First came cold calls, second came cold e-mails. Cold e-mailing is the most effective and untapped form of networking, not to mention the cheapest one (no networking events or country club fees). There are extraordinary people to meet, jobs to get, and advice to receive- it all can be a product of cold e-mails if you work up the nerve to send them. And really that's all cold e-mailing takes- a lot of nerve.
People are always impressed with initiative, and cold e-mailing is a way to build a network without relying on friends, family or their acquaintances. Does it always work? No, there are people who aren’t going to take the time to meet with a stranger, and that can’t be held against them. It is surprising how often people respond, and who does. But the expectation has to be that whomever you email won’t respond- a watched inbox never fills. Don't let your self-esteem hang on one e-mail. But if you have patience and a bit of persistence, people will e-mail you back. People ask me, “What do you say in the e-mail that gets them to respond?”
This is my process when I cold e-mail potential network connections:
1. Make A Contact List
Make a list of people in the desired profession that you respect and admire. If you could get 15 minutes of anyone’s time, who would it be? Now write them down.
2. Find Their E-mail
Depending on who is on the list, this may be easier said than done. If your idol is Bill Gates, Mark Cuban or Beyonce it is essentially impossible, so make sure your idols are relatively accessible. Sometimes it’s very easy, i.e. it pops up on Google, it’s on the company website, etc. If they are self-employed, it sometimes can be found on Twitter or on their own website. Check if they have a LinkedIn. If you can’t find their email address, start looking up people who work for them. For example if an employee’s e-mail address is email@example.com, or some variation, you can deduct the boss’ e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
If they work for a company, find anyone’s e-mail address whom works for the company, use the same format and plug your desired contact’s name in. For example, if you want to e-mail Mark Zuckerberg but find John Doe, a programmer at Facebook. His e-mail is email@example.com. Therefore, Mark Zuckerberg’s e-mail is likely to be firstname.lastname@example.org. I really hope this is not Mark Zuckerberg’s e-mail address.
3. Send The Perfect Message
The biggest mistake people make when they cold e-mail is writing out their entire life story. Not only should you not spend time sending long e-mails to your desired contacts, they don’t have time to read them. Besides the impracticality of sending everyone the same, long, sad e-mail, it needs to be about the other person. Yes, you benefit from their time, expertise and guidance but instead of sending an e-mail filled with “I” and “me,” the e-mail needs to have more “you” and “your.”
The e-mail shouldn’t be more than three or four sentences- short enough for someone to read and respond to in under a minute. Below, I break it down sentence by sentence, then I give a template of what I, a freelance journalist, send to potential contacts. Obviously, for different professions and different situations the wording needs editing, but it’s a good overview.
Here's the break down:
- First sentence: Your name, where you’re from, what you do/aspiring to do.
- Second sentence: Discuss how you’ve followed the contact’s career, how much you admire and respect them, and you’d love to hear about their "journey."
- Third sentence: Ask to meet with them, and make sure you ask questions that ask them to talk about themselves and their career, and not the other way around. Do not ask for a job in the e-mail.
- Fourth sentence: Give them a time frame to meet, a week or two weeks, and ask if you can buy them a cup of coffee or a meal. Then, sign off.
Here is a template:
Hi [John Doe],
My name is Frances Bridges, I'm a young freelance journalist from [hometown] who just moved to [current city]. I've been reading your work in [enter publication] for awhile now, and was wondering if you have a spare 15 minutes for a new journalist in [current city]? I would love to hear about your journey as a [enter occupation], and any advice you may have regarding [enter occupation] and networking in [enter current city]. If you have some time in the next couple of weeks I'd love to buy you cup of coffee- hope to hear from you.
This message is clean, concise and gracious in just four sentences. It takes less than a minute to read and respond to, tells them who I am and what I want without seeming entitled, self-involved, desperate or awkward and offers them coffee. Always offer to buy them a beverage or a meal, it is a way to thank them for their time. If they offer good advice or can connect you with potential employers, your coffee investment pays off a gazillion fold. It is the cheapest way to get one-on-one time with a big shot. Even the busiest people will step out of their office for a free cup of good coffee and some fresh air- busy, important people tend to run on it.
It’s been a week and they haven’t responded- don't fuss, follow-up! Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. It’s a commandment of cold e-mailing. It's almost always not personal. Mark Zuckerberg likely gets hundreds, if not thousands of e-mails a day, so you're likely to get buried into the abyss of their inbox. E-mail them once a week, and always wait a week before following up. Unless they add you to their spam folder, they’ll respond. Will they think you’re annoying? Absolutely, but they’re going to admire your persistence, and because of that, they may reward it. Two things cold e-mailing require are patience and persistence, and if you persevere you will be rewarded. I am always surprised by who I get to meet, and if you follow these guidelines you will too.
Have any good tips on cold e-mailing? Make sure to comment.
Poste by Forbes