There comes a time in every person’s life when they have to send a cold, colder than cold email.
What does that mean? Basically, a cold email — like a cold call — is when you’re reaching out to someone you’ve never met or has never heard of you with an ask. Maybe you stalked them on LinkedIn. Maybe you were given their email from a connection. Whatever it is, you need to get their attention and then convince them to do something. Fast.
It’s tough. But it’s not impossible. Whether you’re sending out cold emails to try to find customers or simply trying to set up informational interviews during your job search, here’s a simple formula for making your cold email feel a little warmer.
1. Catch ‘em all with a great subject line.
The odds are always against you when it comes to email. MailChimp and Constant Contact estimate that the open rate for business emails hovers between 14% and 23%. Ouch. Busy people have busy inboxes, and so you’d better make your subject line count if you want to be heard.
My favorite trick? Write a subject line that lets them know you are a real person. It seems obvious, but when you’re inbox is full of emails with subjects like “Are you sitting too much while working?” and “Get 1,000 New Twitter Followers a Day!” something simple like “Quick question” or “Following up” stands out as important against the noise.
Bottom line: An unfamiliar name with a simple, conversational subject line piques interest.
2. Quickly establish a personal connection.
You only have a few seconds to convince someone that they should read the rest of your email. The best way to do this is to quickly establish a personal connection. It doesn’t have to be a super strong connection, but you should quickly make it clear how you found them and why you are reaching out.
“I was having coffee with John Smith, and he recommended I get in touch with you about …”
“I was the person who shook your hand as you were leaving the networking event. I wanted to follow up about …”
“I read some recent press about your company, and I wanted to ask about …”
3. Get in there and make your ask!
You have a reason for emailing.
Go for it!
Make it simple and oh so clear. If your ask is confusing or takes a while to get to, you risk losing the reader’s attention. If your email starts to feel like work, you’re going to lose ‘em …
“I’d love to meet up for a quick cup of coffee.”
“I’d love your advice on [insert subject]”
“I’d love 10 minutes of your time to hop on a quick call to discuss …”
4. Make it easy.
Don’t lose ‘em! When you’re sending a cold email, you should make it as easy as possible for the reader to follow through on your ask. If you’re trying to meet up with someone or get on the phone, give some suggestions for times and locations (but be sure to leave some flexibility on their part).
“I’d love to meet up for a quick cup of coffee. Would Wednesday afternoon work for you? There’s a great place near your office called [Insert Coffeeshop Name]. Let me know if that works, or if another time and location are easier for you.”
5. Get outta there!
You did it! You made the ask! Now get the hell out of there. Short and sweet emails are the way to go, so don’t feel like you have to write a cover letter or pitch yourself after you make your ask. Know what your goal is and stick to it. Be bold. Be brief. Be gone!
Here’s a short example from what we’ve built above:
Hope this email finds you well! I recently met up with [NAME], and she recommended I get in contact with you to learn more about launching a career in marketing.
I’m a recent grad, and I’d love to pick your brain about your experiences at [Insert Company Name]. Would you be free for a quick phone call (10 mins) later this week? I’m free Wednesday and Thursday afternoon. Are there any times then that work for you?
Thanks for your time, and I look forward to hearing back from you soon! [NAME]
To Copy/Paste or Not To Copy/Paste
It’s OK to copy and paste parts of email messages, especially if you’re reaching out to a lot of people with the same ask.
However, as I’ve rambled about again and again, the more personal the email looks and feels, the more likely you’ll get a response. Be super careful if you’re repurposing parts of an email to double check that the content makes perfect sense for each recipient.
Michaela Gianotti is Koru's content manager. She attended Whitman College, where she spent the better part of four years convincing her family that English majors can get jobs too. She has since found awesome work (SEE!) at 826 Seattle, msnNOW, and Koru.