Why Embedded Video Does Not Work in Cold Email

There’s no shortage of reasons why embedded video should work in cold sales email. Sadly, they amount to lazy fantasies of inside- and field-sales reps who should know better. Cold email is work. Real work. Research. Creativity. Resisting. Not caving to urges to be cute or funny.

There’s no shortage of reasons why embedded video should work in cold sales email. Sadly, they amount to lazy fantasies of inside- and field-sales reps who should know better.

Cold email is work. Real work. Research. Creativity. Resisting. Not caving to urges … to be cute or funny. Most of all, it’s tough to not “go for it” in the first, second or even third email. I get that.

However, it’s far more effective to use text. Words. Text-based emails work best to start discussions. Because text-based cold email provokes questions … so you can answer customers, yourself in real time.

Customers don’t want what you’re pushing in embedded video. But they will gladly be provoked and consider asking for more details… if they are primed for it.

3 Reasons Why Embedded Video Content Doesn’t Work

Time, expectation and assumptions. Video almost never starts conversations (in cold email) because your target doesn’t have time to watch.

When customers see “aah, a business-oriented video” the expectation is “this will take too long getting to the point.” Kind of like a webinar. You can be 10 minutes late, not have missed anything on arrival… and you’ve invested those 10 minutes productively!

From a customers’ point of view, video is also expected to persuade, based on what you think their pain is. Video is, essentially, a monologue.

Perhaps most convincing, video content often produces no useful action (response) in the client… even if viewed.

Why the love affair with video? One of my students broke away from my guidance for video. He sells for a global B2B publisher selling exclusively to lawyers who, “receive more emails in a day than any professional I’ve encountered,” said my student.

His reasoning was, “Lawyers, if they get 10 emails by text, and one by video, which one stands out?”

Standing out is important. This quality often makes a cold email successful, at the core. But how you appear unique decides response (and conversation) rate. Video does not seem to be working beyond the promise of vendors who sell it.

No Time Left For You

With rare exception, a “first touch” cold email (with integrated video) is a non-starter. Instead, short, pithy provocations are the way forward. Campaign data shows: You have 8 seconds or less to earn attention of a VP, director, owner or C-level decision maker.

Your provocation must generate a short, pithy reply. I use the word provocation purposefully. Targets are on their mobile devices, clearing email. Deleting the deluge of unsolicited messages from reps like you… 90% of whom:

  • ask for meetings too soon,
  • try to convince prospects (of needing a solution) using quoted research,
  • boast about Gartner ratings and client lists,
  • ask questions designed to elicit qualification-driven responses.

60 seconds? 90 seconds? 3 minutes for a video clip? You must be kidding.

You have less than 20 seconds for targets to read, consider and respond to a provocation. Anything more is unrealistic.

Your Ugly End Game

Customers know your end game before you even get started with video-embedded email messages. Video content is often structured to convince and qualify clients. They assume this the moment they see it. It is also one-directional. A broadcast, not a conversation.

In my (and my students’ experience), it’s not what they’re looking for. It’s what they love to delete.

You may think video is a new, unique way to separate from the other wolves. But it’s not. We’ve all seen business video shorts… and know what to expect. We know why they’re being shoved at us.

Embedded video clips usually play on a presumed need, pain or goal… in an attempt to garner a response that makes the buyer vulnerable to a pitch. At best, they’re designed to qualify the viewer. Convenient for sellers, not for viewers.

Video tends to reveal your true end game: to speak at, not with, clients.

Video amplifies your willingness to look like another spammy push-marketers. Not to mention being too lazy to get cozy with them. Instead, you expect video to do the heavy lifting (qualification) for you.

My former student defended his decision to abandon text-based emails for video this way:

“Through video you can show your enthusiasm,” he said. “You show that the email is hyper personalized and not templated, and if done correctly, you can start to build trust from first contact.”

“If done correctly” is perhaps the most over-rated, over-used, disingenuous phrase I read online lately. Aside from this observation, it’s true… you can, as a seller, personalize and avoid a templated message using video.

However, if it’s not effective (for the reasons I’m discussing here) how can you justify using it?

