How to send a cold email pitch

So. You need to send a cold email pitch. Let me guess. Your toes are curling even at the thought. I know the deal. You spend forever and five days coming up with the email; refining, reviewing, restarting, ripping it all up and resolving to move to an ashram in the Himalayas where you won’t ever have to pitch again. But then you remember you have me to help. So here goes, a guide to how to write a cold email  pitch without losing hair, sleep or sanity.

Before you start your “cold email pitch”

I’m going to go out on a limb here and be a bit bold (me?!) I’m going to ask a question: Is this a totally cold pitch? Because if it’s a totally cold pitch, I don’t think you should read this post. Why? Because this guide won’t guarantee you success (hey, it won’t guarantee anything other than pretty pictures and me talking, but that’s besides the point.)

But instead of focusing on how it won’t help, let’s focus on how it will.

This guide on writing a pitch will help you if you’re going to be writing to an ideal client. A client whose work you’ve researched, admired and profiled, to ensure that your help would be beneficial.

If you’re nodding along automatically, great. You’re ready to go. If you’re thinking “Yeah yeah yeah, give me the guide“, then you might run into a few problems. But let’s get started.

Oh no wait – an extra (topical) caveat

I don’t really want to mention the G word again (you know that certain data-related acronym the everyone’s been talking about), but I’m going to have to. There’s no doubt that prospecting random people and shouting about your services is definitely a no-no, so that’s why you’ll notice that everything I’ve written here is coming at it from the perspective of starting an initial conversation – this might be through LinkedIn, or it could be following an event (when you’ve got a business card) or for other reasons.

There’s a whole grey area on what constitutes a legitimate business reason for getting in touch, and I don’t claim to be an expert on that, but I still think that making connections, asking for advice and providing help will continue to be relevant. Let’s focus on the human-based ways of doing business as we enter this brave, hopefully safer, data-protected world.

Decide on a goal

The first thing I want you to do is decide on the outcome of your email. Is it to get a meeting? A reply? A call? Advice? An opinion? Mentorship?

Have you noticed something? Is there anything missing from the list that you expected to be there? When I do workshops, and ask the entrepreneurs I’m speaking to brainstorm possible outcomes, they often call out things like:

A purchase! A collaboration! A project!

My answer is always the same:

“Are you &**&ing crazy??”

Okay, I don’t say that (I just think it.) But seriously, to expect an email to land in the inbox of the person who is just at that precise second looking for someone in your line of work? I’m not a betting person, but I’d say those odds are slim.

No, the purpose of your email is to start a relationship with the person, to forge a connection. Not jump into their wallet and steal their debit card.

Make it personal

I know you’ve heard it all before, but there’s a reason why people bang on (and on) about personalisation. It’s because it works. Think about it.

Do you get those “Dear Sir/Madam” cold email pitches (literally, with both options)? I get them All. The. Time. I file these keepers ASAP. In the Trash. Do your homework. If you love a company so much you should know the name of the… Click To Tweet

If you think it’s difficult, then you haven’t done enough research. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Why am I getting in touch?
  • Who is the key person for me to speak to?
  • What’s their job or what are they in charge of?
  • Why are they a good fit for me and my business?
  • What do we have in common?

The art of asking for advice in a cold email pitch

We all love to be experts. Whether it’s a friend asking for advice on a career move, or someone reaching out to you for some pointers on getting into your industry, we love to be consulted.

The person you’re reaching out to is no different. That’s why asking for advice is one of the most effective ways to make connections.

A word of advice: there’s a fine line between contacting someone for advice they would give you for free, and trying to get their services for free.

Here’s what I mean:

Good approach: You want to email the head of graphic design at a marketing agency. You have clients who often collaborate with designers and you’d like to get an idea of the design process so you can align your own methods to make your clients’ lives easier.

Bad approach: You want to email the head of graphic design at a marketing agency. You’re trying to gain more clients in their industry and you want to “pick their brains” about a design you’ve put together yourself.

You see the difference?

Vulnerability can be a good thing

I know we’re conditioned to try to be invincible. To show we can do and be anything we want. Thing is, that’s not always true. My advice? When you’re reaching out to someone, tell them why you need their help. Not as a sob story, not to pull on their heart strings. Just to be honest.

There’s also considerable research on how using the word “because” when you’re asking for something increases the likelihood of success. Click To Tweet

Example: “I run a photography business. I specialise in kids’ portraits. I’d like to invest in some new toys for my shoots because I want the toddlers I photograph to feel at ease and relaxed. As a nursery owner, I’m sure you’re up-to-speed on the 2018 equivalent of the Cabbage Patch Kids (showing my age there). Are there any must buys you’d recommend?”

Do you see how this shifts the focus? You’re asking for advice, being humble and communicating that you take a lot of pride in your work. I’m guessing I don’t need to say that, as a children’s photographer, a relationship with a nursery owner wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Aaaaaaaand action!

Something I share with my strategy clients is this: traditional calls to action (CTAs) have no place in personal pitches. When you come to write a cold email pitch, you’re not asking them to click on a link or download something. (Don’t do that. Seriously.)

I prefer to swap a CTA for a QTA. In case you’re wondering, a QTA is a Question To Answer, because, as you might have guessed, I recommend rounding off your email with a…wait for it….a question they can…..answer. I know. How do I come up with such original concepts?

Let me remind you again that you are asking a question. You are not asking for money. Or a job. Or the keys to their car. Start small, people, start small.

Bonus advice – start providing value

Even at this early stage, if there’s anything you think you can provide value on already, do so cold email pitch. Not in a pretending-to-be-helpful-but-actually-just-pushing-your-own-products way, but actually helpful.

This is an example of the latter:

I know you’re 55. You probably have some eyesight problems. Would you like to buy a pair of our glasses?

Not cool. Sure, they might need your product but…yeah, you get why you shouldn’t do this. Right?

Your turn!

Hopefully by now, a cold email pitch doesn’t seem so scary. You’ve got the means, the motive and the email account to get started. We’ve looked at the conditions under which you should be emailing and got some tips on what to do (and what not to do.)

Let me know in the comments how you get on!

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