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The Ultimate Inbound Marketing Strategy Playbook 2022

Free Guide:

The Ultimate Inbound Marketing Strategy Playbook 2022
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The Ultimate Inbound Marketing Strategy Playbook 2022
Free Inbound Marketing Playbook
View The Ultimate Inbound Marketing Strategy Playbook 2022
The Ultimate Inbound Marketing Strategy Playbook 2022

Free Guide:

Take your inbound strategy to the next level

  • Master the 7 principles of highly effective inbound marketing
  • Dramatically improve your inbound sales
  • Get more buy-in at your company

"When cold email is still valid and how to do it right Ft. Nikki Elbaz" (Inbound Success Ep. 115)

By Kathleen Booth

Kathleen Booth also recommends this free guide: The Ultimate Inbound Marketing Strategy Playbook 2022.

"When cold email is still valid and how to do it right Ft. Nikki Elbaz" (Inbound Success Ep. 115) Blog Feature

Cold email has gotten a bad rap in the marketing community, but there's a way to do it right (and get great results).

Adam Sand headshotNikki Elbaz
Nikki Elbaz

This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, email copywriting expert Nikki Elbaz talks about cold email outreach. As a copywriting expert, and the email copywriter for Copyhackers, Nikki advises B2B SaaS companies on how to write emails that generate leads and sales, and she says there are definitely good use cases for cold email outreach.

In this conversation, Nikki shares when you should use cold email, how to build your strategy, tips for writing subject lines and email body copy, the KPIs you should use to measure success and more.

Free Guide: The Ultimate Inbound Marketing Strategy Playbook 2022

Highlights from my conversation with Nikki include:

  • There's a perception in the marketing world that you shouldn't do cold email, but Nikki says that's really not the case and there are some good reasons to include it in your marketing strategy.
  • The two primary use cases for cold email are for companies that are struggling to grow and acquire customers, and companies that want to invest in relationship building (acquiring leverage and influence and authority).
  • Before starting any cold email outreach, Nikki recommends talking with your legal counsel to ensure you're in compliance with GDPR and other similar rules.
  • Any piece of marketing is made up of list, offer, and creative. Nikki says you need to begin by identifying what your offer is and who you are targeting. Once you have that done, you can work on your email copy.
  • Copy always first comes with research, which involves digging into who those people are and why they need what you offer, and framing in a friendly, authentic, honest, open way. 
  • More important than creativity when writing cold emails is making sure that you have something that the person is interested in and needs, and framing it that way, and just being respectful of their inbox, of their time, and who they are as a person, and their role.
  • When it comes to email copywriting, Nikki follows "The Rule of One," which holds that you want to pretend you're writing to one person, so being very human, and writing the way that you talk.
  • Marketing emails should never be "one and done." Testing is crucial and should be done on an ongoing basis to ensure your emails are getting results.
  • When working with cold email, its important for your audience to be homogenous, so it is often worthwhile to pair down longer lists into smaller, more similar segments.
  • Your offer is a key part of your cold email outreach strategy, and Nikki says its important for the offer to be something that it is very easy for the recipient to say "yes" to.

Resources from this episode:

Listen to the podcast to learn more about how to write cold emails that get results.


Kathleen Booth (Host): Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast.

My name is Kathleen Booth, and I'm your host, and this week my guest is Nikki Elbaz, who is an email conversion copywriting specialist, but I also want to say you're sort of like a jack of all email trades, trades email person. I don't know how to say it, but your bio is so interesting that I didn't even want to attempt to summarize it. I thought you could do a better job of telling the story of what you do, and where you do it, and who it's for. Welcome.

Nikki Elbaz (Guest): Thank you. That's one way of putting being a jack of all trades.

Nikki Elbaz and Kathleen Booth
Nikki and Kathleen recording this episode.

Kathleen: Actually, I want to back up. I shouldn't say that because that makes you sound like a generalist, which you're really not, and that's part of why I was excited to talk to you, because you really have taken a deep dive into email and what makes it work. So, with that-

Meet Nikki Elbaz

Nikki: Cool. Oh, okay. So, yes. So, number one is I run my own email marketing company called Nikki Elbaz. Very creative name, I know.

