5 Elements to Avoid in Your InMail Campaigns

I studied the best InMail campaigns over the last year, and this is what I learned: The fastest way to increase LinkedIn InMail response rates is to break away from the pack. Stand out. Write messages in radically different ways.

I studied the best InMail campaigns over the last year, and this is what I learned: The fastest way to increase LinkedIn InMail response rates is to break away from the pack. Stand out. Write messages in radically different ways.

First and foremost, be sure you’re not using popular InMail tactics. Generally speaking, if LinkedIn is promoting a “best practice” you can bet it’s tired, old and ineffective. This isn’t my opinion; rather, it’s the experience coaching sales reps and small business owners.

Starting a conversation with decision-makers is increasingly difficult … unless you make a clean break from standard messaging practices. This means, generally, avoid:

Change your game. Radically. Stand out. It’s the fastest way to run the best InMail campaign possible.

The best InMail campaigns avoid using weak words and structure. These include (but are not limited to) messages using:

  • Cordial (yet unnecessary) salutations
  • “Hook” questions (that customers see right through)
  • Descriptions of value your company provides and calls to action (too early)

Sadly, a large number of people are sending InMail campaigns that fail to avoid these elements. The below is an actual email that hit my inbox this morning. I’ve disguised the sender’s name and company. However, they are a nearly 1,000-employee organization selling lead identification services, in which you can “identify your anonymous website visitors turning them into leads.”

Worth noting, most of our clients have used this SaaS (software as a service) company with poor results.

1. Subject Line Telegraphing “Sales Pitch Inside”

Subject of our example: “Start your year in the LEAD”

The job of an InMail subject line is singular: Spark curiosity about what’s inside the message itself. The above subject line (“Start your year in the LEAD”) fails to deliver because it:

  • Attempts to be cute (with a pun)
  • Is written in a marketing tone
  • Identifies what’s inside (a sales pitch about lead generation)
  • Reads like a slogan or ad title

Instead, our clients’ experiences shows the best InMail subject lines perform because they are:

  • 4 words or less
  • Avoid cute / marketing tone
  • Contain a “tension” element, provoking curiosity
  • Leaning toward vague

2. Salutations That Inadvertently Subvert

“Hey Jeff.”

This is the salutation given in my example. In the words of sales trainer, Jeb Blount, “Don’t ‘bro’ me until you know me.”

Blount says if you present yourself to strangers (prospects) in a familiar way, you’re asking for trouble. It may come off as rude or disrespectful.

“You may offend the person who is going to pay your next commission check,” says Blount who recently got two InMail and two email messages using words like “hey” and “dude” and “bro.” This is language you would use with friends in a bar. Not a prospect.

After they “Hey Jeff,” my seller chose this phrase:

“I hope you had a great Christmas and a happy new year! Just a quick message to see if you’ve heard of ABC Company?”

Aligning with that overly familiar “hey,” this sales rep shows zero effort in making his InMail message relevant to me. Instead, he wishes me well as a means to break ice and appear familiar.

This is the most transparent way to communicate, “I have nothing worthwhile for you.” to me. Believe me. It also wastes precious time. One doesn’t even need to open their email if they see a subject line and first sentence like this in their email client.

This tactic is an insurance policy on not getting opened and being marked as spam … or, at best, being deleted.

Worse, the rep asks a yes or no “hook” question … which is all about his company. This is the worst flavor of hook questions as it is the most self-centered possible.

Can you imagine what is coming next … after he asks, “Have you heard of my company?” Of course you can. A sales pitch.

3. Too Much, Too Fast

Next, this sales rep launches directly into his pitch:

“ABC Company has revolutionized website lead generation for customers throughout North America — the software will give you better marketing and sales insight than you’ve ever had before, enabling you to maximize your ROI and fuel your sales team with high quality, sales-ready leads.”

Setting aside the many grammar, punctuation and readability of this message it is plagued with marketing copy. This is a problem.

Think of it this way. Pretend you are a sales rep for this company. Read the above aloud to yourself … as if you were standing across from someone, face-to-face. If you feel too silly just pretend you’re reading it aloud in your head … but picture yourself delivering that gigantic, self-centered, posturing blather face-to-face.

The tone is “radio or TV spot.” It’s a marketing tone. There is nothing provocative about it. This message puts the company before the value it provides.

