Booking meetings through cold outreach can be tough—unless you know the secret formula for success. In these videos, we explain why data is the differentiator, what kind of personalization works best, and how to research and write without overworking yourself, even when sending at scale.
Here, we uncover how data at the account, persona, and personal levels is extremely valuable when it comes to crafting emails.
The most effective outreach emails today are tailored not only to a company or industry, but to the recipient in detail. In other words, they're not just personalized, they are personal, and data is the differentiator.
When we talk about personalized and personal, what do we mean?
First of all, we're not talking about just adding a first name field to a subject line or knowing where someone went to college. That's overdone today, so it's not enough to warrant an open, let alone a response.
Rather, emails that are both personalized and personal capture immediate interest because they leverage data that's highly specific and uniquely relevant to the recipient.
What kind of data? Personalization starts with account-level data. This is information that answers questions such as:
What's important to the company?
What are their strategic initiatives right now?
Does the company have any upcoming important events, such as a user conference or a product launch?
What have executives been talking about recently?
Who are the company's primary peers and competitors?
Personalizing an email with this type of data shows potential buyers that you have a deeper understanding of their business and objectives. This establishes a level of trust.
Next, you want to dig down to data at the persona or job function level. Look for information that answers questions like:
What is the leadership level and department of your intended recipients?
What responsibilities and challenges does that role entail?
Does this persona have specific performance targets to reach?
Your goal is to be able to relate that job function and those responsibilities and challenges back to your use cases. That's how you'll pique interest.
Finally, you need data specific to the actual person receiving the email. This can include details about things the recipient has done or said—perhaps a mention of a recent event they attended or quote or a post they published. References to any of the recipient's specific functional goals or performance targets or acknowledgment that the recipient's own compensation might be tied to metrics your use cases can impact. Getting personal at this level will answer the question you should always keep top of mind because it's the first thing your recipient will wonder: What's in it for me?
So, how do you find this kind of information? Start with your account plan, as much of this info should be researched and outlined during that process. If your account plan isn't mapped out yet to that level, don't worry. Even the most detailed account plans won't have all the personal-level detail you need. You should always be prepared to research.
So, where do you look? Start with financial documents and investor reports, such as the 10K earnings call transcripts, or the company's other financial reports. You can typically find these on the investor relations page of the company's website. You can also search the SEC site, or, if you're a Databook user, it's all on the platform. Use "Control F" as a shortcut to find terms like "strategic priorities," "revenue," and "growth." Keep an eye out for hard data about upcoming performance targets, something they'll be held accountable for. Alternatively, search by the recipient's name or the name of any key executive to see what they've been involved in or saying.
Of course, you'll also want to head to LinkedIn. Search your recipient's profile for personal details, and use LinkedIn Sales Navigator for critical account-level information. YouTube is another good source; search by recipient name or sometimes by an event name if you know they recently presented there. Executives love to talk about their strategic priorities in keynote addresses. And of course, you can do an old-fashioned online web search for recent news.
As you can see, there are plenty of available avenues for unearthing important data. Yes, it takes legwork, but it should never be easy to take someone's money, right?
Putting Data and Emails Together
Take a look at how to use data in emails using these tips and examples.
You've done your research. You've gathered great data. Now what? What's the most effective way to write an outreach email, making use of the insights you found? Let's look at an example from our fictitious AI software company, Robobrain, as they try to engage retail giant Nike.
A good rule of thumb is the 10-80-10 rule. The first 10% of your email content is a personalized subject line and an intro hook. This should show you know your recipient's business, and you're writing with a specific intent at this specific time for a specific reason. The first sentence, and especially the first few words, are critical to grabbing attention. Approaches we've seen work well include:
Mention names of strategic team members or of a specific initiative or project
Reference a recent quote the speaker said or an event they attended
Reference a specific objective as stated in a recent financial report
Cite a specific metric the speaker finds critical and provide a benchmark as to where the company sits on this metric to show you're well informed
The next 80% of the email body content is where you make your value proposition. Tie your solution's use case to your account's strategic priorities, as well as to the persona's relevant pain points and challenges. Reference specific data-driven and measurable business outcomes wherever possible.
Finally, close with the last 10% of content as a personalized sign-off and call to action. Start by bringing it back around to your recipient's specific needs, challenges, and objectives, then give a concrete action they can take - something easy to do with a finite and clear ask.
Now, for a few technical considerations. You're no stranger to writing emails, so you probably know the tactical basics of outreach content, but let's review some of the best practices that will help you get the most out of the data you've compiled:
Format: Consider this a brief, familiar-level letter. It opens with a casual but concise greeting, and it closes with a friendly sign-off. Write in concise paragraphs where every sentence packs a punch. Don't waste your opening line on chit-chat like "hope you're doing well."
Tone and language: This isn't marketing content, sales collateral, or anything fancy. Keep your tone friendly and approachable. Use words that humans use in sentences that humans speak—in other words, make sure it's obvious you're a person, not an automated system. Write the way you'd speak to your recipient face to face. And don't forget the vertical—many industries have their own tone and their own vernacular and vocabulary. If you've done your research, you'll be able to use the right words for your recipient's industry. Don't get called out as a fake because you chose the wrong phrase.
Length: Shorter is always better. Go for scannable, not scrollable. Use shortcuts if you have to. For example, if you want to include a quote but it reads long, consider referencing it succinctly and hyperlinking to another page. Your reader may not click, but they'll get the gist.