So, working with private SaaS clients and just doing all sorts of email sequences for SaaS brands, basically. SaaS especially has tons of different customer journeys and all that, so email is a lot of fun, and that's what we do at Nikki Elbaz.

I am also the email specialist, the copywriter, the email copywriter at Copyhackers, which is a huge honor and privilege because Copyhackers is awesome, and again, we have all sorts of interesting, really fun clients that we work with, and all sorts of amazing different types of sequences, and just digging into stuff is just a lot of fun.

So, those are my two main gigs, and I'm also launching something pretty soon with another email copywriter. Her name is Sophia Dagnon, and we are launching, and it's just going to be a place for learning for email marketing, or SaaS founders and marketers, just techniques, templates. Hopefully, one day we'll do courses, all sorts of just... Just a place to learn about email marketing for SaaS, because we didn't find it ourselves, so we are creating it.

What any marketer can learn from SaaS marketing

Kathleen: That's great. One of the reasons I'm really interested to talk with you is, even though you do a lot of work for SaaS, I have always thought... Because I've talked to other people who do SaaS marketing, and I think it's easy for marketers to listen and think, "Well, I don't do SaaS marketing, so this will not be applicable to me," but I have always found it interesting because I at least find that all of the lessons from SaaS marketing are totally applicable everywhere else.

It's just SaaS, in many respects, has so much more pressure on it because for so many SaaS companies, it is a sale without a salesperson. So, the marketing itself has to do the job, in many cases, that a person would. So, it's like if something can work in SaaS, it's going to work anywhere. Right?

Nikki: Yeah. Yep.

Kathleen: In mind, at least. That's how I always think about it, but I don't know. I would love to get your take on that.

Nikki: 100%, 100%. I actually was focused more on e-commerce for a while, and I just kept coming to so many objections with clients where I was... just too many conversations about, "Yes, this will work. Can we just try it? Let's test it. Let's do it," and the trust just wasn't there.

With SaaS marketers, there's just so much more trust and willing to test things and try things and just do things, maybe because of the pressure, maybe just because of the culture of SaaS, where it's exciting and people are just into trying cool things and reading cool blogs and doing all this talking with each other.

So, definitely, I was always wanting to bring SaaS tactics to other industry, and I wish more industries followed what SaaS companies are doing and started implementing them.

They're just so human. They're so engaging and relevant, and yeah, it's fun, and I think people really respond to that. You'll see it in certain... especially in D2C brands, where they do kind of copy what SaaS brands do, especially the subscription boxes and things like that. You see that they get great engagement, and they get great brand loyalty, and I wish everyone would just become a SaaS marketer, even if they're not SaaS marketers.

Kathleen: Yeah. Well, I think all of those really, e-commerce, D2C, SaaS, have in common that in some ways they're like touchless sales. Right?

So, for all of those, the marketing materials, the assets, the emails, the ad copy, et cetera, it all has to speak for itself without the explanation of a human to back it up, or the persuasiveness of a human to back it up.

I mean, yes, there are humans behind all of those things, but in so many cases the interaction that a prospective customer has is just with your marketing. So, you can't mess it up. It can't be plain vanilla, wishy-washy.

So, I totally agree. I think it's fun to work in SaaS, and there are so many lessons to be taken away.

So, if you're listening and you're not in SaaS, do not stop listening. I mean, this is going to be full of great advice. Before we came on, we were talking about... We're both members of Online Geniuses, which is a really big Slack group for marketers. It's great, tons of great information, great resource, and it's not just Online Geniuses.

There's so many other Slack groups for marketers and Facebook groups for marketers, and you were saying something I found really interesting about a trend that you've noticed lately, and maybe you could talk a little bit more about that.

The controversy around cold email

Nikki: Yes, definitely, and yeah, I for sure have noticed this in basically all of the Slack groups.

So, I always check out the email channels, because that's my thing, and what comes up again and again and again is questions around cold email, wanting to hear about techniques, wanting to hear about platforms to use, wanting to hear about engagement, all just questions around cold email.

