The problem with cold emails
Everyone and anyone is doing cold emails today. It’s the go-to strategy to get early users for every new business. Personal connections and network first, cold outreach second. The fact that it’s so easy to do is its greatest strength but it is also its greatest weakness. Because the bar to entry is so low, everyone is doing it and everyone’s inboxes are full of emails from people that they don’t know.
Luckily more and more people understand that sending a bunch of identical emails to a big list that you bought doesn’t work. Those kinds of emails go straight to spam, and best-case scenario the receiver sees it and just clicks delete.
Cold emails need personalization, even if it’s just a sentence or two at the beginning of it. You have to show the prospect that you genuinely care about their business and solving their problem.
This isn’t true for all industries, in some you can still get away with no personalization if the demand is high but for the majority of industries, personalization is an absolute must. It seems like more and more people get this, and more and more cold emails are personalized but that means that people on the receiving end are getting used to it.
But what’s the next step then?
How do you make yourself stand out from the crowd of (now even personalized) cold emails and increase the conversion rates?
There are two ways of including a personalized video inside each email.
- The first way is recording a video for each prospect. This can be a simple screen recording that includes your webcam footage. You can do this with Loom but this requires you actually recording manually a video for each prospect. Pros of this are that you actually hyper-personalize the video and it’s obvious that the video is made just for them. Cons are that it’s not scalable, it requires a lot of manual work and it’s very boring.
- The second way is fully automated. Create one template and let the machines do the rest. More about this below.
Mini story time:
I actually tried including a personalized video in every email about 4 years ago. I was doing cold emails for my freelance motion design business and I thought it would be cool if I included a personalized video for each prospect. Nothing too much, just their name in the beginning (in written text) and their name at the end.
I created a generalized video explaining what I do and why they should work with me. I added some text, got my prospect list and went into After Effects, and created 100 unique videos, all by hand.
It was painful to say at least, especially considering that the results of it were poor because my portfolio just wasn’t strong enough. I then decided that I won’t try this ever again. Buuuuut, here I am again – doing the same thing all over again.
The only difference is that now i don’t have to do any work, it’s all automated.
Create once, deliver hundreds of times – The automated way
This is by far the most fun I had with cold emails. Once i created this workflow i realized the potential of it. Creativity just started rushing to my brain with all of the ideas that can be executed now.
This workflow allowed me to create one video template, and include the same video (just personalized) in every cold email i sent without any extra work.
Just imagine what kinds of videos you could create, and imagine instead of getting a boring cold email you get a short, super creative video in your inbox. I can already feel the conversion rate increase.
This is how the first video i created looked like:
And this is the workflow i created:
Before we dive into a deeper explanation of this workflow, I want to say that I understand that some of these tools are fairly complicated, especially After Effects (the rest of them you will get to know in one day) but that’s just the cost of doing these.
Ideally, this wouldn’t be done by an individual, but by a company that has a design team that can create the videos and someone who knows their way around tools like Integromat and Zapier.
But that being said this is totally doable by one person, it will just take a bit of time to set up. For me personally, it took two days but I am lucky that I know After Effects pretty well. I didn’t know how to work with Integromat tho, but it was pretty simple after I got the hang of it.
Let’s explain each part of the workflow.
After Effects is the standard in the Motion Design industry. It’s a tool that anybody who works in the video space knows. It allows you to do pretty much anything related to video and that versatility is why everybody uses it.
This is what i’ve done in Ae to my video:
- Cut the video
- Add prospect’s name and their website to the paper board behind me
- Added the screenshots of their Ad Library and IG
- Added 3 short ads for their products overlaid as I speak about the power of Plainly
- Added a cta with their name at the end
This is how the video looked when i was done:
When I did all of that, I made sure that everything was properly named and I packaged up that project in a .ZIP and uploaded it to Plainly.
Plainly is a video generator that takes an After Effects project, and makes a dynamic video out of it. This allows you to create a different-looking video with every render, all of this automatically and without any extra work.
