SoPro: A Team, Not a Tool.

When it comes to fuelling the sales pipeline

Businesses face a choice between taking on the challenges of prospecting internally or handing it over to the experts. Using a tool or hiring a service. It is a big decision.

Automated tools generally look cheaper at first glance, but there is far more to resourcing and managing successful prospecting campaigns than software costs, the true costs quickly mount up.

Before deciding which route is right for you, read our Ten Steps to Successful Prospecting and consider your preparedness to handle each of the following aspects internally when the time comes.

1. Assembling your team. Who is managing your campaign?
Why is this Critical?

One of the first lessons learned when choosing to run prospecting activity in house is often referred to as the time-suck lesson. The act of discovering the sheer amount of time, focus and resource required to manage a competitive prospecting channel within your own business. We’ve outlined the steps you need to take to get your campaign off the ground.

There are plenty of tools offering everything you need to prospect like a pro but they rarely mention the fact you’ll need to hire several people to manage the activity in house – regardless of which system you opt for.

To quantify that unforeseen cost, we’ve listed out some of the bigger roles and workflows that simply can’t be overlooked.

What do you need to do?

Campaign Setup – budget around three weeks for this. You’ll need to fill various roles across management, tech, creative, marketing, and sales

We’re not juggling other commitments and we do this for a living. If you’re new to the game, you can expect to double or triple that setup time if you plan on doing things properly.

Here’s a starter list for a basic campaign setup
  • Kick off meeting with sales and marketing stakeholders, agree campaign targeting and focus
  • Create market searches, evaluate and sign off target audience segments
  • Initial list building. If your system doesn’t provide data, collate a few thousand prospects into a normalised data structure. We recommend a flat file database such as excel. QA check all data and process any removals
  • Source contact details for all prospects
  • Verify contact details for all prospects to ensure delivery to mailbox
  • Collate initial exclusions and run CRM de-dupe
  • Define and implement the exclusion management policy within an appropriate campaign management platform
  • Create campaign messaging and code into HTML templates for use
  • Informalise initially sourced data to enable dynamic data insertion based on the campaign messaging
  • Register and configure new domains as needed. Initiate domain warm up 30 days prior to use where possible.
  • Configure DNS and mail servers for use.
  • Deliverability Testing
    • Test domain blacklisting.
    • Test message content and construct for spam terms.
    • Live test cross ESP deliverability.
  • Setup up UTM based campaign open, click and response tracking.
  • Compliance Setup
    • Legitimate interest assessment.
    • Audit and amend privacy policy as needed.
    • Set up unsubscribe tracking and implement a compliant suppressions management policy.
    • Audit and amend privacy policy as needed.
  • Set up sending schedules and sending sequence in a platform of choice
  • Set up smart public holiday management system when running multi location campaigns. You don’t want to send emails on non-working days, chance is no one will respond.
  • Set up daily limits of prospects contacted per company. Mass mailing more than 2 people per company per day is not going to trigger the desired outcome for sure.
  • Upload data in your CRM before launch and add bcc address in order to facilitate lead tracking and streamline your activity with the rest of the channels you are using.
  • Set up a responder management process.
  • Test fully and launch when ready.
Resourcing your Prospecting Campaign Once Live
Running your campaign. Budget 1 day/week.

It’s rough out there. Plan your segments, stages and messaging carefully. Map your data segments and set up multi-stage bespoke messaging sequences for each data segment. Coordinate responder exclusion management across all campaign stages and handle prospect level, company level, campaign level and global unsubscribes appropriately.

Performance and MI reporting and analysis. 1 day/week.

Pull the data and assess your performance. You’ll need clear line of sight across opens, categorised responses, leads and deal flow across all relevant data segmentations. I.e. measure all of the above and review comparative performance by industry, by company size, by job title, by time of day… you name it. Dive into the data and pinpoint current areas for improvement, then propose and implement config changes to iterate and optimise on a daily/weekly basis.

2. Deliverability – the most undervalued metric in marketing
Why is this Critical?

Junked or otherwise undelivered messages are a waste of budget and hamper success.

Deliverability is critical to campaign success and stats should be reviewed daily. It is important to differentiate between general deliverability and delivery to inbox and monitor both metrics separately.

