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How To Build A Successful Sales Email Campaign (Using A Rouge Squirrel)

Marc McDougall is a SaaS conversation specialist and the founder of Clarity First Consulting.

In this episode of The Salesman Podcast, Marc shares how he leveraged a story about a rogue squirrel and turned it into a winning sales email campaign.

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Featured on this episode:

Host - Will Barron
Founder of Salesman.org
Guest - Marc McDougall
SaaS Conversation Specialist and Founder of Clarity First Consulting

Resources:

Transcript

Will Barron:

Coming up on today’s episode of The Salesman Podcast.

 

Marc McDougall:

At the end of the day, I’ve been the recipient of a lot of emails, so I know that the people I’m trying to email are receiving potentially hundreds, maybe thousands of emails a day from people trying to get business with them. So I’ve kind of figured that there’s really no chance. I should really be focusing more on standing out and doing something that’s so novel, that’s going to get them to turn their head and say, “Wait a minute. I’ve never seen anything like this. What is this?”

 

Will Barron:

Hello Sales Nation. My name is Will Barron and I’m the host of this Salesman Podcast, the world’s most downloaded B2B sale show. On today’s episode, we have the legend is Marc McDougall, you can find out more about him over at clarityfirst.co. On today’s episode, we’re looking at how you can use pattern interrupt to get more email opens and to get more conversions via longer-form email campaigns. We get into storytelling, squirrels, and a whole lot more. So all that said, let’s jump right into it.

 

Understanding Pattern Interrupt in Sales and Its Impact on Email Open Rate · [01:20] 

 

Will Barron:

In this episode, I’m going to tee this up in a weird way, seemingly, until we get a little bit further into it, but we’re going to talk about how we can use squirrels to get our emails opened, right? So now the audience are going, and hopefully, this has done the job of what we’re going to discuss, but they’re going to go, “What the heck are those two frigging idiots talking about?” So what are we doing here when we use squirrels? When we use, I mean, in psychology, you call that a pattern interrupt. How does it work and why should we be doing this kind of thing to get our emails opened?

 

“I know that the people I’m trying to email are receiving potentially hundreds, maybe thousands of emails a day from people trying to get business with them. I’ve kind of figured that there’s really no chance. I should really be focusing more on standing out and doing something that’s so novel, that’s going to get them to turn their head and say, “Wait a minute, I’ve never seen anything like this. What is this?” – Marc McDougall · [01:50] 

 

Marc McDougall:

Yeah, so pattern interrupt is, you took the words right out of my mouth. That’s exactly what this kind of email tactic is, right? It’s a pattern interrupt on steroids. So I’ve received a lot of cold emails running my own private consulting practise and I’ve been the recipient of really bad emails, really good emails. But at the end of the day, I’ve been the recipient of a lot of emails. So I know that the people I’m trying to email are receiving potentially hundreds, maybe thousands of emails a day from people trying to get business with them.

 

Marc McDougall:

I’ve kind of figured that there’s really no chance. I should really be focusing more on standing out and doing something that’s so novel, that’s going to get them to turn their head and say, “Wait a minute, I’ve never seen anything like this. What is this?” And then get them to read the email that way, so that’s why I’m using squirrels. It’s just a crazy, powerful pattern interrupt that has nothing to do with by offering, but it gets people that are extremely busy and extremely hard to reach to actually take a look at what you’re trying to say.

 

How to Gain Your Prospect’s Attention Using Unique Emails in a Spammy Marketplace · [02:30] 

 

Will Barron:

And this seems like a silly question to ask, Marc, but is this step one of all prospecting via cold email? We’ll dive into specifically, but is step one always going to be getting people’s attention, because it’s just so spammy in the marketplace?

 

“Ever since the lockdown back in March, it seems like everyone and their mother is doing online content these days. So every day there’s something like a billion hours uploaded to YouTube and probably a couple hundred million hours uploaded to LinkedIn. There’s content everywhere, and just getting someone to consider you for a moment to hook them in, if you know that you’re able to really knocked their problem out of the park, that’s what I’ve found to be the only way to kind of get in the door initially.” – Mac McDougall · [02:50] 

 

Marc McDougall:

That’s the way I look at it, right? And ever since the lockdown back in March, it seems like everyone and their mother is doing online content these days. So every day there’s something like a billion hours uploaded to YouTube and probably a couple hundred million hours uploaded to LinkedIn. There’s content everywhere, and just getting someone to consider you for a moment to hook them in, if you know that you’re able to really knocked their problem out of the park, that’s what I’ve found to be the only way to kind of get in the door initially. So I start with a little bit of a light touch, maybe I’ll connect on LinkedIn or something, and if they accept, then I’ll go into the prospecting funnel through cold email that way.

