Steve originally shared this story on Funnel Clarity on 9/14/15. This post was updated and modified for republishing on 3/19/18.
The team here at ExecVision loves testing different methods for outbound lead generation. We’re constantly leveraging our own conversation intelligence platform and other communication technologies to gain critical insights into what is working and what is not. Experimenting with different variables and seeing real results is exciting. That’s why our CRO, Steve Richard, ran some A/B tests for an outbound lead gen email campaign.
A/B testing offers what all good experiments need: a control group and a variable group. Rather than relying on subjective thoughts like “I think this works…” or “I just don’t like that email…”, these tests provide a clear answer: Group A is better, Group B is better, or it’s inconclusive.
For this experiment, Steve turned to his friend Conor Lee over at HipLead. Conor’s company creates small batches of semi-automated emails that don’t feel like traditional email blasts. They ran experiments from Steve’s email over a three month period, check out the results:
During the first A/B test, Steve wasn’t a huge fan of HipLead’s copy. He believed the copy he wrote would easily outperform theirs–until he saw the results. Steve’s copy garnered an interested rate of 0.78%, while HipLead’s earned a 5% interested rate.
This is where things got interesting. Group A contained HipLead’s copy as a baseline and went out in 2,181 emails. It had similar results to the first experiment.
You can’t have an A/B test without a variable. Group B tested if leveraging Steve’s second-degree LinkedIn Connections would produce better results.
Conor and the team at HipLead created a way to compare the target prospect list to Steve’s LinkedIn connections. The resulting spreadsheet contained prospects Steve shared a connection with. Armed with this information, the team had emails to write.
Handwriting 112 unique emails isn’t the best way to spend anyone’s time. Instead, HipLead automated the insertion of the shared LinkedIn connection into the subject line and body copy. To make the emails appear as a person wrote it, they used a variation of the connection’s name in the body copy. The results were incredible:
By mentioning a shared connection, Group B generated a 289% higher response rate. It also earned a mind-blowing 568% higher interested rate than the control.
This is empirical proof the social selling works, folks!
Now that they knew social selling was the way to go, Steve and Conor wanted to take it a step further. Does it matter if a sales rep views the LinkedIn profile of a prospect?
Conor and Steve tapped in another friend over at eLink, Kevin Potter. eLink is a LinkedIn marketing software that will view the profiles of prospects for you, right from your account. The test group would see that Steve had viewed their profiles.
The results were astonishing:
By looking at the profile of the target prospect, the reply rate went up 90%. The interested rate went up 25%.
If you aren’t looking at the profiles of the people you are emailing, you’re nuts.
Where are the Emails, Steve?
By now, you’re probably wondering what these emails said. Keep in mind, these stone-cold, lousy messages had a 25% conversion rate.
Fri, Jul 10, 2015 at 7:41 am
Hi Jeffrey – I usually don’t do this, but wanted reach out because we share a few mutual connections: SHARED CONNECTION #1, and SHARED CONNECTION #2.
I was hoping I could get a few minutes of your time regarding HIS COMPANY this week or next. Would you be open to a call?
Please let me know if I’ve overstepped or a bother.
Mon, Jul 13, 2015 at 7:43 am
Hi Jeffrey – just wanted to ensure you saw my note about chatting sometime soon.
Would it make sense for you next week?
Jul 15, 2015, at 7:44 AM
To give you some background, I help sales teams scale up the top of their funnel (we work with Adaptive Insights, BMC Software and NetSuite) and grow new revenue streams from the inside.
What do you think – would be interested in quick call sometime this week?
Later that same day–A reply
Hi Steve. Sorry slow on the draw. We just married our daughter and I’m now digging out this week @ work before taking vacation next week.
Have just started a global sales training program with Holden which we have made a big commitment to. We could arrange a call tho I don’t have need for addnl sales consulting tools for the foreseeable future.
Sent from my iPhone
No one tells a computer that they just married off their daughter. And yet, Jeff did, because he didn’t think he was talking to one.
Conor and the team at HipLead did something incredible here. They passed the Turing Test–a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.
- A/B testing should be a part of any sales development strategy. Use it in your phone conversations, emails, social media outreach, etc.
- If your LinkedIn profile is set to private mode, change it immediately so people get notified when you view their profile.
- Make viewing a prospects LinkedIn profile part of your pre-call research and preparation. It’s them lowest bearing fruit for higher conversion rates.
- Leverage your shared connections. Sure, you might be thinking “But Steve, I don’t really know the people I’m connected to on LinkedIn”. So what? Neither do they and name dropping still works.
- If you don’t have the time to run A/B tests on your own, hire someone like Connor Lee and the HipLead team. The ROI is impressive, but the gained knowledge is even better.