Instead, it needs to contain one-to-one, personal tone … to be part of the best InMail campaign possible.. to provoke replies and start conversations with targets.

Instead, it presents the company’s value proposition without the prospect (me) having (first) expressed interest. The remainder of this email relies exclusively on the “yes” answer to the hook question.

Even if the prospect (me in this case) were to answer “yes” to the hook question the copy is difficult to read and tone is advert-like.

4. More Hooks, More Unsolicited Answers

The InMail message continues:

“What does ABC Company give you?”

This is the classic marketing hook question. I’ve seen instances where sellers follow “What can we give you?” with “I thought you’d never ask.” Simply horrible. Usually written by low-skilled copywriters … for their sales force to use.

The message continues with a list of objectives the seller assumes are valuable to me. He assumes this because he doesn’t know. And I get that. But if this seller took time to provoke a discussion then he would know.

I would know he knows. That would make him vastly different than 95% of other sellers vying for my attention. That would be good for him!

Because some of his value proposition does sound valuable. But this information is coming too soon in the conversation.

I (as a buyer) need to ask for these details to be shared … then the seller can email me more information.

This shows him I am hungry … I have been provoked.

Instead, the seller pushes information at me, saying I will get:

  1. Details of precisely which organizations have visited your website – in real-time
  2. The contact information of key decision makers at those organizations – including telephone numbers and email addresses
  3. Insight into how they found you, what they have looked at and how long they spent on your website
  4. Real-time alerts to your sales team when a prospect visits your website

5. Calls to Action

In typical marketing style the seller concludes with a call to action in his sales-driven InMail campaign.

He concludes by asking for the meeting.

You should never ask for the meeting in a cold email message.

“If you are curious to see how our software will benefit Communications Edge, let’s arrange a complimentary online demonstration and discuss our completely free, no obligation trial. What’s the best direct dial or email to reach you? — are you available sometime this week?”

Sadly, odds of his prospects making this far down the message are nearly zero. However, use of words here (at end and throughout) tear down his chances of earning replies.

Because the copy risks him sounding desperate.

“Completely free?” As opposed to non-complete freeness? Hmm. Sounds sketchy. “No obligation.” Hmm. He’s still trying to reassure me this will be good for me. Words like “hope” and “looking forward to your reply” and “I would love to” all risk making sellers look desperate for the meeting.

Also, notice how he suggests what he said (so far in this message) might make me curious. Hmm. Even if I was interested in his general value proposition he has given me so much information to consider (about himself) so soon in the game I have very few questions … very little curiosity.

This entire exchange becomes a “yes or no.” I either want to contact him, now, because I have a need or not. This limits his response and engaging as many targets as possible. (warm and hot leads)

If I don’t yet have a need there is no incentive to be in touch with him.

He also shares:

“Don’t have time to talk? Book your demo online: [link]”

… and …

“P.S. For a bit more info, feel free to take a further look here [link]”

Largely, calls to action are ineffective and inappropriate in sales emails and LinkedIn InMail messages. Multiple calls-to-action add to the confusion. It is best to look exclusively for a response in InMail campaigns, in most cases.

What has your experience taught you about structuring the best InMail campaign possible?

My Best Short-List of Digital Sales Prospecting Tools

What tools do most of my best (most productive) students use when prospecting? Glad you asked. Here’s the skinny on “top picks” that have been crash-tested by me, my team and my customers … soloprenurs and sales reps from large corporate teams.

Email, Mobile and Social Media Marketing: Lessons from top-performing B-to-B and B-to-C brandsWhat tools do most of my best (most productive) students use when prospecting? Glad you asked. Here’s the skinny on “top picks” that have been crash-tested by me, my team and my customers … soloprenurs and sales reps from large corporate teams.

These aren’t the coolest tools. Instead, these are vetted products and services that seem to be used by top-performing sales people and entrepreneurs. Do you and/or your team work virtually? Get ready for the goods.

Email Open/Download Tracking and Scheduling

Don’t know your email open rate when sending cold prospecting messages? You’re flying blind. It’s impossible to judge effectiveness of your message without first knowing your subject line is effective.

If you aren’t being opened, your message isn’t getting read. Many of my students report 40 percent and even 75 percent open rates. Sound impossible? It’s not. But you’ve got to get out-of-the-box, get creative … take risks.