 

How to Write Compelling LinkedIn Connection Requests and Launch Your Sales Cadence · [03:29] 

 

Will Barron:

Interesting. And we’ll talk about the cadence here as you mentioned it there, Marc, is that initial touch just a, “Hi, I’d like to connect with you, grow my network,” yada yada, or are you trying to stand out even in that initial outreach?

 

Marc McDougall:

You mean on LinkedIn?

 

Will Barron:

If the cadence is LinkedIn, then email, then yeah.

 

Marc McDougall:

Yeah. So the LinkedIn, it’s just a really basic templated connection request that I send out. Nothing novel there. I’m just kind of helping them understand what sort of value they would get out of a connection with me, right? Now, I want to be clear, it’s very different from the standard LinkedIn connection requests, which I’m sure you’ve seen, that’s just a page of we do this, we help you do this, this, and that. It’s nothing like that. Everyday, I posted any video on LinkedIn and I’m always sharing tips to help people get more customers through their website, and that’s the focus of the connection request. It’s just a sentence. “Hey, prospect’s first name, I’m sharing tips to help you land more demos and trials. If they’re interested in listening in, here you go. Here’s the link.” And that’s it. If they accept that, I’ll consider sending them a cold email a little later.

 

First Contact In Your Sales Cadence: Why You Need to Share Insightful Content That Sets You Up as an Expert · [04:37] 

 

Will Barron:

Okay, now we don’t necessarily do LinkedIn first, but this is very similar to what we teach over at salesman.org of sending essentially insightful content that sets you up as an expert. So rather than starting your relationship as the buyer’s up here and the seller’s down here and you’re grovelling just to get in contact with them, levelling the playing field just a little bit by, as you said, sharing daily content that positions you as an expert and saying, “Hey, I’m doing this already. You probably get value out of this. Do you want to connect?” Does that sound about right?

 

“Unless you see yourself as a peer, which manifests itself in the way you position yourself, the way you market yourself, the whole picture, it’s just very, very hard to actually make someone do something that you want to do, which is ultimately buying your service or buy your product.” – Marc McDougall · [05:20] 

 

Marc McDougall:

That’s pretty much it. Yeah, and I liked the way you phrased that. It’s very hard to go from an outbound sale where you’re asking, asking, asking, and the power dynamic is really in the favour of the buyer, right? Unless you see yourself as a peer, which manifests itself in the way you position yourself, the way you market yourself, the whole picture, it’s just very, very hard to actually make someone do something that you want to do, which is ultimately buy your service or buy your product, so yeah.

 

How to Intentionally Position Yourself as a Peer or an Expert in Your Field When Sending out Cold Emails · [05:40]

 

Will Barron:

And do you feel like this position yourself as a peer, we’re going off on a tangent here, I’ll bring it back in a second. But do you feel like this positioning yourself as a peer is a mindset piece or is this specifically done in the content and the value that you add?

 

Marc McDougall:

That’s a really good question.

 

Will Barron:

And it might be chicken and egg a little bit here as well.

 

Marc McDougall:

Yeah, I think, here’s the way I look at it, right? And this is just my personal philosophy. I don’t like the whole mindset sort of advice, like you need to think like you’re, let’s say, a wealthy person and then eventually you’ll become a wealthy person. I get where they’re coming from and I get that you kind of have to have a similar brain chemistry in order to actually genuinely feel like you’re a peer of the person you’re talking to, but I’d find a lot more success in a little bit of delusion at first, maybe thinking, you know what? I’m just going to assume I’m a peer, and go with it from there, and you’ll see that kind of shows its head in the email as well.

 

Marc McDougall:

But just actually trying it for a little while, sending people emails as if they’re a friend and then over time, they kind of just accept the relationship. They accept the dynamic and then you’re like, oh, you realise that you are actually a peer, and these people are tired of being treated like these pariahs of the sales space, the C-suite, they’re tired of being treated as the golden goose that no one can ever talk to normally, and you’re like, “Oh, they’re probably dying for someone to talk to them like a friend.” So a little bit of both. Yes. It’s chicken and the egg. You do have to believe a little bit to start, but it takes a lot more than that to actually genuinely believe it, such that you can make an impact with the buyer.

 

Will Barron:

Yeah. That makes total sense. And this is really important for the audience to understand as well, and I’ve been through this. When I was in medical device sales, I was comfortable chatting to the nursing staff. I felt like I was on the same kind of wavelength and level as them, working class, I would then feel slightly uncomfortable speaking to the surgeons, but I could deal with it because I was interested in what they were doing. I was selling medical devices, camera systems, endoscopy systems, so I’d be spending a lot of time with the surgeons, their staff, with their managers. But as soon as I went into the boardroom and I sat down with the CFO of a hospital, I immediately fell out of place. And it was a sales manager that had at the time, who just said, I won’t be as vulgar as how he put it, but everyone goes to the bathroom, everyone has their tales of going out and getting too drunk and being sick, they’re all just people.

