Prospecting  August 2, 2022

Prospecting? Personalise the list, not the email copy

Prospecting? Personalise the list, not the email copy

Personalising individual emails is important, but it takes time. Personalising the list is the middle ground that allows you to be relevant to your prospect while still achieving volume.

In this article, we are going to dive deep into how people selling fintech can build lists that allow them to send personal cold emails without having to research where the prospect went to school and what they had for supper.

Stand on a street corner and try to start a conversation with strangers about music. Chances are, half of the responses will be bad (if you’re lucky). But if you stand outside a building hosting a choir convention and talk about hymns and kumbaya, the reaction will be different.

The same principle applies to prospecting. When you curate your list to only include those most likely to be experiencing the problem you solve, it opens you up to better responses without having to spend too much time on individual personalisation.

Here’s a 5 step process you can steal to personalise your prospecting list at scale.

Step 1: articulate the problem you solve and its impact

Use this framework: “We help people do X. If we don’t, Y happens.”

For example, “We help merchants reduce chargebacks fraud. If we don’t, they lose money.”

If you’re having trouble with this, ask a new hire or a customer to explain to you the way they think about the problem your business solves, and the impact of solving it vs. not solving it.

Alternatively, if you’re a startup new to your industry, go into older competitors’ product pages and find website copy that clearly hints at the problem.

Let’s be practical. Here is a screenshot from core banking software fintech 10x Banking’s product page.

The highlighted sentence talks about helping companies launch a digital bank free of “legacy challenges” (without naming them). These legacy challenges are what you want to identify and list, together with publicly available indicators (more on that ahead).

Here’s another screenshot from Moorwand, a payments solutions provider. The highlighted sentence works well within our framework: “we help payment companies mitigate compliance risks, if we don’t, Y happens.”

When you’ve understood your prospect’s problem and how your product/service affects them. Write it down and make it a part of a checklist that everyone in your company has to check against when they’re building their list of prospects. This will be part of your standard operating procedures (SOPs).

For instance, “We help merchants reduce chargeback fraud. If we don’t, they lose money,” turns to:

 Do all prospects struggle with high chargeback fraud levels and are they losing money as a result?

This way, even new sales reps won’t make the mistake of reaching out to people with zero chances of having the same problems as your ideal customers. If you somehow still find too many irrelevant prospects on their list, after having ticked off this item on the SOP checklist, this gives you something to hold them accountable for.

Continuing with this example, when building a sales prospecting list, how do you tell if a company is possibly struggling with chargeback fraud and losing money?

Step 3: Indicators (triggers)

Indicators are publicly observable things whose presence shows a likelihood that the problem your product/service solves exists within that company.

For example, an email marketing agency can track websites that are using the email software, Klaviyo (using a tool like BuiltWith), feed them into LinkedIn to see if the companies behind the sites have hired an internal email marketing team. If not, they’ll reach out to pitch their service.

Many in fintech solve problems where indicators don’t come as easy as that, but we can still find them in a roundabout way, here’s how.

A person prospecting companies that are struggling with chargeback fraud could start with keyword research. Dig through customer conversations that mention battles with chargeback fraud on social platforms like Reddit, then click over to these individuals’ websites.

Screenshot of Google search results showing Reddit conversations on chargeback fraud

Note down any recurring keywords that form patterns: what type of products are they selling? In what categories? Note the keywords used to describe these, and type them into Sales Navigator or Crunchbase. Look for info on industry, funding or whether they hire employees to handle chargeback fraud.

Here’s a screen from a LinkedIn search that revealed one such indicator; companies that have in house fraud specialists.

Image showing in-house chargeback fraud specialists from a LinkedIn search

The goal is to learn as many patterns as possible that could be problem indicators for your ICP.

Study your existing customers too. Did they leave any breadcrumbs in public—indicators of their problem—before they started working with you?

With the help of a free tool like the Wayback Machine, you could see their product pages before they became your customers. And the keywords they used to describe their offering. You can then use these keywords to find others who are yet to solve that problem.

I tried this on untied, an automated tax app that transformed its customers’ data import process using Open Banking APIs.

From the screenshot, “CSV import” is the keyword phrase of interest here, and if you combine it with “tax return” and use advanced Google search commands shown in the screenshot below, you’ll find other tax apps that are yet to automate their bank transaction data imports using Open Banking.

This list of prospects would all be tied to one indicator and you can personalise your email copy to that at scale.

Sometimes there are no clear indicators. In this case, you would have to find commonalities between your existing and competitor’s customers.

Create a spreadsheet with columns of all the characteristics you notice about those customers. Do they all have PayPal buttons as the first payment method on their checkout pages? The more data you gather, the more likely you’ll start seeing patterns.

Step 4. Identify the decision-makers

If heads of compliance have always championed your product in the companies that have bought from you in the past, and are also showing up in testimonials on competitors’ websites, dig deeper into that persona.

Note the problems they went through prior to buying your product. Were their compliance teams overwhelmed? Or did they have to keep expanding their department headcount prior to your relationship?

You can set up interviews (compensate them for their time if need be), ask Jobs-to-Be-Done type of questions or listen to recorded calls from your customer success teams.

The information you gather will help make the list more relevant and easier to personalise sales messaging at scale.

Step 5: personalise your copy to the list (with example)

Because 100% of your list comprises prospects who share the same problem indicators, for example, a growing compliance team or they offer CSV data imports on their tax app. You can then focus your email copy on the problem, the impact, and how your solution helps, without personalising to individuals.

And the prospect will still feel you’ve taken the time to understand them. Here’s an example of cold email copy personalised to the list rather than the individuals.

First line:

Trigger/problem indicator

“Jerry, noticed you’re hiring more people in your compliance team.”

Second line:

Impact of the problem

“…the heads of compliance I talk to are experiencing ballooning headcount costs because of XYX. Are you free of this?”

Third line

Social proof

“We helped WalkOnWater Inc reduce their compliance costs by 10.2244444443322222% and their compliance specialist headcount growth demands by 50%…”

Since your approach to building your list of prospects is personalised to their problems, indicators and impact, you don’t have to know their high school sweetheart’s name for your message to be relevant.

Also, following this research process focuses you on the problem rather than your solution. You’ll have insight on the right topic to create a resource that could be valuable to your prospect when shared in a follow up sequence.

Side note

I got clarity on this technique when I was pitching a webinar repurposing side project. Because you can only offer a repurposing service to companies that are already doing webinars, I resorted to searching the Facebook ad library for companies promoting webinars. I then structured my email copy around the indicator (webinars) and the problem (getting them seen by more people).

Opened with, “{{first name}}, noticed you’re dabbling in webinars. Curious how {{company}} is {{thing they are not doing}} without {{the pain product/service saves them from}}?”

My recipient didn’t mind that I mentioned nothing personal about them in the copy.

Eventually, they went silent, and I later noticed they’d done whatever I had pitched them without me ;). But out of that came the realisation that the problem, impact, indicator approach to list building, has the added benefit of opening prospects’ eyes to issues they may not have considered, even if they don’t buy from you.


Sharing is caring... well... sort of ;)

Gabriel Onyango
Gabriel Onyango
[email protected]

About Me

A writer, in a marketer's skin, wearing a cold emailer's floppy socks. The unorthodox combination of these is what you've probably experienced in this blog. Freelance cold email manager; open to working with teams on cold email campaigns, copy, ICP research (snooping()and custom list building. Connect with me on LinkedIn

Copyright © 2023 Outbound Fintech.