Why Did 33% of Prospects Reply to This Cold Email?

Cold emails have earned a bad reputation. Prospects see them as a nuisance, and most just hit delete without even a casual read. Even when the message is highly targeted, the open rate ends up being less than 10% on average. I call it the “Rhino effect”. Most of us have developed a thick skin over the years as a result of the constant barrage of irrelevant email.

Not willing to settle for “status quo”, we worked hard to crack the code of email copy that would put a smile on our prospect’s face. Our formula was not necessarily new or unique – arouse curiosity in the subject and follow it up with a crisp and engaging body. But we pushed ourselves really hard to execute this formula to perfection.

The results of this effort were very encouraging. More than a third of the recipients of these emails choose to reply to our cold emails, and close to 10% of those have converted into solid opportunities.

Here is one of those highly personalized emails:


So, what exactly did we do?

1. Searched and Researched

The objective of our research was not just to find out about their business, but to also understand what interests the individual both professionally and personally. In this instance, we reviewed Jack’s Twitter account and learned that he was a keen Manchester United fan. We also found out from LinkedIn that he had recently been appointed as Sales Enablement Manager at a high-growth startup which had recently raised a large round of funding.

2. Mapped Individual KPIs With Their Business’ Objectives

Once we had learned about the business and the individual, we made logical assumptions and weaved them into our message. For example, as Jack’s startup had recently raised big funding, it was safe to assume that the company was experiencing very strong sales growth. As a Sales Enablement Leader, we knew that scalable expansion and shortening ramp-up time for new hires would probably be a key KPI for him.

“At MindTickle I have seen many sales enablement leaders adopt such an approach to improve the sales process and develop new hire training.”

3. Learned About The Person Not The Persona

Most people include personal information on their social media profiles. This gives us an idea of what their interests are so that we can connect with them on a personal level. In this example, we knew from Twitter that Jack liked to ‘coach’ the team by live-tweeting during matches. We leveraged this information to relate his personal interests to his professional objectives:

Manchester United and sales enablement both create champions out of regular players. Each goal, each strike, each pitch, each value prop, has to be carefully honed and drilled in…

PS: I am also looking forward to the Derby match with Liverpool this weekend :-)”

4. Connected with a Hook That Brings A Smile To Their Face 🙂

None of this research and copy would matter if Jack didn’t even open our email. To get his attention, we crafted a hook that would make him curious, just like we would at a networking event. In this example for instance, we connected his new role with his love of football:

Why a Man Utd fan is the best fit for sales enablement”

As a result Jack not only opened the email, but he also gave us an opening in his calendar.

5. Empathized

Rather than jumping into a left-brain pitch of why our product is superior, we chose to paint a picture of what we can help him accomplish. We sprinkled credibility on top by calling out recognizable names of companies that had investors or locations in common with Jack’s company. Everyone needs a little reassurance even from someone they don’t know….yet.

“The right technology partner can amplify your training efforts and increase the engagement of your sales reps, while simultaneously reducing their ramp-up time.

Several fast growing tech companies  (Couchbase, Rocket Fuel, AppDynamics, Cloudera and Avalara to name a few) use MindTickle’s sales readiness software to train, coach and keep their sales team updated.”

We’ve been refining these practices over the past year and our response rates have consistently improved. Even when the timing has not been right, the friendly responses to our cold emails have been heartwarming. But don’t just take my word for it, try it for yourself and watch your open and conversion rates improve out of sight too.

Guest Post by Mohit Garg, co-founder and chief customer officer of MindTickle

Life-transforming lessons from “The Matrix”

I still remember the feeling of being blown away by “The Matrix“. The movie had stunning visual effects. But more remarkably, it helped connect several dots in my head that have evolved into life-transforming mantras:

Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth. There is no spoon

Many of us lead our lives with bags of things that we believe impossible to achieve – spoons that we cannot bend. The spoon may be the aspiration to be an Olympic athlete, climb Mt Everest, run for the president’s office, or as common as a resolution to resist the urge to overeat, read a book every moth, blog regularly or make time to connect with old friends. We are often limited by our own ambition and tenacity. There is no such thing as an unattainable goal. The trick is to realize that the constraints that limit us from realizing our full potential may only exist in our mind.

Let me illustrate the point with the narrative that I heard from the man himself – Mark Inglis. Mark is an accomplished mountaineer, researcher, winemaker and motivational speaker who hails from New Zealand. In 1982, when 23 year old Mark lost both his feet to frost bite, scaling Mt. Everest seemed impossible. But Mark overcame his worst fears and physical limitations by sheer determination. He designed his own prosthetics and trained hard for 24 years to pursue his seemingly unattainable dream. In 2006, Mark became the world’s first double amputee to scale Mt. Everest.

While very few of us may possess the kind of grit that enabled Mark to overcome the odds, it’s quite interesting to note that we were all blessed with that same indomitable spirit as a child. Not caring about the length of his or her arms, an infant will persistently try to grab the moon. As we grow older, our experiences shape the matrix of constraints around us and we stop shooting for seemingly unattainable goals.

Unplug yourself from this system. Freeing your mind is the first step to unlocking this potential. Knowledge and training will do the trick.

In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in any field. Zach Hambrick, associate professor of psychology at Michigan State University, notes that his research does not support “the egalitarian view that anyone who is sufficiently motivated can become a master.” Kaufman, however, made the most convincing argument by taking the middle ground. “Everyone can’t be a genius in everything,” he says. “But I’m coming around to the idea that every single person has the potential for genius in something.”