 

How to Leverage Pattern Interrupt and Make a Strong First Impression in Your Initial Email · [08:37]

 

Will Barron:

And as soon as he framed it like that, in my mind, conversations got a lot more simple for me. So this is, I think it does start with your brain. I’m not saying you should fake it till you make it, but just have pride in what you’re doing. You’re a sales professional, you’re not selling, flogging used cars or anything like that, and kind of treat yourself, give yourself the respect that you deserve to be able to have these conversations. So with that said, we’ll get that out the way. We’ll get to actionable metrics and tactics in a second. What does that first email look like? If we’ve connected with someone on LinkedIn, we’re assuming they’ve consumed some of our content. We’re not a complete stranger to them, even if we’re just bubbling around in their subconscious. How do we get out of their subconscious and really make a strong first impression using these kinds principles of pattern interrupts?

 

Marc McDougall:

Yeah. Okay, so I’ll just get straight into the template for the squirrel campaign that I’m using. And I’m totally fine sharing all this, I’ve retired the campaign, I’m not sending it out anymore, but it has been one of the most lucrative campaigns for me in my history of sending cold email. So the subject line is, “Hey,” and then the prospect’s first name, and it’s all lowercase except their name. “I’m quarantined with a squirrel.” Right? That’s the subject line, nothing else. And then in the body of the email, I am talking about, well, the whole sequence is the process of me trying to get this crazy squirrel out of my attic, that I can hear gnawing at the cables of my wireless router, and it’s a sequence I send over eight weeks.

 

“So I’m leveraging the pattern interrupt, and then baking it into the email just enough where it’s not completely distracting from the core message, but it gets them to open the initial email.” – Marc McDougall · [10:07] 

 

Marc McDougall:

But the first email is just like, “Hey, so and so, I’m trapped with this crazy squirrel. See the picture attached,” and it’s a little picture of this cheeky little face gnawing at the cables. And I’m just saying I’m trying to use, “Since this guy is in my attic, I might as well use him to see if I can book some time with you. Does this offering sound interesting?” So I’m leveraging the pattern interrupt, and then baking it into the email just enough where it’s not completely distracting from the core message, but it gets them to open the initial email.

 

The Art of Pattern Interrupts in Sales · [10:45] 

 

Will Barron:

And that’s important, right? Because I’m sure a subject line or a first image of me lifting my shirt up is going to get people to carry on reading because they’re thinking, “What the hell is this lanky bugger doing in my inbox with his stick-like body?” But you’re not making any progress, are you? You’re not building a relationship. You’re not pushing your conversation towards a point where hopefully, you can get on the phone with someone. So how do we, I feel like this is the skill, right? We can talk about the science of it, the data, A/B testing, all this kind of thing. But what you just described, Marc, is the art of it. Taking something that is interesting, a squirrel in your attic, and then tying it back down to a business function and progressing someone else’s business, adding value to them. How do we make that connection? Just to be frank and honest about it.

 

“It seems like the more time you spend trying to think of a good email, the less likely it is to be received by the recipient.” – Marc McDougall · [11:16] 

 

Marc McDougall:

Yeah. That’s really difficult, right? And here’s something I’ve noticed that’s a little bit weird about cold email. It seems like the more time you spend trying to think of a good email, the less likely it is to be received by the recipient. I don’t know why that is, but for some reason, when I open my Gmail draughts folder and I’m thinking, “All right, what would be a really good cold email?” The emails I come up with, they’re crap. They’re really, really, they’re bad because it’s not the kind of email that someone would send another human. It’s too processed. So the way I come up with the squirrel thing is just trying stupid stuff for a while. Like the squirrel thing, I just arrived after trying a series of really bad campaigns that didn’t go well, but he was sitting in my attic and I was like, this is ridiculous. I’ve got some interesting pictures of it though, documenting the process.

 

“If I was trying to give someone actionable advice on how to come up with an interesting novel idea that works as both a pattern interrupt and a good email, I would say that it really comes down to lowering the bar a little bit. Everyone probably has nonsense happen to them in their life, little silly things that pop up and get in your way. And you could probably use just about any of them in a cold email in some way.” – Marc McDougall · [12:15] 

 

Marc McDougall:

I wonder if this would work in a cold email campaign. And I just tried it with a cohort of 50 people, got a rather enormously positive response from it, and then went from there. So I guess if I was trying to give someone actionable advice on how to come up with an interesting novel idea that works as both a pattern interrupt and a good email, I would say that it really comes down to lowering the bar a little bit, right? Everyone probably has nonsense happen to them in their life, little silly things that pop up and get in your way. And you could probably use just about any of them in a cold email in some way. So just test it, see if it works, if it’s a total wash, then change it up from there. It’s just important that you lower the bar, keep it funny, humour is important, and then don’t spend too much time trying to perfect all the copy. Instead, just write it naturally and then just see if it works.