Somebody will inevitably respond, "Don't do cold email. Cold email is just... It's not a good technique. Don't do it. Inbound marketing, that's the way to go. Didn't you read Permission Marketing? Come on. Don't do cold email."

Kathleen: Right. You're in violation of the universal rules of marketing.

Nikki: Yes. So, when I see these kinds of comments, I totally get where they come from, but I think it's just an interesting...

See, cold email is a valid technique, and especially when companies are small, and they're trying to grow.

Inbound marketing, for sure, do it, absolutely. Content marketing, it's great, all of these techniques. Really, it should be everything. You should have your team doing all these different techniques, and if you're trying to grow fast, then cold email could be really effective, and it doesn't have to be in violation with all the things that we associate with good marketing, being authentic, being wanted, being helpful. All these different things could come in cold email.

We're a little bit biased towards cold email in thinking that it is evil and annoying because we get really bad cold emails. Most people do not get cold emails. When I give presentations on cold emails, I'll put in a few examples of cold emails that I get, and I never get good ones. So, it's always these really bad examples in there.

So, we're definitely skewed towards thinking that cold email can't be effective, won't be effective, is annoying, and we don't want to do that to our audience. But there definitely is a right way to do it, and it's a great technique to use if you're doing it right.

When should you use cold email?

Kathleen: So, you mentioned there's a place for everything. Right? It's almost like when they say about diets, everything in moderation. So, when is the right time to use cold email?

Nikki: Good question. I think two times would be great.

Number one is just if a company is small or they're having trouble growing or they're having trouble acquiring customers, it's just a good time to try it, test it out, see how it works.

The next is, I would say, if you're working on relationship building. So, it's less about acquiring customers and more about acquiring leverage and influence and authority, if you're trying to get your content out to more people, not with those templated, "Hey, I wrote a post that's like your post," but really authentically trying to build a relationship with someone. That's another aspect where it could work really well.

GDPR and cold email

Kathleen: Interesting. Before we dig into that a little bit deeper, I'm curious... Geographically, obviously the European Union has a lot of rules that are different than other places, although in the US California is doing things that are starting to look a lot more like GDPR. Are there things that marketers should be aware of when it comes to cold email and geographic use of it?

Nikki: Definitely talk to your legal team, see how these laws do affect things. They are kind of vague a little bit, so you can probably usually get away with sending one email. An entire sequence, you might want to check with your legal team, see how it goes, and then the US market is a nice big market, so definitely, you could reach out there and see how things go too.

How to get started with cold email (the right way)

Kathleen: Yeah, that's good advice. All right. So, if I'm a marketer and I fit one of those categories you talked about, and I actually do, I just started a new job at Prevailion, so I'll use myself as an example. We're an early-stage company. We just got our Series A round. We're just really bringing the product to market, and we don't have a huge database. I feel like we're exactly what you described. You need to build your network, get in front of more potential customers. How should I really start to think about cold email outreach so that I'm doing it right?

Nikki: I would say that, number one, you want to define what it is that you are offering. They say any piece of marketing is made up of list, offer, and creative. In this case, it's usually just copy. So, you first want to hone down exactly what you can offer, and then you want to move on to your list, which is finding the prospects that need what it is that you offer.

Then once you have that, then you could start writing the copy, and copy always first comes with research, so really digging into who those people are and why they need what you offer, and framing in a friendly, authentic, honest, open way of, "Yes, I'm pitching you, but I want to not be annoying, and I'm being transparent about this, and I really just want to help you."

If you come from a place of, "I have a great product," and you are a great person, and you're respectful of both those things, then your cold email is not annoying.

I think this is something that... I get this a lot, where people are always asking, "Well, how do you be creative, and how do you make an engaging subject line?" and all these different things on creativity.

I think much, much, much more important than creativity is making sure that you have something that the person is interested in and needs, and framing it that way, and just being respectful of their inbox, of their time, and who they are as a person, and their role. Those things are much more important.

