For effective email campaigns, don’t go straight for the kill – how RSO Consulting can get >20% response rates

You have good reason to be confused about digital marketing; it’s a world that keeps adding acronyms, tools, and technologies at a frenetic pace. We interview some of the top boutique digital marketing agencies to highlight their specialties and share their insights to help you grow! Today, we interview Govind Davis from RSO Consulting.

NXT: What does RSO do?

We take a very consultative approach towards SEO, content creation, and website analysis, understanding consumer behaviour and how to optimize all this for our clients.

The core team is just the 3 senior partners, and we have 10 contractors to support our work as needed, so we’re very nimble and cost-effective for our clients.

NXT: Who are your ideal clients?

We typically work with:

  1. Online retail / consumer brands (like Coleman and Camping World)
  2. Technology and software companies, including more mature startups (like Pentaho and Hewlett-Packard)
  3. Professional services firms

NXT: How do you target & find new clients?

Between the 3 of us, Rob Sanders (founder of RSO Consulting) has the reputation within the industry. He also teaches and we have clients that bring us on when they move to a new company, so we are mainly referral based.

Rob does the SEO and blogs regularly to beef up our thought leadership content. Mitch does the outbound and has expertise in direct email marketing. He has studied the science and art of it for 15 years, and our biggest challenge is actually following up with the leads, not getting them!

We’ve all been influenced by Mitch’s knowledge, and I recently sent an email campaign that had a 60% open rate, and a 22% response rate [Editor’s note: these are fascinating results, typical open rates are 30% and response rates are <5%].

NXT: What are some typical results clients should expect from working with you?

If a client has a small business that is under-marketed today (which is most small businesses), we can guarantee a lot of traffic especially by using Facebook or direct email to generate leads. I have yet to see us fail in driving traffic for clients.

Out team does a really good job at providing SEO best practices and making sure clients’ websites are fully optimized. Every business should make sure their SEO is helping them, though not every business is going to benefit from SEO.

NXT: Who benefits from SEO, and who doesn’t?

Let’s say you’re a software company, your budget is best spent at getting traffic from direct email, because people are not looking for you through search. But an industry that can benefit greatly from SEO is online retailers.

NXT: Where do you see the biggest opportunities?

There’s certainly some opportunity through really targeted content and certain niches. By optimizing your SEO, I’ve seen clients go from 1-2 leads a month to 1-2 leads a day! You have to pinpoint where the customer is expecting to receive his/her information.

NXT: You mentioned some impressive results from email marketing… what works for you?

If the goal is up-front lead generation, the trick is all in the writing. You must first have a big list of people that you are going to outreach to.  Sending it to 50 people isn’t going to generate any traction.

There are many tools out there like Mailshake and Growbots, where you can set up a cadence of emails and it makes generating cold leads easier.

NXT: So what are the rest of us doing wrong then?

The number one thing that people do wrong is they try to advance the relationship way too far and way too fast. They do a self-introduction and then – Bam! – product offering. Too much. Too early.

It’s good practice to only dive into the details of what you want AFTER you’ve engaged people a little bit. You want to take your time and converse within the email. People know you’re doing a sales pitch, but you want to give them a good experience.

I’ve sent an email that garnered a 50% response rate with the text being like, “I’m looking for someone to get out of his or her current business. Is that you or can you recommend me…”

NXT: What are some tips for writing effective emails?

There are three common mistakes marketers make when writing emails.

First, you need a single call to action. Many emails are written with the ‘Kitchen Sink’ strategy. The thinking is that someone will click on something. However, attention spans are short, and people won’t take the time to figure out if something is good for them. Give them a specific action to take and then your reader can make a simple decision. Yes or no to read this or click this.

Second, you need to write in a casual, comfortable, clear voice. Not a formal business voice. Pretend you are sitting across the table from the reader and want them to get your message. You will talk to them like a person, just like the way you would talk in real life, and that will make your message personal.

