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?

A Popular (yet Ineffective) LinkedIn Tactic

Considering investing in LinkedIn automation software? Already using automated tactics? Beware: Automation is not helping social sellers start conversations. Don’t let your hopes or a LinkedIn “expert” (charlatan) tell you otherwise. This isn’t my opinion. I speak from experience — and that of my customers.

LinkedIn logoConsidering investing in LinkedIn automation software? Already using automated tactics? Beware: Automation is not helping social sellers start conversations.

Don’t let your hopes or a LinkedIn “expert” (charlatan) tell you otherwise.

This isn’t my opinion. I speak from experience — and that of my customers.

I don’t like to speak in absolutes. Nothing is certain in our world. But automating the gathering of lead data and sending messages to prospects wastes time, damages reputation and what’s worst is buyers see through it — instantly.

It’s spammy.

Also, LinkedIn is cracking down and suing service providers. It took a while but Microsoft has had enough.

Short-cuts rarely work in life. Buckle-down and do the work. And yes, I know you need to scale. Me too. Tech tools like LinkedIn help us scale time. But LinkedIn automation is ineffective.

Lately, it can also hurt you.

Automating Outreach and Scraping Contact Data

We need targets to call on: Companies, decision-makers and contact data. LinkedIn is a database. But gathering contact data is time-consuming. Plus, getting these contacts to connect with us (open the door to communication) takes time and effort.

Wouldn’t it be great to automate the data collection, connections and messaging? We could mass email messages to prospects — without much effort. We’ll reply to the responses, manage the leads.

Enter LinkedIn automation tools.

But beware of reality:

  1. Automated profile viewers and contact data scrapers are being sued by LinkedIn/Microsoft;
  2. Non-personalized (spammy) or “personalized” (fake personalization) messages aren’t helping sellers start conversations with buyers;
  3. Decision-makers are actually hiding from overzealous sellers and accepting fewer connection requests.

How Automation Software Works

You look up a group of contacts using a LinkedIn search. Boom. Software automatically:

  • Grabs those search results
  • Views each contact’s profile
  • Scrapes the screen (cuts-and-pastes name, company, title, etc. into a spreadsheet)

Software will also:

  • View profiles
  • Invite people with keywords or titles to connect
  • Automatically send them welcome messages when they accept
  • Automatically endorse them
  • Automatically send them congratulatory messages when they have a birthday, work anniversary or change jobs
  • Automatically send sales messages to large swaths of your connections

Sounds great. But let’s pretend you are Microsoft (LinkedIn’s new owner).

You just paid $26 billion for this data. How do you feel about people scraping it? How do you feel about automating all of these non-personalized functions (which are all trying to look personalized and social)?

That’s why LinkedIn is suing these service providers.

Automation tools are popular. But these are often “companies” that have no public contact data themselves! Companies that, in fact, aren’t companies … and have (for years now) operated in clear violation of LinkedIn’s Terms & Conditions.

LinkedIn prospecting expert, Bruce Johnston, is blunt:

“It is instructive that I went through my list and less than half of the companies I added 12 to 15 months ago still exist.”