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Marketing 14 min read May 11, 2018

5 Proven Steps To Outreach Automation

5 Proven Steps To Outreach Automation
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Lucy Literado
VP of Marketing в Reply.io
Whether you're an SEO expert, a marketing director or a sales manager, I bet you'd give a lot to have more time in your day.
One of the most obvious ways to gain that time is to audit your current processes and, if there's any room for optimization, make it happen.
And though we're still a bit far from those shiny AI-enhanced robots that could do all the work for you (and probably conquer Earth or enslave every human being, but anyway), luckily, there are lots of platforms, tools, and services designed for workflow automation.

In this post, I'll share most helpful tactics and tips that I use to automate different stages of cold email outreach. Once adopted, it could be used for cold sales, media outreach, link-building campaigns etc. with minor adjustments.
Step #1

Where to find your leads

It's said, to catch a lead, you have to think like one. The truth is, it's enough to know who your potential customers are, what they want and what they are interested in. This will help you understand where to find them, especially on super huge platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn. Finding this out is not as hard as it seems.

First, take a sample of your best customers (50 or more) and carry out a research.
Create 2 lists, one with company size, location, industry etc, another with LinkedIn and Facebook communities your customers are part of (of course, you'll be looking for professionally related groups rather than personal interest).
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Second, you can come up with a hypothesis and suggest various options based on logic and common sense. Let's say, if your potential audience is in need of SEO services, those people are likely to be members of groups with educational content on SEO or digital marketing.
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Step #2

List building automation

LinkedIn and Facebook groups scraping

Now that you have a list of FB groups, your next step is to apply for joining (there's a chance you can skip this step in some cases, but I'd rather not). If the group is private, waiting time can range from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, so be prepared.

Anyway, it's always better to apply in small batches especially if your Facebook account is quite new or you can get banned.

Once you're a member of those groups, it's time to start scraping. There's a bunch of plugins (e.g. Grouply) that let you extract group members list and save it as a CSV file with the following fields:

  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Title
  • Company Name
  • Profile URL

On the screenshot below, you can see that among 637 members of SaaS Nation Group, 457 people have listed their company names.

You can always adjust settings to let the plugin know which data fields you want to see in the final doc.
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Now it's time to automate company URL search based on company names you have.

To do this, upload the CSV file with group members into Google Sheets and apply Clearbit autocomplete API.

Make a copy of the company names column and add the following text to each cell (Power Tools is a perfect add-on for this): https://autocomplete.clearbit.com/v1/companies/suggest?query=
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Next, go to Tools => Script Editor and paste this code:

function FETCH(url) {
var response = UrlFetchApp.fetch(url);
var out = JSON.parse(response.getContentText());
return out[0]["domain"];

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After this, create an additional column for URLs, type =FETCH(here you insert cell number, which in our case is E2) and drag the cell through the whole list to apply the same formula for every row.
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To only use the final URL, copy and paste the column through "values only" option and feel free to delete columns from the previous step with search queries and responses.
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Now duplicate your current tab, leave the columns with full name and company URL, save this new tab as a CSV file and upload it to your favorite email finder, e.g. Snov.io.
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Scraping LinkedIn groups is very similar to this (and even easier), you only need Sales Navigator plan and Skrapp.io, see full instruction here.

Searching & scraping LinkedIn leads

The following approach to list building is a bit different: it doesn't involve any groups but requires that you know who your Ideal Customer is.
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Once you install Skrapp.io, you'll see Export Page Results option that appears in search results. Set proper parameters before you start exporting lists:
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You can only export 5 pages at a time. It means that while on a free plan with Scrapp.io, you can still find hundreds of leads per day in only 10-15 minutes of your time.

The next time you search for your leads, just select "Exclude viewed leads" option and you will never have to export the same data multiple times.
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Configuring your prospect lists

Now that you have your contacts harvested, make sure your data is clean and laser-focused to maximize your outreach efficiency.

Trust, but double check

First of all, make sure you validate your prospects' email addresses, especially if the source is questionable. Feel free to use any of the multiple email validation tools, e.g. NeverBounce.
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Having your prospects' emails verified will help you maximize your delivery rate as well as keep your domain reputation safe.

Divide & conquer

Before launching your outreach campaign, take some time to segment your lists and make sure you have enough data to personalize your message. The least acceptable option would mean you only have prospects' first names, but having their title or company name can really help you start the conversation. In the cold world of cold emails, this strategy totally pays off getting you up to 20% more sales.

If your list contains group members data, consider using the group name as an extra variable to make your message more personal. This will help establish a connection between you and your contact right away.