Sender: Remember, emails don't have to come from you. Exec-to-exec outreach can be wildly successful. Look at our example here, where an email to a CFO comes from the seller's CEO. And if you go that route, consider timing it with a similar email from you to someone on the executive's team at VP level, as our Robobrain seller does in this example.
Subject line: There are studies on just about every length and type of subject line out there, all of them saying different, sometimes contradictory things. Start with the research as your baseline, then do your own benchmarking to see what results you get. Always A/B test to find your best results.
And finally, here are a few common mistakes to avoid:
Cutting corners on research: While solutions like Databook can accelerate the process, it still takes time to read and compile data. Don't skimp on the effort, though; it will show.
Not thinking about mobile: It's highly likely your recipient will first see your email on a mobile device, so make sure it's formatted well for a smartphone or tablet.
Spray and pray approach: More doesn't mean better, that's just quantity without quality.
Bad or old data: This is a big one. Don't alienate a prospect instantly by citing stats or metrics that either aren't accurate or outdated by months or even years. This happens more often than you'd think. Make sure you're using recent files when researching.
Product-focused content: Your email should never be all about your product. Customers care about solutions and business results, not features and functions.
Using data in your emails will help you tie the customer's pain points to your use cases and value proposition.
Let's review. Here's our complete email from Robobrain to Nike.
Think personalization takes too much time? We'll show you how to configure your outreach plan efficiently, while measuring your progress along the way.
We've talked about adding data at a deeper personal, business, and financial level to supercharge email outreach efforts. We covered how you can craft an email to incorporate this data for a better shot at booking meetings. But, how do you put this outreach into action, especially across multiple accounts and dozens of personas or more?
Let's be honest; no matter how good you are, you don't have time to do that much research and customization at scale. However, you can definitely use data and personalization when sending emails at scale within each account. Think of it almost like an assembly line. The work you do in one area helps you piece together other elements of the outreach plan, so you can establish a regular cadence for each account and keep your momentum going.
First, decide who you're sending emails to within the account and who the emails will be from. For example, through research for your account plan, you might have compiled a list of 30 people within the company that fit one of your target personas and are relevant to your use cases. Not all of them are at the VP or executive level, though. While you're looking to generate interest across all levels of prospects within your target personas, you're most interested in booking meetings with senior-level decision-makers.
As time is a limited resource, you want to identify your top 5 to 10 senior decision-makers at your account and craft hyper-personalized messages for them. Some of those hyper-personalized emails to the CFO and an SVP, perhaps, will be written as though they come from your company CEO. The rest will come from you.
So, how do you distinguish between the hyper-personalized email and the more generic scaled version if they all include data? Remember the 10-80-10 rule, where the first and last 10% is personalized to the recipient, but the middle 80% is largely standard body copy that's personalized on an account and persona or job function level.
That's how you'll build your outreach. Think of it like modular components. The middle 80% includes account and persona-level data you can leverage in your email execution at a larger scale. The 10 intro and 10 sign off are the parts you can spend more time on personalizing for your key buyers while using a more generic but still data-driven version for your larger list.
Let's talk about how this plays out on a tactical basis. Assuming you're sending weekly emails, you'll navigate two to-do lists for each account each week: one for the scalable version of your emails, and one for your hyper-personalized emails. The weekly to-do list for your scalable version would include:
Writing the 80% body copy segment. This incorporates account and persona level high-impact data that can work for your most common use cases. You can then use this segment in all of your emails.
Writing a generic intro and sign-off. Remember generic doesn't mean boring. Make sure you're still opening with a hard-hitting first line and closing with a clear call to action. Then pop those elements together and into your automation software, and you're good to go.
The weekly to-do list for your hyper-personalized email version is pretty straightforward, assuming you've already done the research. Write the database intro and sign-off segments individually for each recipient. Use the most relevant personal data you've uncovered in your research.
Realistically speaking, how much work is this? One study from SalesLoft found that the amount of time required to optimally personalize 20% of a sales email should be no more than five minutes. So, if you're doing this for 5 to 10 emails per account, and you have 4 accounts, you're looking at writing for maybe 1.5 to 3.5 hours per week. That's not too bad, and remember this: Personalization with data doesn't prevent you from writing with templates. Find one or two intros or sign-offs that work, and simply sub in the data for each account and buyer.
Better yet, take advantage of the templates provided for download on this page. The only work you're really doing is selecting the data and hitting copy-paste.
Last thing: Assessing and recalibrating are critical. An important part of outreach is measuring and benchmarking your results so you can see what kind of responses you're getting and then refocus your emails as needed so you can meet your goal.
A good rule of thumb is to give your efforts 6 to 8 weeks to land before you take stock of what's working and what isn't. After that time, assess your results. Are they working? How are your subject lines faring? Which emails are getting the best responses? Which data is generating the greatest reply rate? If your hyper-personalized approach is going well and you have the routine down, try ramping it up to more people on your buyer list.
If your effort at hyper-personalization isn't getting the numbers you want, how can you course-correct? Do you need to leverage different data points or use cases? Switch your recipients? Keep at it. Data carries tremendous weight if you map the right points to the right use cases for the right people. Find that sweet spot, and you'll book more meetings without a doubt.
Download Email Templates
Data + Emails = Meetings
Ready to apply what you've learned? Take a look at these free email templates, and turn your knowledge into power.