Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cold Emails

I was at a First Growth Venture Network event last week. One of the panelists on the session was Katia Beauchamp, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of BirchBox.

Katia had a wonderful anecdote about how her first Mac was given to her by Steve Jobs for free.  She was attending HBS in the fall and had been instructed by Harvard to acquire a Thinkpad (or alternative PC) before arriving on campus.  She cold emailed Steve Jobs and said, “Don’t you think the future leaders and executives of the next generation should be using Macs instead?” Steve didn’t reply directly, but she received a response from Steve’s admin saying “Where should we send your new Mac?”

The purpose of the story was to convey the power of cold emailing.  I engage in cold emailing regularly. For the most part, I think it’s welcomed without much reservation by the people I contact, though I’m sure a few are not warmly received.  A couple tips for doing so successfully.  

  • Limit yourself to 2 paragraphs. The people you are cold emailing are likely very busy and don’t have time to read long emails.
  • Provide context.  A couple of links at the end pointing to summaries of who you are via web presence, along with a quick one sentence summary.
  • If your request in a cold email is not mutually beneficial, find a way to make it so.  A request that does not provide some reciprocal benefit will pretty much always be ignored (true for both cold emails and warm emails).
  • This tip is a bit gray hat: Hack Rapportive. In the old Gmail compose window if you have Rapportive installed you can guess people’s email addresses.  If you’re wrong, Rapportive won’t provide a summary for the user and you can guess another format for the email address.  When you guess correctly, Rapportive will show the summary of the user you’re trying to target.  Most people’s corporate addressed are one of three simple possibilities: [first name], [first initial][last name], or [first name].[last name] And remember that dots in gmail addresses don’t matter.
  • Don’t spam your target.  Try once, and if your attempt doesn’t solicit a response, don’t try to resend the same email again. 90% of the time, silence = “No.” 10% of the time, your original email was missed.  Play the percentages and only email again if you have a different (more mutually beneficial) request or new line of approach.
  • If you’re not failing with some regularity, than you’re not cold emailing often enough.  It’s good to hear “no” (or silence) with some frequency… it means you’re stretching yourself well.


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