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Advice / Job Search / Networking

4 Tips That'll Improve the Odds That Your Cold Emails Actually Get Read and Responded To

It’s a common problem in the working world: You want to reach out to someone, but you’ve never met him or her before—and you have no connections in common who can introduce you. So, you’re left with two options. One, giving up. Or two, sending a cold email and hoping it works.

Cold emails leave most people feeling, well, cold. But that’s because most people don’t know the tricks to getting them read and answered.

Quora members feel your pain, so they got together and discussed their best practices for creating cold emails that’ll blow people away.

1. Show Your Value

You know what does work? Providing value that is related to what I do and making your ask as specific as possible.

Jonathan Morse

The worst cold emails ask for a lot with no explanation of what you’re giving in return. Think about it: Would you help a stranger out who messaged you out of the blue saying, “Hey, give me a job?”

Instead, make sure your email explains what you do and how it’s related to what the recipient does. It helps if you fill in this blank before crafting your message: “In exchange for [X], I can offer you [Y].” While you don’t want to write it so robotically, you do want to make sure there is a Y.

2. Make Your Request Small

You should be clear and honest about why you have sent the mail, and if at all possible make your request a small one, or something that would take very little effort for the recipient. Be aware that very few strangers are prepared to meet you for lunch or take time out of their busy day to book a meeting with you just because you would like them to.

Simon Mercer

Many people are lazy when it comes to meeting up with their current contacts, and they only slack off more when strangers reach out.

So, instead of heading into a cold pitch with the biggest ask you can think of, start small: What’s the bare minimum you need from this person? A short phone call to ask two or three very specific questions may be a better place to start than a one-hour coffee meeting.

3. Create a Great Subject Line

Remember that 80% of the success of a cold email is in the subject line. Yes, you may not know the person, but if the subject line is enticing enough, then you have a chance.

James Welch

Fact: You can usually judge an email by its subject line. While a good one gets you excited to open that message, a bad one makes it easy to send it straight to the trash without a second thought.

When it comes to cold calls, go one of three ways with your subject line:

  • Be flattering (“Inspired by Your Speech at Conference X”)
  • Leverage connections (“Friend of John Smith’s Interested in Talking to You About Y”)
  • Be specific (“Young Marketing Professional With a Quick Question About Z”)

Whatever you do, though, don’t make subject lines an afterthought. Take the time to craft yours and make it good.

4. Keep it Short and Enthusiastic

Be direct, quick, and enthusiastic. Nobody wants their time wasted. Everyone wants as much info as possible. Nobody will respond to you if you don't excite them. If you can keep it under six sentences, that's good.

Aaron Friedman

This was a piece of advice that came up again and again. The KISS principle comes to mind here: Keep it simple, stupid. You shouldn’t be telling your whole life story in a cold pitch. You should be introducing yourself (and providing the person with relevant links if he or she would like to learn more), making a short and specific request, and showing how you add value. The simpler, the better!

What are your other best practices for sending the best cold email ever? Let me know on Twitter!

Photo of woman emailing courtesy of Shutterstock.