To quantify that unforeseen cost, we’ve listed out some of the bigger roles and workflows that simply can’t be overlooked.

What do I need to know?
Delivery to mailbox. Target 97.5%.

Initially this stat reflects the quality of the technical setup (DNS records including SPF, DKIM, DMARC insertions, domain age, status and previous activity, send volumes, message variance, etc).

Once live, fluctuations will generally reflect the quality of email address data. Failure to meet or maintain this target may cause domain blacklisting and/or suspension of ESP services.

Delivery to inbox. Target 40% open rate.

Assuming mailbox delivery rates are on target, a low open rate usually indicates messages are being flagged as spam and are not arriving in your recipients’ inbox. This can be due to high levels of activity, limited variance in messaging, use of spam terms in the content.

Poor subject lines are also known to cause low open rates, due to reduced interest levels.

Here’s our guide on ensuring full email deliverability if you do want to go it alone.

  • Old data will cause high bounce rates.
  • Cheap/low quality data providers will cause high bounce rates.
  • Poorly configured DNS will cause delivery rejections.
  • Always use clean, non-core domains.
  • Regularly test deliverability and domain health.
  • Great subject lines can quadruple open rates.
3. Compliance Management

You must assign a compliance owner to ensure the legal status of your campaign is kept safely in compliance with the legal frameworks of the territories you are operating in and/or targeting.

You must comply with the privacy laws of the locations you are targeting. As an example, any US company storing data on European citizens must demonstrate compliance with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and must also comply with applicable marketing regulations in each country, such as PECR in the UK.

There are preparatory actions, operating procedures, data storage, data transmission and data encryption policies that will need to be reviewed and updated (or in some cases; written from scratch) to ensure your campaign is legal.

In addition to policies and general practice, ensure you have the appropriate Right to Remove, Right to Amend and Subject Access Request handling processes in place and test regularly to ensure compliance with any legislated response time requirements. It is far harder than you think to supply a full extract of all data points, (including locations and sources) held on a data subject within seven days.

Lastly, you need to be very knowledgeable in the field, as once the activity starts you will frequently receive questions from prospects around where you sourced prospect details, why are you contacting people, etc.

We recommend you create a Compliance Support Centre in the form of an FAQ which will then be used as need arises.

Take this seriously as fines can be huge, we are talking up to £20m or 4% of global turnover per breach.

4. Who is categorising your prospecting campaign responses? And how?

Categorising your prospect responses is vital if you wish to understand why some of your campaigns are working while others are not.

SoPro categorise every response into one of four main types: Positive Lead, Referral, Deferred Interest and Polite Decline.

Without fully categorised response logging, your reporting will be of limited value.

For best results response categorisation and logging must be handled manually.

Categorising responses can become very complicated very quickly, so here’s a short video to explain why this step is so important:

Without response categorisation

Various web based prospecting tools, as opposed to a service.

With response categorisation

SoPro
5. Dynamic data insertion

When it comes to prospecting, generic marketing language does not work. Every email you send needs to be conversational and fully personalised, using natural language.

It is no secret that one-to-one personalised notes are the best way to ensure high response rates, but how is it possible to send large numbers of personalised messages every day?

This challenge is solved using templates together with a variety of dynamic data insertion techniques. Templating the structure of your introductory notes, while incorporating variable words and phrases to reflect each recipient’s unique circumstances.

Dynamic data insertion enables you to merge prospect a database with a message template to produce a high volume of personalised messages in a short space of time.

As you would expect, the more sophisticated the dynamic data insertion, the more personalised the final output - but more about that in step 6.

Dynamic insertion could be as simple as using the correct prospect name in your intro, or it could extend to namechecking mutual contacts or referencing upcoming events in your prospect’s industry. Sophisticated templates use dynamic data insertion to form adaptive messaging sections and paragraphs to perfectly match prospect circumstances, taking advantage of knowledge such as industry or company size, perhaps even describing specific features or benefits that best suit the company profile in question. At SoPro we even adjust language and tone to suit the recipient job title, something that has been proven many times to improve response rates significantly.

