Sending out introduction emails to potential clients, employers or collaborators is one of the great challenges of professional life in the digital age. We all get flooded with emails on a daily basis. In some industries and some positions, emailing can actually take up the bulk of one’s workday. No wonder that so many professionals skip on opening emails from unknown senders, let alone responding to them! And yet, cold emails are a valuable business technique that you don’t want to dismiss. Instead, work on your strategy for turning these awkward emails into fruitful connections.
The majority of tasks that digital professionals are facing today are rather new in nature. A couple of decades ago, you couldn’t just create a website by yourself or use social networks to promote your business. Introducing yourself in an email is a similarly recent phenomenon, yet, when it comes to this task, the basic skills that account for a successful introductory email have been around for as long as commercial relationships have. It’s all about establishing a human connection and the ability to present a win-win situation.
This doesn’t mean you can just email whomever and whatever you want. To initiate a real conversation, you need to strategize before you click ‘send.’ Continue reading to discover our expert tips for introducing yourself in an email.
01. Start with a subject line that can’t be ignored
Let’s be honest: When you see an email from a stranger with a subject line that reads something like, “An opportunity you don’t want to miss out on!” how long does it take you to mark as spam or trash? Your email subject line is perhaps the most important element. Think about it as a secret password for a really amazing party. If you just say the right words at the entrance, you have your foot through the door.
Your first challenge is to make it clear that you are not a spammer. Since the recipient will most likely not recognize your name, the subject line needs to have some personalized language that distinguishes it from mass email campaigns. Separate yourself from advertisers with real references and by capitalizing only the first word of the sentence. Consider something along the lines of:
“Hey [name]. Hoping to chat about [company/job/theme]” “Question about [company]” “Re: your [article/post/interview] about [theme]”
To come up with a good subject line, we suggest a little experiment: Over the next three days, pay attention to your inbox and consider the subject lines that you love and the ones that you couldn’t be bothered by. Try to find the patterns of what appeals to you and why.
02. Strategize the first sentences
You made it! Your subject line was so good that it got you a click. Now comes stage two: Making sure that you get a response. The first couple of sentences of your cold email will determine whether that happens, so you need to approach them strategically. The goal is to briefly and clearly explain to the recipient why you are reaching out, and what is at stake for both yourself and for them. State briefly what you want to offer:
“I’m reaching out to suggest a possible collaboration. [details]” “I encountered your project on [theme] and thought you’d be interested in our work on [theme]. [details]” “I understand that your company might be searching for a [position] and wanted to introduce myself as a candidate. [details]”
If you can mention a connection to the recipient, here is the place to do so:
“I heard about your company through my colleague, [name].” “[Name] from [company] recommended that I get in touch with you.”
03. Prove that you’ve done your research
When you email someone that you’ve never met and request their attention, you want to show that your interest in their work is genuine. You are not simply emailing to sell or to promote, you want to sell or promote to them specifically, because you believe that you can make a great fit together. This requires familiarizing yourself with either their individual, or their company’s, work. It also requires carefully weaving in that familiarity in the email.
Subtlety is important in this context. You certainly don’t want to sound like an overly-enthusiastic fan. You want to come across as interested, not desperate. Here are a couple of helpful illustrations:
“I follow your company on Twitter and was excited to learn that […]” “I really like your recent work on […] and think that we have some common interests.” “With your company’s focus on […], I think you will find our platform helpful in your work on […]”
04. Be confident, not ‘salesy’
Do your best to make sure that your cold email does not come across as a sales pitch, even if it in fact contains one. Write like a human being, not like a robotic spammer. Remember that on the other side of the screen is another person who isn’t interested in a generic marketing paragraph. Instead of an advertisement, send them a confident introduction, for example:
“My company provides digital marketing services for independent musicians and bands. We help our clients with promoting their music online and reaching wider audiences.”
A professional and energized tone will get your recipient listening.
