Email Sequence Templates 5 Principles That Gets More Traffic, Links, and Sales

Email Sequence Templates: 5 Principles That Gets More Traffic, Links, and Sales

This is a series on how we create email outreach programs that get 20-40% reply rates. If you want to know how to find someone’s email address, click here. You can check out all our articles on email outreach here.

Or if you want this entire series in one pdf, you can subscribe to the Growth Ramp blog and download a free copy by clicking here.

If you Google around, you will find plenty of email outreach templates (try it yourself, if you like). Email templates can help you know what to say, and potentially gives you ideas on what works.

I say potentially because some people create these templates without testing their effectiveness. Also if you don’t know why an email template works, you won’t learn how to improve it. Or you might use the template in the wrong context, leading to poor results.

Mike Morgan of High Profile Enterprises shares his frustration when he sees templated emails:

Mike Morgan

“It feels so insincere when they are all almost identical. Hey, I saw you share this awesome post and thought you might like mine too… would you like to see…?”

Adam Connell of Blogging Wizard likewise shares Morgan’s thoughts:

Adam Connell

“People get so many outreach emails that they start to notice patterns. In most cases, your email will just get binned. But sometimes it’ll get marked as spam, which will impact the delivery of your campaign. Instead, get creative. Write an outreach email like none out there and you’ll stop burning through opportunities.

When I began doing email outreach, I used Connell’s guide on outreach emails. He shares some principles he uses to get creative. And here are my five principles I use when creating email templates to get better response rates:

  1. Treat the other person with respect, like a friend.
  2. Master the subject line.
  3. Craft a compelling message.
  4. Personalize your emails.
  5. Create a follow-up email sequence, for the win.

After these principles, I’ll share some advice on pre-outreach. And then for some added fun, I’ll end with some email outreach “best practices” I think are a waste of your time.

1. Treat the Other Person with Respect, like a Friend.

Here’s an excellent rule of thumb to remember. Whatever you do when emailing a friend, you probably should do the same when sending a business email.

There are times this rule may not apply. For example, I often don’t follow up with friends more than once or twice. But breaking this rule should be an exception, not the norm.

If they ask to be removed from your campaign, do so and apologize.

2. Master the Subject Line.

Every element of an email has one goal. For the subject line, that goal is to get the reader to open the email without burning their trust.

As a result, if your open rates are low, the subject line is the first element to optimize. Some email clients do show a preview of the body text, so that is a secondary factor to consider. But if you have high open rates, but burn the reader’s trust, this will also decrease your open rates.

For example, there are some email outreach marketers who rave about using “Re:” at the beginning of the subject line. This tactic may increase your open rates. But I know many people who automatically delete these emails on the principle that they were deceived.

In fact, 54% of your customers have felt cheated, tricked, or deceived into opening an email.

deceptive subject lines

Most emails I receive don’t add “Re:” to the front, even as a reply. Which goes back to my first principle.

Second, most subject lines I write are between 2-3 words. The more words I write, the more likely it may confuse the recipient. I might add a fourth word if I use their name (see principle #4 on personalization best practices).

Third, I include either the person’s first name or company name in the subject line. According to a report from Adestra, including a person’s name in the subject line can increase your open rates by 22.2%.

Rachel Andrea Go also found this to be the case when creating partnerships with brands.

Rachel Andrea Go Email Outreach

“When reaching out to brands, I include their brand name right in the subject. For example, if you’d like to collaborate, I use ‘[brand] + [your service]: Collaboration?’ When I do at least one follow up email, I estimate 4/5 emails get a reply.”

Keep in mind that you want to keep the subject line simple. If the subject line confuses someone, it’s easier for them to delete it than to understand what you’re saying and respond.

3. Craft a Compelling Message.

If the goal of the subject line is to get your reader to open the email, then the goal of the message is to get a reply.

Start by asking yourself this simple question – what would make you reply to your own message?

We all live busy lives. If some random stranger emails me a massive essay, I delete it and move on. But if I knew to respond to this email would result in $1,000 for five seconds, I’d respond in a heartbeat!

Place yourself in your reader’s shoes. What’s in it for them to reply back?

Another tip to improve your reply rates: the less work you require a person to respond, the better your reply rates will be.

Sophia Le found this out when she sent out cold emails to land clients:

Sophia Le Email Outreach

“When I send cold emails to get clients, I found that offering a done-for-you service was more effective at getting people on the phone than asking them to get on the phone.”

This is why I optimize emails only for a reply. Once someone responds back, they are more invested in the relationship. As a result, I make bigger asks as more emails are exchanged between myself and the person I’m emailing.

Perhaps you offer them traffic in exchange for a link to your article. You can increase their brand authority by quoting them in your guide. Or maybe your ask is small enough that they do it out of the kindness of their heart. It sounds fluffy, but it works.

Ryan Robinson, a content marketing professional, has used email outreach to land clients like LinkedIn, Zendesk, and Quickbooks. He subscribes to the belief that you need to add value first before asking for something from your recipients.