To understand email open rates, Mac (Apple Mail) users seem to prefer MailButler. For non-Mac heads, Boomerang for Gmail is a strong option, especially for businesses who allow Google to host their email via G-Suite.

MixMax and SalesHandy are two newcomers who are pushing beyond the usual functionality of Gmail/G-Suite plugins. My team and I use MixMax. These tools offer a wide (and growing) array of simple functions vital to your digital prospecting success. These include email:

  • Reminders (return to top of inbox on certain date based on recipient action taken)
  • Scheduling of message delivery at specified time
  • Template storage and message insertion
  • Open tracking and notifications (showing real-time, location and device type)
  • Download notifications (showing when prospects open your attachments and links)
  • Message sequencing (based on a pre-defined or on-the-fly cadence you use)

Need to integrate with your CRM of choice? No problem. Most of these solutions stand ready to help you move contacts to various popular CRM tools. Many SaaS CRM tools are also able to “suck in” email message data from your cloud G-Suite account.

This kind of practical reporting (open and response rate) makes weekly reporting to the boss (or yourself) a snap.

Email Verification Tools

When prospecting, we’re forced to email prospects. LinkedIn InMail alone is not enough — contrary to what most folks think. There are various, reliable hacks and methods to identify most business email addresses. However, most are a chronic waste of time.

Frankly most free email verification tools (and CRM platforms that include access to contact data/emails) are horrific. Quality lacks. Most generate 30 percetn or less accuracy rates on valid email addresses. This is what I and my students experience.

However, there are a few that seem to shine at understanding which business email address is valid and which is not.

Among the better choices (based on collective experience … please share yours too!) are:

  • Proofy.io (free and affordable paid email verification)
  • Emailvalidator.co (free email validation)
  • Hunter.io (free email validation)

Digital Calling and Telephone Tools

Whether you’re a small business entrepreneur or part of a global sales team you need to be on the phone. Like it or not, cold calling remains essential to success of 85 percent of students I coach.

Thus, you may need (or benefit from) emerging VOIP telephone tools like Grasshopper.com. This service makes it easy for small organizations to look-and-feel big. Once you have a registered toll-free phone number the possibilities begin. Your business can have:

  • Multiple extensions: an automated call routing system (even if there are only 2 of you!)
  • Voicemails transcribed and emailed or texted to you
  • Call forwarding
  • Business text messages

Hardware required? Zero. It’s all in the cloud.

Microsoft-owned Skype should not be overlooked, especially if you’re like me: traveling and working with international clients. Simply secure your phone number and bring it with you no matter where on the planet you are — so long as you have Wi-Fi, you have your local phone number.

Skype Manager is a great team management tool complete with call reporting for your in-office or remote team.

But don’t overlook UpCall.com. If you’re a business owner or manager interested in finding high-quality, vetted cold-callers, this service is for you.

In essence, UpCall.com is “like UpWork (formerly Elance) for cold-callers.” This is a growing database of cold-callers from around the globe. Select language, geographic and other preferences you require for callers. Then UpCall’s search engine suggests callers that best fit your requirements.

You can even listen to successful calls the vendors have made, view training and certifications they hold, and more.

Best of all, callers are rated based on feedback of paying clients they call for. Just like on Ebay or UpWork, you can choose the “safest bet” to start a new vendor relationship.

These are just a few telephone and email tools I have come to use, recommend based on my (and my customers’) experience. What are your experiences and preferred tools? Do they differ? Please share in comments!

An Effective Sales Email Cadence: More Than Just Timing

Timing of sales prospecting touchpoints is important. But when deciding on a sales email cadence, avoid focusing on timing of messages alone. Communications technique is vital to earning responses and qualifying prospects for meetings.

EmailTiming of sales prospecting touchpoints is important. But when deciding on a sales email cadence, avoid focusing on timing of messages alone. Communications technique is vital to earning responses and qualifying prospects for meetings.

The power of a good sales email cadence is obvious. But a good conversational cadence is even better. Optimal conversational pacing helps your prospects qualify or disqualify themselves.

Timing Your Sales Emails

Sales expert Jeff Hoffman recommends the best timing touchpoint model. He says to express urgency wait after making your first (cold) attempt to follow up — around 12 days to two weeks. But then apply a half-life rule with each subsequent email and/or phone attempt.

Most of my students follow slight variations on this cadence — and it works.