Yes, you need to get people's attention, but writing a subject line that's like, "Help. I'm in jail," and then your body is, "Hi, I got your attention. Ha-ha. Now read my email," that's not going to... You got the open. You got the open. Great job.

Kathleen: And then you just made them mad.

Nikki: Exactly, or some people like it. I've heard feedback where people are like, "Oh, that's so cool. You're so creative," but just because you're creative doesn't mean that I now want to use your service. So, you got the open, but you don't necessarily get the response or the click, in whichever case it is with cold email.

So, definitely, you want to start thinking about who they are, what you offer, and how you can tie it together and present it in a way that's really a no-brainer of, "This is the perfect fit for you, and you should do this, and it will be awesome."

Kathleen: So, I'm going to totally put you on the spot.

Nikki: Okay.

Kathleen: I feel like that is so much more easily said than done, because as we've discussed, 99% of the emails that we get that are cold are terrible, so people are clearly failing across the board to do this well.

I mean, do you have any tips or examples of wording? How do you walk that line of creating that feeling of genuineness and conveying that you respect their inbox while also acknowledging that you are sending them an unsolicited email and pitching them, essentially?

Nikki: Yeah, definitely. I think just being really transparent and believing in your product, believing that you have something of value, and knowing deeply that they need it, not in a way where you're like, "Hey, you are terrible because X, Y, Z."

That's another thing that people will do in cold emails, is they'll start critiquing and giving advice, and nobody really wants advice or to be insulted without being insulted. Even if you frame it really nicely, it's not a great way to start a relationship.

So, just being very... I know this isn't helpful because it's kind of vague, but see, the really cool thing about cold email is there's this principle in email copywriting, which is called the Rule of One, that you want to pretend you're writing to one person, so being very human, and writing the way that you talk, and things like that.

The cool thing is that with cold email, you are writing to one person. So, really just writing your email as if you're writing it to a friend, being really just honest and transparent.

I mean, this is where it comes in, the whole believing in your product, and just framing it in a way of, "I really believe this will help you." Obviously, you could use formulas and email formulas that help you do this, like PAS, pain, agitation, solution, but just kind of write a letter as if you're writing it to a friend. Pretend your friend needs your product, and write this letter, and then kind of chop it down into an email. That can definitely help you with being friendly and personable and authentic and honest.

Kathleen: Yeah. The Rule of One thing is super helpful. I use that a lot, more even... I definitely use it for email body copy, but I really use it for subject lines because I find that marketers tend to write very terrible subject lines in the sense that they're very stilted and corporate-sounding. It's like we all went to the same school of what a subject line should sound like, and made their subject lines sound totally robotic. So, I started doing that just intuitively a couple years ago.

I have this friend Jen, and I always pretend I'm writing an email to Jen, and I'm like, what would I put in the subject line if this was Jen that I was sending it to? It wouldn't be like, brackets, webinar, blah, blah, blah. It would be, "Can I ask you a question?" or, "I thought this might interest you," and even down to punctuation, not using title case for every word. You don't do that when you're writing to friends.

So, I don't know. I just think that's a really interesting trick to run through, and I think for every person, it's going to be different, who they picture in their head, but the more you can make it like a real, real person that you actually know, the more that mnemonic becomes really helpful.

Nikki: Yeah, totally. I think it's... There's a lot of flack about customer personas and how they're not really authentic and all this, or maybe they are really important and all this. It's definitely very helpful when you're writing email to have a person, because yeah, then you picture them as a person that you're writing to, versus other aspects of marketing, the persona idea gets more fuzzy because it's not a one-to-one conversation. So, definitely with email persona, it helps tremendously.

What we're saying with subject lines is... I've been having a lot of fun testing different types of subject lines, like just a subject line full of emojis, and that's it, just emojis. I mean, I personally will always uppercase my email when I write to friends, not title case on every line, but the first word is always upper-

Kathleen: No, that's what I meant though. Yes, the first letter of the line, like a sentence would be-

Nikki: But it is interesting-

Kathleen: ... not every... Sorry. Go ahead.

