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How to Write the Perfect Cold-Call Email—Without Making Yourself Sound Like a Grabby Psycho

In: Communication Skills

Psycho is a good word, isn't it? Ditto psychobitch, which I really gotta use more. (WE ALL KNOW SOMEBODY…)

But when cold-emailing a potential client whose money you would love to have—ahem—we don't want you to be that person. Not only will you be deleted faster than Barr. David Newton Esq. of Nigeria, you'll be wasting all of your precious time palm-sweating your way through an email not even you would read.

Which brings me to an important point: isn't it funny how, the minute you sit down to write something business-related, ALL of your personality and humanity just goes out the window as you find yourself typing something like, “Dear Sir or Madam: I feel strongly that you could benefit from my comprehensive experience helping clients just like you get MASSIVE results.” (And then you say the word “hence” three times.)

In order to combat this all-too-common fatal affliction, here's a handy step-by-step guide to writing a cold-call email that won't make 100/100 people roll their eyes and immediately block sender.

Rule #1
You wouldn't send a sext message to one-hundred random men in the hopes that one of them replies. (Unless you really are a psycho.) Similarly, DO NOT, and I repeat, DO NOT, send a mass email to 100 random prospects, hoping that one of them replies. You should be sending your email to exactly one person, who you've hand-picked, because you want to work with them—and it should feel 100% personal and on purpose.

Rule #2
How do you make it personal? Use Twitter / Instagram to monitor their conversations. Set up a Google alert for the company, the decision-makers, their neighborhood, their competitors, and maybe even their industry as a whole. In short, stalk them like any self-respecting millennial would, and wait for the perfect opportunity to show up in their inbox. Sending an email any old time advertising your services is one thing (that's likely to be ignored), butttttttt sending an email because you saw that the company is opening a new beer garden in town and, since you're OBSESSED with beer gardens, you are absolutely writing this email to throw your name into the hat for the hand-lettering of all of the signage. Your specialty.

Rule #3
Instead of writing a subject line that sounds entirely hackneyed and stock, think of it as an opportunity to be creative. Imagine a busy business owner with 200 unread emails, and she's going down the line, and all of them are totally blah blah blah. Even if she doesn't delete you, she might not open you—at least not for seven weeks, when she's cleaning out her inbox in a fit of anger-induced hysteria. 

Instead of: “Inquiry” or “Business opportunity,” try something more human, modern and fun, like: 

+ DYING to get my hands on your sign. (Not a euphemism.) 
+ Your beer + my hands = Triple Heart Emoji 
+ A hops-lovin' illustrator, at your service! 
+ Here to help take down Miller Lite, one craft beer at a time. 
+ Obsessed with your new beer garden!

Rule #4
Stay! Human! More than anything, this is THE most important factor. Right off the bat when you open your email, demonstrate that you're an actual person on the other side of the screen—not some auto-bot mass marketing email. Some ways I like to do this? Try opening with a GIF of yourself. Record a 10 second personal email vid saying hi or dancing! (FYI? Bonjoro is awesome for this.) Don't be afraid to use some humor. And yes, emojis are actually your friend, in this case.

Instead of: Hello, David, my name is Ash and I'm writing today in regards to any opportunities that may be available within your company. 

Try: Hi, David! 😀

Rule #5
Never start off talking about what you can do: make it about them. This is where your sleuthing comes in handy. Talk about whatever they're doing. Maybe you paste a screenshot of a tweet you saw them post. Maybe you take a screenshot of a review they got. Maybe you record a tiny screencast of yourself doing something on their website. Whatever you do, try to make it so the first thing they see is their own brand. People are much more curious about themselves than you.

Word on the street has it that you're opening a self-serve beer garden—major kudos to you!

Rule #6
Make the connection to how you can help solve a specific problem they have in relation—don't be vague by offering to “help with their marketing” or “increase their revenue.” And name drop if you can!

I'm the evil mastermind behind the creative signage for a few restaurants you might know in the neighborhood, including Talula's Garden and The Dandelion, both of which have since reported a 10+% increase in sales from walk-in traffic over a 1-month period. (Whoo-hoo! #MONEYGOALS)

Rule #7
Don't be a presumptuous a-hole and jump ahead to meetings. What time on Tuesday works for you to get on a call? makes me want to throat punch you. The goal of a cold call email is to get on their radar and see if they'd be a good fit—not close a deal. Stop trying to close the deal in your cold-call emails and you'll feel eleventy hundred times less pressure—and sound eleventy hundred times less annoying. Instead, try asking this simple question:

Do you guys need help with this, too?

It feels way more authentic than, “Please let me know your availability for a brief conversation about how I can help.” It's straight and to the point. And… who doesn't need help?

Rule #8
Lighten their work load and put the onus on you to take the next step. Instead of making them jump through 1,000 hoops, why not tell them what your next action will be?

If you shoot me over the menu, I'd be happy to mock up some a few different styles for you and your team to review. I'm sure you have a million things on your plate, but I can go ahead and put it on mine (along with a delicious lager).

Rule #9
For the love of god, keep it short. The shorter the email, the better your chance at getting a response. Why? Because you're not overburdening someone by sending them your life story, or requiring them to read through a novel to get to the point. It's perfectly cool to keep it short and sweet, and sign off by keeping it simple and—you guessed it!—HUMAN. 

Let me know if I can help! You know where I live. Errrrr…email?

Founder, Sweetpeas & Rattlesnakes Illustration

Rule #10
Last but not least, DO send it to their email—not their Facebook Messenger, their Instagram DMs, or some other random social channel. Not only is it realllllly easy for messages to get lost this way, people resent having their personal channels invaded, as if you're somehow trying to skip the line or—yes—get their attention. That's fine and well, but there's a time and a place: and your odds won't be increased because you've decided to try and catch somebody off guard. They'll be diminished.

Because let's be honest: ain't nobody got time for work when they're checking Facebook at a chicken barbecue on a Sunday.

And ain't nobody got time for people who are there to sell, rather than help. 

There's a difference.

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I'm a Bad Influence on Women

Hey, I’m Ash! Twenty years ago I was a small town girl growing up in a trailer park in rural Pennsylvania. Fifteen years ago, I lost my family and everything I knew right as I became the first to graduate college. Fourteen years ago, I found myself leaving everything behind for a new life in the city where I could be “normal.” Ten years ago I realized normal was the most disappointing thing that ever happened to me. Nine years ago I quit my job in advertising and pursued my dreams as a creative writer. Eight years ago, I built a 6-figure business doing what I love using nothing more than the Internet and my voice. And now, today, I’m the founder of The Middle Finger Project, an irreverent media co. that helps other women find their voice and teaches them to use it to build whatever the f*ck they want to. With a book coming out with Penguin Random House in February 2020 (YASSS, WE’RE A PRODUCT IN TARGET!) I’m proud to be a bad influence on women and guide them into doing something disobediently brave with their life and their career.

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