Most self-starters must sing for their supper by way of what we call the cold contact. And by cold contact, we mean cold email (only 1 per cent of cold calls actually result in meetings, so hold the phone). Jobs, careers, even entire companies have been built on a single, well-timed “hit send” to potential employers, clients, investors and the like. But cold emails are often… well, cold. And receive an equally icy shoulder from their beneficiary. So here’s how to heat up that cold contact and get yourself a warm reply.
1. Do your research (and don’t copy-paste)
A copy-and-paste job is no way to show that you care, so take the time to personalise your proposition. If you’re reaching out to a company, find a contact to email directly (this info can be snooped out on their team page) and if you’re pursuing an individual, get to know them. Intimately. American author Tucker Max (who’s no doubt hassled a publisher or 50 in his time) wrote A Guide to Cold Emailing in the Harvard Business Review, and noted that it’s also important to “make it clear why you are emailing them as opposed to anyone else. Research shows that people are far more motivated to help others when they feel uniquely qualified to do so.” A little flattery never goes astray, right?
2. Pimp your subject line
People don’t tend to like alien intrusions on their inboxes – even familiar ones, for that matter – and are all-too ready to bin your message with a measly half-glance. To ensure you grab your receiver’s attention (and get their finger clicking) craft your subject line carefully. Last year DigitalMarketer sent out 107,442,263 emails, and found that those with subject lines that were self-interested (directly plugging a targeted benefit), sparked curiosity and had something to offer had higher open rates. Bonus points if you can rouse a chuckle. Groupon totally nailed this a couple of years ago, with: “Best of Groupon: The Deals That Make Us Proud (Unlike Our Nephew, Steve)”. Just try not to open that bad boy.
“Research shows that people are far more motivated to help others when they feel uniquely qualified to do so.”
3. Say who you are and what you want (concisely)
We’re talking first-line stuff here. Go in strong with your name, what you do and exactly what it is you would like from the recipient. (No-one wants to wind up like that fresh-faced entertainment reporter on the red carpet, who had Mel Gibson inquiring, “And… who are you?”) Better still, say what you can offer them. “Hi, I’m Joe Blogs, a web designer who can fix up that sticky spot on your landing page in a jiffy.” Then back yourself with solid credentials, such as links to your business site, portfolio or examples of your finest work. Keep your cold email to two-to-three paragraphs in an inoffensive font (Calibri, Times New Roman and Arial are goodies) and go easy on your capitalisation. SHOUTING IS RUDE.
4. You must, if unanswered, follow-up
Emails can easily slip through the cracks of a busy inbox, often due to a case of poor timing (based on data from 20 million emails, Hubspot found that Tuesday at 11am is the best time to land in an inbox), so be prepared to dust off and encore your proposal. This might be the time to test a different subject line, or politely implore your receiver to respond by asking a question. Have you considered my proposition? When would be a good time for me to buy you a coffee? The general rule is to wait at least seven days and don’t follow up more than twice (we wouldn’t want to come of as desperate, would we?). But don’t just twiddle your thumbs waiting for a reply. The more cold contacts you put out, the greater chance you’ll have of a return. That’s just good sense.