Which leads to the third mistake. You need to write your message for a very specific audience. Not everyone you know. A good example is, you would talk to your very best Blue Chip customer differently than someone who just joined your newsletter list a few minutes ago. The best email writers picture that reader and are very specific about who they are. Then write your message to them and them alone.

NXT: Can you share some example subject lines that work well?  Because many people often have trouble getting recipients to even open their emails.

Don’t try to be funny, tricky, clever, misleading or confusing. If you’re relying on curiosity to get your reader into your email, you’re missing out on getting the real audience to read.

Try to write a subject line, which offers a clear benefit to the reader. What’s in it for them? Why should they read this? A simple example. “Get 15% off your next order” When you can write a subject line with a benefit to your reader you are way ahead of others who are also competing for their attention.

NXT: When you do an email marketing campaign, what’s a good benchmark?

For email campaigns, if you send 500 emails and you don’t immediately get replies and opportunities, then it’s not working out.  A good benchmark is 30-40% open rates and 15-20% reply rates.  If your value prop and targeting are right, you should be having legitimate deal discussions with 2-3% of them within 3-4 emails.  Remember: don’t go immediately for the kill… set up a cadence.

NXT: What’s an example of a cadence you’d set up?  What would be the content in each email, roughly?

Here is a poor cadence designed for people who just downloaded a free report.

  • Buy my product.
  • Buy my product.
  • Buy my product.
  • Buy my product.
  • Buy my product.
  • Buy my product.
  • Buy my product.
  • Buy my product.

Don’t laugh. People do this all the time.

A winner cadence could look like this.

  • Thanks for downloading our free report. Here’s a link to it in case you didn’t save it.
  • What were your thoughts on the report? Did you have any questions?
  • When you were looking for our report, what was the top challenge you were trying to solve?
  • Here’s a case study of how our best customers solve this problem.
  • Do you have a minute to talk? Quick meeting to go over solutions.

NXT: What can people do to be less aggressive in their outreach? How do you step in?

Because people go too far and too fast, we always start our consulting process with an audit. We take a look at how far along you are in the relationship, and what are people going to say ‘Yes’ to right now. If you push their buttons too quickly, you’re turning people off.

NXT: What worked in the past but not anymore?

One big change has been the need to segment your lists. In the old days you could send everything to everyone. Now you have to write messages that are more targeted to your specific audience.

NXT: What are some of the trends in digital marketing? What’s considered cutting edge right now?

The most powerful feature today is the ability to integrate email campaigns with other mediums. E.g. Facebook targeted ads and your email list. This can be very advanced but the concept is: your reader sees your message in an email and then is served the same message again in their Facebook feed. Integrated campaigns and repetition works in your favor.

NXT: What would you do as a small business with a $10,000 budget?  How would you allocate it between SEO, SEM, and other types of marketing?

Simple. Build a sales funnel to make a specific offer.

Use some small % of the budget to test the offer. Get the cost of the offer down to the lowest cost possible and then spend the balance of the budget scaling your campaign.

NXT: How are you planning to grow in the next few years? What are your opportunities?

Acquire a couple more marketing agencies, right now we don’t have a lot of capabilities in website building. We’re looking to acquire for competencies that we don’t have today.

But we’re going to keep the company small, the goal is to be a world-class boutique-marketing agency.


A huge thanks to Govind Davis for his time in conducting this interview with us. Agilcore is a consultancy that nurtures creativity to develop powerful strategies to grow top business organizations. RSO Consulting’s success with their clients for over 15 years has garnered deep industry knowledge, read their blog for more marketing strategies.

RSO Consulting

Tessa BoardStudios.com

Tess is a Business Development Associate at Board Studios Inc, an animation production agency that helps B2B companies simplify and communicate more effectively. She's passionate about B2B business models & marketing, and spends a lot of time working on partnership development, content marketing, and scouring for the best business books for BookVideoClub.com. Her blood type is an authentic caffè macchiato.

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