Avoiding a numbers-based outreach approach (and what to do instead)

The truth about outreach marketing is that your reply/conversion rates are relatively low.

In the email outreach world, for most campaigns, you’re looking at around a ~3% reply rate being reasonable. (That means if you email 100 people, you expect ~3 replies. 10,000 people? 300 replies. Not leads/conversions/sales, but replies.)

Many outreach marketers and agencies lean into that low conversion rate, which isn’t great for anyone.

Their logic goes something like this:

  • If my reply rate is 3%, I get three replies if I mail 100 people.
  • I need 1,000 replies.
  • Therefore, I better email ~35,000 people to get ~1,000 replies! 💡
  • And the outreach machine goes brrrrrrr.

This approach sucks for everyone involved.

  • It sucks for the outreach marketer. They’re doing so much work to prospect, locate, identify, and mail to these 35,000 people. That’s a heavy lift. And their results aren’t that great.
  • It sucks for the people receiving this outreach. Our inboxes fill up with low-quality spammy outreach that isn’t relevant to us. We get these messages because a prospector found our email address somewhere online that made it seem relevant for the campaign, and now we’re receiving emails about (checks spam folder) mobile app development, getting to the 1st page of Google, SEO errors on our website, and fake invoices for payment.

I say this as someone who has worked in email outreach since ~2013: this ‘email everyone and sort out the good leads later’ approach sucks. It isn’t useful for anyone.

So, what should you do instead? What’s the better path when it comes to email outreach?

The law of raspberry jam and outreach

One of my favorite pieces of consulting wisdom is The Law of Raspberry Jam:

“The wider you spread it, the thinner it is.” — Gerald Weinberg

This law is fundamental in your marketing and business and essential regarding email outreach.

Your time, energy, and attention (let alone prospecting, copywriting, and marketing energy) will get spread incredibly thin if you’re working on messaging THOUSANDS of prospects. 

There isn’t the time to, for example, write a personalized introduction for a high-value and high-quality lead. Instead, the ‘easy’ path is to use the same outreach message for everyone in the campaign and hope for the best.

And, well, that’s part of the reason that most of the outreach we all receive sucks. Outreach marketers email large, irrelevant lists, and most of the outreach messages miss their target, performance suffers, and we all end up annoyed.

What’s the solution? Email smaller lists with more relevant messages. 

  • Build a list of 10/25/50 ideal people you want to work with.
  • Take the time to review and qualify them for ideal client fit. (If they aren’t a fit, delete them from your outreach list.)
  • Write personalized messages for each person on your outreach list.
  • Send them a message, and remember to follow up.

Small-batch ‘dream 25’ outreach

Earlier, we touched on the average reply rate for an outreach campaign: around 3%.

For comparison, I typically get reply rates on my email outreach campaigns between ~15% and 30%. That’s 5-10x the industry standard reply rate.

What’s up with that? How do I do it? Am I a wizard, and is this magic?

Nope! That’s the power of small, targeted outreach. (What Chet Holmes and many others call a ‘Dream 25’ outreach campaign.)

Instead of emailing as many people as possible, this approach to email outreach is to:

  • Build a small, highly vetted list of qualified decision-makers and ideal customers (~25-50 people).
  • Research each prospect on the list, throwing out prospects who aren’t a great fit.
  • Write individual + personalized messages that appeal to the recipient and end with a strong + relevant call to action.
  • Send the outreach messages, and remember to follow up.

Instead of emailing everyone, I’m just emailing the people I think are the best, most qualified likely buyers. The people who, through one signal or another, look to be the better candidates for my marketing. Not everyone, just these few people.

That’s how you do outreach right and get higher reply rates from more engaged leads and prospects, not by emailing as many people as possible but by focusing your outreach marketing energy on a narrow slice of the market.