1% is All You Need


“That’s it? That’s all you need?”

That’s the reaction I get from founders when I tell them what success looks like in automated email outbound. 

I’ll drive it home. 

“Yes. A 1% interested reply rate is considered successful for 4-step automated email campaigns. Don’t let that fool you. It’s hard for some startups to get there.”

If you’re reading this, you might be having the same reaction. You’re probably thinking, “How is 1% enough to get us to success? How is that even possible?”

Back to that question in a second. 

But first: one of the biggest misconceptions around go-to-market is that you need what-feel-like spectacular numbers right out of the gate to be successful. Usually, things are ugly – dreary even –  initially. Founders need the persistence, grit, and determination to push through those doldrums, try more experiments, and double down on those that work. 

When I first meet with startup operators, and we chat about outbound, they’ll say, “Yes, we tried it.” I’ll respond, “Awesome…how many campaigns did you launch?” Their answer usually sounds something like this, “We sent out 8 or 9, and only got a couple of replies. None of which were interested. We decided to stick a fork in it as we weren’t achieving success.” My response always is, “GTM and outbound can take a long time. Expecting your version of success right away is wrong. And doesn’t serve you. It’s a terrible expectation to have, as it will end up preventing you from pushing through. I’ve had clients that don’t get an interested reply for weeks on end. Only to crack the code a couple of months later.” 

The reality is: it can take months to find message-market fit. It can feel ugly, lonely, and impossible to reach numbers that feel rewarding. A lot of the time, go-to-market feels like sending signals into the void with very little coming back. Only when you start seeing and appreciating the small changes in data, can you start building on the small victories. Putting those small wins, brick-by-brick, one on top of the other, is most often the one path to go-to-market success.

Back to answer the original question that’s still rattling around your mind, “How does a 1% interested rate constitute success in automated email outbound?”

Let’s run through some back-of-the-envelop math. Imagine having what we call fully scaled-up winning campaigns – 400-lead campaigns that have reached the 1% interested rate marker. For each one of these campaigns, you’re generating 4 interested replies (1% of 400 leads, easy arithmetic thus far). Now, let’s envision a world where you’ve been able to build out 5 different fully scaled-up winning campaigns. If you launch them once a week, you’re now touching 2,000 new leads (400 leads per campaign x 5 campaigns) weekly. 

You’re starting to cook with gas. 

Those 5 campaigns will elicit 20 interested replies (5 campaigns x 400 leads x 1% interested rate). If you’re able to book ⅔ of your interested replies into introductory calls – which should be your target calls-booked rate – you’re now booking 13 intro calls for those selling your sales. If your average contract value (ACV) is $60K/year and your qualification rate is 40% – making assumptions here – you’re generating $312K in new pipeline every week. Not too shabby. And only the beginning of your automated email outbound initiative.

All off of 1%. 

What seemed like a puny conversion metric ended up generating hundreds of thousands of dollars of pipeline per week.   

The point here? 

Success doesn’t always intuitively feel to us like success. Only when you know what success looks like can you start aiming for it.


Which leads me to my next point. Most founders or startup operators I first meet with don’t know their go-to-market target metrics. Even though it’s crucial. Without metrics as their north star, they don’t end up knowing where to start when building out their GTM motion. It can even prevent them from getting started. The whole buildout feels daunting without a bullseye to aim for. Understandable from a psychological perspective. Startups I’ll meet with can end up brushing this issue under the rug, only to tackle it seriously when they feel it’s life-threatening for their company. And in a lot of instances, their “life-threatening” interpretation leaves us with too little time. Their runway is now miniscule and it’s already too late. Finding message-market-fit in just a few months becomes close to impossible. Equivalent to throwing up a Hail Mary.

Now let’s picture a world where, as a founder, you know your target GTM metrics by heart. You’ve got the persistence and grit necessary to keep going and fully grasp that GTM will be a grind. What might you still be missing? 

In my experience, despite its importance, most founders/startup operators don’t know how to read the data that’s coming from the market. I tell my clients, “The market always wins. It’s much bigger and more powerful than us. We should bow to it. Revere it. It’s our job to listen to what it’s telling us, and then conform to it.”

The problem? 

Most folks I initially meet don’t know how to listen. 

They don’t know what the market tells them when the data comes. For example – if we stay with automated email outbound as a GTM tactic – what should you do with a 100-lead 4-step campaign that garners a 30% open rate, 4% reply rate, and 0.5% interested rate?

Because you’re trying to get to a 40-60% open rate on 4-step campaigns, the first thing you’re going to want to look at is your deliverability and your subject lines. Are your emails getting delivered? Also, are your subject lines catchy enough to get folks to open your emails? 

The other thing I’d decipher from this data is that we need a better email body. The copy needs to be crisper and more importantly: engaging. A 4% reply rate is too low. We’re aiming for 6%, in that department. What could we do to make our email body copy more engaging? Could we lean on a pain point that would grab our audience’s attention? Can we talk about our product with a value prop that’s more differentiated? Those are among the questions worth asking ourselves when looking at this data. 

Lastly, our interested rate is at half of where we want it to be: the aforementioned 1%. We need to figure out why folks are not replying to us in a positive way. Could we put together a better call-to-action/offer? Perhaps we need to provide evidence as to how successful our product has been leaning on social proof or quantifiables? Again, these are some questions that are worth asking as we interpret the numbers coming back our way. 

The other thing worth mentioning: increasing our rates towards the top of the funnel – in this case, open and reply rates – could impact our rates towards the bottom – in this case, our interested rate. 

I realize that this might all feel like minutia. Or even inside baseball. Admittedly, it’s all stuff I geek out on. And I’d encourage every person who wants to get good at go-to-market to lean into their nerdy, quant side as well. How to read market data is perhaps the most important thing for you to learn if you want to be successful at GTM.

I’ll leave you with this: GTM is one brutal discipline. One of the toughest in Startup Land. Great products can’t get sold if you don’t get them in front of potential customers. Knowing founders will craft a product for 18 months, investing their blood, sweat, and tears, only to have them not see the light of day breaks my heart. That’s why you’ll usually see me pushing my clients hard to kick off their GTM early. Sooner than they even want. Because without a successful go-to-market strategy, your product doesn’t get sold. It remains in obscurity. And obscurity for a product is a death knell for company building.