I Analyzed 94 Sales Pitches Sent to My Work Inbox.
I majored in journalism and I work in content marketing. Let’s just say my curiosity can lead me down some interesting rabbit holes.
Also relevant: my colleagues and I in the marketing department are used to receiving email pitches for everything from sales enablement platforms to translation services. And because we work in marketing, a few things are true:
- The average ones get forgotten (and ultimately deleted)
- The really bad ones get deleted a little quicker
- The good ones might get a response if the product is especially relevant
- The great ones typically get replied to or shared with the team as an awesome example of email marketing — even if the product isn’t the best fit at the moment
This summer, curiosity got the best of me and I decided to do a little experiment. I created a folder in my work email and dropped in all the sales emails I received over the course of almost four months.
In total, that were 94 emails, several of them from the same companies. I analyzed each of them for a wide range of factors (including request types and use of emojis).
Please note, this is not meant to criticize. Working in sales is hard. Selling to marketing teams is really, really hard. What resonates for me in an email might not resonate with someone else. And vice-versa.
That’s why I’m only going to call out the companies with the best sales emails. My goal is to provide an overview of the emails I received so we can all learn how to send better emails (myself included).
Here’s what I discovered. Please note, I do not currently use the products of any of these companies.:
First Impressions: Analyzing Email Subject Lines
Out of 94 emails…
- 10 mentioned my name in the subject line
- The most follow-ups I received from a single person was 10 — all in separate emails with separate subject lines
- 3 people used emojis in their subject lines
- 1 person tried to bribe me with cupcakes to schedule a call
- 1 person used the subject line “need a content writing caffeine boost?” I thought they were trying to bribe me with coffee. Alas, there wasn’t even a mention of caffeine in the actual email copy
Subject lines that didn’t quite hit the mark:
Whether they were too general, too pushy or in one case way too long, I’d be most likely to gloss over emails with these subject lines:
- [Alyssa + Name]
- Call on [insert date]
- Appropriate person
- Call next week
- New [insert company] ebook (with six fire emojis)
- [Name] from [Company]
- Alyssa, it’s been a while
- Connect with Alyssa
- My final email
- Following up on my voicemail
- Secure (Internal/External) Live Streaming and On Demand Video: Effective Engagement, Communication, Distribution, and Management
If I had to describe what each of these subject lines has in common, it’s this: They could have come from any company. With the exception of that last one, they could’ve been sent to anyone at my company in any role, too. Nothing shows that they’re made for someone who works in marketing.
Subject lines that made me curious enough to click:
From just-vague-enough statements to things that made me say “I need that,” here are the subject lines that had me applauding the person who wrote them.
- Netflix, TikTok, & Alyssa (shoutout to Ceros)
- WFH Check-In on [My Company](shoutout to Drift)
- Virtual Event Ideas (Shoutout to PathFactory)
- Top 5 Reports Your CEO Wants from Marketing (Shoutout to Full Circle Insights)
- Maximizing Content ROI (Shoutout to Simplea)
- Doughnuts and Bagels… and Marketing* (Shoutout to Highspot)
*This is the name of a Medium article I wrote, so the person did their research!
Even the simplest subject lines on this list feel thoughtful and relevant, though for different reasons. I can imagine the person who wrote them thinking “hmm, how can I make the recipient really stop in their tracks?” or “hmm, what’s most likely to be on the recipient’s mind these days?”
Second Impressions: Analyzing Email Copy
Out of 94 emails…
- 52 times, I was asked to schedule a call.
- 61 emails linked to relevant information.
- 8 times, I was invited to something, like an online community, a webinar or a virtual conference.
- 45 of these messages included a one-click way to stop receiving emails from the person. I’m guessing this is largely because those companies were using email marketing software. However, one time I politely turned down a sales pitch mentioning the offering wasn’t in this year’s budget. I got a response saying that it probably was, indeed, in our budget. Easy opt-outs are appreciated.
Thankfully, only one email contained a read receipt. Is that really still a thing?
I’m also happy to report that nearly all of these emails were relevant to what I do, or at least what our larger marketing team does.
Phrases that stood out for all the right reasons:
What can I say? I’m a word nerd. And, I suppose by nature of writing this piece, a marketing nerd, too. Here’s the wording I loved and why.
“I’d like to earn 30 minutes of your time”
The simple addition of the word “earn” says so much in only four letters. I’ve worked with enough strategic salespeople to know that deals are earned, often through patience, research and great communication. (Shoutout to PathFactory)
“If you’re like me, you’ve registered for a bunch of virtual events, closed the respective landing pages, and then completely forgot about them until you got the ‘sorry we missed you!’ follow-up email.”
Um, guilty! But Just because I do this way too often, doesn’t mean I want my target customers doing it. (Shoutout to PathFactory, again)
“Think you’ll register for RevGrowth? If so, I’d love to get your feedback on the registration process because it’s 100% Drift chat bot-based.”
It’s an event invitation and an invitation to experience the product from a customer’s perspective all in one. Brilliant. (Shoutout to Drift)
“Your CEO is re-thinking a lot about your business right now. How can you help?”
2020 isn’t the year of “business as usual”. And the opportunity to stand out as an employee right now — especially to top-level management — is appealing. (Shoutout to Full Circle Insights)
“Understanding that you may not be looking for technology with the uncertainty in the market, reaching out here to share this piece from Digiday in the hopes that it could add value to you and your team as you adjust your revenue strategy to continue your growth.”
Is it a sales email if it doesn’t sell something directly? Absolutely. More of this, please. This is a nice way to stay top-of-mind when businesses do start thinking about technology investments again. There’s no request for a call in sight. (Shoutout to Terminus)
“If you could turn a blog into a vlog, a photo post into a video post or capture an executive interview in less than 30 minutes, would that be valuable to your organization?”
How clear is this product description? And yet, instead of describing product features, it paints a picture of what your job could look like. Because that’s really what matters in the end. (Shoutout to OpenReel)
Just for fun: a tally of the most popular sign-offs
I Googled “best email sign offs”. There are over 82 million page results. To compare, “best chocolate chip cookies recipe” yields over 98 million results, so ending an email is clearly a hot topic.
Here’s what I found from those 94 emails…
Best: 19 emails
Best regards or best wishes: 2
All the best: 3
Thanks, many thanks, or thank you: 10
Kind regards: 4
Talk soon/chat soon: 6
No sign-off or ends with a standard nameplate: 19
Person’s first name: 13
Have a great day: 1
Take care: 3
Stay safe and healthy (or some version of this, because 2020): 6
Enjoy: 3 (I should note, all from the same person)
With gratitude: 1
So there you have it. The result of my curiosity getting the best of me.
What do you think makes a great sales email?
Anything else you want to know about these emails? I’ll keep them saved for a bit longer and do my best to answer.
If you work in marketing, you might enjoy some of my other articles:
64 Ways to Create Great Content With Limited Resources
There’s more to work with than you realize
How Marketers Can Help Their Colleagues From Sales
Five scenarios of what they say and what it means