Ryan Robinson

“When I’m reaching out to a brand, whether it’s to establish a paid relationship or to land a free guest post, I think about how I can stand out from everyone else who fills their inbox.

I use what’s available to me, like featuring them in a post on my blog or quoting them as a source in a news publication before I start my outreach campaign,” Robinson shares. So instead of making an ask in his initial email, he’s turning the tables by giving first.

I’ve also found keeping my email messages short is critical to high response rates. Shorter messages show respect for someone’s time. Almost all emails I send are 100 words are less. For a comparison, this paragraph and the previous one are 93 words.

Also, you should keep your writing simple. Boomerang found that writing at a 3rd-grade reading level provided a 36% lift over emails written at a college reading level.

reading grade

You can use Hemingway Editor to help you write simpler. I aim for no higher than a 6th-grade reading level.

You should also consider using emotion to increase your response rate. In the Boomerang study, they found moderately negative emails and slightly to moderately positive emails to receive higher reply rates.

sentiment

Here are three reasons why that might be:

  1. High arousing positive or negative emotions increase our likelihood to take action on viral content, according to HBR.
  2. Neutral emails don’t get our blood flowing. So it’s easier to keep to the status quo and delete the email.
  3. Unlike an article or viral kitten video, email actions will not often result in a share, but a different action. Too negative of a response results in someone hitting spam or the trash can. Too positive of a response does not seem genuine.

This sentence strikes a healthy balance being positive, without going overboard: “Hey Brandon! It would be great to see you soon and catch up. Do you want to get pizza?”

If you notice, that message does something else well. It builds a permission asset. In other words, you should ask for permission before you assume the close. Building a permission asset is not always needed for people you know. But it will increase your response rates.

In one outreach campaign I did in my early days, a client had me make a direct ask to reduce the time spent on follow-up replies. Out of 3,854 recipients, only 185 replied back. For the record, that’s a measly 4.8% reply rate.

In the second round of outreach, I removed the direct ask and 219 out of 1,708 replied back. That’s a 12.8% reply rate. Although the outreach campaign could have improved more, the reply rate increased by 166%.

outreach reply rate

I sometimes add a deadline in my messages too. This will create a sense of priority to your request. Be careful how you use deadlines. If you do not keep to your deadline, this may decrease reply rates in future campaigns to that person.

Finally, you should always end with a question. Questions naturally lead to an answer and help you build permission. Boomerang found emails with 1-3 questions were 50% more likely to get a response than emails without a question.

questions

My assumption is too many questions also decreases response rates because it paralyzes your reader. When in doubt, keep it simple, silly.

4. Personalize Your Emails.

According to Experian, personalized emails deliver 6X higher transaction rates. To be clear, this refers to email marketing, not email outreach. Still, as mentioned earlier, the principle will hold true in any context.

Everything else being equal, personalization is one the best ways to stay ahead of the curve. Great personalization results in great response rates. Why? Because people are by nature lazy. And from my observation, most marketers think they can’t personalize email at scale.

Personalization goes beyond starting your email with “Hey {{first}},”. It is a smart start. And I’d recommend doing this in your emails. But you need to go beyond just the first name.

Sujan Patel of MailShake shares this insight on how he thinks about personalization:

Sujan Patel

“The most successful email outreach campaigns are highly personalized. The content is very specific, the sender shows that they’ve done their homework, and the email’s focus is on building a long-term relationship rather than a quick win.”

Take a look at how Patel uses personalization to land guest posts:

Email Outreach Personalization for Guest Posts

He sent this to a target list of eight bloggers and achieved an 80% open rate and 50% success rate. I’ve found similar results scaled up with a 40% success rate. While Patel’s approach is more high touch than mine, I add another layer of personalization by pitching three article ideas in my campaign.

Please don’t start adding random ideas into your outreach campaigns simply to increase personalization. Remember the goal is to increase positive replies, not increasing personalization. What’s best way to optimize personalization for higher reply rates?

First, consider your audience, the context of your message, and the message itself. If you are asking a friend for a recommendation, a lil’ slang might be best.

But if you want a VC to invest in your startup, this may require you to button-up your email copy. On the other hand, if you are taking a VC you know out to lunch, maybe it’s better to loosen up a little.

If someone has a project they started, such as a new SaaS tool or a new book, this can also make your outreach easier if you tie your ask to their project because they are actively seeking help. Zach Grove did this to help land his boss as a contributor for Huffington Post:

Zach Grove Email Outreach

“I once cold emailed Arianna Huffington to become a contributor on Huffington Post. I did a quick Google search and found out she had just published her book, Thrive. So I complimented Arianna and mentioned my boss’s podcast, Zen Founder, which touches on a similar topic as her book. She replied back in less than 5 minutes with an intro to a senior editor.”

Personalization can take many forms. Some of my favorite tactics include:

  1. Adding emojis or emoticons.
  2. Using abbreviations.
  3. Using lowercase text when uppercase is expected.
  4. Using slang.
  5. Using humor.
  6. Using genuine compliments.

