Should Your Outbound Emails Include Offers?

Should Your Outbound Emails Include Offers
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Pierre Portejoie
by Pierre Portejoie

2 Min. Read

Who’s familiar with a pros and cons list? 

Everyone, right?

You’ve probably written one yourself at some point – when deciding what to have for dinner, whether to take that job opportunity…

How about when deciding whether to put offers in your outbound emails? No? Well, if we were going to write one, it would look a little bit like this: 

  • PROS: converting more deals, winning the respect of your team and your boss, seeing that sweet bonus hit your bank account…. 
  • CONS: closing deals of lower value, potentially harming your brand, possibly being marked as a spam sender…

Here’s the thing: we’re not going to tell you that you should or shouldn’t include offers in your outbound emails. It just wouldn’t be a very moral thing to do when really, it depends on your unique situation: where you work, what you’re selling and who your customers are. 

What we can tell you, though, is how to make the judgement call for yourself, what the best practices are if you do choose to, and what alternatives are out there. 

Desperately searching for answers? Skip ahead: 

Ready? Let’s get going.

The role of traditional offers in outbound sales emails 

Let’s start with the simple stuff. What does an offer look like in a B2B sales context? 

Discounts: we’re sure you’re familiar with this one – who hasn’t witnessed people actually lose their minds at the sight of money off (Black Friday, looking at you). In B2B sales, it’s no different – offering money off your product might incentivize your buyer to move the process along faster, or get them interested when they previously were not. 

Free trails: if you want to let your product do the talking, and you’re selling something that’s easy to see the value of over a short time period, these can be a great way of getting a prospect over the line. 

Exclusive deals: this could look like offering a deal to a specific prospect based on their requirements (or, let’s face it, their negotiating skills). Or, it might be something like offering a discount, if your client agrees to a two-year contract – or longer. 

Pros of including offers in outbound sales emails 

Time for column one of your list. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why you would want to include an offer in your outbound emails. 

Increased engagement 

Think about the last time you opened your inbox and saw an email from your favourite brand ever announcing a sale. You ignored it right? 

Ha – as if. 

You clicked on the email, maybe jumped over to the site to see if you wanted anything and possibly bought something too. 

Obviously that’s not quite the path that your B2B customers are going to take – but it’s the starting point that’s interesting. Pop an offer in the subject line or body text and your prospect’s likely to go ‘ooooh – offer’ instead of ‘ew – cold email’. 

Whether or not that one email leads to a sale, it most definitely counts as a touchpoint.  And we all know how many of those we need to cut through the noise. 

Incentivizing action

An offer can motivate your prospects to take the action you want – schedule a meeting or request a demo, for example – particularly if the offer’s time-sensitive. 

Just like you’d get sad if your favorite brand sold out of their *insert product* before you got a chance to check out the sale, a time-sensitive offer can induce serious FOMO for the right prospects. Note that this technique works best if you’re selling lower-ticket items. 

Building goodwill 

You work in sales – you’ve heard of the principles of persuasion. Let’s take a look at reciprocity. 

People like getting stuff for free. 

Give your prospects something upfront – like, we don’t know, a neat discount on the product you’re selling – and they’ll feel like they owe you something in return. Like buying your product.

Cons of including offers in outbound sales emails 

Time for column two – the bad side of including offers in outbound sales emails. 

Risk of devaluing your product 

Discounting’s not without its risks. Do so too regularly, and you’ll risk: 

  • Getting your prospects used to low prices: you might think this isn’t a problem with outbound. Spoiler: it is. If the prospect sees a discount, still takes a while to come back, and then finds that the discount is no more, that’s not a great look. 
  • Decreasing the perceived value of your brand: customers tend to believe that high price = high quality. And we’ll take a bet that you don’t want to give off the vibe that your product’s low quality, do you? 

Attracting unqualified leads 

As we said before, people like getting stuff for free – or on offer. But sometimes we let this desire overtake what’s rational or sensible.

Only 16% say outbound practices provide the highest quality leads. Chuck an offer in there, and this number’s set to decrease. 

If your offer’s attracted a prospect that you know in your heart of hearts is more suited to your cheaper, more basic competitor, you’ve wasted your time as well as theirs. 

Potential for reduced long-term value 

Basing a sale on the fact that it’s an offer, rather than the true brilliance of your selling skills and wizardry of your product, and you’re running the risk of your client not truly believing in what they’re buying. 

That’s particularly unhelpful if you have shorter contracts or your business follows a land and expand strategy, for example.

Best practices for including offers in outbound sales emails 

Ok, we’ve run through situations where it may or may not be appropriate to start sharing emails with your prospects. If you’ve decided it could be a goer, keep reading – let’s run through how to get it right. 

