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Cold email gets a frosty reception

Posted by Dan Hatch on 15th February , 2022 in The Write Fit
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I have a beef.

I thought long and hard about whether to write this newsletter, but it has been six weeks and I’m still ticked off about it. Two days after Christmas, an email landed in my inbox.

“Daniel, we haven’t met before, and that is the whole point of this email.”

So far, it’s a pretty standard cold email.

Now, I’m fine with companies reaching out and offering their services unsolicited. It’s not how we do things at Typeset, but I know it’s a vital part of business development for lots of companies. If it’s working for you, more power to you. Have at it. Cold emailing in itself isn’t my issue.

A few paragraphs later the emailer said, “And don’t TikTok or Clubhouse me Daniel.” I had no idea what this meant (I still don’t). That’s when I got that little clunk you get in your brain sometimes when something isn’t quite right. The tone was off, and I didn’t like them using my name again, like I was in trouble with my mother.

I ignored the email. The next day, I got another one.

“Daniel, you should be cold emailing. Or are you? As I checked Typeset and had the impression you guys weren’t fully taking advantage of email outreach…

“Might be wrong here Daniel, but I think Typeset’s not in growth mode right now. Do you wanna scale or just cruise, nowadays, Daniel?”

This was the email that caused my head to explode. It splattered my writer’s brain all over the cabinets and left me bleeding out on the rug. This email is the opposite of everything we recommend (and teach) about business-to-business writing.

Here’s where I think it goes wrong:

  • From the get-go, I’m not onside. Instead of being helpful, the tone feels patronising. This is hugely counterproductive if you’re trying to make a sale
  • When you open by telling someone they’re doing something wrong, you’re going to turn them off, not on
  • When you make assumptions and assertions about how a business operates, or someone’s business goals, the conclusions you draw (and the solution you offer) usually fall at the first hurdle
  • The repeated use of a person’s name can come across as aggressive, not friendly
  • If the writing, punctuation and grammar are not up to the professional standard someone in business expects from a company selling business-to-business services, they’re going to feel like you don’t respect them
  • When you do any of the above, let alone combine them, you undermine your own credibility and expertise.

The emails continued to drip through over the next month. “Daniel not sure why you’ve kept quiet thus far…” “Your agency could do better.” “You know that I won’t give up by this point Daniel.” “I’m stubborn as I’m making a killing in this cold email game. That’s what my customers tell me, ego aside.”

There’s cold email, and then there’s whatever that ⬆️ is.

If cold email is an important part of your business development strategy, your writing is important. Here’s how you can get it right:

  • Have a company style guide and write to it. The guide should set out spelling and grammar standards and conventions, but also define a tone of voice for your brand (e.g., friendly but professional)
  • Research your prospects. Don’t make assumptions. When you tailor your message to your audience, you improve your chances of success
  • Write with empathy. Show your reader that you understand them and their needs
  • Don’t overdo it on the personalisation
  • Test your messaging before hitting send. Ask colleagues if they think you’re getting it right. See what resonates and adjust until you land on something that works
  • Use a professional proofreader to ensure your spelling, grammar and punctuation are perfect
  • If you’re not a confident writer, get some training and brush up your skills. Or get a professional writer in to help. Either way, it’s an investment that’ll pay for itself.

Give your cold emails the best possible chance of a warm reception by, at the very least, not unintentionally starting beefs with your prospects.

Dan Hatch
15 February 2022


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