Outcomes Produced

The best outcome of a cold email is to spark curiosity in your words. Never to convince or persuade a client. Qualification (of you) is also too big an ask, too soon.

In this age, human beings are hard-wired to run from (delete) anything that smells promotional. Videos are promotional.

Most cold emails using video aim to convince and persuade. Instead, earn the right to speak with prospects… so they may convince themselves of their need.

This is a worthwhile outcome. This is a realistic outcome. Relying on a video within an email to help prospects qualify you or your solution? Unrealistic in most B2B selling cases.

Cold email must be provocative. Provocation takes research, creative application of words (mental triggers) and diligence on follow-up. There are no short-cuts.

Most importantly, video is asynchronous. Text-based email is, too. Both embedded video and text do not encourage synchronous conversation. Email, in general, not encourage customers to engage rapid-fire, freely, quickly.

But with practice pithy provocations can produce quick exchanges that pique curiosity in buyers… resulting in requests for more deep conversations.

I’m curious… what has your experience been with video? I’m open to your experience being educational for me!

A Popular, Yet Failing Cold Email Technique

It’s shocking. Sales teams across the globe are telling prospects, “You should invest in what I sell — because this research says so” and expecting to start conversations. But using research as a means to break the ice in cold email is a non-starter. Unfortunately, most sales teams are using this failing technique.

It’s shocking. Sales teams across the globe are telling prospects, “You should invest in what I sell — because this research says so” and expecting to start conversations. But using research as a means to break the ice in cold email is a non-starter. Unfortunately, most sales teams are using this failing technique. Often because they’re under pressure to send non-personalized, cold emails to large numbers of contacts … in hopes of starting a conversation.

Targeted (one-to-many) email prospecting is not the best strategy to start conversations with B2B decision-makers. Tailored (one-to-one) earns better response rates. Yet targeted campaign-style messages are used by most BDR/SDR and digital demand generation teams.

2 Quick Examples

One of my students emailed me: “I think I have a good hook from a research perspective to get a prospects attention that also aligns with the service I offer.”

His idea is a common one: Write an email containing research as a means to compel his prospect to open a discussion with him.

For example, an opening email like this:

“Andy, IDC reports more that 90% of retailers are focused on improving their digital customer experience. Are you among them?”

Here’s another example from a different student:

“Hi John,

A customer service benchmark report released revealed 80% of businesses believe they provide excellent customer service, however only 8% of customers agree.

Expectations of customers are at an all-time high. Customers are busy, multi-tasking, on-the-go and are more sophisticated than ever before. Loyalty is built with positive interactions over time, therefore it is a continuous process to earn a customer’s loyalty.

It is expected by 2020 that the customer experience leader will be the key brand differentiator over product and price … “

Why Research Fails to Engage Customers

Pushing research at clients via email is ineffective because decision-makers are:

  • bombarded with long, mail-merged email “written at them” rather than quickly provoking them;
  • not swayed by research being used in a persuasive context;
  • often not aware of a problem to be solved (the pain has not yet surfaced);
  • already aware of the facts presented in the research;
  • not interested in being persuaded by a rep’s cold email message!

Telling prospects, “You should consider X solution because Y research says so” is a non-starter. Pushing information at customers works far less than provoking them.

“People generally opt in to receive marketing newsletters, but no one chooses to get cold emails. This simple fact is one of the most important differences between the two,” says cold email expert, Heather Morgan.

Morgan reminds us also how cold emails arrive without context. This is often the first time prospects have heard from you. Further, “you haven’t yet earned their trust or attention yet,” she says.

Context is key. Why talk at when you can talk with? Why push when you can pull, attract the conversation to you?

What You’re Really Saying to Prospects

Sending research to customers (without being invited to) says to customers, “I’m biased to convince you … but know you won’t believe me … so here is someone else to persuade you.”

The technique is weak. It attempts to persuade and convince.

3 Quick Ways to Bullet-Proof Your Cold Email Messages

No matter what target market my students are calling on when sending cold email messages, I see the same weak spots over-and-over. Unknowingly, sellers are often sabotaging themselves by “blasting” prospects. But starting a conversation with email can happen. I’ve seen it.