Here’s what this timing might look like:

  • First attempt: June 1
  • Second attempt: June 13 (12 days later)
  • Third attempt: June 19 (six days later)
  • Fourth attempt: June 22 (three days later)
  • Fifth attempt: June 24 mid-day (one and a half days later)

In the above scenario the buyer senses your message is growing in urgency (yet doesn’t feel you are pouncing on them out-of-the-gate).

But what about getting your series of email messages read, responded to and wrapped-up with your appointment booked?

There’s More to Cadence Than Timing

Timing combines with your messages’ content. Proper timing (above) and provocative message content help buyers feel an urge to reply (over and over) and (later in the conversation) ask for help.

No urge? No reply. No invitation to talk about helping. No purchase. Conversational cadence is what makes the difference. It’s the speed at which your discussion moves.

Based on my work with sellers, these two trends are universal and cannot be ignored.

  1. Prospects value more what they ask for than what’s freely offered.
  2. Customers value more what they conclude for themselves than what they’re told.

Thus, your email cadence helps provoke the initial discussion. Your conversational cadence helps the prospect discover why they want to buy, when and how.

You can call the span of conversational time the “buyers journey.” I don’t like the term.

“Have you ever heard a prospect or customer say they are on a ‘buyer’s journey?’” asks Michael A. Brown of BtoBEngage. “Neither have I. They talk about their circumstances, requirements, and preferences and their process for fulfilling them, and we should too. If they do mention a journey, it is because they are making travel arrangements.”

Helping Buyers Buy on Their Own Terms

Helping a customer realize they want to buy is a tall order. But an effective conversational cadence is the key to selling complex B-to-B products using digital communications tools.

Helping buyers understand if (and when) they want to buy — on their own terms — is non-negotiable.

As a starting point ask yourself:

  1. How will my email cadence and message combine to help buyers feel an urge to ask for a discussion?
  2. Then, how will my email pacing and message content help buyers get comfortable with buying on their own?

Are Your Prospecting Emails Annoying?

It’s probably no surprise that many biz dev prospecting emails are personally written by the senders themselves. However, it seems that lately they all have attended the same seminar on “how to write a prospecting email” — and learned the same annoying “how to” lessons because my inbox is filled with them.

Email ImageIt’s probably no surprise that many biz dev prospecting emails are personally written by the senders themselves. However, it seems that lately they all have attended the same seminar on “how to write a prospecting email” — and learned the same annoying “how to” lessons because my inbox is filled with them. And, instead of attracting me to learn more about these products or services, I automatically hit the delete button.

The themes of these emails fall into one of 4 categories:

1. Looking for the Most Appropriate Person Who Handles …
2. Reviewed your LinkedIn Profile / Your Website And You May Be Interested In …
3. A Person in Your Company Recommended Me
4. Following Up on Our Conversation

The first theme is a fishing expedition. They purchased my name from some list (or scammed it from our website) and are hoping that I’d actually refer a person/organization/brand that I am not familiar with, to a potential buyer inside our company. Yeah, good luck with that.

The second theme cannot possibly be true. If they had read my LinkedIn Profile or looked at my website, they’d realize that I’m actually a competitor — or couldn’t possibly be interested in the type of solution they represent as it has nothing to do with my industry or business.

The last two themes are outright lies. Either I’ve never spoken to nor heard of the individual or their company, or after surveying my team as to whether they knew this individual, I’ve received a resounding chorus of “No.”

But it gets worse.

They send follow up emails over and over and over again. Sometimes they’re lazy with notes like “I’m following up on my previous email (see below)” or “Still not heard anything back from you” or, the worst, “I’m giving you one last shot to …”

In some instances, I’ve received up to eight emails over an eight-week period that I can scroll down through to see the original email and every single follow-up.

Most of these emails don’t provide an unsubscribe or opt-out option. And what’s worse, these emails all seem to come from legitimate businesses — video companies, tools that measure social interactions, software developers, etc.

If you’re guilty of this technique, then do me the favor and comment to this post, and share your results. I don’t really care about open or click-through rates. Instead, I want to know what percent of your targets engaged and agreed to a meeting/phone call. I’ll stop whining if this technique is actually working, but I’ll also be stunned if it is.

What’s the Best Cold Email Sequence?

Transactional Messaging - Much More than Just a Confirmation EmailThe best cold email sequence is the one that opens the door to more meetings, right?

