5 Ways to Improve Your Next Sales Outreach Campaign

improve sales outreach

One of the best ways to improve your craft is to check out what your competition is doing. If you get to know what’s working for everyone else (or at least the success stories), you can avoid many pitfalls when it comes to your own company.

So, when I set out to find out how we could improve our sales and marketing cadences around 6 months ago, I knew that I’d have to gather data. A lot of data.

By the time I was finished, I’d signed up to 281 SaaS companies (including the Montclare SaaS 250 and some of the top startups in AngelList) using the details of a fake Vodafone employee and analyzed the 1,000+ emails and voicemails I received in return.

While I won’t go over everything I learned right now (we’d be here for days) I will highlight five of the core takeaways I gathered to help you convert more of the leads you generate.

If you want the rest of the data (including a Slideshare summary and copies of every email and voicemail I received), check out Inside SaaS Sales – a site we set up specifically to house this data. Otherwise, read on!

#1. Send an email every day

First up, you need to keep in regular contact with any potential lead who signs up. This both reminds them that you’re there and builds the connection they have with you.

Although tactics obviously differed based on the company, the majority of companies (41%) sent us one email per day until they stopped contacting us.

Other companies averaged out to sending one email per day, but instead took a staggered approach. A great example of this is Salesforce.

Their team sent us two emails per day for the first two days, then one email for the following four days, and then one five days after that as one of their final touch points.

This is a great way to strike while the iron’s hot (aka, when the lead first signs up), but to avoid drowning them in sales and marketing emails if they aren’t interested.

#2. Don’t send the same kind of email two days in a row

Although most companies sent us one email for every day of their sales cycle, it’s important to make the distinction between marketing and sales emails.

Too many marketing emails and the lead’s attention could be split between offers or they may not have the drive to take action on your product (depending on your copy).

However, too many sales emails and most people will also be put off. Doing this makes your sales efforts very impersonal, and they will feel like they’re not being valued as a potential customer.

That’s why sales teams on average only sent one email every two days – the rest were marketing emails.

#3. Leave a voicemail (if it’s worth it)

Assess whether the lead’s value is enough to warrant the time and effort to reach out and call them. If so, it’s also worth your time to leave a voicemail if they’re unavailable or don’t answer.

I’ll say straight-up that not every lead is worth following up on in this manner (the resource investment can be massive depending on the number of leads and size of your team). A massive 74% of companies analyzed didn’t leave voicemails, which gives a clear picture of the kind of investment we’re talking about.

If you’re not sure whether voicemails are for you or not, compare the resources you have to the potential gain from the lead.

Does your sales team have time for another call? How much would a call effectively cost in terms of time spent and the sales rep’s wages? What would such a call prevent them doing, and how valuable is that action?

Also, don’t forget to look at how successful voicemails have been for you in the past to get an idea of how likely the gamble is to pay off.

#4. Stick with leads you voicemail for longer

If you have a lead that’s worth voicemailing, it’s also worth sticking with that lead for longer. This was shown by the sales cycle of companies who left voicemails being 160% longer than those who didn’t.

In other words, if these companies left a voicemail, they kept trying to convert us for 1.6x as long.

Now, I know that this data could be due to a number of reasons. It could just be that the companies who had the resources to leave voicemails just had a longer sales cycle. Maybe a few took special exception to us since we were a high-value lead.

Either way, if you think that a lead is worth the investment to leave a voicemail after failing to call them, then chances are you have the resources to stick with that lead for longer. You’ve put the work in, so don’t throw it away at the slightest resistance!

#5. Use (or at least consider) marketing automation

Marketing automation is a fantastic way to save time and money – it lets you queue up your emails long before they ever go out and is an absolute must-have for any team looking to scale.

Any kind of business process automation is vital for those looking to grow quickly without running a major risk of imploding.

However, to back up the point, a massive 67% of companies used marketing automation to send their emails. An even more shocking 39% only used automation – there were no salespeople involved.

In short, if you’re not using some kind of automation to take the strain off your team, you’re missing one of the biggest shared tricks in SaaS sales cycles.

Don’t make the same mistakes as everyone else

While all of these points are useful, if you only take one thing away from this post today, take away this.

Don’t make mistakes that someone else has before you.