 

Leveraging the Art and Science Aspects of Pattern Interrupt When Sending Out Cold Emails · [13:03]

 

Will Barron:

Yeah. I think the key point here is to, you get the art, which is probably not going to be great at first, but will progress over time. But then you mix it in with the science of, as you said, you send it to 50 people and you test it. You don’t send it to 10,000 people who all now think you’re an idiot. So that’s probably the kind of the mix of the two though, right?

 

Marc McDougall:

Absolutely. Yeah. Just like any artist. I’m sure Van Gogh had some terrible pains say first started. And to be fair, I’m not claiming that I’m on equal level as Van Gogh.

 

Will Barron:

That’s quite a claim, that, Marc. The Van Gogh of cold emails.

 

Marc McDougall:

Oh yeah. No way. I still get plenty of people that send me replies along the lines of, “What the hell is this squirrel? Stop emailing me.” Right? People send me angry replies all the time, but it’s polarising and it gets their attention. And that’s what gets me in the door initially so that the people that are receptive to my quirky, weird personality are more likely to end up doing business with me, right? And I’m constantly learning. Maybe 50 years from now, we can come back and evaluate whether or not I’m at Van Gogh level, but at the end of the day, hopefully I’ll be retired by then.

 

Trying and Testing The Effectiveness of Pattern Interrupt Cold Emails · [14:04]

 

Will Barron:

Yeah, but it doesn’t matter, right? Because if it’s profitable and you’re not massively offending someone that they’re going to start writing articles about it, then it’s working. I don’t think we need to over-complicate it any more than that. Which again, is the beauty of cold emails and sequences, and I feel like a lot of salespeople just throw crap at a wall and hope that some of it sticks. But if you do test it and you do find, maybe salespeople aren’t sending 50 emails, maybe it’s four emails or maybe it’s a sequence to a specific account. If it works in one account, then you can scale it other accounts that are similar, but this is the beauty of it all, that we’ve got these tools, we’ve got access to software. We can touch on that in a second, perhaps, what you recommend from that front. But we’ve got these tools, these resources, that once we find something that works, we can scale it, right?

 

Marc McDougall:

Yeah, absolutely. And that’s the beauty of something like this. I don’t have to embarrass myself in front of a huge audience. I can just send out quirky campaigns to 50 people. If it’s profitable to me or if it seems like it’s getting some traction, if I’m getting positive responses or if people are opening it up and forwarding it to their colleagues, then it’s like, all right, let me try it with a hundred people, then 500 people, until I’m just booked solid and just go from there. Yeah.

 

Are Pattern Interrupt Emails Built Around a Person’s Unique Personality? · [15:20] 

 

Will Barron:

Cool. The audience, me and Marc don’t know each other that well, we only jumped on this call, we’re going back and forth, but it seems like the campaign that you’ve put together here, Marc, is congruent with your own personality, right? Would you say that’s fair?

 

Marc McDougall:

Oh, absolutely. Yeah. I’m a weird guy.

 

Will Barron:

Well, it is a bit of a weird campaign, right? But what happens if someone is less weird? They’re more, I don’t mean this in a negative way, but perhaps they are more corporate. Maybe they are more kind of straight down the middle with things. How can they use pattern interrupts without being, I don’t say this as a downplay, but without being so silly? If that makes sense.

 

“When I send really corporate, really, really professional-looking emails, they almost always flop.” – Marc McDougall · [16:13] 

 

Marc McDougall:

Yeah. That’s interesting. So two things with that. When I send really corporate, really, really professional looking emails, they almost always flop. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s because it’s not congruent with my personality, or maybe it just seems too fake, but they flop. And I have met, I used to work at General Electric, and that’s like the classic button up tie establishment. Everyone comes into work with their coffee and they’re all, “I’m so-and-so, project manager at so-and-so,” right? But when you get to know them, you realise they are weird. They’re very weird, and everyone has their own little idiosyncrasies. So I’d be hard pressed.

 

“If you’re just sending the boring corporate emails, it’s going to look like the thousand other emails that get into people’s inbox on a daily basis. And you blend into the background and ultimately end up talking with no one.” – Marc McDougall · [17:11]

 

Marc McDougall:

If someone came to me and says, “Well, I’m a really, really, really highly conservative guy or girl. I don’t want to be silly in my emails.” I would say something like, “Why not just try it? I’m sure you’ve got something weird that happened to you in the past couple of days that would be novel enough to get a response from someone, because if you’re just sending the boring corporate emails, it’s going to look like the thousand other emails that get into people’s inbox, these kinds of people’s inboxes on a daily basis. And you blend into the background and ultimately end up talking with no one.” So, that doesn’t really help anyone that wants to send a more conservative email because I would just tell them to stop doing that. I would just say, “It’s not going to work for you.” But hey, maybe I’m a little partial to my own personal style.

