There’s a reason your email pitches are going unanswered.
And yes, there’s a fix.
If you’re going to put effort into generating business via email, then make sure you’re putting your best foot forward with your messaging.
A few tweaks can make the difference between getting a reply or getting marked as spam. I understand that cold emailing might necessary for your business. As someone who gets dozens of unsolicited emails a day, I can tell you the things to avoid (and the practices to adopt) if you want to bolster your chances of getting a reply.
Let’s keep you from being banished to the deleted folder. Keep these tips in mind.
First, brace yourself.
Here’s perspective on why reaching a prospect via email can be so tough. We don’t know each other, and that email is an interruption.
It might be hard to hear, but it’s also far more valuable when you recognize it. Embrace those truths, and you will make nuanced changes that increase your chances of getting through. Deal?
Cool, here’s what I’d suggest.
1. Remember that nothing here is personal.
What I’ll say next goes for appliance sales, apartments, or even running shoes: Shoppers have so many options that they are looking for a reason to rule you out. It’s not about you. It’s about narrowing down their choices or “to do” items.
I’m not saying this to cushion any hurt feelings. I’m underlining why these following points are so crucial when email is your only line of communication.
You’re battling others in their inbox for a piece of the reader’s attention while they are trying to rule you out. Your email is up against emails from people they know, or at least against people they’ve already talked to. You don’t need to be discouraged. Just adapt your approach.
2. Treat that first email like a knock on the door.
I’m talking about cold emails–the ones where you got my email because I attended a trade show where you were an exhibitor, or maybe you purchased the list. You’re a stranger to me.
It would be odd for a stranger to appear in front of me and launch into a one-sided conversation. Instead, you’d test the waters. It’s like knocking on a door.
The door opens. Do you:
A. Push your way in while talking, have a seat and tell me all about your product?
B. Ask me a few questions about what I need and…listen to my answer.
Choosing A sounds absurd, but it’s how the reader sees you if you send out word blasts as your introduction.
Let’s look at B. Think of what happens next.
I’ve cracked the door open a bit and am standing there saying a small “yes?”
You would tread lightly and try to get me into the conversation. You would go beyond “hi,” but you would also stop short of going into a 90-second tirade before taking a breath.
That’s why pitch/introductory emails that just dump everything they have come off as spammy and unwelcome.
This is a chance to open a conversation. Remember that the person getting your email is most likely clearing their inbox. They’ve already got their guard up.
Remember that the person getting your email is most likely clearing their inbox.
Takeaway: Keep it light and professional. It’s not time to pounce.
Which leads me to the next point.
3. Keep it brief.
Many of the emails that I delete are wordy and filled with numbers, client lists, and oodles of benefits.
In the first email, all of that is just noise. I know you’re eager to share your stats, because that’s the exciting, compelling stuff right? It might be, but it’s not going to clinch the sale. At least not here.
Don’t info dump.
Keep your message brief, respectful, and conversational. Too much text on the page is likely to scare someone off anyway.
Taper your first message to a value-stating introduction. Remember, you’re easing your foot off the pedal here. The best approach includes short statements to cover these details:
- Who you are
- What you are offering (keep it very short — 15 words or less)
- What they might gain from talking with you.
Nick does it very well.
Nick with [omitted] Design – a creative marketing and apparel company. We specialize in creating standout swag solutions for recruitment programs, tradeshow apparel/merch and client appreciation gifts.
Our clients like Facebook, Amazon and Alaska Airlines lean on us for quick turnaround and creative solutions.
We’d love the opportunity to do the same with Spyfu. Do you have events/projects coming up?
I’d love to discuss, are you free Tuesday or Wednesday for a quick call?
And then it’s done. I read the email in a matter of seconds, and it was so unassuming that I actually replied on the spot instead of deleting it.
Side note: Dropping a long list of client names can just turn into noise, but I’m impressed with how he worked in the client names as part of a tangible benefit (quick turnaround and creative solutions).
Takeaway: Limit your initial message to 3 very short paragraphs of 2 lines tops. Anywhere that you can cut this down and still answer those 3 points–that’s a bonus. Aim for a word count smaller than 100-125 words.
4. Does it feel like a mass mailer?
TIP: If it seems pre-packaged, I will skip it.
There are different guidelines for emails that you send to your clients via newsletters and ongoing updates. When it comes to the initial pitch, though, personalization goes a much longer way.
This might sound like an ego stroke, but it’s actually a productivity shortcut.
Here’s my reasoning. If you sent me the same pitch email that you send everyone, I can safely guess that I’m not missing out on a good opportunity if I skip this one.
If you don’t show that you even looked at our site or researched our business, I have a hard time believing your benefits.
I appreciate personalized details like mentioning an article on our blog or talking about something you saw on our company’s site.