Some of these ideas are hard to do at scale. That is why it’s called personalization. It should feel like it is written from you to me. But don’t think personalization is impossible to scale.

Outreach tools like Mailshake and Polymail allow you to create your own merge fields, which replaces a field for each person. Microsoft gives an example of how a message might change using merge fields to increase personalization:

9899e5c7 0ee0 477f be1d b39ef2ab1c82

Whatever you do, I recommend you take the time to make sure the personalization feels natural. Even something as simple as properly capitalizing someone’s name goes a long way.

5. Create a Follow-Up Email Sequence, for the Win.

Marketers are often hesitant to follow up because they think they will annoy the recipient. Savvy salesmen seem to stop for nothing to get a sale. What’s a healthy number of times to send a follow-up message? I know you will love me for this, but it depends. And let me share what it depends on.

First, it depends on the value of what you are asking for. Trying to sell your service is more valuable than promoting your article. Because it is a more valuable ask, you can allow for more follow-up.

Second, it depends on how many days in between your asks. I often send the follow-up email 3-to-5 days after the first email. The second email might go out 5-to-7 days later. Then a third email 7-to-9 days later. You get the picture.

Third, it depends on your deadline. If I need a response in two weeks, I don’t do more than two follow-up emails. On the other hand, if I have three months before I need a response, I may do six emails.

There are two metrics I watch to reduce my “annoyingness” when following up: unsubscribe rates and negative replies.

If you do outreach enough, you will experience both, even if everything is “perfect.” Getting one bad reply shouldn’t be a cause for concern. But it should be something to keep in mind. Because if one person spoke up, chances are someone else felt the same and did not respond.

Also, just because you don’t like an email, doesn’t mean it wasn’t effective. With a 40% reply rate, that means 60% of people you sent an email to did not like it.

On Pre-Email Outreach

Rather than going straight for the email, some people like to warm up prospects on their blog or on social media.

Cara Hogan of Zaius shares about her process using Twitter:

Cara Hogan Email Outreach

“Because the inbox is so crowded, it’s easy to skip over or delete a message from someone you don’t know. I think it’s easier to cut through the noise on Twitter, ironically. I literally just tweet at people and they often respond positively, and I then move the discussion over to email from there.”

The advantage to reaching out on Twitter is it forces you to keep your messages short. I find it is often easier to find a Twitter handle than an email address. You can also use Twitter as a secondary way to follow up with someone. For example, you can send them an email, then follow up with a Tweet to let them know about your email. I’ve found this approach works best for someone you know.

Unfortunately, not every person is active on Twitter. Additionally, it can be harder to scale outreach and follow up with people, though it can be done.

Blogs can also be an opportunity to build a relationship with bloggers before doing outreach. By making a meaningful comment about the article, you often stand out from every other reader. The downside is doing this effectively can be time-consuming. And if the blogger does not read and reply to their comments, or hires someone else to do so, this may also be wasted time.

Pre-email outreach can be worth the time when doing smaller outreach campaigns. I personally do not do pre-email outreach often because I can get high reply rates without it. But when I do, it works really well.

Email Outreach “Best Practices” That Are Total Bull Hockey

One of the greatest challenges to blogging is finding a great writer and a great marketing practitioner. As a result, there are writers who give marketing advice on blogs that sounds great in theory but doesn’t work in practice.

Here are five “best practices” that are deceptive, or a waste of time:

  1. Send an email at the optimal time of day. Sooo many problems with this approach. This tactic assumes you know what timezone they are in and what their email habits are (do they check email more during business hours or non-business hours). I usually avoid Fridays, because people are excited about the weekend, and holidays. Other than that, it’s better to ship.
  2. Take time to understand someone’s personality before sending an email. I’ve never done this. Using a tool like Crystal Knows can help you understand principles about people. But it’s often not worth your time doing this unless you are working on a major deal with a celebrity influencer in your niche. In which case, you probably have done your homework already, right?
  3. Build buyer personas before sending an email. It takes a lot of time to create personas effectively. Instead, I create personas in my head, then send them an email.
  4. Don’t buy emails. Oops :). Better advice – don’t send emails that are not relevant (again, do your homework).
  5. Don’t follow up with people. If your email is good enough, it will get a response without follow up. I’ve had to follow up with people who I know. The value I was delivering was high, and the ask from them was small. How much more are people whom you’ve never met going to ignore your email? As great as this advice sounds, the reality is people are busy and forget.

If you choose to do this and it works for you, great. From my experience, these five tips are not worth your time or are untrue.

You’ve chosen your goals. You’ve understood who is the right lead and found their email. You’ve built your outreach sequence. Next up, you need to learn what changes when you start doing personalized outreach at scale.

Or, if you want to learn how to do email outreach to land guest posts, I have a special article for you here. These principles helped my clients get guest posts on Shopify Plus, Spyfu, ConversionXL, Sumo, SproutSocial, Adroll, GetResponse, and more.

Growth Ramp helps startups hire professional contract marketers and agencies to grow their business faster. Learn more and request a free quote here.

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