Cold Outreach Works: My Formula

With my recent project 30 Hour Jobs I've started doing a bit of cold outreach. I've been looking to build up some content on the blog and I occasionally ask readers and people invested in the topic to do an email interview. Asking someone to spend 30 - 90 minutes or more responding to some questions over email feels – to me at least – like a big ask. Surprisingly, I've received positive responses.

I believe the biggest reason for the success rate is that I have something valuable to offer. The 30 Hour Jobs mailing list resonated very strongly with visitors to the site and there are now about 1,200 people subscribed to the weekly newsletter. These people are extremely interested in working with companies that value work life balance – and for companies that do value this, these readers can be great candidates. For employers interested in being interviewed, they can expose their job postings; and, for other readers who might be interviewed, generally they can share some information about what they are working on with a link to their own website.

With this in mind, I've had some success using the following formula:

  • Have only one request and be very clear with it!
  • Explain how the request will benefit them. The exchange needs to be mutual – otherwise you're asking for a favour. Asking for a favour is OK too! But you need to earn some social capital first (help others).
  • Be human – when I compose the email, I make sure to share why I'm reaching out and I emote in my writing the way I would talk to someone in person.
  • Make sure the email is sent at an appropriate time in the recipient's local time zone. I use a delayed send feature that my email client offers to send around 9am their time.
  • Follow-up. This step was difficult for me at first because I concerned that I was harassing people. The reality is – people are busy and the cold email isn't usually the top of their list. This doesn't mean they aren't open to the request; following up once or twice can help bring the topic to the front of a person's mind. In fact, in my experience, most responses come after a follow-ups!
  • Offer an opt-out. I always write very explicitly that they can reply at any time with a "no thanks" and I'll be out of their hair. By offering this exit, I think you do two things: you are appealing to the human side of relationships which – in my opinion – increases the chances the person will respond and you are legitimately giving the person an exit if the email is unwanted.
  • Edit. Edit. Edit.
  • Keep it short.

Using these points, I've had a good response rate so far from folks I've been reaching out to. I do think; however, that the best way to get responses from a cold email is to make it a warm email. If you can reach out to someone in response to an interaction with your product or website, the chances of making a connection – and forming a mutually beneficial relationship – is much higher. So start by creating value.