I also wouldn't recommend merging lists of different groups/locations/sources in one. Quite the contrary - segmentation is your friend and can you get 760% increase in email revenue. You can segment your prospects not only by data source, but also by company industry/size/location, language, title and other criteria.

Create a multi-purpose template with variables to customize and adjust it for each segment separately. Once you're done with this stage, upload the lists to your CRM if needed or place put them right into your email automation tool.
step #4

Outreach automation

There are lots of email automation platforms out there, here I'll show how to launch and handle a campaign with Reply.io. There's a huge difference between products specifically made for non-massive outreach and plain email marketing tools.

First, a software designed for outreach lets you automate all campaign steps and eliminate risks related to manual emailing like forgetting to follow-up with a prospect (which actually means losing them for good) or putting the wrong name after "Hi" (yeah, we've all been there).

Second, unlike newsletter software, email automation tools are made to actually get the response. Whether it's a reply or an action - such as submitting a demo request or registering for a webinar - your chances to receive it are several times higher with the right tool.

Email automation platforms can be used for cold sales automation, link-building & media outreach, business development and even inbound sales. But, the most important thing, is that they save you multiple hours every week.
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First, upload your templates and contacts into the tool and create a campaign.
To save a bit more time, duplicate your first campaign to create as many copies as you like and make quick adjustments for each segment.

If you have previously uploaded your prospect list to your customer relationship management system, you can easily transfer it to Reply through one of the native integrations or by Zapier magic.

Just pick your CRM and configure the trigger-action workflow.
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You can do the same trick with Google Sheets if that's where you keep your lists.

When done, connect your email account, set the number of touch points (aka follow-ups), delivery schedule and try some additional options (subject line or email body A/B test, links tracking, reply handling mode etc.).

Hit "Go!" and watch your auto-magical campaign performance.
Step #5

Handling your replies

Once the first email is on its way to the recipient, it's time to come up with automation tips for the next stage of your outreach.

Inbox sorting

Cold email software often has advanced automation features you can make use of. In Reply, we have inbox sorting based on machine learning algorithm. When you receive an email in response, the algorithm analyzes it to understand the meaning and the context.

Then it assigns the reply to one of the inbox folders based on a prospect's reaction to your outreach.

There are 6 categories by default: "Interested," "Not Interested," "Not Now," "Do Not Contact," "Forwarded" and "No Reply".
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Having replies sorted and tagged helps you both save time and set priorities. This means, if you prefer handing replies from your most promising prospects first thing, you can go to the "Interested" folder right away.

The "Not-Now'ers" category is worth being put on a waiting list, but make sure you don't forget about them. If they weren't very specific as for the best time to re-connect, go ahead and put them on a separate campaign triggered to start in a month from now.

Make sure you don't give up on those stigmatized with "No Reply" label either. These prospects can also be added to a new campaign particularly designed for those who ignored or missed your first try.

"Do not contact" folder is a subject for automation as well. If you don't want to email businesses from that or any other list ever again, place them on domain blacklist in bulk and spare yourself some good deal of nerves.

Quick reply templates

If handling cold email campaigns is something you do on a regular basis, there's a chance you see entire batches of emails that imply quite similar response.

Unlike manual prospecting, email automation can be applied to that, too. Simply submit copies that cover most typical scenarios to specific templates section within the app (you'll be able to adjust them later if needed).

Now you can access these "canned" responses, handle replies like lightning and send it to prospects directly from the app. Sounds like a great piece of automation, right?

CRM sync & triggers

There's even more to automate when it comes to what happens after they reply.

Think about matching and updating your leads' status in CRM. Or about creating deals based on your campaign performance once a cold prospect turns into a warm lead.

Native integrations can easily do this for you and again, if those are not available, create another workflow sequence in Zapier. Thanks to automation, it's never been easier!
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You can go even further and create Zaps for more use cases, for example, set automatic notifications upon certain events.
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Some of them will help you save another hour or two per week, and some will constantly keep you updated on what's happening with your leads, so you could step in, seize the opportunity and close the deal due to by being in the right place at the right time.


Of course, I only covered a limited number of outreach automation tips, but there's certainly more to it. Some are going to work for you better than others, and that's okay. The key to success is making sure your desired goals and the tactics you choose are always aligned. That's when they work wonders. But don't take my word for it.

Unlock new list building methods and lead generation sources. Discover templates that work best for you and find your own perfect number of follow-ups. Create your own workflow automations, adjust them to meet your goals and don't be afraid to play around.

And if you're already doing that, share your best tips on automation in comments!

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