How I Craft b2b Cold Email Campaigns for SaaS: Process Breakdown
I recently recorded a video for a prospective client detailing my process for creating winning cold email campaigns. The client was a web development agency who had been using email as their primary source of outbound leads and needed to increase their response rate, especially as they were expanding to new, more competitive, segments of their market. I outlined for the client all 4 stages of my cold email writing process. What follows is the transcript of that video, and below that, an accompanying outline.
Some of the items in both the transcript and the attached outline were added specifically for this client because of a few unique aspects to their project:
- They’ve had incredibly high conversion rates from their sales calls, even after their cold email response rates tanked in the fourth quarter of 2021. I found this detail, shared with me during a brief 15 minute zoom call where I met the client for the first time, extremely important. Sales calls are often most effective when they are a result of an active funnel that “warms” the prospect up, so to speak, making sure they have all of the necessary beliefs in order to be ready to move forward with the company. However, this client’s sales calls continued to work extremely well (close to 100%) even when their cold emailing campaigns had a very low response rate. They were essentially only capturing the 3% “ready-to-buy” portion of their market and effectively converting those cold prospects into customers. That means the transcripts of the sales calls are a copywriter’s holy grail. My plan was to reverse engineer those 8 successful sales calls in order to determine the pain points, fears and desires that would be the most effective at the top of the funnel (initial outreach emails) and what beliefs needed to be in place before a prospect arrived at the sales call.
- They were actively seeking larger companies (Series C & D specifically) and new segments of the market in their cold outreach. This means that the internal transcripts of sales calls would not help me reach these whale clients as effectively as I needed. Audience research on this new target market, provided by the client, would most likely not be “juicy” enough to make my cold emailing campaign beat their control. Great marketers do not make great copywriters, which is why their cold emailing campaigns were largely failing so far. My solution was to dig deeply into researching competitors, an essential part of every project, but even more critical in this case. I also discovered that podcasts featuring key decision makers in their target audience was a great way to understand the psychology of this audience as well as gather key words and phrases I could re-use in my copy.
The other benefit to using podcasts for research… is that you can do it while cleaning your tub, running the kids to and fro… or petting your cat.
- The cold emailing project included several unique segments of the market that needed to be addressed separately, without dramatically increasing my time investment in the project. This objective was not unique to this client, however combined with their aggressive growth goals as described above, the need for segmented targeting was a key request and something I focused heavily on when planning out my approach. The key here was to map everything out before writing any copy. Usually I combine the “planning” stage of my process with the actual writing, however for a project of this scale and specificity, the planning stage would happen completely separately from the writing. During this stage I would use a spreadsheet to map out each specific step that a prospect, within each segment of the market, needs to take to go from the first time they hear of my client, all the way to when they book (and close) the final sales call. Once this map is completed, I can begin to see which pieces of copy can be re-used across different segments, and repeated within each email funnel. Then I use my research to overlay exactly what the copy is needed in order to move the prospect to the next step. After mapping out all of this information, I begin writing the copy in segments (I use this same process whenever there are a lot of variables in a project. It works for cold emails, launch copy and post-click automations). Finally, I piece those segments of copy together like a puzzle, and compile emails that are ready for the editing step that comes next.
Transcript of me explaining my “cold email writing process” to a b2b client
Stage 1: Research
“The first stage of the process is the research. There’s kind of two parts to the research portion.
The first is the in-house research where I’m looking at all the data you have on your existing customers, as well as any data you have on prospects that you’re trying to bring in with new business, (targeting new types of companies, series C companies, series D companies).
Then for you guys specifically, I would really dig into the transcripts of these sales calls that I hear are so effective, that you have such a high rate of conversion, and find out what it is that’s happening in those sales calls; what objections are being answered, what is exciting people about your company etc.
The other part of the research is looking out into the world wide web and just getting a sense of “voice of customer.” Looking very in depth at what your competitors are doing, what words they’re using, and what’s working for them.
I also jump into forums. Probably with you guys as a client, I would spend a lot of time on podcasts because especially with the new business that you’re trying to bring in, and these bigger companies, a lot of those key decision makers are gonna be appearing on podcasts. Podcasts are a great way to get a sense of how they talk about their problems, how they talk about what excites them and begin to pull out the specific phrases they are using, but also understanding more deeply their psychology.”
