Marketing / Email Marketing

The art of outreach email: when customization counts

Kathryn Hawkins

Updated: Mar 13, 2020 · 5 min read

Toolkit for download in this article

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There is a fine art to writing cold outreach emails—and success in the endeavor can wield great sales rewards. Failure, unfortunately, is horribly common. But success does happen—and it arises from strategic planning, a journalist’s research chops, a copywriter’s minimalist approach, and the art of being human in a time of overwhelming automation.

It’s a way of mixing the best of technology—the ability to scale outreach with automated research tools and compelling email templates—with a granular process that directly connects to the person on the other side of the screen. This process includes three key steps: understanding your target, knowing exactly what to do (and not to do), and knowing how to follow up effectively. And software like Keap can help.

Understanding your target

The key word here is precision. As you prepare to reach out to a prospect, take a few moments to locate the human beyond the name.

As Fast Company reported in 2014, journalists tend to be very good at cold email outreach—they use this method all the time and know how well it works when they present a compelling argument and have confidence in their own position as someone delivering value. Start by researching your prospect: Read the blogs they are writing, check out the speeches they have given, take a look at their Twitter posts, and find out more about their job function and role—anything to make the outreach feel genuine. It’s important to get to the point quickly, but by making the effort to personalize the message in some way, you’ll likely find a far more receptive audience.

What to write

For instance, you’ve identified a marketing director who might be interested in your graphic design services. Send her a generic form letter and she won’t bother reading—but if you take the time to customize your outreach template and showcase your knowledge of the client’s industry and needs, and you may find a far more willing audience.

Here’s a fill-in-the-blanks example of how you might do that:

Hi [first name],

I heard about your company from my friend [a mutual contact], who told me about all the innovative work you’re doing in [industry space]. I was really impressed by [recent project]—it speaks to [relevant data/trend].

It looks like you don’t currently have a graphic designer on staff, so I wanted to send a quick intro to find out if my company might be a good fit as a partner to support some of your upcoming campaigns.

[Company pitch that includes website link, client examples, and recent accomplishments.]

[Offer to have a call, share samples, provide a free e-book, etc.]


Take the time to conduct research, build organic connections (whether a mutual friend, a shared college or hometown, or simply providing kudos on a recent accomplishment), and then follow up with your pitch. Build out your buyer personas to understand different needs and how to support them, and develop templates customized to each segment. For the example above, that letter might fit into a “direct outreach” campaign aimed at marketing directors of small businesses; you could use a different version customized to agencies that might consider using your services for an outsourcing partner.

How and when to follow up

If your emails are met with a dispiriting wall of radio silence, fear not. People are so busy today that they usually need you to reconnect with a reminder at least once. You’re not annoying them (yet).

Use an automated email program that will schedule the response date and trigger you to let you know when a reach-out is due. A week is a polite space of time. As you reach back out, make the call to action easy for them to say yes—and include a link to a piece of content from your blog or an industry source that they might find useful, ensuring that you’re providing value at every turn.

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By fusing the art of customized outreach with the ease of marketing automation, you can eliminate the busy work of tracking emails and drafting responses on the fly to every message. Once you understand the structure of an outreach campaign, you can fill in the blanks with relevant content that will resonate with your target audience, and turn cold emails into warm relationships.  

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