 

Will Barron:

No, well, I think you are right, and I think it really does help people because for example, the last company I worked for, there was a fella. I know he listens to the show, so I won’t call him out, but he’ll know that I’m speaking about him. He was really, he was eccentric. I won’t use the word weird. I don’t think he’d appreciate that. He was eccentric. He is really into model trains, really into model trains, like that is his life out of work, but you’d never know that unless you spoke to him about it and then you see his face light up. But he looks like, as you’re describing, the stereotypical GE employee.

 

Marc Explains Why You Don’t Have to Be Weird to Send a Powerful Pattern Interrupt Email · [18:44] 

 

Will Barron:

This is a corporate medical device company, suited and booted, briefcase, cup of Starbucks as he walks in the office. Very professional, very smart. HR will never have an issue with him ever, but I feel like he could do an email campaign or a prospecting campaign alluding to his train obsession. And that’d be slightly mad, that would get attention, right? Perhaps everyone has. Maybe let me ask you a better question here. If people are listening to this and they don’t have a weird obsession in their lives, is this an indication that they should put down the phone and the laptop and probably find something else to do out of sales there is slightly weird that’s interesting to them?

 

Marc McDougall:

Yeah. Perhaps. I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that I’ve known for a long period of time that didn’t have some kind of idiosyncrasy about them, like some little thing that they do that’s weird, or they don’t have to be weird. I mean, the squirrel really had nothing to do with me. It just ended up in my attic. I just had to be aware and thinking about putting it in a campaign in order to do it. So let’s say someone’s totally, totally normal. They don’t have any weird quirks about them and they want to generate some kind of campaign. Just go outside every now and then. You’ll see something happen, like a bird’ll poop on your head or something crazy. Take a picture of it, boom. You’ve got your next campaign. You just have to be willing to experiment a little more.

 

Storytelling in Sales: How to Craft an Interesting Narrative and Keep the Recipient Entertained In The Entirety of Your Email Campaign · [19:45] 

 

Will Barron:

You’ve touched on it here, this idea of storytelling, right? So if we’re storytelling in the first email, how does that story then, because you mentioned eight weeks, I think, with this campaign. How does that translate, then, over eight weeks? Because most TV shows struggled to do that, nevermind us salespeople sending emails.

 

Marc McDougall:

Yeah. That’s a good question. So I like to follow up over a very long period of time, because I’m trying to get people to hire me for a strategic project, right? And when I’m going in cold, I have no idea where in the buying cycle they are, they might be completely uninterested or they might even be thinking, “Let’s move forward with this today. We’re considering doing a website redesign.” So I have to follow up over a long period of time. It’s essential. And how to keep it relevant, right? So I’ve got a couple pictures that I send people, updating my progress in terms of getting the squirrel out of my attic. The first one is of course a picture of the squirrel, and then I have a picture of me, or a picture of the trail of Alvin’s that I’ve left him leading to the end of the hole in the roof where he got in.

 

Marc McDougall:

And of course, that doesn’t work, so it gets increasingly intense. There’s then a picture of me going into the attic with a broom, it’s just a mess, and then in the end, there’s obviously a picture of the squirrel in a box somewhere outside on the lawn where he’s been finally retrieved and it’s like, hooray. It’s an event, right? They’re interested in the story. So that happens over four weeks, and then after that, it’s very light touch every two weeks or so, I’ll send them just a quick little text. “Hey, is this one interesting?” Or just bump it up to the top of their inbox. So yeah, crafting that narrative over a long period of time, that’s something that I had in mind when I was taking the pictures, I was like, “Let me just document this as I go, and then see if I can work it into a followup sequence somehow.”

 

Will Barron:

Because that now sounds less outrageous and nothing to do with business. It sounds more interesting. So I feel like this is something that perhaps we’re missing as well, maybe something I need to experiment with and look into as well, of storytelling over a series of emails. And that’s, I know you can see it, the audience who are not watching this on YouTube, you’ll have to imagine this, but we’ve got all these characters now that we are storytelling with over at salesman.org in our training content.

 

How Important are Pictures and GIFs Versus Text Copy When Trying to Get People’s Attention In a Pattern Interrupt Email · [22:28] 

 

Will Barron:

And I found, I experimented this, did an A/B video and asked the audience basically who watched the video, what their retention rate was, asked them a few questions on the video content. And when we used examples using Sam and all his family of characters, the retention rate was off the scale versus when I told a similar story, but with me, because there was visuals of the thing happening over this course of the video, as opposed to me just sitting and telling a story. So where I’m going with this is how important are pictures to email copy to get people to pay attention? And how much of a pattern interrupt is an image or a GIF versus what everyone else does, which is just a line of text?