Not really.

The best cold email sequence is one that qualifies buyers faster. So your meet with more closeable clients.

Sequencing email touches is about increasing quality of meetings, not quantity. And therein lies the power.

Rushing the meeting can sabotage you on the first touch. But pushing for meetings also can ruin your chances during the email sequence.

Point blank: Even when a client invites you to discuss the benefits of what you sell, it’s often not a good idea. Because some clients think they’re ready to buy, but aren’t. They’ll waste your time.

Here’s a way to take the guesswork out of cold effective email sequences that qualify buyers faster. Make sure your email sequence qualifies leads by:

  • Earning replies with a dramatically different first-touch approach
  • Attracting the buyer to the idea of talking with you
  • Sparking curiosity by repeatedly holding back full details on your product/service

When customers want to go fast, consider slowing customers (and yourself) down.

Getting Response to Your First Touch
When “googling” around, beware of bad advice about cold email sequences and techniques to qualify leads. Most of what I see these days does not work. Here is my best advice (some of the below may surprise you):

When making your first approach be sure resist the urge to:

  • Request a meeting
  • Present a clear opportunity
  • List your benefits or clients
  • Include links or attachments

Ninety-five percent of B-to-B email prospecting sequences should not start by requesting a meeting. Because most prospects are not be ready for it. Most perfectly good buyers will, on first contact, say no to a meeting, simply because you asked too soon for it. Especially if you’re approaching “status quo” buyers or practicing challenger selling —where you need a sequence of emails to help re-frame your target’s point-of-view.

Beware of presenting a clear opportunity. Clear is not provocative. I see a lot of self-appointed experts telling people to be super clear about the opportunity. Big no-no. Your prospects don’t want your opportunity. They’re busy with other priorities. Your first touch should create productive tension, not clarity.

Tension provokes.

Stand out by being brief, blunt and provocative — helping the prospect develop a reason to talk with you.

Absolutely never include links and attachments. None. Doing so distracts prospects from your goal (and what could be their goal too). And that goal is hitting reply and inviting you to discuss their pain, fear or goal with them.

Links send buyers to websites and websites are distractions. Help them focus on the goal: Replying. Immediately. Without delay!

Be bold. Resist the urge to do what most sellers are doing right now … and many “experts” are teaching.

The Root Cause of Prospecting Email Troubles

Whether using standard email or LinkedIn’s InMail, there is one problem I see repeatedly: Talking about the benefits of products and services too soon. It’s the most common sales prospecting email hurdle to jump, and for good reason.

EmailWhether using standard email or LinkedIn’s InMail, there is one problem I see repeatedly: Talking about the benefits of products and services too soon. It’s the most common sales prospecting email hurdle to jump, and for good reason.

Most sellers are stuck. “What else is there to talk about at this point anyway?”

That’s why we take the easy way out. The lazy way. Talking about solutions to customers’ problems.

And that’s why we fail to earn replies. Instead, we talk only about their problems — not your solution. Not yet.

Yes, there may be other problems sabotaging your cold email, such as:

  • A subject line that is too “telling” about your message
  • Length of your message and/or lack of a provocative element
  • Use of words that subvert your goal, don’t trigger an immediate reply

But the issue of breaking the ice is the most common problem when prospecting using email. How can you start a relevant conversation when you don’t know what to talk about?

How to Break the Habit
The fastest way to break the habit is to take action right now. Literally. First, let’s put the problem into context.

Talking about benefits with your prospects isn’t the problem. The problem is your entire approach style. The premise of your approach.

Your first touch email must not:

  • Attempt to earn a meeting, appointment or demo
  • Take longer than 20 seconds to read
  • Reference you, your client list, products nor benefits

Do not try for the meeting in your first touch. Asking for what you want, too soon, will fail.

Instead, attract the prospect to the idea of talking with you. First, get invited to discuss a challenge, fear or goal your prospect has.

The meeting will come. Trust in it.

Be brief, blunt and provocative.

Talk About This Instead: Real Life
If you’re not in touch with the day-to-day nightmares, problems, hidden challenges, big opportunities and nagging suspicions of your customers, nothing will help you. Period. You must be willing to research, understand and know your prospects inside-out.

No exceptions.