Patrick's email blogNo matter what target market my students are calling on when sending cold email messages, I see the same weak spots over-and-over. Unknowingly, sellers are often sabotaging themselves by “blasting” prospects:

  1. long, un-personalized “push” copy (rather than pull)
  2. persuasive marketing prose (rather than copy that embraces rejection)
  3. using words that sabotage (signal “I’m needy” or “I’m a waste of time”)

Let’s say you’re aiming to start a conversation with an executive decision-maker. You sell a product or service that takes time, involves “consultative selling,” probably requires a few yeses. Your biggest enemy is the status quo.

Starting a conversation with email can happen. I’ve seen it.

But increasingly chief executives and top VPs are suffering from inbox saturation, in general. Mostly from SDR/BDRs (sales and business development reps) whose approaches are obnoxious.

Moreover, it’s not effective at starting conversations.

Shorten, Personalize and Pull

Long, non-personalized messages that push meetings using “blasts” that “push on pains” are not good conversation-starters. Yet we see them all the time.

The goal of your cold email is to provoke a reaction — that leads to a short conversation, qualifying a longer one … or not. No is a great answer too.

The goal is not to get referred. It’s not to set a date for a demo or meeting. These are what I mean by pushy.

Before pressing send make sure your email:

  • contains a first paragraph proving you researched the prospect
  • takes 10 seconds or less to read
  • does not ask for a meeting
  • contains a provocation, likely to trigger a reply asking for clarification

Calling on C-suite executives comfortable with the status quo? Generating a conversation with these people takes more than a “blast.” It takes a personalized message that is short (and provocative) enough to attract the prospect.

Don’t push, pull. Attract.

Don’t Need the Sale

Want the sale. Don’t need it. Show your prospect you don’t need it. Shift the tone of your cold email by shifting your mindset. This avoids writing in ways that communicate “I’m desperate for your business.”

Some of my best students avoid these words like the plague:

  • Please
  • Love
  • Looking forward to
  • Hope

Each one of these adds up. Every word counts. The more weak words used the more you help readers feel you need the sale.

The more weak you sound the less attractive you become.

Think about it this way: If a prospect truly believed your solution could double their productivity or increase revenue by 30% would they delete your message?

No. They would immediately hit pause (on what they’re doing) and make time.

Don’t Signal “I’m Wasting Your Time”

When a prospect deletes you they actually mean “This isn’t worth a moment of my time.”

Why? Because you convinced them it wasn’t… often by using weak words.

Time is another element where your words demonstrate lack of respect. Often unknowingly. Do you ever use these phrases?

  • As you probably realize …
  • Again …
  • Obviously …

These are all words that communicate, “I’m about to waste your time” to your reader. I’m about to tell you something you already know. Or I’m about to repeat myself. Or I’m about to tell you something obvious.

People don’t have time for you when you signal “I’m good at wasting it.” Your words are powerful. Keep this in mind.

Stop Persuading

As a sales person, your goal isn’t to convince the prospect to talk with you. That speaking would be smart. The goal is for the prospect to convince themselves that talking is smart … if, in fact, it is.

Stop trying to persuade. Everyone hates strangers who try to persuade them, especially in an email.

Are your cold emails and voicemail messages helping buyers feel an urge to ask for help? Are your follow-ups helping them reach conclusions on their own? That’s different, powerful.

Or are you trying to persuade the prospect you are credible?

I know experts say, “you’ve got to write something convincing them to reply …” and “you’ve got to appear credible to earn the response.”

No you don’t.

You have to be provocative, not credible. Credibility comes later — when a customer is considering doing business with you. You don’t need to have credibility to initiate a short conversation about a longer one.

You need to be provocative.

The problem with using words that posture is… well… you’re posturing. You’re trying to appear credible to someone you don’t know. And that never works in email, nor in general, when you talk about yourself.

When we try to appear credible we actually “signal” to strangers:

  • I have my own agenda
  • I am out to convince/persuade you
  • I know you won’t believe me, so I’ll bring in 3rd parties to prove it (your research report, your Gartner praise, etc.)

Instead, challenge the prospect to challenge you!

Make your claim. Boldly. Let them react to it. Let them label it nonsense or ask you to prove it.

Now you’ve provoked a discussion.