 

Marc McDougall:

Yeah. That’s a good question. Okay, so to give you a little more context, I send a lot of cold email, is how I get all my new clients. And I like the squirrel one, but another one I do is, are you familiar with the service Loom?

 

Will Barron:

No. I know the name, but I don’t know anything else.

 

Marc McDougall:

Oh yeah. It’s a video recording service that allows you to embed animated gifts in the body of your email, right? Those convert really well also, and I’m suspicious that obviously humans, as you mentioned earlier with your cartoon characters, are very visual creatures. So I get into opening the initial email with the squirrel thing, because they’re like, “What the heck is this? Did he mean to send this to a friend and accidentally sent to me?” And then they see the attachment image of the squirrel and that’s like a little trigger for them to actually read the copy, and they’re like, “Okay. I see what he’s doing here.”

 

“I think a lot of people do get bogged down with copy a little bit too much, and sometimes a little GIF or an image has enough novelty in it to get people to continue reading.” – Marc McDougall · [23:49] 

 

Marc McDougall:

And it gets them a little bit invested like, “I wonder where this is going to go.” The next one, they get another picture and then of course, they’re going to open the next one. I mean, they might not do business with me, but they’re intrigued in the storytelling. So I think a lot of people do get bogged down with copy a little bit too much, and sometimes a little GIF or an image has enough novelty in it to get people to continue reading. So you’re definitely onto something there, right? Most of the successful email campaigns I sent are not strictly text-based.

 

Marc’s Call to Action Strategy · [24:09]

 

Will Barron:

And what are your calls to action in these emails? Is it the same thing every time of, “Would love to jump on a phone with you, does it make sense to jump on the phone?” Or are you saying, “Here’s an article. Here’s this,” What I’m getting at is are you nurturing these individuals and educating them as you go through the process? Or are you just pinging them and saying, “I’m still here, the story continues.”

 

“I think a common paradigm in the sales space is you want to be sharing value. But everyone gets hung up on business value that they think their prospects want to see case studies, white papers, things that are economically valuable, but humour is valuable. And just following along in a story, entertainment, that’s valuable. So I’m giving them the value, but every two weeks, I also do a webinar.” – Marc McDougall · [24:34] 

 

Marc McDougall:

Yeah. So I am pinging them to give them an update on the story because that’s the value. A lot of people, I think a common paradigm in the sales space is you want to be sharing value, but everyone gets hung up on business value that they want to see case studies, or they think their prospects want to see case studies, white papers, things that are economically valuable, but humour is valuable, right? And just following along in a story, entertainment, that’s valuable. So I’m giving them the value, but every two weeks, I also do a webinar. So I just have a link in the followup campaign to say, “Hey, if you’re interested, next Wednesday, I’m doing a webinar here.”

 

Marc McDougall:

Basic little follow ups where the first call to action is, “Does this sound interesting? I’ve got some ideas on how you can improve conversions. Does this sound interesting? If so, reply with a thumbs up or something.” And if they are, I’ll schedule a meeting, but if I’m getting feedback through the metrics in the the tool that I use, that they’re opening and they’re forwarding it to their colleagues, then I’ll go ahead and send them a custom video with me just singing a song about their business. It’s kind of nuts, but that one gets a tonne of engagement, and then from there it’s just straight to, “Hey, let’s grab 15 minutes. The squirrel has been dealt with, all that’s left now is for us to meet.” That’s kind of the coup de gras, I guess, the little nail on the coffin at the end.

 

Marc Shares The Tools He Uses to Track His Email Campaigns · [25:50]

 

Will Barron:

And that makes total sense, and what tool are you using to track all this? Because I know there’s a million of them out there, right?

 

Marc McDougall:

Yeah. I’m using Reply right now. Reply.io. I’m considering moving to Outplay. They seem like they integrate more with phones better, so I could mix cold calling and emailing, but right now I’m using Reply, and it’s more than capable of doing everything I need. They support attachments, embedded videos with animated gifs, it’s really, really robust and if you need a basic email or cold email marketing suite, I would always recommend them.

 

Will Barron:

Good. That is a weird coincidence, because just about an hour before we jumped on the call, they’ve agreed to sponsor the podcast. So it’s a free plug for Reply before everything else gets official and we start integrating the brand a little bit more into our content. So that was very lucky you said that, Marc, I appreciate it. I’ll pay you for that later, on me. Good. Right.

 

Marc McDougall:

I’ll accept payment via coffee.

 

Tracking Email Open Rates Link Clicks · [27:16] 

 

Will Barron:

So right. We’ve covered a lot of ground here. So we’ve got pattern tropes in a subject line, which then leads into an email, the email is going over a longer period because in your case, you don’t know whether people want the product right now, or whether it’s going to be something that they can kind of discuss and get involved with later on. We’ve got a story crossing, spanning multiple emails, which I think is brilliant and is very underutilised for the emails I see from both our audience and people who are trying to sell me stuff. What else do we need to do tactically? Whether it’s email copy, call to actions, whatever it is, what else do we need to do tactically to glue all of this together?