But finding true passion and aptitude for an adult is far from easy, let alone a child having to figure it out without any guidance or inspiration. Interestingly, as I was drafting this post, I came across a related LinkedIn post by Sir. Richard Branson titled “The importance of encouraging children to shoot for the moon“. It is a very inspiring story of Barbara who witnessed the launch of the world’s first privately-funded spacecraft to carry astronauts to space at the age of 11. The road-trip her parents took to the Mojave desert to witness the space shuttle launch sparked her life’s passion for aerospace. Ten years of inspiration and perspiration later, she is now a student at MIT and interns at Virgin Galactic.

The best thing we can do for ourselves and for our next generation is to keep reminding that there is no spoon (that cannot be bent).

Photo Credit (Creative Commons)

Guest Post by Mohit Garg, Co-Founder, MindTickle

Corporate Trainings are now Fun and Digital, thanks to MindTickle

MindTickle – ranked by Business Today as India’s coolest startups – is a gamified social learning platform founded by four enterprising men, who are were so passionate about games that they decided to make it their vocation. While the three were hard at work, we managed to draw Mohit out for a quick chat. So here is Mohit Garg, CoFounder MindTickle.

ProductNation: Hi Mohit. Welcome to Product Nation. Let us begin with your story.

Mohit Garg: Thank you, productnation for this opportunity.

MindTickle has four cofounders – Krishna Depura, Nishant Mungali, Deepak Diwakar and myself.

I am an electrical engineer having studied and worked in the US. While in the states, I had a chance to work at some great software product companies like Aruba Networks. My experience with a software product company straddled the entire spectrum, when it comes to business outcomes. Not only was I witness to an IPO exit, but one of the companies (x) raised $100 million only to go down under. Such has been the intensity of the learning.

The four cofounders of MindTickle have been friends and work colleagues. Krishna and I were batchmates at ISB, while Krishna, Nishant and Deepak were colleagues at PubMatic.

The genesis of this idea came from our combining our personal interest with a market opportunity. The four of us had been hacking away on weekends to create quiz based games. In fact, our quiz based games for IIT Mumbai Mood Indigo and few sponsored contests that were integrated with Facebook were immensely successful.

Since all four of us were passionate about creating high engagement oriented digital products, the combination of corporate training and gamification just looked perfect. We had observed that corporate internal training programs were time-consuming, with very little excitement and no connection to business outcomes. Then one day in 2011, all of us decided to get started with MindTickle.

ProductNation: Interesting, tell us about the name, how did you guys crack it?

Mohit Garg: We wanted to pick a name that is appealing and fresh, yet has enterprise appeal. So we put down a framework to score many names and we got MindTickle.

ProductNation: Mohit, please tell us about your customers and your future plans.

Mohit Garg: Some of the World’s finest brands are the customers of MindTickle. Ebay, SAP, Yahoo, InMobi, MakeMyTrip all have experienced high engagement rates and consequently improved business outcomes with the products from MindTickle.

While technology companies in the market have understood the importance of engagement when it comes to corporate training programs, the traditional real economy companies are also realizing the importance of high engagement delivery. A dominant young workforce is also a driver in this shift.

Most of our enquiries at this point in time are from the US market. We have a sales team in the US as part of our business development efforts. And we continue to invest in that market which is a priority.

India is also tickling with opportunities and we are very excited about it. It is not just the Indian arms of technology giants that are taking interest, but even the domestic organizations.

ProductNation: MindTickle’s moment of glory, what comes to your mind?

Mohit Garg: We have won the GAward for the Best Use of Gamification in HR (Enterprise) in the World for two consecutive years in 2012 and 2013. That has been the proudest moment till date. We came trumps ahead of formidable competition that included startups as well as large investor backed companies.

ProductNation: What have been your big lessons – personal and professional?

Mohit Garg: On the professional front, first, there is too much focus (at least in India) on overcoming weaknesses. My experiences have shaped me into believing now that a successful professional career is more about playing to your strengths. Second, the power of being disciplined and diligent is often underestimated. Once you start any business you will find low hanging fruit in doing a better job than your lazy competitors. Therefore, often market share is a vanity metric, one should focus on how to develop a mind share among the customer segments that matter.

Third, there is a good chance that 10 people across the world are thinking or working on the idea that you just came up.

Have the tough conversations early in any relationship, things which could be sticky later are best addressed while there is little contempt in a relationship… “Familiarity does breed contempt” from what I have observed. Lastly, all said and done, speaking direct and clearly will provide better results with less heartburn and confusion in the long run.

ProductNation: What would you like to tell someone, who is struggling or planning to start a product company?

Mohit Garg: Product entrepreneurs should dream big and not be scared of competition or large existing incumbents. Market leader in a marginal niche is worse than a contender in fast growing and large market.

One has to take a very realistic view of the size, location and maturity of the target segment, especially in B2B. One should design experiments to validate those hypothesis and quickly focus on early adopters as opposed to going after large horizontal markets at least initially

Many product entrepreneurs take the market as a given. In my opinion and experience, the market risk is generally bigger than the product/technology risk

If possible and if you can pull it off, get professional money early. You can be more aggressive with your business plan, invest more for long term, and stay focused. Moreover, investors on the board forces a discipline which is really valuable in the long run. Having to worry about having enough to pay the bills and salary every month may sound romantic, but its only as romantic as war

Thank you, Mohit for talking to ProductNation. We wish you all the very best in living up to these challenges