How To Write Cold Emails That Win Projects
There are tons of articles out there promising results from cold emailing. There are companies selling packs of plug-and-play templates, and $1000 courses that promise results if you follow their specific cold email formula. A lot of them are great resources that do actually get results.
This article isn’t going to be like that. I’m not going to write about some secret formula that will help you grow an agency to $20k/month with cold email.
Because I don’t believe that there’s one winning template or formula that’s going to help you get clients. Writing a good email is not rocket science.
There are a handful of guidelines that you can follow to write authentic, non-scammy emails that express how you can genuinely help the people you’re reaching out to.
What’s the point of sending cold emails?
- To build relationships with people in your industry/niche
- Connect with potential clients
- Add value immediately
- My experience with cold emailing
Earlier, I was first starting to freelance. I had one steady client but really needed more. I was set on only doing inbound marketing and content marketing strategies and utilizing my current network, which was working KIND of, but I knew I needed to try something else to get clients. I also knew that cold outreach was absolutely NOT something I ever wanted to do. The idea terrified me to my core.
But my current strategy wasn’t working, and I needed clients. I also knew that I needed to try something completely out of my comfort zone.
I also worked in corporate marketing jobs for a long time and had people reach out to me in terrible ways. Take the worst emails you’ve ever seen and think of all of the possible ways to make them worse. I got those emails. I knew I could do better.
So I set out to send 100 cold emails in 30 days.
I was pretty happy with my results. In out of 100 emails, 60 got opened, 33 got responses on the first email, 9 booked a phone call, and I ended up with 3 one-off projects, and three long term clients.
I also built tons of new relationships that I continue to nurture until the time, and I’m confident that when the time is right, they’ll convert too.
What’s the goal of an effective cold email?
The ultimate goal should be to inform them how you’re going to add value to their company. The goal isn’t to dive right into your pitch. You want the first email to introduce you as an expert that is going to help them solve a problem that’s holding their businesses back from greatness. Unless you’re a master at the one-email-close, the message should end with a call to action that prompts the next step towards sending them a proposal.
The email is not a sales pitch or a cover letter. It’s about them and their business, and how you can help.
The anatomy of a good cold email
Don’t be this person.
My name is _____ and I’m a ______. I help businesses with ______. I wanted to know how you’re currently handling ________.
Let’s schedule a call and talk about your options for ________.
When is a good time for you?
*one week later*
Just checking in to see if you got my message. Would love to set something up. When are you free?
*another week later*
(no introduction this time)
Are you interested?
Always address a real person
Find a real person at the organization and write to them specifically. Avoid sending emails to generic email accounts. You’re more likely to get a response from a person if you make the email personal to them, and do your research.
Include a personalized introduction
Once you identify who you’re emailing, do your research. Get to know things about them and their role in the organization. The first few sentences of the email should tell the person that you know who they are and that you hand wrote the email. If you can remove the person’s name and swap it out with anyone else, and that email still makes sense, you’re doing it wrong.
Look at their social media accounts, look at things they’ve written or things that have been written about them, and try to relate to them as best as possible. If you can’t think of ways to relate to them based on the research, then drop them a compliment on a recent achievement or about something they’ve written online.
No one knows who you are or what you’ve done. They care about how you can help them.
Make reading the email worth their time. My first drafts of my cold email pitches read like the most desperate classified ad. I went on about my experience and how hardworking I am and all of the skills that I have. I read them now and want to shout “WOW WHO CARES, they don’t even know you!”
The thing about cold pitching is that you’re not applying for a job. Don’t show up uninvited to someone’s party and spend the entire time talking about yourself. They want to know first and foremost how you can help them rise above beyond what they’re doing. This doesn’t mean attack their current strategies either. It means find gaps that they’re unaware of and offer suggestions.
Then show them why YOU are the person that’s going to help them close those gaps and meet their goals. You don’t have to give anything away for free, but you need to show them what you have to offer and how it’s worth their time to hear what you have to say.
Appeal to their bottom line ($$$).
