Last month I got an email from a girl we’ll call K. The first sentence read, Hi, I was reading your response to the blog, How do social media consultants charge clients? I got a better insight on the breakdown of costs but still had a few questions.
After four paragraphs of her life story, what she’s trying to accomplish, her work experience, her latest friend drama and her mother’s social security number, she signed off with, I know how to set-up and operate the popular social networks but I really want to learn how to bring in clients for certain businesses. How could you help me with this?
I wish I could say this was the first time I’ve gotten an email this cold, with an expectation that I’ll spend half an hour, out of the goodness of my heart, to help her with this. It’s also not the first time I responded like an 80-year-old grandmother – telling her to shape up and start personalizing her emails.
Of all the cold emails I’ve received, only twice have I written back with a non-bitchy response. What did those people do right?
The first email that warranted follow-up was from a friend of a friend who wanted to start social media consulting on the side. Her email was short and said she’d been reading lots of my blog posts and had a few questions about how to get started. She asked for a 20-minute Skype call to pick my brain.
The second was a LinkedIn request from a recent Davidson grad (my alma mater). The guy was super friendly and having a hard time finding a job. We chatted back and forth for a week and there’s no way in hell I would have given him so much time if he hadn’t seemed so earnest and made me feel valued.
That said, I’m shocked at how few people know how to write a cold email.
First of all, let’s stop right there. The idea of a cold email is a stupid one. Warm that email up right away! Use exclamation points! Tell them how much you love their work or that your dad has talked them up for years and you’d love to buy them a cup of coffee.
I met a woman at Davidson a few years back (Hi Carin!) and she selflessly helped me when I was looking for a job in publishing. While I haven’t asked her why she took so much time to help me out, now we continue to keep in touch, help each other mutually and occasionally talk about boys.
Last month I spent three weeks working on a farm in Queenstown, NZ, helping plant native trees. My host repeated this saying daily: “It’s not how many trees you plant, it’s how many survive.”
And now that I’m experiencing life on the other side of the fence (the one getting asked for help as opposed to constantly needing it), I’m realizing this tree-planting mentality extends to networking (and most aspects of life, actually).
It’s not how many resumes you blindly send out, it’s how many are tailored to the specific job.
It’s not how many cold emails you write, it’s how many develop into a meaningful relationship.
So before you go frantically emailing strangers and asking them for favors, please take these tips into consideration:
1. Don’t send your CV. I know tons of folks say you should, but if they don’t know you that might take it a step too far. Whenever I email someone, I wait for them to ask me for my resume rather than jumping the gun, and it’s always worked as we develop a relationship first before I go begging them for help.
2. Use their name. There’s nothing worse than getting an email that’s obviously been sent to 10 different people.
3. Mention how you know or have heard of them. And it never hurts to add what you like about what they’re doing.
4. Be specific about what you want. Sometimes I get these emails and I don’t know if they want a five-minute answer or whether I’m going to get stuck in an epic back-and-forth series of emails. Simply asking for generic “advice” isn’t going to get you anywhere. If you have a question or questions, ask them. If you want to meet in person for coffee, say that you’re buying and you promise not to take up too much of their time. This is THE most important part so your potential mentor doesn’t feel stuck.
How many of you regularly practice so-called “cold emailing?” Any other points to add?