How to Coax More Replies Out of Your MQL Outreach

By Jeff Lynn, BlueBird Strategies

Editor’s note: As part of a special arrangement, the article below has been syndicated from the blog of BlueBird Strategies, a Content4Demand partner.

The marketing blogosphere is littered with articles similar to this about how to get replies to your new MQL outreach emails. Why must we have another one, you ask?  Mostly just because I didn’t think the others were very funny. Why not write something informative while being entertaining?  Is this really a new idea?  Anyway, I hope you enjoy even if you don’t think THIS blog is very funny either.

The Objective of The Subject is Not Subject to Subjectivity….HUH?

Yes, I do like to be deliberately obtuse.  Basically, this means the subject line should be informative and compelling no matter your opinion on the matter. Also, I like homonyms.  

Your subject line should provide a brief description of what is in the email while still being interesting enough for the recipient to read further. Sounds easy right?  Now you’re just being silly.


Subject 1: Follow Up on revenue generating opportunity
Subject 2: Re: Improve <newly launched product> response by 40%

Remember how you researched new product announcements or strategic ventures?  Of course not because that appears in the 3rd section below titled “Provide Value”. Here’s where it comes in handy.  Mentioning their new product or venture in the subject will grab their attention.  Tie it to a benefit of your product or service and now there’s a much better chance they’ll at least read a little bit of your message.

Avoiding generic and bland subject lines is paramount to getting your prospect to take that one extra step; to read your message.  Now, what should that message be?

Are You a Robot or Human?  Ok, Now Make it Sound That Way

“Dear John Doe,

My name is sales person #23,456 with Spacely Sprockets.  We provide the best sprockets this side of Alpha Centauri.  Let’s discuss how we can help you with…”

Does this look familiar?  We’ve all received the obvious form email.  Even some hand-written emails end up robotic because we’re so accustomed to seeing them we churn them out like butter.  I for one prefer to read an email with a conversational tone.  Don’t mistake my meaning here.  It doesn’t have to sound like it’s coming from a frat buddy, complete with emojis and OMG’s and LOL’s, but if you need to tell them who you are in the first sentence, they are unlikely to read past your introduction.

This does present issues with the next topic, though.  Being conversational does not mean write an entire conversation.

Brevity is The Soul of Wit:


In the midst of Hamlet’s incessant babbling through his teenage angst, Polonius came out with this brief bit of wisdom.  What does it mean?  Keep it short, silly.  Your prospects are busy people and they don’t like to receive walls of text from people they don’t know. Most people don’t want it from people they know and love. GET TO THE POINT.  There’s no faster way to end up in the circular file than to provide a detailed history of your company and your offerings and why you’re contacting them and why they might be missing out and why the sky is blue and why, why, why….

The two “W’s” you should be focusing on are What & When:  What do you have to offer? ANDwhen can we discuss it?

Provide Value

This is probably the area that requires the most effort.  By “value” I don’t only refer to what you can potentially do for them.  This is also where you need to display a little bit of knowledge about the prospect.  The reason this is difficult is because it requires research.  Find out what their strategic goals are.   If they’re a large or publicly traded company, it’s not hard to find out about new product launches or strategic ventures that you can mention and relate to your offering.  Add in a little bit about how you’ve helped similar customers and BAM! You have a compelling message. There is value in your knowledge of their business and how it applies to your services.

It’s better to sound like a stalker than a sales person. Let them know what you know about them first and then describe how you can help.  Tell them you like how they rearranged their living room furniture and it looks great from bushes outside their window.  Just kidding.  Don’t tell them that.

Give Them an “Out”

This one sounds scary because the ultimate goal is a sale, not a swing and a miss. You might say “I don’t want to provide them with excuses not to buy my product.”  This is true.  But you also don’t want to go through a weeks long process with 8-12 follow up emails and calls to a prospect that isn’t interested, never was interested and just couldn’t be bothered to tell you.

I certainly don’t recommend imitating your passive aggressive ex-boyfriend by saying “Will you buy my product/service or should I just give up on life altogether?”  What I do recommend is something more along the lines of: “If now isn’t the right time, please let me know. It won’t hurt my feelings and will spare you the hassle of reading my follow up emails. Maybe some time in Q3 would be better for you.”  This may even coax a reply that they are indeed interested but have just been busy.  If they reply with a better time to follow up, then you’ve just gained some valuable information to use later.  Or, they may just reply and say they are not interested.  Now you can cross them off the list and move on to more lucrative leads. It’s a Win/Win/Win.

The key is to provide this “Bail Out” option on later emails attempts.  This shouldn’t be on your first email out of the gate.  Perhaps attempt 3-4.

It’s a CALL to Action, Not a SUGGESTION to Action

It is essential that your CTA is clearly defined and easy to spot.  What do you want them to do in response to this email?  Should they reply to you with available times to chat? Do you want them to view a demo or take a survey?  Should they shave their head and start a new religion?

The CTA should be written in plain English and exist in its very own paragraph separated from the rest of your message.  It needs to be seen quickly and easily understood.  For this reason you must also avoid suggesting a discussion, demo or other action.  Instead, you must ask them to actively do one of these things.  In the case of an introductory call, you can even assume it’s a foregone conclusion and ask them to provide a few times that work well for them.


Avoid The One-And-Done

This one is so self-explanatory I don’t even need to write it…..but I will anyway.  Do NOT give up after the first attempt.  According to SiriusDecisions, it takes between 8-12 attempts before finally connecting with a prospect. If you have more than just an email address, like phone number or LinkedIn or other professional profile, try them all.  The worst they can do is ask you to leave them alone (unless you’re in Canada.  If so, see our blog post on CASL compliance).

Don’t be pushy or annoying.  Don’t assume they are actively avoiding you if they haven’t responded.  I find it best to assume they are busy and to say as much in your follow up emails.  Providing them with an excuse as to why they haven’t replied makes it easier for them to respond and admit that they have indeed been busy and they intended to reply next week or whatever.

Also, reach out at regular intervals.  If they receive an attempt from you every week or every 2 days, they will get the point that you are not going to give up until you hear back, thereby prompting a response.

Finally, don’t fret if you’re guilty of any of these missteps.  As I wrote this I became painfully aware that I have committed (and still occasionally commit) every one of these sales email sins.

All you can do now is ask for forgiveness and commit to changing your email strategy going forward.  Tomorrow is a new day!

With over 17 years of marketing account management under his belt, Jeff Lynn is a versatile executive and client advocate with experience in both established and start-up workplaces. His unique perspective developed in technical, manufacturing and service environments provides a well-rounded, customer focused approach to marketing automation.


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