Timing and context 

Timing. Tricky when it comes to boiling the perfect egg, tricky when it comes to including offers in your outbound emails. 

As a rule of thumb, the earlier you include the offer in your email the more desperate you’ll look. If your prospects receive an email with a crazy discount before they even know what the product does, they’ll likely be thinking ‘what is wrong with it’ rather than ‘wow this offer has made my day’. 

Include an offer in your follow-up email, on the other hand, and things look a lot more personal. You can let your prospect know you thought of them specifically when this offer launched, and you just had to reach out to let them know. 

Oh look – this brings us onto our next point. 

Personalization and relevance 

Time to get personal with your prospects. How can you match offers to what they specifically want and need? 

First things first, use data to try and figure this out. For example, if your decision-makers tend not to commit without trying the product, they’re likely going to be interested next time your company extends your free trial period. 

If your product is quite technical and you’re selling to engineers, they probably just want to jump into a demo account and play around – so offer them that option!

Clarity and simplicity 

Now onto clarity and simplicity. The basics first – make sure your prospects can actually understand what you’re offering them. 

It may be super clear to you that this exclusive deal genuinely is something you’re only offering to them – but they might think it’s bog standard. 

Now to level up for a second – you also want to avoid any nasty surprises for your prospect later down the line. That means being clear when the offer ends and indicating if there’s any small print. 

Don’t do this, and the only person you’re hurting is yourself (ok, we’ll stop cosplaying your parents now). 

Testing and optimization

You should always be testing what works and optimizing off the back of your findings. If an offer works once, you need to make sure it’s not an outlier. Or if including an offer in the body text of your email doesn’t work for your first-ever campaign, don’t assume that you have to include it in subject lines from now on. 

What works for you will be different for the next business – make sure you know what your unique best practices are. 

A good starting point is thinking about how the offer might help your outbound problems. Do your emails not even get opened? Do prospects already love your subject lines but never engage further than that? Once you’ve figured out what might help improve your chances, you’ve got a basis on which to test and iterate. 

Avoiding spam filters

A quick note on spam filters here. Certain offer-related words can set the alarm bells ringing. We’re not saying avoid them completely, but rather to use them responsibly. 

As for the words you should treat with caution? Any that make exaggerated claims or promises, create a sense of pressure, or look shady or jargony.

Alternatives to traditional offers 

Maybe you’ve decided that including an offer isn’t right at this moment in time. There are still ways to add value to your outbound emails, though. 

Value-added content 

This is where your marketing team comes in. What resources – like case studies, white-papers, or industry insights – have they created recently? 

Or perhaps look to industry news – is there an update you could elaborate on to your clients, for example? 

Free consultations or assessments 

Offering a client a free audit, for example, or a consultation hour with a SME within your business, can be a great way to get your prospects thinking in terms of reciprocity, without relying on offers. 

Exclusive invitations

Here’s a (non) secret – most people are nosy. Particularly in the B2B world, a lot of prospects will jump at the chance to find out what their peers are doing during webinars, roundtables or in-person events. 

Or, try giving them the heads up about an unannounced product launch. You’ll give them the chance to be in on a secret – and they might decide they like the look of this new product too.

Let’s wrap it up! 

Want the secret to deciding whether to include an offer in your outbound email? Apart from reading this blog (duh), there’s one easy rule of thumb we haven’t mentioned yet: don’t lose your head and let standards slip just because an offer’s been thrown into the mix. 

Working on good fit prospects, focussing on providing value, getting your timing and personalization right, and testing and iterating are all principles you should be living by anyway. Apply them when deciding whether to include offers in your outbound emails, and you won’t go far wrong. No pros and cons list required.

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FAQs about including offers in your outbound emails

How to write effective outbound emails? 

The best way to write effective outbound emails is to test and iterate as you go. By testing different elements like subject lines, in-email copy and email content, you’ll soon build up a picture of what works for you. Metrics to track include open rates, click-through rates and response rates, as well as unsubscribe rates. 

What is an outbound sales email? 

An outbound sales email is an email salespeople send to build relationships with their prospect. They tend to be part of a strategy of reaching out to prospects with information about products and services, rather than waiting for prospects to get in touch. Other outbound channels in B2B sales include LinkedIn and phone. 

Are promotional emails important? 

When done well, promotional emails can be very important to the success of your outbound sales strategy. For a promotional email to come across well, rather than be marked as spam, it’s important to make sure they are relevant, personalised and add value, rather than being an attempt to rush a sale through. 

What’s the difference between an inbound email and an outbound email? 

An inbound email is an email sent by a prospect reaching out to an individual or company requesting more information about its products or services. Inbound emails tend to arrive as a result of marketing campaigns and brand-building efforts. Outbound emails are emails sales professionals or marketing teams send out to prospects, in the hope of building connections and sharing more information about their services.