Cold emails: how founders can elevate early users & press👋
Issue 12 🪜: The reputation of cold emails have gone so bad that founders try to shy away from it. But when done in the right way, they are super effective.
Hey everyone👋, welcome to the 26th newsletter.
Who says cold emails don’t work? I’ve got the best from them:
Working with some big brands
Building beta list
Getting press releases
A little background…
Recalling last year when I was building WorkMap (well, that's a content curation platform) everything was perfectly done and I was approaching the launch date. The only thing that was left was a plan to bring in new users on consistency.
I had a very small list of beta users, around 20+ who showed interest and I thought starting with them would be enough. So the day came, I launched it, did some social media call out, and sent the emails.
But, guess how many people actually signed up? 2.
That was really bad because a). they didn't add any content, b). it showed the coming users that the product isn't that effective or valuable for them because no one was actually using it.
This leads me to build an outreach plan for both my potential users and the press. I decided to take other tactics and approaches to encourage people to use it. One of the hardest yet the best performer was cold emailing. Tried for a month & increased the signup to 256 and 1000+ content were added.
Cold emailing was on my agenda but along with that, I tried to build an email list. Even if people forget to log in after a few days of using it (in my case it was true, because it was still a scrappy version with a lot of bugs and underperforming features), I went on to send them an email every week with the content that were added on the platform & make them remind to visit at least once a week.
This was working but acquiring users was still low. Cold emailing is a good approach but it’s not scalable.
TL;DR I’ve deconstructed a framework for the cold outreach to complete strangers which at times was more beneficial than any other marketing tactics and create opportunities for myself that never would have occurred. I use this for both getting users and press.
So, am I using this again? Yes, for this newsletter. I'm reaching out to potential subscribers and press people who can help me give a boost to this newsletter.
Why cold emailing?
Cold emails often explicitly push something on potential buyers with whom you don't have prior contact or communication.
This tactic is mostly cheaper in cost, effective in terms of conversion, more interactive, provide high-quality resources, and opens up communication with potential clients.
Sending a cold email doesn't mean you need to be that invasive salesperson or frustrating as a spam emailer. Product hunt is very well known about the way it began with cold emails and there are many other companies who started with cold emails - Storefront, Uber, etc.
Founders in the early stage product usually don't focus on cold emailing because it doesn't scale but in reality, it helps you get the initial users and build connections.
This is how this cycle goes: First you cold email them either they will respond or they will ignore. Once they respond, they are likely to do what you've offered (ex. link back your article on their website) which means their readers will read your article → readers will share to their network → that brings traffic to your website → build social media following → get more leads or sales or clients → you win your end goal.
This cycle goes on, and maybe forever because you're building accountability for the long run.
🚀 Start with a plan
My goal is to get more press exposure, mentions on relevant websites or publications and gradually open new opportunities.
Before moving forward set specific objectives and goals you want to achieve from cold emailing:
To get more backlinks,
Reach out to the press and journalists,
Get beta testers for your product,
Build up social media share,
Freelance client or contract.
🧐 Finding people
I started with creating a notion template where I carefully note possible person's name, email address, relevant links, social media and why I should contact them.
Next, whom to contact?
It is recommended to contact influencers or people within the same industry or niche. Try reaching out to people who have more audience than yours and to those who have a true loyal community (even with small numbers).
In fact, find people who write similar articles like yours (or work on the same market). Do research on such people, hunt their email address or social media & ultimately prepare for a cold email.
There are two ways I reach out to potential people:
Most of the time, after doing some research, you'll find the email of the person but, if not, reach them out on social media.
You can find emails through the website they write on or by going to LinkedIn and connecting with them through your phone (not through the website). When you try to connect with them through phone, you can also see their email.
Lately, you can also try out email finder tools, but I haven't tried any yet so can't say much.
✍🏻 Crafting email
Before I take you to my workshop, I would like to share, there is no particular format that will work for you and for me. The context will be different, the way you approach will be different and the result you'll get will also be different.
So, here are the elements to make your cold email actually work, start by asking yourself what motivates the recipient:
Be personal. Rather than starting with "To whomsoever, it may concerns", which is the biggest reason why you never get a response or your emails goes to junk. Specify the recipient directly by his/her name.
Do the research and personalize the context. It's important to increase the response rate yet not many people do it. If you genuinely like something about the recipient or has done or is doing, appreciate and acknowledge it. Learn more about them, what they have published before, how is their social media profile. You can also take a further step and connect with them on social media prior to the emailing. If you're already exchanging a few tweets, they'll keep you in mind or get a little familiar with you.
Per day I send around 5 to 10 emails but not more than that. As they are personalized, I get at least one response per day. You don't have to spend too much time researching them. Find something that resonates with you and you're good to go.
Have a simple direct format: who I am and what I do → why I’m contacting you → what I’m politely asking you to do.
Always be respectful. Use phrases like "Thanks a lot", "It would mean the world to me", etc.
Don't overdo the subject line. It should straightforwardly tell the recipient what the message is about and mention the topic they are familiar with.
It's a plus point if you're able to find something common. Again whomsoever you talk to, learn enough about them.
The best thing I've ever done which got me the most success is making the email about them and not myself. Even though in the end I want them to do what I've asked, but it always starts by giving.
As a founder, if you're looking for traction know the problem they can encounter, explain them how the problem can be resolved by your solution. Next, ask them for an intro or if they are interested to learn more about it.
Here's the example: So I'm looking for articles where the author can include my newsletter along with other newsletters. When sending the email, what I'll do is, help make their work a lot easier. I will share list of other newsletters that I appreciate, think they can make in the list and benefit there readers. This way the author don't have to do any other work and will highly appreciate my efforts.
One other thing which you can try.
Whenever you mention someone, maybe in your article or any resources, send them an email about it or just call out on social media. Trust me, they want to know that you have mentioned them. There are many times when people link back to my newsletters and I never get to know about it. If I know that they've mentioned me I would happily give them a shoutout.
This way you also build connections 😉.
👉🏻 Follow up
Most chances are that the person is very busy and forgot to reply. It happens 90% of the time. If you're reaching out to a person you have no idea how many emails they might be getting in a day. But if you follow up there is a high chance of getting a response.
There can be any reason that they weren't able to respond at the first attempt. Plan the sequence already and don't just settle on one follow up. If you don't get the response in 3-4 days send another follow-up and do this repeatedly for 3-4 times.
So make sure to follow up, write a quick email acknowledging how busy and important they are while politely asking to consider your email one more time.
🚫 What to avoid completely
Never ever make a cold email long, it shouldn't take them more than 1-2 mins to read it. If I get 200 emails a day, I really don't have time to read the complete story & then respond to each and everyone rather I would cut to the right part. Be direct but also genuine.
Don't joke. That's the worst thing cold emails can include. When you don't have any personal connection with the recipient how can you possibly think they will get you jokes?
Don't try to be a bot or too sale-y. Again, the more you personalize the email & try to be a human, the better the outcome.
In the end 🥁
I’ve sent many cold emails, some were great, some were not. After spending some time analyzing the context here’s what I’ve found:
They take a lot of time to research
For every purpose, the format will be different.
Even if they are cold, making them personalized will help you get a better response.
Don’t waste their time, make it short and sweet.
That’s it for this week!
👋 PS: I’m Ritika founder, product marketer and advisor for early-stage startups, find more here or connect with her here. If you’re a first-time founder looking for curated resources, download here. If you enjoyed this post, read the past issues here. You can also promote your product in this newsletter.
A big thanks for reading & sharing!