Cold Email Prospecting: Getting Busy Buyers to Reply

Transactional Messaging - Much More than Just a Confirmation EmailThe Web is littered with horrible advice on cold email prospecting tips and strategy. Templates? Even worse. So here’s what I’ve learned works.

No theory, just what I’ve learned along side my most creative, diligent customers. Here is a practical way to diagnose and fix your cold email templates. Fast.

Avoid the Most Common Mistakes
It’s obvious. So obvious. But are you doing it?

Is your email different?

Is it provocative? Does it spark curiosity in a way that is hyper-focused on the buyer?

You’ll fail every time — unless your first touch email is:

  • under 10 sentences
  • focused exclusively on the buyer (not referencing yourself, nor current clients, nor benefits)
  • not asking for a meeting
  • without Web links or PDF attachments

Is your first message structured — written — to earn permission for a discussion?

The 3 Reasons Prospects Don’t Reply
Most cold email templates fail to break-the-ice and earn replies because they:

  • Have subject lines that telegraph what’s inside (never get opened).
  • Contain messages focusing on the seller (often pretending to be personalized).
  • Ask for a meeting and share a Web link or PDF (distracting them from replying).

In 95 percent of cases I see, buyers aren’t responding because the goal of the email sender is focused on earning a meeting. If you’re selling a complex B-to-B product or service, practicing challenger selling, or if closing takes months beware: Do not ask for the meeting in your first touch.

Everything (bad) flows from this flawed objective.

Instead, think in terms of provoking a short discussion … that might (if needed) lead to a meeting.

Then, conduct the conversation (via email) in a way that creates an urge in good prospects… to ask you for the appointment. Poor prospects will fall away. They will self qualify/disqualify themselves.

All because of how you structured words … how well you copywrite.

LinkedIn InMail Changes: What B-to-B Sellers Should Do Next

The new LinkedIn InMail changes are in effect—leaving sales reps and managers upset and confused. InMail just got much more expensive for average B-to-B sellers. However, you can now access a nearly unlimited supply of InMail credits under the new policy—by making one small change to how you craft InMail messages.

The new LinkedIn InMail changes are in effect—leaving sales reps and managers upset and confused. InMail just got much more expensive for average B-to-B sellers. However, you can now access a nearly unlimited supply of InMail credits under the new policy—by making one small change to how you craft InMail messages.

Yes, I said nearly unlimited. No, I’m not kidding, nor risking my integrity.

There is a way to send 100 InMail messages and get 193 credits back (for you to re-use again).

Briefly, What Changed and Why?
When InMail was introduced, LinkedIn’s “guaranteed response” policy rewarded spammy messages. Oops. So, as of January, LinkedIn gives InMail credits (that you buy) back—BUT only for InMails that earn a response in 90 days.

This is radically new.

Under the old system if you did not receive a response within a week, the InMail credit you purchased was given back. LinkedIn guaranteed a response. However, this rewards you for failing.

For example, let’s say you purchased 50 InMails and sent them. A (poor) 10 percent response rate allowed you to earn credits and send over 400 InMails per month. Thus, the policy increased the amount of spammy InMail messages being sent. The system rewarded it.

What the New Policy Means to You
Going forward, you will receive a credit (get your money back) for each InMail receiving a response within 90 days. You can re-use the money to invest again … and again and again. But if you earn no reply (or a poor response rate) your money is wasted.

LinkedIn’s old InMail policy rewarded sellers who weren’t successful with InMail.

LinkedIn’s new InMail policy rewards you (only) for writing messages that get good response. How good?

If you send 100 InMails per month, with a steady 20 percent response rate, you will end up with about 125 total InMails to send-based on InMails credited back to your account.

How to Send 100 InMails and Get 193 Credits Back
If you’re an average InMail user, you’re seeing credits vanish lately. But there is a way to send 100 InMail messages and get 98 returned to you. Or even 193 credits back (for you to re-use again).

How? Write effective InMail messages.

For example, let’s say you earn a 50 percent response rate on your first batch of 100 InMails sent. Over time (as you use the InMail credits returned to you) you earn a total of 98 credits. Not bad. You get nearly all of your investment back for re-use.

But what if you were really good? Let’s say you earned a 70 percent response rate to your InMail messages? Hey, it’s possible. I have students who earn 73 percent response rates.

With a 70 percent response rate, you would earn 193 InMail credits (of your original 100) to re-use for prospecting.

