Personalized Sales Email Content — The One-At-A-Time Approach

One-at-a-time-600x300If you work at a startup or a tech company, you’ve probably heard Paul Graham’s advice to “do things that don’t scale” — it sounds contradictory when it’s the opposite of your goal, but in most cases, you can learn a ton from your efforts, and then use it to create a process that does scale later.

We’re working through a series of posts about ways to personalize your sales email content. Our first option was to forget about personalization altogether.

Another course of action is to write one-off, one-at-a-time, individually researched, highly-targeted emails to cold prospects — it’s the least scalable approach to personalization, but potentially one of the most effective.

It can take upwards of 20-40-50% of your week to craft this kind of email for a very small percentage of prospects. But if your sales process is relationally driven, it could be very worth your while.

However, we’ve found a few ways to work smarter and speed it up a bit. 

Even though the OAAT approach is very individualized, we think that there are still pieces of it that you can templatize — for example, your value prop isn’t going to change (though you may reword it depending on who you’re talking to) and your CTA is probably going to stay consistent.

The Process

Knowing this, we start with a list of prospects that we sourced from RevBoss, create a Google sheet (not ideal, but effective), and add columns for different qualifiers that are important to us.

For example, it’s helpful if we know if the company is hiring and if so, are they hiring for sales positions? (We also save the link to the job posting to include it in the email copy.)

Other things we might want to know include: the size of the company, number of employees and structure of the sales team, target market (from this we can deduce their ideal customer profile), companies they’ve worked with in the past (customer success stories), and maybe a link to their latest blog post.

Some of these data points might be used indirectly — ie, you can create two different messaging flows for one point of data (like the size of the sales team), write static content that addresses each scenario and then directly use the other data points as custom variables.

Since we’ve set it up like this, we can actually automate the repeatable research work with the help of cloud workers, and then use the data to construct our “OAAT” emails in a more efficient manner.

It’s obviously still much more in-depth and time consuming than a robo-email, but creating a repeatable process makes it much more doable for our team.

Need An Example?

We thought it’d be helpful to show you what we’re talking about — check out this Google Sheet to see how we set up the micro tasks, and then use the data to craft our messaging in a smart way.

Why It Works

If you have a high price point product, your sales process is probably very relationship-driven — your customers need to feel confident that they can trust you if they’re shelling out that much dough for your product.

The OAAT approach is very easy to differentiate among a sea of robo-emails, and it lets the prospect know that they’re important to you. You’ve taken time to research their needs and frame your offering in a way that is highly personalized and speaks directly to their pain points — opposed to the overused robo-email that may have no relevance to the prospect and their needs.

Plus, the process works. Injecting sales emails with personalized content nuggets lifts reply rate by 50%.

We use this approach in conjunction with a few others — it’s not something that we’re going to hang our hat on, but it’s definitely worth the extra effort for high-value prospects.

More to come…


  • Lance Johnson

    I completely agree with the premise of personalization, but there are two issues we’re having a tough time getting over:

    1) Good personalization for people who don’t use twitter or LinkedIn. We market to people outside the SaaS space so are trying to figure out some additional data sources. Any ideas?

    2) The extra time spent. Since cost of sending a mass email is lead cost ($0.50/initial email) + ($0.13 for the software) = $0.63 per email when you start adding labor for personalization in, even if it’s just $0.50 (7.5 minutes of someone who is paid $4 per hour) then you’ve got to hope your reply rate increases by nearly 100%. What has your experience been?

    I’m sure there’s a way to do it, but just haven’t been able to get it to work with our numbers yet. Would love to hear ideas 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment, Lance. Shouldn’t you be in Chile?! 🙂

      1) Personalization to the person is ideal…but personalization to the company is often equally as effective, especially for small businesses. So for prospects that don’t have a social presence, a short note about the company is usually the trick.

      2) On average, our process lifts reply rate by 60% — which is a blend of lots of different customers with lots of different prospects. Several small batches hit 100%+, so it isn’t out of the question. Re: cost — it definitely matters. Our current process is primarily people that are enabled by machines. In the not too distant future, it will be machines enabled by people. As such, personalization cost is definitely a factor in the short term, but I don’t think it will be for the long term.

      BTW — you should be getting waaaay more than 8 per hour from your workers. Happy to share some ideas, just let me know.

      • Lance Johnson

        Thanks Eric — I leave on Tuesday 🙂

        I’ll have to check back in next year and see what cool things you guys are doing with your process!

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