It might sound simple, but this simple principle will take you a long way in almost anything you do.

Whether you’re looking for a way to improve your sales cycle or you’re trying to build a blog, do your research beforehand and search for what others have to say on the subject. Someone out there will have published their own experience on the topic, and learning that takes you one step closer to success.

SaaS Email Marketing Tactics: How 281 Companies Automatically Nurture Leads

The following is a guest post from Adam Henshall, content writer at Process Street.

marketing-automation-robot

Email automation has become the standard approach for marketers all over the world. This summer we decided to ask how it is done best.

There’s only so much you can learn from one person self-reporting their own successes, or only examining the cycles of one or two companies.

We decided to go one step further.

We began a research project where we examined the sales cycles of 281 top SaaS companies from AngelList to Zenefits.

We published an overview of this study at the end of August and launched a micro-site (Inside SaaS Sales) along with PersistIQ where users can browse all our data and access all emails and voicemails which we received.

We learned loads about how these companies structure their sales cadences; when they automate, how persistent they are, who is presented as point of contact, etc etc.

In this article, I’m going to pull apart their use of automation in email marketing and dig down into the data to give a few examples of how companies do it in practice.

How many emails do top companies send?

Our analysis was of 1183 emails, so the volume was pretty high to begin with!

But what do we find each company doing?

Companies very rarely send one email before backing off. This kind of soft touch approach negates the purpose of running an email campaign of any sort. Yet, throughout our research, we found that some companies still take this approach.

In fact, 25% of companies we studied only sent one email before backing away and leaving the customer alone. The majority clearly favor a more persistent method, but those readers who aren’t employing email automation can at least take solace in not being alone in that approach.

This article is going to focus more on the 75% – the ones who make an effort to run a marketing campaign, and particularly those which choose to automate segments of that.

The average company attempts to follow up for 9 days. Given a focus on midweek rather than weekend, this accounts for essentially 2 business weeks.

Within this period, we’re looking at an average of one email a day. Companies typically send one email a day until the end of their cycle – which varies depending on the company.

A business like Slack choose to hit a short sharp campaign with 3 outreach emails in quick succession. This is in keeping with the general trends across marketing drip campaigns which we found typically consists of three emails – a radically different approach to the more sales-oriented measures, particularly those utilizing a high touch sales method.

We’ll look a little closer at Slack’s approach later on in the article.

Should I be automating my email marketing?

Automation has quickly become the hot game in town, but not every company is joining in just yet.

We found that 65% of companies hand you over to an automated marketing campaign.

This still leaves a number of companies without an automated approach, but it is clear that the movement is toward greater use of automation potential.

It is important to note, however, that automation and non-automation are not mutually exclusive. In fact, we found that 53% of the emails we received were from automated campaigns rather than sales people, but often these would both come from the same company.

If we take the example of Salesforce, we find that the automated emails are sent out and then followed up on by a real salesperson.

If you look at this automated email below, you will see a clear attempt to provide generic value:

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Whereas, if you contrast that with this email afterwards, you’ll see a much more personal attempt at outreach from a dedicated sales person:

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This demonstrates the importance of remembering to keep a human touch where it is appropriate to your business.

It isn’t necessary to automate every step. For a service like Salesforce which can charge its customers reasonably high amounts of money, it is clearly of value to them to build automated emails while also leveraging the personal attention given by a salesperson.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Use automation wisely.

What email marketing providers are companies using?

When companies did use marketing automation, they weren’t building it all from scratch themselves.

Like you would, they searched the market to find existing tools they could use to improve their automated workflows to deliver value to their customers.

What I found marginally surprising was that these companies tended to use the same tools that we all use, rather than some gold plated premium service.

In order, the marketing automation services used by the companies studied were:

  1. MailChimp – 48.82%
  2. Marketo – 21.16%
  3. HubSpot – 18.74%
  4. Other – 5.33%
  5. Eloqua – 3.77%
  6. Tout – 3.26%
  7. Sidekick – 3.26%
  8. Pardot – 3.26%
  9. Marketing Clout – 3.23%
  10. Sable and Sendgrid – 2.17%

As we can see, MailChimp dominate the list by some distance, seeing off both Marketo and HubSpot despite the two putting up a good fight.