In actual practice the math is a bit messy, due to the delays between prospects responding and LinkedIn’s re-issuing credits. But you get the picture.

Should You Stop Using InMail?
As much as it may hurt, your never-ending stream of InMail credits were part of LinkedIn’s lack of foresight. If you are considering investing in InMail you’re in luck. Learn from this experience. Most B-to-B sellers who invested in LinkedIn Sales Navigator (and InMail) are complaining loudly. Many are resigning accounts.

And they should.

As Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

Change for the better.

What to Do Next
LinkedIn’s InMail policy change is another signal. Another warning. A reason to abandon fairy-tale beliefs like:

  • Email prospecting doesn’t cost anything when it fails-or under-performs
  • It’s mostly a numbers game
  • Getting response and appointments means sending more emails

Yes, it is a numbers game. Just like cold-calling. But what is the basis of an effective cold-call routine?

An effective communications process. More specifically: A systematic, repeatable, scalable way to turn calls in to leads. I recently described this technique—gave next steps and templates to help make it easy.

If you aren’t serious about learning an effective process, you won’t experience predictable success.

“Lazy individuals will still be able to send indifferent InMails, but they won’t be rewarded for it.” says Bruce Johnston of The Practical Social Media blog.

“The new InMail system will reward people with imagination that experiment to get optimal response rates,” says Johnston.

Whether you pay cash for LinkedIn InMail credits or send standard emails to prospects … if it doesn’t work, it costs you. Cash or wasted time-time you should have spent doing something productive!

How do you feel about LinkedIn’s new InMail policy? What do you intend to do about it, looking forward?

3 Online Recommendations for Small Business Direct Marketers

Many smaller companies who use direct mail don’t have a large staff to identify digital alternatives. This column is for the organization wondering what to do online when direct mail response is declining, costs are increasing, and inevitably, profits are shrinking. Today’s topic was triggered by

Many smaller companies who use direct mail don’t have a large staff to identify digital alternatives. This column is for the organization wondering what to do online when direct mail response is declining, costs are increasing, and inevitably, profits are shrinking. Today’s topic was triggered by a phone call from the new owner of a company we worked with a few years ago.

His challenge was typical of a lot of small business owners using direct mail: declining response rates, with lower profit, exacerbated by the fact that postage, once again, has recently gone up.

When we worked with the previous owner of this company a few years ago, we identified a more responsive direct mailing, built a new website, and got him started with a modest pay-per-click campaign. We wanted to test email, but the owner didn’t want to use email, so we didn’t. The outcome from these efforts was a combination of a better list; the capability for responders to complete a lead form on a new, search-engine-optimized website; and a PPC campaign that put them back in the black.

Fast forward about five years and direct mail response has declined yet again, while costs are up. The new owner wanted to rebrand his company with a different website. But in his attempt to save money, and having no clue what he was doing, the “new” website became a brand liability and all optimization was lost. And the pay-per-click campaign faltered because of the website switch.

So what to do? He called us for help.

In an instance like this, and in the interest of keeping a plan of action simple and as cost-effective as possible for the small business going at this alone, here are three initiatives that should be explored to keep things simple and cost-effective.

1. Website Review
Most small businesses have a website. But what is its purpose, and is it effective at achieving that? Ask someone to evaluate it for you who will understand what websites should do for a company. Get an audit. Invest the money to make it a stronger representation of your brand; create great content, videos, and don’t forget your all-important opt-in form to capture email addresses. Make sure it’s optimized for the search engines. And make sure you claim your local listing on the search engines if you’re a local company.

2. Manage Expectations if You Test Email to Prospects
Because email marketing costs less than direct mail, it’s natural to think you can divert all your efforts to email and achieve the same results. But that’s often not the case, especially when you’re prospecting and not emailing a customer list. Making email prospecting more challenging is that there is no established relationship between the marketer and recipient. This isn’t to say that email prospecting shouldn’t be used, but rather, run the numbers first to manage expectations (see “Crack the Email Prospecting Code” for more on this topic). If you’re going to use email, make sure you have a compelling, relevant landing page and opt-in form to begin nurture marketing with regular email or direct mail follow-up (more about nurture marketing in a future blog post).

3. Give Pay-Per-Click a Shot
PPC enables you to set a daily budget comfortable for you. It can be ramped up, or shut down, without a lot of cost exposure. But you need strong text copy, understand your keywords, and have a powerful landing page. There, someone who clicks will opt-in by asking for more information. You can add those individuals to your nurture marketing campaign.