 

“I’m very much of the philosophy that if your copy is clear and the person you’re emailing genuinely has the problem that you’re looking to solve, if you are able to position yourself in a way that’s unique enough, they’ll probably click the call to action.” – Marc McDougall · [27:50] 

 

Marc McDougall:

Honestly, I think we’ve basically touched on all of it. The only thing I haven’t mentioned yet is obviously tracking opens, which Reply great for. Opens and views, and then people that open a lot, but haven’t actually responded once the sequence is done, I’ll put them into a very low touch nurture campaign and maybe reach out to them in like six months to a year. But I’m very much of the philosophy that if your copy is clear and the person you’re emailing genuinely has the problem that you’re looking to solve, if you are able to position yourself in a way that’s unique enough, they’ll probably click the call to action, right?

 

Marc McDougall:

If they’re not clicking the call action, there’s probably a positioning issue somewhere else. That’s my general philosophy there. I think people are smart, right? They’ve received hundreds and thousands of emails so they know what to do if they want to do business with you, right? They’ll either click a link in your signature or they’ll reply to you. So I don’t get hung up too much on call to actions. I look at what’s actually happening. Are they opening the emails? Are they replying? Are they signing up for time on my calendar link? What’s actually happening. Yeah.

 

Measuring Email Success by Analysing the Number of Deals Closed · [28:37]

 

Will Barron:

And if you have one holy grail metric, is it someone booking a time in your calendar?

 

“It’s very important in my opinion to tie the metric you’re using to track the effectiveness of something to exactly the thing that it’s tracking. If people aren’t opening it, it’s the subject line. If people aren’t converting, it’s probably the copy or just the email call to action or something like that. If people aren’t buying from you, it’s probably your sales process.” – Marc McDougall · [29:20] 

 

Marc McDougall:

The holy grail metric I use is closed business. When I first started freelancing like nine years ago, I spent a lot of time talking with a lot of people that were absolutely not interested in buying. It was such a huge waste of time and I’m kicking myself for it, but I had to learn. So getting those initial meetings, that’s a good sign that the campaign’s working, right? But closing deals is like, okay, maybe the campaign’s working, but there’s a deeper positioning issue with my business, or maybe my sales meeting isn’t as effective as it could be. So it’s very important in my opinion to tie the metric you’re using to track the effectiveness of something to exactly the thing that it’s tracking. If people aren’t opening it, it’s the subject line. If people aren’t converting, it’s probably the copy or just the email call to action or something like that. If people aren’t buying from you, it’s probably your sales process, or maybe they were just interested in learning more about the campaign. We’ll see.

 

The Benefits of Pre-Qualifying and Qualifying Prospects In Your Email Campaign · [29:47]

 

Will Barron:

Do you do, then, and we’ll wrap up with this Marc, do you do anything to qualify or pre-qualify your buyers within the emails themselves? As in, “This is right for you if this, this and this. Book a meeting in my diary.” I’ve kind of butchered that a little bit where you get what I’m saying.

 

Marc McDougall:

Yeah. I don’t actually do that. I should probably do that. I should probably consider something like that, but I make sure that the people that go into the list in the first place are very highly curated, right? I’m not just throwing everyone that connects with me on LinkedIn, and they’re very experienced buyers that I would expect would have buying power. And then I just kind of set it and go from there. There’s something else I wanted to say around other things that I do, but it’s totally slipping my mind.

 

Will Barron:

That’s okay. Let me ask you this, Marc.

 

Marc McDougall:

Maybe it’ll come back to me.

 

Mark Shares the Amount of Time he Spends Per Individual Qualifying a Prospect Before Launching a Sales Cadence · [30:43] 

 

Will Barron:

Let me ask you this, mate. Just for context for the audience then, because what you’re doing is the correct way around. The people that go into the campaign are the correct people, whereas what a lot of people will do is they’ll send an email to a thousand potential customers knowing that only 50% of them are actually qualified buyers, and they let the email do some of the sorting. But when you do this, you’re burning your personal brand, people are seeing, well, it becomes spam. I’ve seen this spam, you’re getting your company’s domain blocked from your buyers when it goes into the spam folder.

 

Will Barron:

There’s loads of issues of this that trickle down and over the next few years as Superhuman the inbox, and there’s the guys who do BaseCamp who just launch a new email client that does all this email sourcing for you. It’s going to be very difficult to actually get into an inbox, unless you’ve got a campaign that people are actually clicking on or replying to. So with all that said, just for context, how long do you spend, I guess, per individual, qualifying or pre-qualifying them before they even reach a campaign?