This is a resounding success for MailChimp and suggests that they’re a good option for small businesses who want to get started with marketing automation. I know from experience that the system is intuitive, so maybe it’s a good place to start.

What tone of communication is most common?

Running an email campaign is so much more than just lining up a workflow and clicking send.

Like any other aspect of your product, you need to consider how it is structured, who it is aimed at, and what its purpose is.

If we look again at the Salesforce example given above, we can learn a few small things from a tonal perspective.

The automated email is personal and opens with a clear statement of Salesforce’s value, followed by a straight question directed at the reader. This keeps the email feeling personal despite the automation, and the statements are general enough to apply to anyone with as much as a passing interest in Salesforce and their service.

Salesforce focuses on using clear and easy to understand language with a gentle sprinkling of statistics to help drive the value home. Across the board there was a trend toward clarity and an avoidance of overly technical jargon or typical sales-speak.

One interesting thing we discovered in our study came from looking at whose name was attached to the emails. The Salesforce example has a generic team for the marketing email and “Strategic Accounts” for the more personal sales email. But that isn’t always the trend.

We found, first and foremost, that sales campaigns through email tended to have two potential points of contact. One of those contacts often had “Sales” in their title, and these were likely the first to reach out.

The use of higher positions was interesting, with CEO or Co-Founder being used to give the email more gravitas. I’m personally not sure how well this tactic works as it strikes me as possibly dishonest, but I’m sure some CEOs are hands on with their approach to certain emails – just I’m not sure why the CEO is taking the time out to email me personally…

image5

What is the purpose behind each email?

A further consideration when looking at the content of the emails is the purpose of an email. Ignoring “verify your email” and other miscellaneous items, the purpose of an email was typically split into one of these three categories:

  • Encouraging you to use it more.
  • Upselling you to a premium service.
  • Describing technical capabilities.

We’ve already seen examples of the last two from Salesforce. Describing technical capabilities was left to automation, while upselling was given to a real salesperson.

My favorite example of the first approach comes from Slack:

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And a second, but this time with pizzazz:

image1

The emails are both short and sweet with a clear purpose.

Slack have enough faith in their product that they know the most important first step of their customer journey is to get teams onboarded and using it. As such, this is their focus. Their sole focus.

If you contrast this with a company like Epicor, who provide niche industrial services at high rates, you find Slack can stick to a few small emails rather than the high touch email and voicemail sales approach.

Use an email marketing approach suited to your business

So, there you have it.

We’ve looked at how many emails you should send, when you should automate them, what provider you can use, what tone to employ, and what purpose you should put behind your email.

But the key point is this: choose an email marketing strategy suited to your business’ needs.

If you have a small number of very high value clients, don’t operate like Slack.

Tailor your emails to your audience and your business objectives. With a little iteration and effort, you’ll have a campaign flourishing in no time!

A Look at The SaaS Stack in Our Tech Startup

What keeps an innovative startup ticking over? At Process Street, we’re a huge fan of using the software other SaaS startups put out there in conjunction with the ever-dependable big names.

Here are the 18 SaaS products we use at Process Street, and why we think they’re the best options out there.

Analytics: Mixpanel, Google Analytics & Jetpack

For analytics, we use 3 different products for slightly different purposes.

Mixpanel is for in-app analytics. We use it to track trends, user engagement and sign-ups, getting an overall picture and week-by-week comparisons and helping us reduce churn by noticing patterns.

Google Analytics is our go-to source for tracking conversions and referral traffic. This means we can measure the effectiveness of the content and the promotion separately.

Jetpack is a WordPress plugin that simply tracks the views on pages. The only time we use it is to get a current view of page traffic since Google Analytics can take 24 hours to update, but Jetpack does it instantly.

Project Management: Trello & Basecamp

Trello is used by marketing, development, growth and support teams as the main home for tasks, attachments and status updates. During the employee onboarding process, we add new hires to the team boards and make a personal board for them which contains their first round of tasks and helps them get into the habit of using Trello.

Basecamp is the tool of choice when collaborating with designers. When we had our site redesigned by Koombea, Basecamp was the ideal tool to neatly store resources and collaborate over designs until the iterations were moved into InVision to be prototyped.