It is important to understand that while most off the shelf prospecting tools will support basic insertions, nearly all lack the capability to build sophisticated insertions into your campaign. And where the functionality does exist it can often require a technical degree to set up and use it effectively. If you’d like to see an example of dynamic messaging… hop over to see how SoPro do it here

Note. Data insertion should not be incorporated without full data informalisation being applied to all dynamically inserted data points. Which brings us up to step 6…

6. Who is informalising your data?
Before enabling dynamic data insertion, you must first informalise your data points.

This really is make or break. Consider the time, effort and practicality of conducting data informalisation activity in house. A fairly basic five data point informalisation across 10,000 prospects equates to manually re-writing 50,000 data points to natural text before your campaign can start. Ignore this at your peril.

STANDARD DYNAMIC DATA INSERTION

Hey Ryan Welmans,

I’d love to grab five minutes if poss to discuss how we can help Prospect Global Limited make headway in the Marketing & Advertising industry this year.

We’re actually not too far from you in Brighton, United Kingdom so I was wondering if it might make sense to swing by for a coffee at some point in February.

Any good times to drop in?

INFORMALISED DYNAMIC DATA INSERTION

Hey Ryan,

I’d love to grab five minutes if poss to discuss how we can help SoPro make headway in the martech space this year.

We’re actually not too far from you in sunny Brighton so I was wondering if it might make sense to swing by for a coffee at some point in Feb.

Any good times to drop in?

7. Who is writing your emails?

Prospecting campaigns live and die by the quality of messaging used.

Our expert prospecting emails are proven to outperform existing client messaging by 2:1 on average, up to 10:1 in cases.

Modern digital marketing blends the creative with the technical. There is no one-size fits all solution, and a fine mix of commercial, analytics driven insight must be weighed against ingenuity, inventiveness and creativity.

Marketing is more commercial, more technical, and more creative than ever before.

It is very important to understand that writing B2B email prospecting copy, is very different to traditional email marketing campaign copy, and being highly skilled in one medium does not necessarily translate to the other.

So where is your messaging coming from?

Off the shelf software tools are never going to produce the level of outstanding messaging you need to ensure your campaign works. You need a professional B2B email writer for that.

Off the shelf software is also never going to review and tweak your messaging as the campaign matures, based on response rates and feedback from the sales team. You need just the right flavour of human for that. You don’t just need the data, you need to understand what that data is telling you.

8. Who’s monitoring your delivery stats?

If you are using off the shelf prospecting tools, you will need someone on hand internally with patience, brains, and plenty of spare time to monitor your campaign delivery. They will need to record and circulate performance stats in order to drive the daily and weekly tweaks needed to achieve results. This is an ongoing role, think 6-12 months or longer. It is not a trivial undertaking.

To give your campaigns half a chance of success you’ll need daily performance reports detailing delivery stats, open rates, click rates, response rates, categorised responders and lead rates, all broken down by every target metric in play (industry, job title, company size, etc).

If you don’t know exactly what you should be targeting for each stat then start by measuring your results against the global averages (click here for SoPro cross-campaign averages).

The SoPro cross campaign stats are an extraordinarily unique insight into best in class prospecting response rates, and a great indicator of the variance by company size, industry, geography, etc. A very reliable benchmark.

The next step is always to identify areas of underperformance against the norms and schedule the right changes to improve the right areas. This approach enables you to pin-point the exact config changes to tweak for maximum improvement each week. Performance should double for each of the first 3 months then steadily improve at a reducing rate for as long as it runs.

9. Risk of burning your domain

How are you going to deliver 10,000 prospects per month? Running 10k prospects through a standard 4 stage email campaign equates to 35k outbound emails per month. Really.

At that volume, domains will be blacklisted within days, email deliverability might look fine on the surface but delivery to inbox will plummet and irreparable damage will be done to the domain reputation. It is simply not a sustainable model.

10. Risk of burning your data/audience

We have heard rumours of businesses putting in place strategies to contact 10,000 new prospects per month as a genuine long-term strategy.

A recent client survey revealed that on average, once we lock down the target profile and run a search. Most B2B businesses return a prospect audience of between 10,000 and 20,000 target companies.

Here are the numbers, where do you fit on the chart?

Percentage of clients by Market Size

So even if we consider a total market sweep every six months, there is no good argument to contact more than 1/6 of your total addressable market per month.

The rule is bulletproof and simple.

Never contact more than 1/6 of your total addressable prospect base per month.