Stage 2: Planning
“Then I move into the planning phase. The planning phase is where I’m figuring out exactly which emails need to be sent. More importantly, [I’m figuring out] what are the objectives of those emails.
So now I’m looking at things from my research like what are the different beliefs that need to be in place before that prospect gets to the sales call?
I’m also beginning to figure out, within your different segments, what’s the awareness level. Are they aware of the problem, you know, that they need a new website, or are they updating their website every six months no matter what.
Also, how aware are they of client company specifically, but also the specific solutions that you offer. Are they even aware that these are solutions that are available?
So I’m mapping all of those things out into a spreadsheet and beginning to look at what lead types in the email are gonna work for these different types of customer avatars. What call to actions need to be in place to bring people along this journey to ultimately book a sales call.
And are we gonna send three emails out, you know, with this initial objective in mind before, before we get a response and then we’ll send another. I’m making space and trying to think through how many emails need to go out to whom, what they’re gonna say, and what their objective is.
Then I move into the writing phase.”
Stage 3: Writing
“Now for a cold email campaign like this. I do not write all the emails from start to finish.
I’m actually writing all these different parts separately, because I can reuse a lot of the copy across different segments and across different emails.
So I’m gonna write out different sales arguments. I’m gonna write out different call-to-action copy. I’m gonna write out different lead types. I’m gonna write out answering specific objections.
And then I’m going to have all of that mapped into the spreadsheet I created during the planning phase and begin to think, okay, this would work well here, in this part of the plan.
Then I can compile all of those parts that I’ve written into emails themselves. And that’s where we move into the editing phase.”
Stage 4: Editing
“So in the editing phase we have a completely written email and I’m editing for flow, I’m editing for brand voice, and for grammar, of course.
But also I’m also looking for where I can punch this up with direct response copywriting techniques. Where I can add in scarcity, where I can agitate the pain point, where I can really make sure that the emotion is what’s being, you know, being spoken to.
And also this is where I’m gonna, as often as possible, open with a story. Now there’s gonna be a story lead type all on its own. For example, a case study that is really story driven. However, even when it’s a very offer based email, that’s like, we want this person to just understand that we’re offering something and take an action, almost all the time I’m gonna edit it for a story lead because I just find it creates an open loop. It draws people in.
Especially with cold emailing, it’s never used, like very few companies are opening with a story. [But] it’s so effective because we’re just hardwired to wanna read a story and to wanna find out what happens next.”
Stage 5: Testing & Analysis
“After the editing phase, we go into the testing and analysis. This is where we look… I forgot to say during the planning phase, we’re gonna pick out, [well] I’m gonna pick out, but with your direction, specific KPIs, that match the objectives of each email.
So then in the analysis phase, we’re saying, okay, did we meet these objectives? And then what can we change? What can we switch out? Where can we add in a separate link to make this perform better?”
And then I’m just gonna go back through that writing, editing analysis phase over and over again.
Outline of my “cold email writing process” for a b2b client
- What’s working well?
- What is getting clients to close during the call portion?
- Look at best performing emails and try to determine why
- Gather customer stories, case studies, pain points (rants)
- Competitor research
- Look at ads currently running
- Pain points
- Words that stand out
- Broad audience research
- Sales call transcripts
- Online forums
- What’s working well?
- Customer beliefs
- What does the customer need to believe in order to book a call
- What goals (next steps) do we have for each email in the series
- Map out plan for emails
- Target audience
- How many emails per segment
- Order of emails (customer journey as described above)
- Lead types
- Determine KPIs for different segments/emails
- Customer beliefs
- Write basic sales messaging for each action above
- Write Sales message
- Write leads
- Write 3 subject lines per lead
- Write out supporting sections
- Future pacing
- Features & benefits
- Compile emails
- Write basic sales messaging for each action above
- Edit emails for voice & brand consistency
- Edit for flow
- Edit for grammar
- Add individual emails to spreadsheet and record data
- TESTING & ANALYSIS
- Analyze results over all
- Analyze results for split tests
Hi! I’m Annie Aaroe, a b2b email marketing strategist. To find out more about story-driven, conversion email copy and strategy that’s tailored for e-com apps and SaaS brands, visit my website, aaroewriting.com, or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.