Up your sales email response rates with video

Guest post by Alex Birkett of Hubspot

The biggest barrier to sales prospecting is getting a response in the first place.

Hubspot’s annual State of Inbound report surveyed more than 6,000 salespeople and found that 38% struggled to get the conversation going. Normally, cold email is part of your outreach mix, and the numbers are stark: the average cold email campaign gets less than a 1% response rate.

Even though studies show that follow-up emails see a higher engagement rate than the initial email and email ROI averages 4,300%, more than 70% of reps give up if they don’t get a reply to the first message. As a result, sales teams are always looking into ways to grab attention and get responses.

Research shows that 78% of people watch videos every week, and some case studies have shown up to an 80% uplift in landing page conversions when video is used. When you combine the well-researched effectiveness of video overall with your sales prospecting process, you can get some pretty remarkable results.

What does an effective video prospecting email look like?

Video prospecting emails look and function like many of the emails you’re already sending from your personal Inbox or from your company’s email marketing software. They tend to be defined by a single objective (usually to get a response or to secure interest from the responsive party), are short and to the point, and have a clear call-to-action to move prospects through your sales funnel.

Here are some best practices for video prospecting emails in general.

Tailored to the recipient

Sales reps who spend time learning about the person they’re emailing tend to see the best results. It’s obvious if you think about the cold emails you probably receive on a daily basis – they’re usually invasive, unpersonalized, and obnoxiously generic.

Just a tiny amount of research goes a long way. When I’m doing prospecting for my content consulting business, I do as much research as possible. In fact, I want to know that I’m pitching the right companies, but I also want to know I’m pitching the right person at the right time and with the right message. This is the vast majority of the work involved in prospecting emails. After this contextual research process, writing the actual email and making the video are a cake walk.

Well-branded

If you’re doing any sort of email prospecting at scale, you want your copy to reflect well on your brand. If you can snag the person’s attention, great. But if it’s through cheap tricks or short-term tactics, it’s not going to reflect well on your brand. Don’t start subject lines with RE:, and make sure you don’t address your email to “Dear Sir or Madam.”

Even if the prospect watches your video, the rest of the touch-point will leave a sour taste.

Credibility boosting

Your video should boost your credibility and make the recipient perceive you as friendlier and easier to do business.

When you’re doing prospecting in general, you’re fighting against two big barriers:

  • Noise. People get tons and tons of emails. How do you stand out?
  • Distrust. When’s the last time you got a cold email and immediately thought, “hey this person seems trustworthy and like they really care about my interests?” Probably never.

Videos are tools to help you warm up a cold email. If you can provide some quick value to the recipient (tips, education, whatever) and also appear warm and friendly (likeability is a huge trust factor as well as a factor that determines purchase propensity, then videos are likely to be effective.

Attention-grabbing

Going back to that first problem – noise. Your biggest initial challenge is really standing out and making people read your email in the first place. You’re fighting for attention from someone who doesn’t really know you yet, so a strong subject line and preview text are essential.

In a somewhat interesting study by HighQ, it was found that adding the word ‘video’ to the subject line boosted open rates by 19%, increased click-throughs by 65%, and reduced unsubscribes by 26%. This is for email marketing to a known audience (read: not cold sales emails), so we can’t extrapolate fully. But it does seem that people like video in general.

Like traditional emails, it’s equally important to set the right expectations for the message. Forty-seven percent of recipients will open an email based on subject line alone, but make sure you’re delivering value beyond the subject line. Here’s a fun example of how to earn attention using personalized videos:

The recipient’s name is right there in the first frame. It’s made for them, and there’s a strong chance they’ll want to hear you out.

Built for your sales cadence

Low touch, high touch, and omnichannel sales cadences rely on valuable content, and video prospecting can help fill those needs. Video adds a unique touchpoint that can help you prospect via whatever channel you’re using (specifically we’re talking about email, but you could use it for LinkedIn or other social prospecting as well).

Types of video for sales prospecting

It matters what type of video you send in a prospecting email. Here are a few of the most common and effective types and when you should use them:

Introductions

For cold prospecting, introductory videos are a great way to break the ice. One Hubspot case study followed a rep who created 191 personalized videos and earned 50+ opportunities in a month. He spent roughly 3-4 minutes creating and personalizing each video, which is about the same amount of time you’d put into a phone call or traditional email.

Micro demos

As your prospects move through your funnel, video micro demos can keep them engaged and help them learn more about your products and services. Micro demos are a great opportunity to visualize your content, follow up with your audience, recap earlier connections, and move on to the next steps.

Follow-ups

Follow-up emails tend to get better responses than the initial outreach. When you follow up, using video instead of rehashing your previous message can spur higher engagement.

Video summaries

Not everyone has time to read your blog or whitepaper, regardless of how valuable it is to their experience. Instead, sales reps can turn written content into video summaries to save their audience the hassle of picking out the important nuggets. Here’s an excellent example of what this email might look like:

You can whip these up quickly with something like Loom, or if it’s more involved, you can put together a high-quality summary video with Biteable.

Best practices for writing high-converting video prospecting emails

Doing video well can help you succeed in prospecting, but don’t forget good copy. Your email copy shouldn’t be considered an afterthought, even though your video may end up stealing the spotlight. Many of the same email best practices apply to video prospecting emails.

Get to the point

This is one of my rules of email outreach in general (no matter what the purpose): don’t beat around the bush. People are busy. Videos are easy to consume (especially when you give the option for 2X speed replays) and give a clear message quickly. With text as well, make sure you’re not writing a wall of text in each email, and particularly not the first in a cadence. If I get one like that, I delete it right away. If you have a lot to write, either save it for the second follow up, or make sure you have an executive summary in the first sentence.

One study of 40 million emails found that emails with roughly 200 words had the highest click-through rate, while those with 50-125 words had a response rate of more than 50%. Email copy and video content should work in tandem; they shouldn’t repeat each other. Use your copy to set the expectations for the video and leave it at that.

Intention is everything

If you’re spending time creating content, it should have a clear purpose. It’s not enough to make a video just to do something different. Video might grab attention by the mere fact that it is a video, but you should still have a goal with what type of message you want to get across. Ask yourself, does a video make sense to the message? Will it be more effective than if you said the same thing in a regular email? Does the time it takes to make the video justify the end result? The last thing you want to do is over-complicate the process. Sometimes, the only way to know the difference is through trial and error.

Add value to each message

The best-performing videos are short, which means you need to get straight to the point and pack as much value into them as possible. Studies show that 33% of viewers will stop watching after 30 seconds and 45% will stop by one minute. Before you start producing, ask yourself what’s in it for the viewer. The more your message is about them, not you, the better chance you have of keeping their attention.

Supplement the sales process, don’t try to replace it

Videos aren’t a replacement for the human aspect of sales. Rather, they’re a value-adding tool that can help you prospect at scale while adding a personal touch to every message. Use video in your prospecting cadence to supplement your interactions, but remember that you, the salesperson, still play the most important role.

Empower your video prospecting strategy

Video prospecting email can be a valuable tool for every stage of the sales funnel, not just for cold email campaigns. Having the right message at the right time will make the biggest difference in overcoming that number one challenge that 38% of sales reps face. As with any email campaign, it’s essential to focus on the strategy, not just the end result. Test, tweak, and refine your efforts until you strike the right chord in your sales cadence.

About the author

Alex Birkett works on freemium acquisition growth at HubSpot. He’s based in Austin, Texas, and loves startups, running experiments, and extensive travel. Sometimes he writes on his personal blog.