You’ve compiled a list of potential clients. Now what?
Today we’ll cover what to say in your first email contact. We’ll also touch on ways to pinpoint the right contact information, beyond what we’ve already covered in the LinkedIn post.
My wish for you is that by the end of this post, you’ll have a clear picture of next steps and breathe a big sigh of relief as you realize contacting prospects is easier than you’ve imagined, and far from the slimy, salesy task that may be causing you anxiety.
FIRST OFF, WHY PROSPECT VIA EMAIL?
It’s easy, it’s free, it’s low-pressure, both for you and your prospect. It’s also a preferred contact method for busy prospects with healthy marketing budgets — just the kind of folks we’re going after.
Does email feel like a copout or lazy approach to sales? I can understand that perception, but it’s a misguided one.
Phone and direct mail prospecting may seem more legit or effective, but they’re not. There are exceptions, of course but, generally speaking, you can’t beat email.
Listen, I’ve worked in and with corporate marketing teams for 15 years. I’ve been on the other side and hired people like you and me. And, let me tell you, we hated answering the phone. (In fact, my office phone was permanently on “Do Not Disturb” mode unless I had a scheduled call or recognized a colleague or supervisor on caller ID.)
More recently, one of my clients — a digital agency owner — posted a long rant online about how he hates being contacted by phone or listening to voice mail.
Similarly, when the pile of mail landed on our desks, we quickly sorted through it, pitching most of it, unopened, in the “circular file” (that’s the trash can).
Vendors who tried to reach me by phone or snail mail rarely reached me. If asked, my colleagues at the time would probably give me an “Amen, sister” on this one. And we didn’t even have an assistant screening our calls — an added obstacle if your prospect has one.
By contrast, a few vendors did a great job connecting with us via email and leaped ahead of everyone else who might have opted for the phone or direct mail route.
When I started freelancing, I thought back to what I’d experienced and observed on the other side, and email was the no-brainer option.
Disclaimer: I don’t want to completely diss phone and direct mail prospecting. There are ways to do both effectively, but they usually involve more effort, money and rejection than I’d want to deal with. I’ve built my business entirely on email prospecting and referrals, so that’s what I’m going to teach you.
So, back to email:
THE PURPOSE OF YOUR FIRST EMAIL
The purpose of your first contact with a prospect (whether in person, by phone, email, carrier pigeon, whatever) isn’t to sell. Rather, it’s simply to create interest and start a conversation.
Like dating, you’d be turned off if someone asked your hand in marriage on the first date. So go easy. Just introduce yourself and how you might benefit the prospect, and invite a response.
THE BEST FIRST EMAIL
The best way to sell yourself is to get someone else to do it for you. And so the best first email is an introduction sent to your prospect by a current/past client, friend or professional contact. That direct introduction carries with it an endorsement and automatic, built-in trust.
In the absence of a direct introduction, there’s nothing wrong with name-dropping:
“Bob Jones at Acme Inc. thought I should give you a call.”
“I’ve been helping Bob Jones at Acme Inc. [insert benefit] and thought you might be interested in learning what we’re doing, and exploring whether it might benefit you too.”
“I helped Bob Jones at Acme Inc. [insert problem solved] and thought you might be looking to solve similar problems at ABC Corp.”
A good ol’ referral and social proof in one. Common sense, yes, but not common practice. Such an easy way to multiply your response rate.
But let’s say you have no personal or professional connections with your prospect. All you have is a cold list. No biggie.
I’ll share a couple of email templates below, but before we get there, we need to talk about personalizing your message.
PERSONALIZE OR PERISH
While it’s fine to use a template as a general guideline, please don’t neglect to personalize your message to the recipient.
It’s how you warm up a cold contact and avoid being perceived as a spammer with an irrelevant offering.
Note that by personalizing, I mean more than just using your recipient’s name or company name in your message. (Prospects can see right through that lazy attempt at customization.)
Instead, spend a little time researching your prospect and/or his company to uncover an angle that leaves no doubt your message was handcrafted especially for him — not some blind, mass pitch.
Ways to personalize your message include:
- Common ground like shared background, acquaintances, interests.
- Complimenting something you saw on their website, social media, or read about them on the news.
- Offering an idea (but not criticism) specific to their business, website or audience.
- Pointing to a recent event or industry development they took part in, or that impacts them.
(My personal favorite? Referencing a mutual acquaintance who’s already my client.)
Below is a sample message I’ve sent to prospects in the past. Feel free to borrow and adapt to your needs; just don’t forget to customize it:
I’m Andrea and I’d love to connect with you. I help tech companies like yours woo more customers with compelling, trust-building content.
Clients like our mutual friend Joe Smith at TechCo tell me I have a knack for translating complex concepts into easy-to-digest content that breeds true believers and puts more money in their pockets.
I know it can be tough to find a writer who gets your voice right and doesn’t need a ton of editing and oversight. I’m that girl!
Could you use some help with lead-generation content in the coming weeks or months? If so, I’d love to explore whether we’re a good match.
In any case, have a great, productive week. All the best to you.
It’s not the most inspiring thing I’ve ever written and doesn’t make my prospect’s heart go pitter-patter, but it gets the job done. (See? Not brain surgery.)
Fellow copywriter Ed Gandia, founder of the International Freelancers Academy, offers an alternate recipe:
[Soft Invitation to Connect]
Here’s how an email might read, based on the above template:
I noticed we share a lot of the same contacts and run in the same circles. In fact, I was just at the XYZ luncheon you sponsored last week — great event!
I’m writing because I’ve helped organizations like yours attract, convert and retain more customers through compelling content.
Most recently, I helped ABC Corp double the number of leads that came through their website. I’d love to explore whether I can do the same for you.
You can learn more about my work and clients at [URL].
Would you be open to a brief call to discuss whether it makes sense for us to collaborate in some capacity?
All the best,
Whichever template you adopt, cap it at 150 words. No more. Brevity is your friend.
WHERE TO FIND PROSPECTS & THEIR EMAIL ADDRESSES
You know I love me some LinkedIn for finding and connecting with prospects. You’ll also find prospects in industry publications, events, social media forums that are relevant to your niche and, best of all, referrals.
To find the right contact within a company and their email address, you can go a couple of different routes:
- Do an advanced search on LinkedIn, entering the company name and title you wish to target.
- Send them a message via LinkedIn or, if you prefer email and can’t figure out their address…
- …Google their name, plus their company URL in the format shown below (let’s pretend their URL is xyz.com):
“Amy Smith” and “*@xyz.com”
(There’s a fair chance that Google will fill in “*@xyz.com” with Amy’s actual email address.)
- If that fails, look for any email address in that organization. Company email addresses tend to follow a certain pattern, like email@example.com. Once you know that pattern, take an educated guess and format your prospect’s email address accordingly.
>> YOUR HOMEWORK:
Send out 20 prospecting emails this week.
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