Five Tips For Better Cold Emails + A Bonus Hack

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Whether your title has “Sales” in it doesn’t really matter; we’re all selling something. And guess what goes along with that? Good ol’ cold emailing. Sure, warm leads are certainly a better option…but they’re also a luxury you won’t always have. Such fun! So startup! Fret not, I (and others smarter than I) have sent enough shitty cold emails to know what works and what doesn’t.

Someone posted a question today on r/startups asking why their cold emails were getting such poor response rates. The poor dude even posted a few examples of his emails and they were just awful (no offense, hopefully he learned a few things from the comments). Below are the tips I shared in those comments, little insights, strategies, and hacks that have served me well as of late. Using these, and several more, I’ve recently convinced a GM at Amazon to write a case study on my client, got free advice from a multi-million dollar company with a similar business model to us at BoomboxFM, and landed several partners for a music data client.

1) Get something like Yesware or Sidekick so you can track email opens and clicks. The vast majority of cold email “wins” don’t come from the first email; the second, third, or even fourth are the ones that get replied to.

2) Subject lines matter more than anything else. Think of each line of text someone will read as you convincing them to read the next line. Is the subject interesting enough to stand out in a sea of emails and get them to read line #1 of the email? Then do that for every line.

3) For the love of Christ, man, start personalizing these. I don’t give a shit if that “doesn’t scale” (a silly objection I’ve heard from clients before). The first thing I look for when receiving any cold email is whether the sender bothered to get to know me. It’s so damn easy to quickly research a company AND a person online now, only the lazy prefer to skip that part. Two recent successful cold emails I’ve sent both did well because I researched the recipient. Case #1: I wanted a pretty damn big company to do a case study on my small startup client and realized the biz dev guy I was reaching out to happened to be a musician in his off time (and my client is in the music biz). The big company had nothing to do with music, but he personally did. Case #2: I found a quote the email recipient gave in an interview that strongly correlated with the philosophy behind the product I was selling so I used that in the email (she got a kick out of that).

4) This one depends on who you’re selling to, but try being a tad more human. Right now you sound like an infomercial. Try some humor, maybe be a bit more casual. I’ve sent some semi-odd subject lines and first-line emails before that did surprisingly well. Don’t be afraid to stand out a bit.

5) Get your email flow/process down. Assume they won’t open/respond to email #1 and write out several versions of Emails #1-4 or even #5. My response rates tend to be really good for the final cold email I send (usually #4) that includes some sort of “thought I’d give this one last shot; this is the last time I will bother you” message.

6) Quick little cold email “hack” for ya – let’s say you’re targeting a VP at Company X. Call someone lower in the ranks at that company, a Manager or even an admin assistant. Doesn’t matter, as your goal on this call is simply to get confirmation from this person that the VP is the best person to contact re: whatever you’re selling / their area of responsibility is. Now you can send your first cold email with “Person Y suggested I contact you”. You’ve just manufactured a semi-warm intro, and you’re not exactly lying either (bonus!).

Not exactly earth shattering stuff, right (that last one is good though, isn’t it?)? Because email is such a standard part of our every day communication – and at high volume for most of us – people tend to overlook the strategy behind using it properly. Hopefully these tips open your mind to the potential of properly executed cold emails.

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