Based on the 1/6 logic, here are the maximum viable outreach volumes per month, based on market size:

Now divide by 6 to establish max productive prospecting rate based on market size.

Here it is:

Don’t be wowed by cheap tools offering high volume, low quality outreach. Anything over the limits outlined will certainly be doing more harm than good.

You’ll simply be burning through your market.

Circling back to the notion of contacting 10k prospects per month, the idea has a genuinely destructive potential and should be avoided except in the very rarest of circumstances. The high-volume approach can quickly become a catastrophic misjudgement for any business with a sub 50k market size.

Still thinking about going high volume?

At 10k prospects per month you can forget your 6-month market cycle. A business with target market of say 5,000-10,000 prospects will burn through their entire addressable market in 9.5 days. It is a nonsensical proposition and one that is easily overlooked in the face of well-advertised, seemingly low-cost outreach tools. But the damage can be immense.

Take it from us, or take it from our clients, higher quality personalised outreach scheduled at a rate that your market size can support will always outperform the low-cost, high-volume outreach models.

Every single time.

SoPro - A Team, not a Tool

SoPro Explainer: A Team, Not a Tool

When it comes to marketing technology, businesses have more choice than ever before.

People often think they need technology, but in reality, what they actually need is help with technology. That is why SoPro offer a team, not a tool.

You Need a Team, Not a Tool

Use a tool or hire a service. It's a big decision. Before deciding which route is right for you, read over our ten-step plan and consider your preparedness to handle each aspect when the time comes.

Read the List

SoPro Explainer: Your Campaign Team

At SoPro, we’ll work with you to make sure that we understand exactly what your proposition is, to ensure your campaign delivers leads and ultimately grows your business.

SoPro Explainer: Going Live

Your entire campaign with us will be a collaborative process. We rely on your input and feedback to make your campaign a success.

We start by understanding your offering, then a team of template writers will craft an email to go to prospects. Here's how it works...

SoPro Explainer: Getting the Most From Your Campaign

When it comes to marketing technology, businesses have more choice than ever before.

People often think they need technology, but in reality, what they actually need is help with technology. That is why SoPro offer a team, not a tool.

Tools vs service: Take the Quiz

t's the question on every business owner's lips... Do you need a prospecting tool or a service?

Buckle in and settle down, our interactive quiz has got it covered.

Take the Quiz

Meet The Team: Ryan Welmans - SoPro Co Founder

Meet Ryan Welmans, SoPro's co-founder.

Meet The Team: Rob Harlow - Chief Technology Officer

Meet Rob Harlow, SoPro's co-founder and Cheif Technology Officer.

The SoPro Story

This brief intro video outlines our prospecting service and some of the specific problems we solve as we continue to help our amazing clients grow.

Welcome to SoPro.

SoPro for Businesses With Sales Teams

SoPro comes in a variety of flavours (…all awesome). One of the most common and most effective ways that businesses use SoPro, is to support existing sales teams with a consistent flow of leads.

SoPro – a Client’s Story

In this video, Tim Cumming, Director at Working Beautifully, talks through his experience as a SoPro client. We’ve been rocking Tim’s world for years now and we’ve loved watching the Working Beautifully brand and business grow from strength to strength as we’ve helped him land client.. after client… after client.

SoPro Explainer: A Team, Not a Tool
10 Reasons Why
SoPro Explainer: Your Campaign Team
SoPro Explainer: Going Live
SoPro Explainer: Getting the Most From Your Campaign
Tools vs service: Take the Quiz
Meet The Team: Ryan Welmans - SoPro Co Founder
Meet The Team: Rob Harlow - Chief Technology Officer
The SoPro Story
SoPro for Businesses With Sales Teams
SoPro – a Client’s Story

Watch Our Video Case Studies

“One of the great things about working with SoPro is the dedicated team of professionals we have at the other end of the phone... For us, there really is no question. Having a prospecting service is vastly more beneficial than just having the tool. Put simply, it’s transformed our business.”

Nick Washington-Jones, Managing Director, Tack UK

Our Totally Bonkers 60 Second Explainer Video

What better way to convey the surreal magic of the SoPro service than through an animated 60-second explainer video, starring a flying submarine. We commissioned the experts over at Sentio Space to encapsulate SoPro’s fantastical prospecting machine in under a minute. And we don’t mind admitting they totally nailed it.