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Where Marketers Go to Grow

May 12, 2015 // 12:00 PM

How to Write a Cold Email That'll Actually Get a Response

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Since launching The Growth Show in February, we've been fortunate to land interviews with some really busy people, including executives of billion-dollar businesses and founders on the cusp of building the next big thing. 

For some of them, we had an "in." Somebody knew somebody else and happily made the introduction.

But we weren't so lucky with some of the other guests. We wanted to get in touch, but didn't have mutual connections. So I'd send them a cold email -- targeted, relevant to their interests, and completely custom, but still a cold email. And somehow, among all of the other pitches they get for podcast interviews, speaking engagements, and business consulting, these guests noticed my emails in their inbox and actually responded.   

How? 

While there certainly isn’t a set formula for the perfect cold email, below are a few things that you can do to give yourself the best chance of getting a response. This advice will help you whether you are trying to find a guest for your podcast, write better sales emails for your business, or even pitch a local reporter to get some press.

Perfect Your Subject Line

You could spend an entire day writing the best email body copy known to man, but if no one opens the email, your efforts will go to waste. 

To make sure that doesn't happen, you need a compelling subject line. This advice might sound obvious, yet there are still so many poorly written subject lines. Just open up your inbox and see how many emails are in there that you'll never read. You can only get so many subject lines like, “The leading cloud-based software in hyper-local social media marketing."

So how do you write a good subject line? Figure out what you are ultimately trying to say and then boil down that request to 5-7 words. Once you get to those 5-7 words, make sure those words speak to the interests of your recipient and clearly communicate what you'd like from that email exchange. Here are a few more guidelines to ensure your subject lines entice someone to open.

One of my favorite ways to get someone’s attention is to put their name in the subject line. For example: "Brandee -- having you on HubSpot's podcast" or “Chris  --  source for your article on marketing trends." I use this every time I am doing cold outreach emails.

Make It Clear Why You're Reaching Out to Them Specifically

Here's how most cold outreach is done: Write a pitch, copy, paste, send, repeat (and maybe change the greeting to really spice things up).

You've gotten these types of emails before from sales reps or PR pros -- isn't it annoying? 

Your recipient has gotten them, too. So to stand out, you need to make it clear why you are reaching out to them specifically. Adam Grant, a professor at Wharton and author of Give and Take, talks about how when people feel they have nothing unique to contribute, they will feel very little responsibility to help.

So when writing a cold email, don’t just make it clear why you are reaching out -- make it clear why you are reaching out to them. The best cold emails highlight what specifically drew you to that particular person. Using the example of reaching out for a podcast: Add a sentence or two about how specifically that person's work would be a great fit with your audience and why.

Showing that you did your homework isn’t just important because you need to be relevant, but it also shows that you put some time and effort into reaching out. This is one of the easiest ways to show that your email isn’t just another canned message from a sales rep or a PR pro.

Use Social Proof and Point to Results

Adding in a little social proof and some high-level stats to your pitch will take your homework from a B- to the top of the class.

If you've interviewed a colleague of theirs or spoken to someone that they know, include that in your pitch (in sales this could be a case study or a local customer reference). This also works if you've interviewed someone that they would consider a peer or competitor. The chances of you landing the CEO of Nike would dramatically increase if you could tell their PR team that you just finished an interview with the CEO of Under Armour, for example.

If you have the numbers to back up what you are pitching, include those as well. Would you rather be on a podcast that 100 people were going to listen to or 100,000? 

Keep It Short, Simple, and Written Like a Human

Everyone is busy and their inbox is already full. Don't make things worse. Try and keep your email short, sweet, and to the point. Would you read a five-paragraph essay from someone that you’ve never talked to before? Probably not.

One of the best ways to keep things short and sweet is to write like a human. If you saw this person out in public and had to walk up and say hi, how would you start your conversation? You wouldn’t jump right into your pitch. Most likely you’d start with something like “Hey Emily,  I’m Dave. I read your column every week and love how you’re focused on startups in Boston. I wanted to talk to you about my company because ___.” Writing your email like you were talking to someone in real life makes it feel much more approachable and relevant. 

Like I said above, there isn't a formula for writing a cold email, but using the tips above should help you make a better impression and hopefully earn a response from your recipient. 

Nailing your pitch to potential guests is just one part of getting your podcast off the ground. Want help with the rest of the process? Here's everything you need to know about starting a podcast.

free guide to podcasting

Topics: Public Relations Professional Development

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