Nikki: Right, every word.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Nikki: But it is interesting to test what happens when you don't capitalize anything, because there are people that will write emails like that. So, just because I won't doesn't mean that my target audience doesn't receive emails like that more often. So, it's definitely been a lot of fun testing all different sorts of subject lines and things like that.

That's another thing with cold email, is that it should not just be a one and done, this is the template that we sent to everybody, this is the email that we sent to everyone. You should be testing and iterating and seeing what gets opened, what gets responses, all this kind of stuff, because there are all those elements. You need the open. You need the response. You need the interest. Maybe they are interested in your product, but you're asking them to get on a call for 15 minutes, and they don't have 15 minutes. There's so many things that play into the success of your email, so definitely test, test, test, test, test, test, test.

How long should your emails be?

Kathleen: So, I have a question that I actually really want to ask you about this, because you mentioned that you do work for Copyhackers, and I have attended tons of Copyhackers Tutorial Tuesdays. I've gotten lots of the templates.

So, I follow what you guys are doing, and one of the things that I think is really interesting, and I've always wondered about, so maybe you can finally clear up the mystery, is what I always hear from marketers that I follow is brevity is so key. People have such short attention spans. They want you to get right to the point. But I've noticed with several of the best email copywriters I follow, you, Joanna Wiebe, Val Geisler does it, the emails that I'm seeing are longer. There's more of almost a story to them, and I'm just wondering if you could comment on that. What is the relationship between brevity and effectiveness in email?

Nikki: Definitely. I would say that for sure with cold email, you do want to try for brevity. Not necessarily. My most successful cold email was not short at all. But because you are new to the person, you do want to kind of just try to be short and to the point.

Now, where storytelling comes in and all these ideas of really engaging the person, you have to, number one, know your audience, and number two, test, but a cool trick is stages of awareness, which basically, if you're... So, this is actually the opportunity of what I'm saying, that your first instance of cold emails should be short, but if the person doesn't know you and doesn't know your product, and doesn't even know, necessarily, that they need your product, you need more time to walk them through to get to that point of being able to say yes to you.

So, it makes more sense to have a longer email because you need to walk them through all these objections and education and all this stuff to get them to this point where they can commit.

So, I guess the reason why I say that your cold emails should be short is just because many people struggle with the storytelling, so I don't want that to get in the way. I want you to just be able to focus on your offer and how you can help people, and you don't need length if you can really say that very clearly and compellingly. If you feel like you do need length, I guess because I've seen a lot of cold... From students that I've mentored, I've seen cold emails that are long because they feel like they have to explain and talk about themselves and give social proof and benefits and bullet points.

That kind of long email, yes, you're walking them through and kind of trying to hit objections, but it's very dry. It's not engaging. So, it's just kind of hard to find the fine line between long and engaging and not boring the person long, that kind of long.

So, I guess if you are an email copywriter or a copywriter, or you're a great writer and you studied copy, then go for long. Don't be scared of... You must be brief. That's the most important thing in marketing.

But if you just want to get your product out there, and you're kind of scared of this whole storytelling thing, then I wouldn't... With cold email, it's really just about doing it. The more you do it, the more responses you'll get.

So, I don't want long to scare you. But if you do have a great story, and it's engaging, then don't be scared of needing to be short either. Did that make sense?

Kathleen: Yeah. No, that does make sense, because like I said, I've definitely noticed that there are times when really good emails are longer, and it's just interesting to me to understand when you would use one or the other. But I agree with you because I think what I'm hearing you say is a lot of people use length as a crutch because they're not able to concisely say what they should be able to concisely say, as opposed to using length to really build a narrative and a story.

Nikki: Exactly. Yes. You summed that up beautifully.

Determining the audience size for your cold email outreach campaign

Kathleen: Thank you. So, I want to go back. You mentioned that with any email there is the list, the offer, and the creative, and I want to go back to the list for a second, because you said something earlier that I picked up on, which is that you want to think like you're writing an email to one person, but then you said you really are writing it to one person.

So, to clarify, when you talk about cold email, are you talking about one-to-one cold email, or are you talking about one-to-many cold email, or both?

