How to Get a 67% Reply Rate (in under 24 hours)

My company (that produces educational simulations) was presented with the opportunity to partner with a large education/textbook publication company, and I had the privilege to head an initiative that would assess the partnership for both parties.

We wanted to give the textbook company a tangible way to assess whether a partnership between our company and theirs would be profitable.

Here’s how I did it in 5 steps.

Step 1: Strategize.

I worked directly with my co-founder, Ray, to strategize a plan starting with customer outreach and ending with a deliverable that we could present to the textbook company.

We initially thought of sending out a questionnaire, but we realized that questionnaires wouldn’t provide us the same insight that conversations would. Surveys can be leading, and not all customers would be willing to engage in a questionnaire.

So the plan became this: we would reach out to our customers, asking to book meetings with them where we would discover & discuss the challenges they experience with teaching students, and ask them their opinion on partnering with a textbook publisher. This way, we could open up the floor for free-flowing thought and identify customer needs that our company could solve through a partnership.

Then, we could use all of these conversations to quantify metrics of themes we encountered to present to the companies (challenges, praises, concerns, etc.)

Step 2: Send the emails

I manage nearly 100 customer accounts at my company as the customer success manager (CSM,) so I knew off of the top of my head what the best segment of customers to reach out to was.

I crafted an email bearing in mind that I wanted our customers to want to participate in research calls so they would book meetings, I knew that I had to frame the email to encourage our customers to feel excited rather than apathetic/disinterested (which means we wouldn’t have anyone booking meetings.)

One of my priorities as a CSM is understanding my customers inside & out. I need to understand their priorities, goals, challenges, what drives them, and what inspires them.

We primarily work with teachers/professors, so one thing that I leveraged was asking for advice, they love to give advice and honestly. A simple (but relevant) ask for insight can be powerful.

In crafting the email, I kept in mind that the most effective emails are:

  1. Concise

  2. Clear

  3. Have a specific, relevant, and intriguing ask

  4. Are easy to reply to

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The response was overwhelmingly positive; within 24 hours I had 25 meetings booked, and the following day I booked 7 for a total of 33 booked meetings within 48 hours (not to mention the people that wanted to book a meeting but our schedules weren’t compatible.)

Step 3: Conduct the Research Calls

Ray and I came up with a list of questions and conversation prompts that would help us gather the information we needed.

I spoke with around 27 people in one week, and Ray spoke with 8.

The calls ranged anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how in-depth we could go with the conversation and if there was room for any upselling.

Step 4: Analyze the Data

This was the most time-intensive part of the process, but with some coffee — ok, a lot of coffee — and extra hours at the office, I analyzed the meetings. I uploaded the recordings to a table on Notion, then re-watched all of the calls while time-stamping them to mark common themes that I could later use to support our partnership thesis.

After marking common themes among all of the calls, I exported all of the information to an excel sheet and calculated some metrics like the ones below.

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Step 5: Present Meaningful Deliverables

What was the outcome of all of this?

Excellent question.

All of the following items I compiled within a Notion page for companywide accessibility.

  1. A one-pager outlining our thesis: I wove in specific metrics of customer sentiments that reflect the challenges customers face and how a partnership would solve said challenges, in addition to providing metrics on what percentage of customers expressed that they would either become customers of both products or continue their loyalty to both or either company if a partnership occurred.

  2. Customer Testimonial Content

    1. Audio only file

    2. Video with audio file

    3. Adobe Premiere editable files of both the audio only and the video paired with audio testimonial

  3. Professional References

    • For the company to call in the case they want to directly ask questions of our customers

  4. Data from the research calls collected in excel for future sales & marketing content.

    • Things like “56% of students aren’t engaged in the classroom”

Lydia Weibel