Personal Productivity: WorkFlowy & Evernote

WorkFlowy — a tool for taking quick notes — is the best way we’ve found to make both simple notes and complex plans. Project proposals and plans go into WorkFlowy, where it’s easy to structure complex ideas because of the way the app’s designed:

Workflowy 3

Evernote is where we keep everything from rough notes and screenshots to entire blog posts. With its Zapier integration, it also turns into a way to add text to any other app just by tagging the note.

TaskPaper is a fancy text editor disguised as a to-do list app. Anyone who has kept their to-do items in a TextEdit file will like the added functionality, including tags, smart search syntax and projects. Other popular choices include Any.Do, Wunderlist and Todoist.

1Password is a password manager that keeps every password you use safely encrypted in a vault protected by a master password. It lives up to its name because one password is all you have to remember. While Chrome’s ‘remember this password’ feature is good enough, 1Password is usable cross-browser, OS and device.

External Communication: Intercom & Close.io

Intercom is our favorite customer support tool. All of our support conversations and in-app messages to users goes through Intercom. It’s easy to keep up with the tickets, loop in other departments and get notified when high-ticket customers reach out.

Close.io is an awesome CRM. It’s built around search, meaning that you can create complex search queries and narrow down lists of hundreds of thousands to exactly what you’re looking for. We use it for sales and marketing outreach, as well as managing all content communications.

Internal Communication: Slack & Appear.in

While Trello is great for storing and organizing tasks, Slack is our main tool for internal communication. Its IRC-like interface makes it easy to chat with groups and individuals. Plus, the integrations with Slack, Intercom and the other tools we use.

Appear.in is a permanent video chat room, which means you sign up and get a fixed URL your team can pop in and out of at any time. It’s much better for us than Skype, because you don’t need accounts or to initiate/end video calls at all.

Workflow Management: Process Street

Process Street is, of course, the tool we use for workflow automation, business process management, employee onboarding and content promotion.

We break projects down into processes and assign these processes to teams and individuals. As they progress with the project and automate their workflows, we can easily get an overview by just looking at the Process Street dashboard.

Email Marketing: MailChimp

MailChimp is the home for all of our automated and one-off email campaigns. Every blog post email and product update goes through MailChimp, where we can track opens, clicks and trends. For me as a content creator, opens and clicks are a great signal that a topic has resonated with our readership.

Since these readers came into our product and read our content, there are parallels across a few topics, like productivity and processes.

Content Promotion: Mention & Buffer

Mention scours the internet for brand mentions and backlinks, which means that when we’re linked to we get a notification and can then promote the post, both as a ‘thank you’ to the author and to maximize the exposure of a piece we’re being featured in.

When we’re linked or mentioned, we then add the post to Buffer. Buffer lets you tweet the same link across multiple accounts (we have 12 linked up in there) in one click, and queues the posts up so they go out at the best time for your audience to see them.

Content Writing: Google Docs & WordPress

The Process Street blog is built on the perfect blog builder, WordPress. WordPress is ideal for drafting in a visual editor with a preview — much better than working with pure HTML.

For guest posts, or collaborative work, we use Google Docs. In-line comments and suggestions make it great for working with writers as an editor. When you’re done you can copy a sharable link and forward it to the target publication for review. I haven’t found an easier way to collaborate and share articles.

Alternote is an Evernote plugin that makes it bearable for content writing. Since I like to have all of my resources nearby, I can create a unique tag for each blog post, then use the Web Clipper to save sources with that tag. Here’s an example:

Alternote Shot

Data Management: Airtable

There’s probably over 100,000 records in our Airtable database.

Everything from keywords to contacts lives there, and that makes it easy for us to reference and link together everything related to Process Street.

We moved to Airtable after the frustration of managing data with Google Sheets set in. Spreadsheets littered between accounts, with random titles and dodgy permissions were making for a terrible data management experience. With Airtable — especially when you link it up to Zapier — you’ve got a far more efficient user experience.

SEO: Ahrefs, Moz & SEO Spider

Ahrefs an SEO powerhouse. You can use it to research keywords, monitor backlinks, and, what we love most about it — track every keyword a URL is ranking for. When we’re running campaigns to rank specific keywords, like we did with employee onboarding, Ahrefs provides the single best status update on that project within a few seconds of checking.

