How To Effectively Personalize Cold Emails That Prospects Love

Authors: Yu Teshima & Stefan Kollenberg
Last Updated: Sept 12, 2023

If you’re a B2B sales rep, you’ve probably heard this over and over… personalize your outreach! But what kind of personalization actually works?  Are all kinds of personalization worth the extra time & energy?

We analyzed 6,413 outbound sales emails to identify what kind of personalization is effective, and here is what we learned.

This article is for salespeople who:
  • Use personalization in their outbound prospecting.
  • Want to improve their conversion rates.
  • Are hungry for productivity improvements.

Key Takeaways

  • Highlighting prospect-generated content was 18% more effective in booking meetings than other personalization topics such as the prospect’s career or company news.

  • “Specificity” is key for effective personalization with prospect-generated content. We break down 7 emails to show you how.
  • Other types of research content (ie. company news, reviews, etc...) can be very powerful when used correctly. We show you 6 examples of this in action.
Schedule a call
Or scroll to read the full case study...

Effective personalization is not just about inserting industry or persona-specific variations into your messaging.

Some of you may have tried personalizing your sales email by using templates like:

  • Would you like to know how other {{job function}} leaders have saved costs while increasing their employers’ productivity?
  • We’ve helped other {{industry}} companies generate $100K in additional revenue with a 7X ROI.

However, executives’ inboxes are sinking in hundreds of sales emails every week, and they hate it.

A quote from a VP Engineering describing how mass-emails are ineffective

We agree with them. Personalization is not just inserting names and variables, but digging a few layers deeper. This article will show you how to effectively use research to personalize your outreach.

Using prospect-generated content as a source of personalization was 18% more effective.

If you can find content that your prospect has created online (examples below), mentioning it will increase your chance of booking meetings with prospects.

The examples of prospect-generated content you can search online:

Referring to prospects’ specific statements or comments in articles, podcasts, or interviews is an excellent opportunity to show why you reached out to them specifically.

We found that personalization with an emphasis on the prospect-generated content performed 18% better than other topics such as highlighting company news, how their businesses solve customers’ pains, or a prospect’s career/role-focused topics (though there are ways to effectively personalize your cold email with other topics as well, which we’ll look into later).

A chart explaining that Emails using prospect-generated content as the source of personalization had an 18% higher meeting booked rate than other kinds of personalization.

1The meeting booked % is not the overall conversion rate. It is a benchmark to compare the two groups' performances. This analysis was done using 1,703 emails that booked meetings, and 4,710 emails from the same campaigns that did not book meetings.

2Only the initial emails were considered for the personalization category as they are typically the most personalized messages, though we always send a few follow-up emails. We counted “meeting booked” as long as a prospect responded to the emails (the initial ones or the follow-ups).

3The categorization is based on the “emphasis” of personalization, as an email often includes some or all elements to some degree.

▼An example of a personalization based on prospect-generated content

*All of the examples below are modified to protect any personal information that can identify individuals or companies

Screenshot of the email

▼An example of a company/career-focused personalization

Screenshot of the email

▼An example of a prospect's customer-focused personalization

Screenshot of the emailA banner image showing the volley platform.

7 Examples of using specificity for effective personalization.

These guiding principals are used in the examples below to turn a piece of research into a very relevant and personalized email:

Here are the 7 examples of emails that booked meetings utilizing these guiding principals:

*We modified names that could specify the individual/company from our original emails

Screenshot of the email

This example refers to the article's content using quotes, and adding the writer's takeaway. Also incorporating the content reference as a part of a thought-provoking question.

Principals being used:

Screenshot of the email

This example above concisely introduced what the article was about, and quoted a specific comment from the prospect that the writer found helpful.

Principals being used:

Screenshot of the email

This example above effectively incorporated a topic that the prospect cares for, stimulating a feeling, and connecting to what the writer is curious to know more about.

Principals being used:

A banner image showing the volley platform.Screenshot of the email

This example effectively introduces relevance to the writer and hence why it makes sense to reach out.

Principals being used:

Screenshot of the email

This example recognized the recipient's expertise in a specific topic and asked a question to seek expert insight.

Principals being used:

Here are two examples that did not result in booking meetings (with explanations on how to make them better).

Screenshot of the email

This email referenced the prospect’s research paper yet was missing detailed context.
It is unclear what was interesting or why the sender found it interesting. It did not result in a meeting.

To improve this:
Mention what specifically was interesting about the paper, and how that was relevant to the reason you reached out.

Screenshot of the email

This one above also mentioned that the writer was curious to learn more; however, it is not clear why the program caught their interest and why the writer wanted to learn more. This email didn’t book a meeting.

To improve this:
Reference why the partnership appealed as a significant strategic move for the company, and why you wanted to learn more about the program.

6 Effective research sources if you can’t find prospect-generated content.

Unfortunately, not all prospects have their content available online. For some of them, it is very difficult to find.

When you can only find company-related research, there are still ways to effectively personalize your outbound emails.

Here are the types of research you can reference:

When using company-level research, connect the dots between the topic of the research and the prospect’s job responsibilities.

On top of the principals we shared above, here are additional things to consider when referencing company-related information or prospects’ careers.

Here are two examples of emails that booked meetings and incorporated the tips above:

Screenshot of the email

This email was sent right after a prospect’s company released a new feature, and the news was highlighted in the press release.

Principals being used:

Screenshot of the email

This email was sent right after a prospect’s company released a new feature, and the news was highlighted in the press release.

Tips being used:

Want to do high volumes of personalized outreach without spending half your day writing emails?

Despite knowing how to do personalization, reps face a trade-off between the quantity and quality of outbound emails. With manual research & writing for every person, it adds hours of work, and reps risk falling behind on their other equally important tasks.

To quantify this, we did a time study of high-performing BDRs doing personalized outreach. To engage 8 prospects with highly personalized messages, it takes the average BDR/SDR an hour of research & writing while switching between 180+ browser tabs.

The other under-discussed problem with this is the mental drain it causes reps and often leads to turnover.

The Volley Platform automates high-quality research and writing. 
So you can send relevant outreach that is unique to every prospect
in seconds, not hours. 

If you want to ensure your outreach is relevant & personalized but aren’t sure how to make this scaleable, we can help.

Watch Demo

Want help with building & managing entire campaigns?

Volley’s Outbound Service can own the entire top of the funnel so you just focus on closing deals and serving your customers.

Our “Outbound SWAT Team” will get a hyper-personalized campaign up and running for you in 2 weeks; including lead sourcing, sequence building, and advanced analytics.

Appendix: More detail about our analysis

We often write emails with the following structure:

We analyzed the personalized “hook” section of our emails.

Screenshot of the email

Looking to grow your top of funnel?

Supercharge your lead funnel with Volley BDRs, research and intent data.

Copyright 2022