is a better channel for general newsletters, personal follow-ups and meeting arrangements. In 2015, nearly three out of four world class companies (72 percent) stated that social selling was the most effective way to identify new decision-makers and business opportunities. Using email in the wrong way can have serious consequences.
Social-selling expert Jill Rowley warned about the danger of cold email tactics that increase open rates but close down businesses. For example, she pointed out that subject lines starting with RE: tend to have high open rates, with some research showing open rates up to 92 percent. That's great news for spammers and bad news for sales professionals. Rowley warns, “This might earn you a few extra email opens, but it brands you as a liar and kills your credibility. And a salesperson with no credibility can’t sell much of anything at all -- no matter how many people open your emails.”
The Scarlet "S"
What happens when an ISP decides that a company is a spammer? Pardot, the B2B marketing automation arm of Salesforce, warned that 90 percent of email is now considered spam. There's a very strong incentive to stay on the side of the 10 percent. “Spam filters look at your sending IP when deciding what to do with your emails," Pardot advised. "If your sending IP reputation gets damaged, it can really hurt your deliverability.”
The Value of 5
The benefit of a cold email list is that it promises lots of new connections quickly. The problem is the quality of those connections and the resources it costs the sales team in following up on unqualified leads. Social-selling expert Koka Sexton advised a smarter approach, beginning with five referrals. “Run a report in your CRM. Start with your last five clients that you had a successful relationship with. Identify how you reached out to them for referrals, when, and what, if any reply, you received.... Five successful clients used to generate leads will not only provide you with a warm introduction, but it can snowball into many different relationships.”
Poisoning the Well
One recent blog offered 16 good arguments against cold calling. The same societal factors that are driving those statistics are just as true for cold email. Technology has changed; society has changed. Sales training and tactics need to keep up. Don't be satisfied with meager open and response rates from massive blasts of cold emails. Be more precise, and don't poison the well of potential buyers. Social selling prepares prospects to symbolically extend a hand the next time they see an email from someone they know that says, "Hi [Firstname]!"