 

Marc McDougall:

Yeah. Per individual, it probably makes its way into two or three minutes max, right? And that’s mostly because again, I’m doing strategic projects. I could spend hours crafting the perfect email and then send it to them, and it’s just not the right time. Maybe they just redesigned their website and they’re not looking to buy for another five years. So I can’t invest a whole bunch of time. So I bet I do about two, three minutes per person. Going through, making sure that I know they’re actually the right person to email about this, and then I’ll lightly personalise things if I’m doing a much smaller campaign, but for the mass market stuff, I just put them in the top of the funnel.

 

Will Barron:

You’re underplaying that. That’s two or three minutes longer than what a lot of sales reps will do. So I wanted to get that one thing. Yeah. So for me, well, we’ve only got a very small target audience of what we’re doing with our sales training and the advertising that I sell on the podcast. So I’ll go that layer deeper and I’ll do it on an account basis as well and find who the decision maker is, and then who underneath that I need to kind of approach and kind of mingle with, just to bubble up into the decision maker’s inbox more often, but I will spend 10, 15 minutes. And when I say this in our training, especially the live webinars that we do, you can see people going, “What?”

 

Will Barron:

I genuinely think most salespeople, I don’t want to paint my whole audience with one brush here, but a lot of salespeople will spend 15 seconds. Right industry, they look like they’re the right person, they go on LinkedIn, they’re still working there. In the cadence. And I think that’s a false economy, when you’re using your emails to qualify people as opposed to doing it upfront. So, yeah. Is there anything else other than that, bit of a run there, Marc. Is there anything else you want to add? Is there anything that we’ve missed? Is there anything from a pattern interrupt standpoint, from getting attention via email standpoint, that we should wrap up the show with?

 

Metrics From The Squirrel Campaign · [33:37] 

 

Marc McDougall:

I can briefly touch on the metrics from the campaign if that’s useful for the audience.

 

Will Barron:

Yeah. For sure.

 

Marc McDougall:

Yeah. So the squirrel campaign initially, it got 72% open rate, which isn’t really that bad. I’ve noticed, whenever you put the prospect’s first name in the subject line, you generally get 50% plus on the open rate, so if you’re looking for something actionable, just put their name in the header somewhere. About a 20% reply rate from there, and then of course from there, booking business is a little harder to ascertain. I’m still talking with a lot of people from there, but overall, sent it to about a thousand people over the past nine months while we’re all quarantined, and I got a couple 50 plus meetings from it.

 

Marc McDougall:

So it’s been awesome, and I directly attribute that to the fact that I’m the only person sending stupid squirrel pictures to people, right? There’s no one else doing that. I’m sure there will be now, but it’s so novel that it gets people from the huge mass of their inbox to look at this one email. And if you can really get inside the head of the person that’s receiving the email and you can understand all that context, it’d be so much easier to write cold email. And that’s always a struggle, but if there was one takeaway I wanted people to take from this, it’s really try and understand what’s going on inside the head of the recipient, and that’ll open up doors for you to make your way into their inbox and ultimately their calendar.

 

Will Barron:

For sure. Do you know Ryan O’Hara from LeadIQ?

 

Marc McDougall:

I do, actually. Yeah.

 

Will Barron:

So I’ve just recorded of him and he does incredible emails that always made me laugh as well. I feel like the same kind of energy between you with the content you produce, and the reason I bring up Ryan is on the show I recorded earlier today, he said that from all the data that he has, the average reply rate for a B2B sales email is under 1%. So you’re up at 20. That’s incredible, right? That’s the difference between crushing your quota and just plodding along and living in this world of dispar that most salespeople live in.

 

Marc McDougall:

Oh, absolutely. And Ryan’s fantastic. If anyone’s not following him on LinkedIn, every three or four days, he’ll release up banger video. He is like a case study of how you put your personality in your prospecting. If you want to learn from someone that does this regularly, you definitely need to be checking out Ryan.

 

Parting Thoughts · [36:02] 

 

Will Barron:

Amazing stuff. Well, with that, Marc, tells us where we can find out more about you and everything you’re up to as well.

 

Marc McDougall:

Yeah. You can find me on LinkedIn, Marc McDougall. I’m the one with the strawberry in their name, and clarityfirst.co is the website if you want to learn more about my shenanigans I’m up to.

 

Will Barron:

Good stuff. Well, I’ll link all of the shenanigans in the show notes of this episode over at salesman.org. And with that, Marc, I can’t get my words out. With that, Marc, I want to thank you for your time. I appreciate you being candid and showing us the numbers and the insides of this campaign, even though it’s been retired now. Clearly, that is really useful for the audience so I appreciate that, and I thank you again for coming on The Salesman Podcast.

 

Marc McDougall:

Absolutely. It’s been a pleasure. Thanks, Will.

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