05. Emphasize what’s in it for them
Building on the last two points, one way to avoid the ‘salesy’ touch is to shift the focus away from your product, your company or your service and instead focus on your suggested collaboration with the recipient. In other words, instead of flaunting your assets, write about how you will leverage them to the benefit of the email recipient:
“I’ve worked as a cyber security consultant for a variety of organizations, including [details]. I believe I can offer [company name] valuable insights on how to protect your company and your clients from harmful attacks, and I can work with your team on implementing actionable steps to do so.”
06. Keep it brief
You may feel tempted to write a comprehensive email that presents your creative vision and details your experience and qualifications. Resist that urge. You worked hard to ensure that your cold email gets clicked on, and you don’t want to lose the reader by overburdening them with never-ending text.
We recommend that you break your email into three short sections:
Opening (1-2 sentences). Offer (2-3 sentences). Suggestion to move forward (1-2 sentences) – we’ll explain more about this part soon.
Be sure to break each section into individual paragraphs so that the email appears light, rather than bulky.
07. Adjust your tone to the context
Introduction emails come in different types and styles. While respect and courtesy are always required, your choice of wording can vary depending on a number of factors. First, consider the context of the introduction. If you are reaching out to a someone with an offer to run a demo for your service, you are courting that person to become a client. If you are offering a collaboration with an artist in your field, you are trying to establish a professional relationship between equals. And if you approach a powerful player in your industry with an offer to work for your company, you are trying to recruit them to join your team. These are different social situations that require a slightly different posture.
In addition to the relationship between yourself and the recipient, the context can differ based on professional fields. Different industries have different cultural codes. The tone and the vocabulary that you apply in your email should correspond with what is common in the field of the email recipient. Suppose that you – a lawyer – are emailing an art gallery owner about exhibition contracts. You certainly don’t want to write in legalese lingo. For professionals who work with clients in a variety of fields (designers, consultants, etc.), this is even more important. If this applies to you, adjust the content of your cold email to the professional culture of each recipient.
08. Choose your links carefully
In an introduction email, distractions are your enemy. You want your reader to stay focused on the email and intent on sending you a response. The risk of adding links to your email is that you invite the recipient to shift their look elsewhere. On the other hand, links to external websites can demonstrate how experienced and talented you are, showing your recipient that you are serious about what you do.
But no worries, there is a solution to this dilemma. Simply follow these guidelines:
Use a link if you need to refer the recipient to crucial additional material that can’t be included in the email, such as a portfolio of your work as a professional photographer.If you’re asking the recipient to perform any task, like RSVPing to an event or signing up for a demo, include a direct link to that page.Use your email signature to add links for helpful, but not vital, pages, including your personal website or your Twitter profile.Don’t use more than one link in the email text, and more than two links in your signature.Use link shortening services like Bitly if your links fall on the longer or messier side.
09. Be clear about the next step
So far you’ve done such great work that you were able to get your email opened and even read. That’s fantastic! But the ultimate goal still remains: Will you hear back? Did your email get you a foot in the door? To move the conversation yet another level up, your email must be very clear about what the next step looks like.
Your email needs to include a Call-to-Action (CTA) that motivates the recipient to put something in motion. While the CTA invites them to make the next move, you are still the one setting the terms. Don’t confuse them with too many options. Choose one course of action that you prioritize and steer them in that direction:
“I’d love to continue the conversation with a quick phone call. When would be a good time for you?” “We still have available slots for our webinar next week and would love it if you could join. You can RSVP right here.” “I set up this 30-second demo for you. Have a look and let me know how you’d like to proceed.”
10. Sign off like a friendly professional
One more little thing remains to finalize your email: a great closing. The rule of thumb about industry-specific wording applies here as well, though some guidelines can be applied broadly. “Yours” sounds way too personal, while “Sincerely” is too cold and stiff. You want to find something between these two poles, with good options being: “Best,” “Thanks,” “Cheers,” or “Kind regards.” Notice how all of these use an abbreviated, more colloquial version rather than the full “All the best,” “With kind regards,” etc.
It would be nice to sign off with a friendly reminder that you intend this to be an ongoing conversation, something along the lines of:
“Looking forward to your reply.