Just a word of caution: if you drop these into a template, there are two kinds of dead giveaways that kill any good vibes you may have created–a formatting switch and personalization errors.
Obvious formatting switch
Sometimes I get an email with an opening (or just my name) in one font until it shifts to another font and weight right after that. Ah, you copied and pasted. It’s definitely not a sin, but it is a sign.
That personal intro gets my attention, but everything I read going forward will remind me that I’m just getting a bulk mailer.
It happens, but it doesn’t have to. Usually the culprit is that someone didn’t proofread the email that they carried over from the last one they sent.
Watch for merge/database errors like a long title tacked onto someone’s name or all caps. That can come off like “Dear TENANT.”
Takeaway: If you are copy/pasting into a template, send yourself a copy to see how the body looks post-delivery. You can override stubborn font issues by selecting the entire text of the email and clicking “clear formatting” in the editor.
5. Does it match my needs? At all?
Some emails are spam. Some are valuable help for my business. Where is my clue?
If someone makes it a point to connect the dots between what they offer and what I (might) need, they inch closer to a reply just by checking that one item off my list.
Luke sent a preview of what he saw as our specific problem and offered a solution.
He gave us the Costco sample. It’s not the entire package, as it shouldn’t be (see #3 “Keep it Brief”). But in this case it became clear that Luke:
- Did his homework
- Is trying to engage genuinely, not just casting a wide net
“He got these initial clients not through content, but through cold emails. Not by sending thousands of generic emails, but by sending custom emails, and offering specific ideas the recipient could immediately use. He wrote and sent all of the emails manually, to local companies.”
What happens if you have to cast a wide net?
Before you throw in your towel on the idea that you couldn’t possibly find a connection between your company and the people you’re pitching, it’s worth looking at why you’re pitching them in the first place.
Ask yourself: what do I know about them?
Segment your prospects by pain points they might have. Send different messages to those segments.
That message should address exactly why they would want to hear from you.
Go back to your strong value statements of what you can do for someone (or a business). It might not be in your marketing materials, so don’t start there. Work through some questions to really dig up why you’re selling what you are.
- Jot down your strongest benefits and the pain points they solve.
- Look for a pain point that many businesses share
- Use that as your connection and aim for an angle they can relate to
A lot of [owner-operated businesses] have trouble keeping up with HR rules that change every year. I figured you might be in the same boat.
A lot of [dental offices] have trouble keeping up with HR rules that change every year. I figured you might be in the same boat.
Takeaway: Do your homework. Look for anything that makes it clear you actually know who you’re talking to. If it looks like you’re addressing our needs, we’re going to be all ears.
6. Keep your selling hat on
No matter how much you nail the message, the reader doesn’t owe you anything for writing. They don’t even owe you a reply. You have to earn it.
Watch that gray area between pushiness and perseverance.
I’ve emailed you 3 times now without a reply…
You must be pretty busy to not reply to my email, so let me help you save time…
Are you OK? I haven’t heard back from you…
All of these are actual messages, and each one earned a “delete.”
You must be pretty busy to not reply to my email, so let me help you save time… That one could have been fixed by leaving the “to not reply to my email” out of it. The sender quickly reminded me that this was about him, not about my needs at all.
This one question re-opened a conversation that would have been considered dead.
The way you close the email or even follow up on a new one can steer me (the reader) toward action. Just be sure it’s the action you want.
Sales professional Brandon Schwartz, added that you should treat your questions as though the prospect will actually answer them. “Are you busy” and “do you have 5 minutes to chat” can all be dangerous. They end with an easy “no.”
Here are some closings or follow-ups that have nailed it.
“I appreciate that you’re busy and probably get far too many of these requests but this should only take a minute or two. I’d love to speak with the person at SpyFu who handles video production.”
Boom. Of course I wrote back.
“Happy to send more info if you think this tool could help.”
Great signoff. It caught my interest.
“…is now a better time to discuss your channel initiatives at SpyFu?”
I really like this subtle reminder that we had talked once before, but we had been going in another direction. This question re-opened a conversation that would have been considered dead.
I’ve also seen this simple line jump up in use: “Just nudging this back to the top of your inbox in case it got buried.” It’s unassuming and helpful. It’s worth trying in your own outreach.
Takeaway: Remember that in email pitches, you’re tapping me on the shoulder and asking for my time. Humility in your words goes a long way.
Jot down a draft of a few follow-up emails or closing lines and have someone else read them. It’s easier for fresh eyes to catch an odd tone that you don’t realize you’re giving off.
7. Now get back in there!
Keep your chin up! Sending out countless e-mails only to have them deleted or ignored can be soul crushing, believe me, I know. Just remember you’re talking to regular people, who have their own responsibilities and priorities.
Small adjustments to your approach and follow up could make all the difference you need. Good luck and go get ’em!
Recommended readings – Email Productivity Tips