Nikki: So, it depends. I've written cold email for sales teams to send to other teams, and they do address it to one person, but they're sending it... It is a sort of template that they send out to a whole bunch of different companies, whole bunch of different teams. So, it definitely could be both.

I guess in that instance I was referring to when you're trying to build a relationship, and you are sending it to one person. But even still, you're sending it to a smaller list than you usually do-

Kathleen: So, that was going to be my question, just to make sure, was if you're going to do a list, do you have any rules around what size, how big is too big, how should you do segments and subsegments? Can you talk about that a little bit?

Nikki: Yeah, definitely. I think it depends what your goals are, obviously, like everything else, but they usually have something in common together, all the people that you're trying to reach.

So, for example, I did a cold outreach for Sprout Social, and it was for a retail push, a push for retail e-commerce brands trying to streamline their social media management. So, they broke it down into different company sizes, not quite company sizes, but more the company size according to their goals with social.

So, that was one segment, was... One segment was retail, and one segment was what their goals were with social, on retail social. So, that was two segments. Then did we segment it even further? Then part of the template that I wrote for the sales reps was also personalizing it towards what their social use was.

So, I wrote a few A/B emails based on how they were using social. So, there was kind of like those three elements of segmentation, their industry, their size and goals, and then how they actually would use the tool. Does that answer your question as more-

Kathleen: Yeah, yeah. No, it does. I mean, it sounds like you want your audience to be homogeneous, at least when it comes to the dimensions that you're focusing most closely on, whether that's everyone has this job title, and I'm targeting them for that reason, or everyone has this pain point, and I'm targeting for that reason. That level of homogeneity is important so that you're going to be able to speak to them, and it will resonate.

Nikki: Especially because their pricing plans correlate with what their goals are and what types of roles the people at the company are taking. So, it's hard to talk about the features and benefits that you're going to have if you're just talking to everyone who will be using different features and benefits, and what their pain points are, exactly, all that kind of stuff. It's important to be able to write your email to be able to segment them according to what is important to them.

KPIs for cold email outreach

Kathleen: So, from a list standpoint, if you're doing cold email, by nature, people haven't heard from you before, and you're sending it to a list, not a one-to-one. Are there any standard metrics that you use to judge, hey, our subscribe rate shouldn't be above X, and our spam complaint rate shouldn't be above X?

Nikki: We don't have standards. I think it depends on your industry and what your standards are. You always want your conversion rates to be higher than they already are, and your unsubscribe rates to be lower, but definitely, if you're going to be sending a sequence, putting in a little unsubscribe button is very helpful, especially with GDPR and all this kind of thing, to just let people know, "Hey, I think this is something that's interesting for you, but if you don't want to hear from me again, that's totally fine. That's okay. We'll move on to someone else." That also helps psychologically because people don't like to miss out on things, and if they buy into it, then they really buy into it. So, you can't lose if you allow people an exit.

What types of offers work best with cold email outreach?

Kathleen: Yeah. That makes sense. So, it was list, offer, creative. When it comes to offer, cold outreach, are there certain types of offers that work really well versus others?

Nikki: Definitely. You want to be convenient for people. So, if you're asking them to get on a call with you, don't tell them, "Hey, book a free demo with me for 30 minutes." Even though that is what your sales team will normally do, you'll have your team book demos for 30 minutes, you want to get them to micro commit before that bigger step. So, just like, "Hey, can we get on a clarification call for five minutes?" before you even mention the word demo and 30 minutes. Don't scare people off with that.

So, definitely, whatever your offer is, it should be something that is very easy for them to commit to. You can sweeten the pot and offer incentives, just whatever it takes to make it a really, really compelling offer. So, think how you're solving their pain. That's your actual offer, and then surround your offer with things that make it easy for them to say yes to.

Kathleen: So, would you say that the biggest mistake that people make when it comes to the offer aspect of this is that they ask too much? In other words, they go too far bottom of the funnel with the offer that they're making?