I have many students who do well with CEOs and CIOs using the phrase, “unorthodox but effective” when describing a strategy or tactic … relating to what they sell. This dares the prospect to hit reply and ask, “ok, you’re on. What’s so unorthodox about what you’re asking me to consider?”

What has your experience been?

Avoid PDFs in Cold Email Templates. Always.

I’m not going to try to persuade you. Instead, I’ll just share my experience — observing hundreds of successful sellers. If you want to get more conversations started “from cold,” avoid including links and/or PDFs in your “first touch” email. Here’s why and what to do instead.

Customer-First Email MarketingI’m not going to try to persuade you. Instead, I’ll just share my experience — observing hundreds of successful sellers. If you want to get more conversations started “from cold,” avoid including links and/or PDFs in your “first touch” email.

Here’s why and what to do instead.

PDFs Are the Devil

Don’t attach PDFs or any literature to your cold email. I have yet to meet anyone who articulates “the why” behind my recommendation better than Scott Britton, co-founder of Troops, a sales productivity tool. If you’re in marketing … get ready. This might jar you a bit. But keep an open mind.

“A PDF should never be able to explain the value or merits of your product within a specific context as well as you can. So why send a deck and let a static document do the selling instead of you?” asks Mr. Britton.

Key words here are “within a specific context.” Our job as sales people is to apply content within context. So if you have a white paper, report, infographic, whatever … effective use means applying it in context of the “buying journey.”

This requires your assessment of the context — first. Everything else is just pushing information at someone who doesn’t want it.

Remember: Customers value more what they ask for — less what you offer them. Thus, help the right customers develop an urge to ask.

But here’s the most important reason to not include your PDF — no matter what it contains.

“If they’re not into (motivated by) your offering after reviewing their deck, there is literally no reason to hop on a call with you,” says Mr. Britton.

Need I say more?

As Scott says, “Don’t take yourself out of play, own the sale.”

Because if you rely on that PDF, well, you are all but giving up. You are also just like 95 percent of sales people out there. You’re not at the top of your game.

Don’t Rush: How to Apply Case Studies

It’s common to use case studies in cold emails, as attachments. But the goal of your first email is not to earn purchase consideration, nor a meeting. It is to earn a reply. Period.

Thus, your goal is not to get prospects to read the case study PDF. They don’t want your case. Because they’re not interested in qualifying you (yet). They’re not in a discussion (yet) that would cause them to want to qualify you.

The goal is to get them to talk with you — about how their goals, fears or burning desires. Then assess if they’re interested in qualifying you, at which time you can offer a case.

Be confident. Don’t rush to show. Get them hooked on the provocation. Once they’ve asked you for what’s in your PDF they’ve opened the door. Otherwise you’re just busting through the door saying, “hey, read this!” like every other sellers is.

Think of it like a first date: The more you promote what you want, the less you’ll get it. The more you allow them to respond and discuss, the more you’ll get it.

Get Into the Conversation — Now

Quick example from a client I’m working with: The goal of their first touch email is to get into conversation about potential clients’ trade shows. But many sellers on their team feel urges. They want to rush the conversation by including case study PDFs on first touch.

We developed a provocative approach, asking the potential client, “Are you open to a different way of attracting decision-makers to your booth? I have an idea for you.”

Rather than asking for a meeting, or if they’re interested in talking about an upcoming trade show, we conclude the email with, “How are you currently earning meeting commitments from prospects prior to the event?”

Because this is the conversation we want to be in! This is the “slow go” type of approach I’m referring to. Ask for the discussion — not for the meeting or the qualification (reading your PDF).

But many sellers on my client’s team felt an urge to add:

“I can send you the case study/testimonial of our client who increased their qualified traffic by 90 percent.”

Do you see how this pushes rather than pulls? It promotes. Instead, consider attracting that conversation to you. Tempt the prospect to ask you for the case.

Why do we do this? Why to we rush the conversation? Because you feel you should. Why? Because you’re worried — what you’ve said in the email is not going to be enough. Be confident. Don’t attach PDFs or any literature to your cold email. A PDF should never be able to explain the value or merits of your product within a specific context as well as you can.

What is your experience? I’m open to hearing it.