Bottom line: If you’re looking for a quick and affordable way to reinvent or expand your direct marketing from exclusively direct mail to cross-media online efforts, these three initiatives are a good place to start.

Crack the Email Prospecting Code

Email marketing has become a vital tool for direct marketers. But if you want to expand your email reach by renting and emailing a permission-based email list, you need to understand the complete measurement process to maximize profitability. If you don’t thoughtfully run the numbers, especially when renting a list of unproven email addresses, your dream of profits can be quickly dashed.

Email marketing has become a vital tool for direct marketers. But if you want to expand your email reach by renting and emailing a permission-based email list, you need to understand the complete measurement process to maximize profitability. If you don’t thoughtfully run the numbers, especially when renting a list of unproven email addresses, your dream of profits can be quickly dashed.

A traditional direct marketer recognizes why running the numbers is essential, but new entrants into DM often don’t have the foundational knowledge of how to run the numbers. Their expectations are that when they send out tens of thousands—even millions—of emails, it’s going to automatically be profitable. Even with relatively inexpensive email lists, making a profit sending email to a rented list is far from assured.

But you can get to the profit side when you understand that long-term value from repeat future purchases turns the loss from the first purchase into future profit. By understanding the long-term value of a customer, you know how much you can spend (or invest) to acquire a new customer.

It’s vital to understand how to calculate allowable marketing costs and how to create a long-term value model (learn more in my Four-Part Series on Marketing Costs here at Target Marketing by following the links). An allowable marketing cost is simply the remaining portion of a sales dollar after cost of goods, fulfillment, overhead and profit objectives are allocated to their respective budget line items.

Increasing (or reducing) your allowable marketing cost will depend on how you view long-term value. That is, how many times, and at what average order, would you expect a newly acquired customer to purchase from you over a given period of time into the future (perhaps it is six months, maybe even a year).

The table accompanying this blog gives a couple of scenarios for B-to-C and B-to-B examples. In the B-to-C scenarios, we assume the allowable marketing cost to acquire a new customer to be $50. Based on the assumption that the email costs $70 per thousand for a permission-based email, and a clickthrough (based on emails delivered) of 0.8 percent, or 8 clicks, then 1.4 of those clicks (or 18 percent) must convert to sales. Or, if the click-through rate is 0.5 percent of emails delivered, then the conversion must be 28 percent. B-to-B examples are shown because the cost of lists and allowable marketing costs are usually higher than B-to-C.

When you identify the conversion percentage required to break-even, you have a benchmark. Then apply a test of reasonableness to determine if you should move forward with your test. A B-to-C conversion of 18 percent or 28 percent may be achievable, but it could be quite optimistic.

Also, remember there are several variables that will go into the email prospecting effort that impact your results. The quality of the list, from line, subject line, messaging, landing page creative, offer and more all factor into the overall performance of the email marketing effort.

When you get someone to your landing page, it’s smart to invite the individual to opt-in to your email list. Give them something free and of value so they will feel comfortable giving you their email address. Then you can email future offers to them without the cost of email prospecting.

If you decide to use email prospecting, remember these points:

  1. You probably won’t make money in email prospecting (if you do, you’re the exception).
  2. The email list you rent needs to be pre-qualified and, of course, CAN SPAM compliant.
  3. Email tends to work better the more times you email someone. Open rates tend to improve with appropriate frequency.
  4. Don’t forget: your most important objective might not be to sell something in the first effort, but rather, to build an opt-in email list that you can call your own.

B-to-C Scenario 1

B-to-C Scenario 2

B-to-B Scenario 1

B-to-B Scenario 2

Permission-Based Email Quantity

1,000

1,000

1,000

1,000

Cost Per Thousand

$70.00

$70.00

$120.00

$120.00

Allowable Marketing Cost/Buyer

$50.00

$50.00

$250.00

$250.00

Open Rate

8%

5%

8%

5%

Click-Through Rate/Delivered Emails

0.80%

0.50%

0.80%

0.50%

Number of Opens

80

50

80

50

Number of Click-Thrus to Landing Page

8

5

8

5

No. Conversions Required

1.4

1.4

0.5

0.5

% Conversion Required

18%

28%

6%

10%