A Guide to Cold E-mailing

By Tucker Max

HERE are five simple tips for writing effective cold e-mails:

  1. Tailor the message to the recipient. You need to do enough research to personalize the appeal. This means thinking about who this person is, how he sees the world, what interests him and what he wants.
  2. Validate yourself. When we meet a stranger or get an e-mail from one, we want to know who that person is and why that person matters to us. Knowing someone in common is the strongest form of social proof you can offer. Lacking that, if you have any authority, credibility or social status relevant to this person and your request, mention it quickly in a line or two.
  3. Keep it short, easy and actionable. E-mails that request clear, specific actions get a much higher response rate. Write the way you talk. If you met this person at a cocktail party, you wouldn’t just walk up and start pitching him. You’d introduce yourself, say something nice, connect with him over a shared friend or interest and then make a request that makes sense. Read your e-mail out loud before you send it. If it sounds natural, then it will read well.
  4. Be appreciative—and a little vulnerable. I’d go so far as to say you should be slightly submissive. You’re asking a favor of someone who doesn’t know you. Even just saying “Thank you so much! I’m really grateful” doubles response rates. And tell people it’s fine if they’re too busy. Giving them a way out actually makes them likelier to help you.
  5. Don’t use a template. If you Google “cold e-mail template” you’ll find many examples. By definition, if something is personalized, it doesn’t come from a template.

Tucker Max is the cofounder and chairman of Book In A Box.


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