The origins of our product came from the success of a particular cold email. I've gained customers, followers, and even friends from the result of reaching out to people I've never met. From my own experience and the many people I've talked to, it seems that email remains one of the best ways to get your foot in the door.
Despite the frequent discussion that "email is dead", nearly 200 billion emails are sent every day. This post aims to help you cut through the noise by highlighting the strategy of sending fewer emails and letting your humanness shine through.
Composing a great email is hard work. You need to be friendly, but not too informal. You need to keep it short, but if you're unclear, you'll surely be ignored. I asked around and put together some of the collective wisdom from cold email veterans. There's no one-size-fits-all formula here — what works for some might be terrible for others, so I've tried to include samples from a variety of folks.
Here's what they had to say:
I work with hundreds of freelancers on emailing prospects and the most successful cold emails I've seen sent (and sent myself) always follow the same few things:
They're short. Writing a novel is a big mistake a lot of people do. -- They're extremely focused. Since you have no relationship with the person you're emailing, its crucial you don't blab on about stuff and just focus on advancing the relationship in some way. -- They're easy to reply to. A good rule of thumb is any cold email should be easily replied to by a busy person saying "sounds good".
This is brilliant. Re-read your email before you send it. Then re-read it again. How would you feel if you received this yourself? Can you reply with a "sounds good" and move the conversation forward?
Hey [THEIR FIRST NAME],
My name is [MY FIRST NAME] and I love using your product. [Here I'll mention a recent story such as: I love your story about non-launching your product, so inspiring.]
[Then I'll go on with questions: What are your future plans, do you plan to work on your product further or go about acquiring users? or whatever.]
[Finally, why did I send this email: I work at company and think we could partner up to bring cold emails to the less fortunate corporate executives using my product. (very clear)]
Thanks, let me know and let's chat!
[MY FIRST NAME]
For me, the best cold emails that work 90% of the time are the ones where I:
- Give compliments
- Ask questions
- Introduce myself and what EXACTLY I'm looking for in a contact.
Put the focus on your recipient. How can you make their life better?
Hi [THEIR FIRST NAME],
I was referred to you as a key contact for artists on Soundcloud and wanted to introduce myself.
My name is Dane Regnier and I represent a music app called Caktus. It's a music player and social network that provides artists and labels with first-of-its-kind fan engagement and analytics services that include both SoundCloud and iTunes music tracking. Through the app, you and your clients can look at a map and see exactly where fans are listening to their music, helping you focus your marketing and tours more effectively. Caktus is also a powerful fan activation tool where artists can listen to their favorite music through the app, share what inspires them, and build a stronger relationship with their fans.
We've been working hard to connect with members of the music industry and have been offering the app and its analytics for free to the first wave of users. If you're interested, I'd like to set up a brief phone interview with you to chat about how Caktus can help you and your artists. Do you have any availability in the next couple of days?
Thanks and hope to hear from you soon,
We’ve been doing a lot of outreach into the music industry to get artist support for our app, and this email has done absolute wonders for us. Depending on the day, we’ll see conversion rates (getting calls scheduled) anywhere between about 20-35%. It’s definitely been instrumental to our growth lately.
Honestly, I'm a little surprised that a long email like this is working so well, but it's a good example that sometimes rules are meant to be broken. According to MailChimp, typical open rates in the music industry averages at 22.49%, so Dane is definetely doing something right.
I recently saw that you had commented on a twitter feed about [SUBJECT MATTER]. I was wondering if you'd be willing to share a little more and maybe offer some direction. Shouldn't take more than 3-4 minutes. Thanks!
[MY FIRST NAME]
Open rate was in the low 60's. Call back rate was in the high 80's. I convert in the high 80's from call to sale. We already have something in common and asking for a favor triggers a favorable response. I don't drag people around with BS.
"I saw that you had responded about housing market trends affecting Real Estate and I saw you were an Agent. I work with the Top 1% of Agents in America and many of my Agents were featured in the Wall Street Journal Top 1000 Agents recently. I wanted to find out what kinds of systems you use to manage your business, drip email, etc. I am trying to see if there is a distinct advantage top producers have because of the software they use of if it's just work ethic."
I love how simple Jason's email is. It's nearly impossible to ignore because it's so easy to understand and it's obvious that the sender took the time to see what the recipient is interested in. MailChimp shows open rates hovering around 22.12% for the real estate industry, so a 60% rate is truly killer.
Hi [FIRST NAME],
The reason behind me reaching out to you is that I think you and your company's work is awesome and I would love to be involved. Creating my passion has always been a wave I wanted to ride and I'm doing my best to avoid kissing corporate ass. (These were some terms he mentioned in Podcast interviews
In between travel and studying, I worked numerous jobs that had nothing to do with what I really wanted. Surprisingly, there was always something to take away. Most notably was working in a call centre (yuk!). At the time I felt like I was in a black hole, but funnily enough, it helped me work on my radio voice, and eventually led to hosting a podcast. [link to podcast] More recently, since arriving back home after 2 years in London working as Graphic Designer [link to my folio], my partner and I have been getting our website to a place where we can eventually launch an e-commerce business.
My goal is to be among the best designers in the industry and a successful entrepreneur that brings real value to people. I think that your company can help me get there. If there are any upcoming projects where you think I could help with, I would love the opportunity to do that.
Adam [MY PHONE NUMBER]
[LINK TO A PINTEREST BOARD ABOUT ME]
I LOVE these emails. I love shaking up the system - I do my best to have a phone conversation with the person I'm trying to contact. I do my best to stalk them on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, whatever. It usually results in getting their personal email or getting a call. Furthermore, I listen to podcasts, interviews, YouTube videos, ANYTHING that shows me the real personality of the person I want to deal with. This email is one I sent recently that got me a convo with someone I was chasing.
Outcome: amazing 30 minute call. My work isn't the calibre he wants, however, we keep in touch, he wants me to keep learning, copying the masters, he mentors me on a few other things, and I have no doubt we will one day work together.
I love Adam's enthusiasm and I chose this email to demonstrate that cold emails can be used for anything, not just getting sales leads. I think it's a brilliant way to boost your job searching efforts. Even if you don't land the perfect job, it might reveal the next step you should take.
Hi [FIRST NAME],
I'm Jordan and we're just getting started on [TOP BENEFIT TO THEM - NOT ABOUT THE PRODUCT AT ALL].
I'm reaching out to you because [SOMETHING SPECIFIC AND FLATTERING ABOUT THEM]. So, we'd love to learn more about what to make for you: [GOOGLE FORM SHORT URL]
This seemed to be our best engaging "sales" tactic. We built a landing page, a Google Form, we'd get their feedback. Then we'd call them on the phone a week later (to chat more) and show them the product. We basically hid our product from them, got their feedback, then we showed them the "beta" and got their feedback. They felt part of the process then (and they were) and it was a way to NOT sell them, but to make sure we were building something useful.
I actually became friends with Jordan from a cold email I sent him! He's personally helped me refine my emails, and I love his strategy here. With a short, friendly email, he's giving people a way to feel valuable and involved in a product that's for them.
This email is easy to ignore, but maybe that's actually a good thing. The obligation to respond is low and it's easy for people who are interested to give Jordan high-quality feedback.
Some friends and I did a related experiment a while ago where we contacted hundreds of people with an business offer to validate an idea of ours. We used different names to send the emails. We got by far the highest response rate by posing as a female employee of the company.
Since we had such a great response, we plan on writing a follow-up post. Send us your successful cold email for potential inclusion!