Nikki: Absolutely, for sure. I would also say that they... or they do both. They either do making this huge ask, not huge, but a big ask for a cold email, or they kind of leave it very vague and very the ball in your court, so like, "Hey, what do you think about this?" or, "Let me know what you think," or these very vague, not committing... It's very easy to say no to something like that, and you don't even have to say no. You don't say yes, which essentially is a no. So, I've seen emails that do both of that, like, "What do you think about a 15-minute call?" No, I think a 15-minute call is a bad idea.

Kathleen: Right, right.

Nikki: So, definitely, you want to really offer something, and not just like, "Can we catch 15 minutes?" but, "How's 15 at this time?" being really specific and assertive, and also offering something that's very easy to say yes to.

How does including a video impact the effectiveness of cold email?

Kathleen: Yeah. Now, have you ever studied or tested in the cold emails you've done how including a video from the sender affects results? So, in the last two years, the team that I was working with at IMPACT, we did a ton of testing of including a video or a GoVideo of the sender actually putting in, "Hey, this is Kathleen. Just wanted to put a face with the name and tell you I'm hoping to connect with you," whatever you're saying, but having that in there. I'm curious to know if you've tried that out at all.

Nikki: Yes, definitely. That Sprout sequence that I just mentioned had a Vidyard, actually, not just a video, but Vidyard video.

Kathleen: I love Vidyard.

Nikki: They are pretty awesome. So, we haven't got the results back on that yet, but how did it go at your previous job?

Kathleen: We saw it made a huge difference, in general. We did it with a lot of emails, and what we found was that... Well, it was a combination of two things, including a video, and then stripping formatting out of the email and making it look as much like a regular Gmail as possible. Those two things when put together blew my mind.

So, I was a leader of a HubSpot user group, and I used to send the templated emails that were just formatted and regular copy about new meetups, and to encourage people to register. People would register. I would never get any emails back, but then when we switched to stripped-down format and video from me saying, "I hope you'll be there," it was so interesting.

All of a sudden, I started getting personal replies like, "Oh, I can't make it this time. I'm so sorry." People were really responding to me as opposed to, oh, here's a hug email. I'm going to register. Then it was funny because HubSpot changed the way you had to market those, and I had to go back to a templated email, and I never get replies anymore, and I can't put video in.

So, there you have it. I don't know whether it was the stripped-down formatting or the video, but it was dramatic, the difference that it made.

Nikki: Yeah. It's fascinating to me that video in email has not advanced more than it has, because it really does increase conversions amazingly, because all of a sudden it's a real person instead of just a nice, pretty template or a block of text. Obviously, there are companies that are making a difference like Vidyard, but why is it not a standard feature in Gmail to just-

Kathleen: Oh, I know, especially if you're able to put the person's name on the whiteboard and have an animated gif with you smiling. It's hard to resist that when I think you're the recipient, but-

Nikki: They also know that you're invested in them and invested in general in your offer when you go lengths to personalize and to be human.

What kinds of results can you expect with cold email outreach?

Kathleen: Yeah, absolutely. So, I'm curious. You've done this work with different clients. What kind of results have you seen from cold outreach? I would love it if you could share some of your success stories, and what kind of response rate did they get?

Nikki: So, my biggest success story is actually how I started working with Copyhackers. I sent one email to Joanna Wiebe, which obviously was not a list. It wasn't any... It was just me to her, and it was one email. I landed an $11,500 project from that, and then a few months later I sent her another email that was more of like a joke kind of email, totally unrelated. It was like a personal email almost, and she's like, "Okay. That's it. You're going to be my new email copywriter."

Kathleen: That's great.

Nikki: So, that was a pretty cool win.

Kathleen: Yeah. I mean, if you're going to get hired by Copyhackers to be the email person, you better be writing some great emails to Joanna.

Nikki: Yes. So, that was really fun, and-

Kathleen: I love it. What about at scale? Have you had any interesting successes with one-to-many emails?

Nikki: So, Sprout Social, we didn't get the results back yet. There was another campaign that I wrote recently. Let me think for a second.

Kathleen: I know. I'm springing this on you last minute, which is totally not fair.