Moz is a tool we only use for bulk keyword difficulty checks because Ahrefs is the better tool for us. In addition to keyword difficulty, I personally have Mozbar installed for Chrome which lets me quickly check Domain Authority (a rough guide as to how much weight a backlink holds from that domain).

SEO Spider crawls URLs and looks for broken domains. Even with a free account, you can get 500 results from just pasting a domain in. You get to see how many 4xx errors are on that domain, and which links are broken. Then, you can start doing broken link building (as detailed in our marketing processes guide).

File Management: Google Drive

Google Drive is where I keep my Google Docs, graphic assets like SVGs, and upload any large file to share with my team.

Its Trello integration means you can attach any file that’s already inside Drive, saving you from uploading it in multiple places.

To see why we use Google Drive instead of Dropbox, check this comparison.

App Integrations: Zapier

Zapier connects every app I’ve listed here together. Impressive, right? Every app linked together means you can transfer data between them and automate a ton of boring work. For us, it’s a better version of IFTTT because it has more features.

Zapier vs IFTTT infographic

Here are some of my favorite examples, featuring apps like Evernote and OneNote:

Development: JIRA

JIRA is the home of our planned features, user stories, and dastardly bugs. Developers can add, track, prioritize and assign issues to their team, then feed that information to a live Slack channel.

For example, whenever a new feature is pushed to the live server, a Slack channel gets updated with the feature’s new information and we can do a short write-up to announce it and test the feature to hunt bugs.

How to Integrate @Intercom Support Messages with Close.io #CRM

close and intercom sync

I have been wanting to sync my support system Intercom with the CRM we use at Process StreetClose.io (which I have written about before).

The reason for this is when we are looking at a customer in the CRM we want to be able to see not only the sales emails but all the support conversations they were having too.

This can be done quite easily with other Help Desk Tools or via the API but I wanted to build something quickly that didn’t require developer time.

I first setup a Zap using Intercom’s “New Message” Zap that triggered an email to my inbox which then Synced using Close’s 2 way email sync, which worked fine but only worked for the first message that was sent, it didn’t track the whole conversation which can last for days and contain lots of valuable information for sales. This basically meant sales still had to open both Intercom and Close.io to get a full picture of the customer.

Integrating All Intercom Support Tickets with Close

Step 1: Create a Webhook Zap in Zapier and get Custom Webhook URL

Create a new Zap in Zapier and add the Webhook integration, click next until you see the custom URL

intercom and close integration

Step 2: Create a Webhook in Intercom

Go to Settings -> Integrations and click “Add Webhook Integration”

create intercom webhook

Here are the topics I am passing in the Webhook:

New Message from a User
Reply from a User
Reply from a Teammate
Note added to Conversation
Conversation assigned to Teammate
User Unsubscribed From Email
User tagged
User untagged
New events

Step 3: Configure rest of Zap in Zapier

Here is a screenshot of my Zap click for full image.

intercom and close sync zap

Here is the text export (I assume you need to swap out my ID numbers):

Subject:

Body:

And that’s it! This was just my first attempt, it will probably get cleaned up a little but at least the core data is being passed. If you have any tweaks’ I’d love to hear them.

Start-up idea: Marketplace for mechanics to help buyers purchase used cars

car question

I am thinking about a marketplace that would help buyers who know nothing about cars evaluate if a second hand car is a good buy or not.

You could create a profile and post the 3-4 cars you are considering.

Post details of their make, model, price and pictures or a video of the car and the engine.

You could then post a bounty for a mechanic to help you out, with a reward of say $50 (or whatever you choose).

Then similar to 99 designs, mechanics from all around the world could submit their reviews and advice on the cars.

Giving you questions to ask, feedback on your pictures and prices, links to other cars or whatever you may need to help you make a decision.

At the end of the process, you reward the most helpful mechanic the $50 prize.

I imagine this would be a great way for mechanics from all around the world to earn some extra cash and an easy way for buyers to protect themselves from getting ripped off on a shitty car that could potentially cost them thousands.

If you know of anything like this or are interested in building it let me know in the comments 🙂

Check out my real startup here.

You can see a few of my other startup ideas here, here and here, learn about why my first startup failed here.