Elevate Your Email Game: Top 3 Takeaways From Our Q1 2023 Sales Email Benchmark Report

Riley Clark
May 16, 2023
 min read

Does it ever feel like you’re sending thousands of sales emails – but failing to break through? You're not alone. With over 100 billion emails sent across various platforms last year alone, capturing the attention of your prospects is harder than it’s ever been. But there’s hope. By staying up to date on the latest sales email trends and data, you can revamp your sales email strategy.

In our Sales Email Benchmark Report, we analyzed more than 34 million sales emails and identified three pivotal takeaways that will give your email campaigns a competitive edge.

We’ll cover:

  • Takeaway #1: Embrace the stacking effect
  • Takeaway #2: Short and sweet
  • Takeaway #3: Word choice beats word count
  • Bonus Takeaway: Follow ups matter
  • The Final Takeaway

Let’s dive in and look at how to leverage data to optimize your email strategy.

Takeaway #1: Embrace the stacking effect

If you're not keeping up with your touch patterns, you're not taking advantage of the stacking effect in outbound prospecting.

Too often, sellers capitalize on the scalability offered by sales engagement platforms (SEPs) like Outreach or Salesloft, but ultimately struggle to maintain momentum. It's easy to send 100 emails to new prospects. It’s a lot harder to keep it up over time, and actually get your prospects’ attention. Tasks pile up – and before long, you’re drowning under a mountain of overdue tasks in your SEP, disrupting the ideal timing and pace for engaging prospects.

But does the stacking effect really work? Check out this chart, displaying sequence performance by step number for every Regie-built campaign.

The data reveal steady engagement throughout a sequence with a few peaks throughout. Aside from the outliers, the engagement trend line is nearly flat, meaning prospects tend to engage all the way through a sequence. In short, the stacking effect works in the seller's favor.

To take advantage of the stacking effect, it’s critical to avoid letting tasks pile up. The stacking effect is all about persistence and consistency throughout a sequence, which is now more crucial than ever.

Takeaway #2: Short and sweet

What do wait times, commutes, and emails have in common? They're all better when they're short.

Our data shows that shorter emails got the highest reply rates. For outbound emails, you should make sure that your messages are never more than 150 words and land around that 130 mark. That way, you can be certain that you’re not trying to pack too many ideas into one message. 

There’s an adage in email copywriting that each message should be written for one reader, with one idea, and one call-to-action.  

Keep in mind though: word count isn't the whole story.

Takeaway #3: Word choice beats word count

While data clearly favors shorter subject lines, the story doesn’t end there. The data suggests subject line word count should be limited to nine words or less for cold outbound prospecting emails – but even within that narrow range, open rates tend to fluctuate significantly.

Let’s look at the data from two different angles. First, we can compare averages for shorter and longer word counts. A nine-word subject line outperforms a four-word subject line, even though it's longer.

This pattern shows up throughout the data. The average open rate for three-word subject lines is higher than for two. The average open rate for five-word subject lines is higher than for four. 

In other words, word choice carries more weight than word count.

Even within short, one to nine-word subject lines, there’s enormous variance. Instead of steady fluctuations, we see abrupt rises and falls from point to point, even among the shortest word counts in the sample. When accounting for the number of words in subject lines, open rate averages leaping 11% from two words to three words, then plummeting 13% from three words to four words, it's clear that the words you choose matter a lot more than the number of words you use.

We’re all pros at spotting cold emails by now. Consider your subject line. Including a number in the subject line – like “2X” – can give off salesy vibes that cut your open rate by 80%. Including the prospect’s name seems like a good personalization move, but it also cuts open rates by 18%. And putting a question mark in the subject line can cut open rates by 56%.

Your choice of words matters in your body copy, too. Data from Boomerang shows that writing in simple, easy-to-read language at a 3rd grade level can lift response rates 36% compared with emails written at a college level (PS - did you know Regie.ai will pre-read your emails and let you know the current reading level of it?). And showing emotion – whether positive or negative – drives higher response rates, too. Positive, happy emails get a 15% higher response rate than neutral emails, while negative emails get a 13% higher response rate.

Still not convinced? These example subject lines reveal the power of choosing your words carefully:

  • "Your Job" vs. "Inbound Growth" Both subject lines have two words, but one is far better than the other. "Your Job" is incredibly vague, whereas "Inbound Growth" is more compelling. If you only consider word count, you'd assume that a message with "Your Job" as the subject line would be opened 24% of the time, which isn't the case.
  • "How To Do Your Job" vs. "Regie's Current Inbound Growth Tools" Word count is the same here again, but quality differs. "How To Do Your Job" is vague and uninteresting, while "Regie's Current Inbound Growth Tools" is specific and personalized, mentioning the recipient's company.
  • "Start Doing Your Job Better Now" vs. "Sam - Question About Regie.ai Integrations" The first subject line is unhelpful and dull, while the second is laser-focused and specific. It’s personalized, referencing the subject by name, and directly calls out an important aspect of their day to day work.

Bonus Takeaway: Follow-up effectively

As a corollary to takeaway #1, remember this: your outbound messages will only be as good as your follow up.

Considering that 60% of customers say no four times before saying yes and 48% of sales reps never even make a single follow up attempt, you’re losing out by not staying in contact with prospects who have gone quiet.

Structure your follow up campaigns so they are:

  • Short - These follow ups should be laser focused on your point. You should be aiming for around 22 words or less.
  • Contextual - Avoid having your follow up campaigns sound like yet another set of cold outreach. Use information you already have on the prospect to make any follow ups more personalized.
  • Relevant - please, please please don’t just “bubble something up in their inbox” or circle back or check in. Provide as much value as possible in your follow ups while keeping it short and sweet.

The Final Takeaway

Want to get the most out of your sales campaigns? Follow the numbers. That’s how you cut through the mysteries of the sales landscape and get a more objective, higher-level perspective on your profession.

To get the most out of your analysis, explore the data from every angle. Look at the data at a granular level for guidance on tactical questions like what your word count should be. Zoom out to a higher level for guidance on questions like trend cycles or word choice. All of this contributes to a grounded, data-driven approach to selling.

Ready for more? Check out our full Sales Email Benchmark Report for a complete deep dive into even more insights from Q1 2023!

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