Nikki: I'm trying to think. Who was it for? Oh, LoyalSnap, which I don't think I saw the results for that either, unfortunately. I don't think-

Kathleen: Well, we're going to have to do a part two then at some point.

Nikki: Yeah.

Kathleen: We'll do a Nikki Elbaz interview, the sequel, and get the results.

Nikki: Cool.

Kathleen's two questions

Kathleen: Yeah. So, we're coming up to the top of our time. I want to make sure I have a chance to ask you the two questions I always ask everybody, which the first one is, company or individual, is there somebody you think is really killing it with inbound marketing right now?

Nikki: Hands down, Drift, because they were built first as inbound. That's all they did, and then they created their product to satisfy their audience's need. You can't get more awesome than that. They have so much fun delighting their users and their employees. It's this whole experience of buying into their culture and getting free gifts from them, from a bot. They're just so fun, and they're very authentic, really thought-provoking thought leadership from their employees, so it's also great that they give a platform to their employees. They're doing so many good things, so many things right. So, definitely follow them if you're not following them already.

Kathleen: Yeah. It was funny when you were talking about email subject lines, and you said some companies send the all lowercase subject lines and the emoji subject lines. I almost interrupted you to say, "That's Drift," because that's how I first started noticing the all lowercase subjects lines. They had sent one, and I was like, "Hmm, that's interesting. They're testing putting no capitals in their subject lines. I might need to test that." Yeah. It's good to not only follow them, but really look at their marketing and see what they're doing, because they try things a lot of other people are afraid to try.

Nikki: Yeah, they're ahead of the game in that aspect.

Kathleen: My other question that I always ask people is... Digital marketing just changes so quickly, and it can be really hard to keep up. How do you personally stay up-to-date?

Nikki: So, obviously there's a bunch of places that I'll read their blogs and things like that, like Drift and Copyhackers, obviously. My new favorite is The Product-Led Growth Collective. They're pretty new, so bare bones content, but really high-level, great stuff on product-led growth, obviously.

But I think the best, best place that I keep up learning is just Slack groups, social media, from other people that are in the trenches, doing things that I'm not doing, doing things that I am doing, and asking questions that I haven't thought of, or just really being in it with other people. I just love being a part of those conversations. They're pointing you to great content. They're asking questions that lead to amazing discussions. It's just a great way to open your horizon and learn more.

Kathleen: Any particular groups that you're really fond of? What are your top three?

Nikki: So, Demand Curve is my number one. Then there's also Online Geniuses, and I guess I would say... This isn't applicable for most people, but The 10X Freelance Copywriter by Copyhackers is a really awesome community, and I have a lot of fun in there. So, that's my number three.

Kathleen: Great. Yeah, those were all good ones. I'll have to... I'm already in Online Geniuses, but I haven't checked out the other two, so I will have to do that.

Nikki: Cool. I wouldn't underestimate also just Twitter and LinkedIn in general. Just finding the people that you like to follow and reading the discussions there, for sure, is pretty awesome too.

How to connect with Nikki

Kathleen: Amen. I totally agree with that. If somebody wants to reach out, ask you a question, learn more, what's the best way for them to get in touch with you?

Nikki: Join my email list. Then I can email you.

Kathleen: And then you can see Nikki's amazing emails.

Nikki: Exactly. So, you could sign up at, and that's how you get on my email list, and then you have my email, and you can even email me too.

Kathleen: All right. I'll put the link to that in the show notes, so head to and join the list. Thank you so much for coming on. This was really interesting, and I love digging into cold email. Such a controversial topic. I feel like we should be really subversive and start to post more about it in our group so that we can share your opinion.

Nikki: All right.

You know what to do next...

Kathleen: But no, thanks for coming on. If you are listening, and you liked what you heard, or you learned something new, please leave the podcast a five-star review on Apple Podcasts so that other people can find us, and if you know somebody else doing kick-ass inbound marketing work, tweet me @WorkMommyWork, because I would love to interview them. That's it for this week. Thank you so much, Nikki.

Nikki: Thanks for having me.

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Email Marketing
Inbound Success
Published on November 4, 2019

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