It works best for eCommerce, social media managers, and salespeople because it allows for scalable, automatic, and fast video creation.
This was the key to this process. Plainly allowed me to create one video and personalize it to each prospect with the parameters unique to them.
What is personalized was determined by me first in After Effects (prospect name, their products in the ads with real prices, screenshots of their Instagram, cta with their name) and second in Plainly by setting up parameters.
The setup took about 10 minutes, and once that was done I was able to test the video directly in the Plainly web app. Even the ability to create a video just by providing the parameters inside the web app is great, it means that I can create dozens of videos within minutes which would never be possible in Ae.
The real power, however, is in the API. Plainly also has an API that allows you to create videos on a massive scale and fully automatic. This is what I was using for this campaign.
If you’d like to see how Plainly works, sign up for a demo and we will be happy to show you.
Integromat is a tool that allows you to create integrations between multiple tools. I needed this to integrate Plainly, Google Sheets, and Lemlist together.
It’s pretty much the same tool like Zapier, but it’s a better bang for your buck. The smallest paying plan of $9 is enough for our needs and that’s why we use it.
With Integromat, I was able to set up an integration that will send an API request to Plainly whenever I add a new prospect to a Google Sheet. This request will create a video with the parameters that I added for that prospect in Google Sheet and return a link to the video for that prospect.
The second step was a Webhook which received the video link and populated the data of that prospect in another Sheet (name, email, company, video link) for Lemlist to pick that up and add a new lead to the campaign.
For everybody who is not a programmer like myself – don’t be afraid of these technical terms (Webhook, API..etc) because you will easily understand them, as I did after you create your first integration.
Nothing in this workflow requires custom coding, it’s mostly copy and paste from resources with occasional editing. That’s why this is so powerful, pretty much anybody can do it.
For the detailed explanation of every module and an exact step-by-step guide on how i created this integration – check this link.
Now when we are done with integrations, let’s move on.
For this use case, I created two sheets. The first one held all of the information about the prospect and the information I needed to send as the parameters to the Plainly API.
Second one held all of the information that Lemlist needed to add a new lead. This is how they looked:
This part actually required a bit of manual work. The manual work was inputting the prospect’s data into the sheet, copying the pictures and prices from their website to the sheet..etc. It took me about a few minutes per lead.G
Lemlist is an amazing software that allows you to send cold emails that are personalized in various ways, all of this on a regular schedule with a sequence of emails that come after that.
I personally choose Lemlist because I’ve been using it for a while and I know how it works. This kind of email automation was a revelation when I first found out about it. Until then I had to track all of my prospects by hand and following up was a complete nightmare.
Lemlist, in combination with Plainly is a super powerful sales tool.
The first email in the sequence of 6 had the personalized video inside of it. The e-mail looked like this:
Please be aware that this only works if you qualify your prospects first. You can’t send this email to someone who doesn’t actually rock social media. Before I added them to the prospects list I had to go one by one and make sure that they are a good fit. Only then, this kind of email can work.
This particular email is pretty short and the call to action is to click on the video. My conversion is when someone books a demo (which is the call to action in the video).
I utilized the feature of personalized images in Lemlist, so each prospect gets a video thumbnail with their name on it and once they click on the image it leads them to the personalized video.
I tried doing it without the thumbnail and it might come across as scammy because you are asking your prospect to click a link from a person that they don’t know. This is the equivalent of taking candy from a person on the street.
This article isn’t about the right way to do cold emails, and I don’t find myself competent enough to speak about it but i know one thing. People are getting bored of receiving cold emails and this is a sure way to bring something new, spark the curiosity of your prospects, and simply lift yourself above the noise.
This might not be for everyone, but those who are constantly doing cold emails will understand the power of this workflow. If you write a 300 word long cold email that’s a sure way to get blocked but if you write a short email with a 2-minute video inside of it the chances of your message getting through are much higher.
I’ll update this article with results once I get this campaign underway, until then I’d love to hear the results you achieved so feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and feel free to let me know about any questions you have. I’d be happy to assist you.