The one thing everyone gets wrong when optimizing cold email campaigns

Here’s an easy hack to 10x your reply rate when sending cold emails: use a wrong name when greeting people.

“I’m not John!!!”

You will get tons of angry replies like this.

To maximize your reply rate make sure to follow up every single day for the next 30 days with a quick “thoughts?” follow up.


Now I’m not saying this is a smart strategy. Angry replies are not useful and will hurt your brand.

But what this illustrates is that obsessing over reply rates is dumb.

Your “winning” variant might trigger a lot of replies but it might be all the wrong ones.

Okay, okay, everyone knows that you should focus on positive reply rates, right?

Well, no.

It’s definitely better than just looking at reply rates. But there is a similar issue with positive reply rates.

Again, it’s useful to think about how we can 10x our positive reply rates.

We could, for example, set up a campaign targeting low level sales people offering them a $100 Amazon gift card when they reply.

Sales people love responding to emails and who doesn’t like free money?

Again, this is a bad strategy. You will get lots of positive replies but only from people who do not care about your product and have no decision making power.

Now while this is obvious in the extreme example here, most people running cold email campaigns will start running some variation of this strategy eventually.

It’s where you naturally end up when you obsess over positive reply rates.

Everyone tells you to use soft CTAs.

“Mind if I send over a one-pager that explains how you can 10x you reply rates? No strings attached.”

Yes, you will dramatically boost your positive reply rates.

But who cares?

Positive replies do not pay the bills, especially if they are from unqualified people who do not express interest in your offer in the first place.

A single reply from the CEO agreeing to see a demo next Thursday is more meaningful than 100 replies from lower-level people interested in your lead magnet.

And here’s the real kicker.

The smart, busy decision makers you really want to talk to will be turned off by your positive-reply-rate-boosting strategies.

They don’t have time for that kind of nonsense and immediately recognoize it for what it is - a cheesy sales tactic.

Dumbing down your language always improves positive reply rates.

But it also turns away the best prospects who want to be treated like intelligent adults, not toddlers.

Management by metrics is always dangerous. You have to think things through instead of lazily using whatever else is using.

Often you have to settle for the least-worst metric you can reliably track.

For cold email campaigns, the dollars of deals closed per email sent would be a useful metric. Unfortunately, this is usually not viable due to long B2B sales cycles.

Estimated opportunity value per email sent could be a useful substitute but is often too slow as a metric too since it requires at least a discovery call.

Not quite as good but easier to track reliably is the number of opportunities or sales-qualified leads per email sent.

The deeper you can connect your cold email campaigns with data from your CRM the better.

If you run this kind of analysis for the first time, be ready for some big surprises on what truly drives meaningful results.

Written on December 28, 2023

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