Focus on how your services will help them achieve their goals long term. This all comes back down to your research. You should only reach out to companies that have an identifiable gap that you know you can fill. Otherwise, the message will create more work for them by forcing them to figure out how you can help them with the skills you have. Take all of the guesswork out of it by stating how you can help in clear language that they understand.
In the initial email, try to focus on only one service that you can provide. Promising them the world and sharing how good you are at all of your skills will make the email more confusing and dilute your point.
Call to action
Finally, provide a call to action that is easy for them to respond to, but still assertive and confident. Most of the time, the call to action will involve asking them to get on a call. If you’re asking for a phone call, know what time zone they’re in and their operating hours and propose a few times that work for you. It’s easier for them to check if they are available during those times than to go through their entire calendar to settle on a time.
To make it even easier, you can send them a link to book a time on your calendar using Calendly or a similar tool. This gives them control to check your availability against their own and choose a time that works best for them without having to go back and forth coordinating.
A few more things to remember
Make it personal and warm — without overstepping
When I worked in an office and did marketing, I got tons of emails from contractors telling me how they could do my job better than me. What I was doing wrong, and how they could help the company. I ignored every single one of them.
Now, I make my emails as personal as possible. I take the time to check the person out on social media, read things they’ve written, learn more about their values…anything that will break the ice and let them know that I’m a lovely (real) person who admires what the company is doing and wants to help. Not a business with an agenda to sell.
Write the email the way you would approach them in person. Pretend you’re writing an email to an old colleague or a friend (with some discretion). I’m not saying pretend you’re best friends with this person, but when I began to show my personality in my emails, add humor, maybe even some snark and sarcasm, the responses I got were warmer. But do the research first and see what the tone of the company is before dropping a LOL or meme reference.
Send it to the right person
CEO’s and other leaders look at the big picture. They’re big idea people and out of the box thinkers, most of the time. Emailing a CEO was one of the most intimidating feelings when I began cold emailing because I put them on a much higher pedestal than I put myself.
Talking to CEO’s, most of the time, is just talking to people who have huge ideas that they’ve put into action and that’s exactly what I’m trying to do with my business/services. I always have to keep that in mind when I start to feel intimidated by a CEO. They had to do things that made them uncomfortable in order to stand out and prove that they deserve their spot. And that’s exactly what I tell CEOs who ask me why I’m emailing them instead of their content manager or blog coordinator.
Another thing; The managers and other team members who work in-house, will very rarely understand why you’re reaching out. They have their jobs, and they don’t like someone else coming in and shaking things up for them. It’s a threat and an annoyance. I get that, I’ve been there. But I also know that when you work on an in-house team, your focus is usually split a million ways, and sometimes hiring an expert to take a look at how you’re doing things and offer solutions, can make your job way easier. That’s where I come in and add value.
People in the role of the gap you’re trying to fill will see you as a threat
The managers and other team members who work in-house will very rarely understand why you’re reaching out. They have their jobs, and they don’t like someone else coming in and shaking things up for them. It’s a threat and an annoyance. They’re comfortable with their routine and will feel threatened by someone wanting to shake things up
Following up is more important than that first email
If you’re not following up, you might as well not even send the email, to begin with. Following up on a regular basis increases the conversion rate, it’s simple math. One thing to remember about following up is not to be passive-aggressive. Don’t ask if they got the email. Bring it back to the value. Give them some FOMO. Keep it short but sweet. Don’t repeat what you said in the initial email, but give a quick hey “If you have some time, I’d love to hop on the phone and talk about how X can help you achieve Y.”
There’s no ONE way to write a good email. And even if you do write an amazing message value bombing the client into oblivion, there’s still no guarantee that they’ll hire you.
But there are best practices for writing and sending cold emails that will get you responses and help you build relationships.
Cold email is really just a numbers game, and if you know how to make a good first impression with you’re copy and messaging, your odds of getting on the phone call and getting a new client skyrocket.
The biggest takeaway is just to do it. It’s going to be uncomfortable. You might encounter some people with an attitude or ask you to stop emailing them or flat out say no, but it’s all part of the process. Once you accept the inevitable rejection, it’s so much sweeter to accept the wins that will happen from consistency and passion for what you do.
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