How Changing Your Perception of Cold Emailing Will Make You a Better Networker

An entry in the Minimum Viable Network series.


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Cold Emailing Is a Necessary Skill

A couple years ago, I wrote a piece on why you should think of cold emailing as an opportunity, not a chore. The post was a response to a piece Hunter Walk had written on the topic, and it got me thinking about how we perceive the practice of cold emailing. So instead of discussing today how you should go about cold emailing, I think it’s first important to take a step back and discuss how you should go about thinking about cold emailing.

I’ve sent thousands of cold emails—to investors, to artists, to other founders—and what I’ve found is that it doesn’t really matter what industry you’re in. In the end, the lesson is always the same.  

In every industry, cold emailing is a fact of life to some extent. Whether you’re in tech, pharmaceuticals, law enforcement, law, real estate, etc., you will send some type of cold email at some point for some aspect of your job. Normally the goal of a cold email is to make a sale; to get some potential client to purchase something. But even in professions where your end goal isn’t to sell a product or service, you will undoubtedly need to reach out to someone you don’t initially know at some point.

Why Your Perception of Cold Emailing Matters

The reason that changing your perception about cold emailing can and will make you a better networker is because it changes how you perceive and meet obstacles. Look at cold emailing as another arrow in your networking quiver, and especially as one of the ones you may need to rely on to start building your minimum viable network. Though warm, double-opt in introductions are obviously preferred, cold emailing/messaging is still be an invaluable skill.

Not knowing someone—not having a prior meeting with them and/or not having someone to make an introduction for you—is a major obstacle in life. It will keep you from making that important sale which could sink or save your company. Sometimes the only way to reach that person is to take a stab and take your chances with an unintroduced email.

Instead of fixating on the fact that it’s a cold email and you have no history with the person, however, focus on how you can state creating a rapport with them. Do not think about it as you giving them a chance they otherwise wouldn’t have—rarely do cold emails with phrases like “I don’t want you to miss out” or “you’ll kick yourself if you don’t buy/invest” work. Those are just annoying, and reek of desperation.

Be Positive and Opportunistic, Not Desperate

Your goal in any cold email is not to project desperation, it’s to project opportunity. It’s about letting the other person know that you’re genuinely interested in creating a rapport with them, and possibly starting a longer-term relationship. At the end of the day, the cold emails which emphasize a long-term relationship tone over a short-term sale win almost every time. They are opportunistic and serendipitous—this in turn is magnetic to the reader.

Change how you think about cold emailing and you will change the responses you get to cold emails. This in turn will help you build out a network that perceives you as positive and magnetic. That—maybe more than anything—is what will draw people to your network.

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Find me on Twitter @adammarx13 and let’s talk music, tech, and business.

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Cold Emails Are an Opportunity, Not a Chore

Last week, Hunter Walk posted a short piece detailing a few calendar experiments he’d be trying this autumn. Amongst the challenges was a point which stuck out to me: his commitment to replying to any cold email at least once. This started a reflective thought process in my head on the heavy benefits of cold emailing.

I’ve Sent More Cold Emails Than I Could Ever Count

In my time and experiences within the music business, I’ve sent more cold emails than I could ever count; they’re virtually required if you want to start any sort of dialogue. In many industries (tech included), introductions through peers and contacts account for a large percentage of successful business relationships. Cold emails, however, work less often (excluding famous stories which have since become startup lore, like Box’s Aaron Levie cold emailing Mark Cuban and getting an investment). Many times, startup founders are lucky if they gain a response anywhere near Walk’s commitment to answer them at least once.

But in the music world, cold emailing is the norm; you better become very comfortable with it (and very good at it) if you want to get anywhere. You end up cold emailing artists, managers, promoters, bloggers/journalists, DJ’s, venues…the list goes on and on. You learn how to craft just the right sort of message that is equal parts fan and prospective business contact (and if you forget the fan part, you’ve majorly screwed up). Cold emailing becomes such a normal part of the overall flow that if you’re not sending at least a couple per day, you’re losing out.

The Benefits Far Outweigh the Drawbacks

Yet Walk’s piece reminded me of something different. We’re so used to reading posts about cold emailing written by the senders that many times the recipient’s perspective might go unnoticed. I’ve been on that end too.

I’ve had artists email me out of the blue asking for any number of things: a review of their new album, play on my radio show, feedback on their new single, advice about local venues, etc. And this is where Walk’s point hit home for me: it’s so easy to ignore cold emails (especially when there are mountains of them) that sometimes we can forget the opportunities which they can contain. Some of my best and longest lasting business relationships germinated from cold emails. It’s those solid, long-lasting relationships that have led to further opportunities in both the music and entrepreneurial spaces.

(It is of course relevant to note that cold emailing isn’t the only way to broach an initially unsolicited conversation. In my experience, there are any number of indirect methods that work just as well, if not better, than the cold emailing avenue. These, however, I think will provide fodder for a subsequent piece.)

Perhaps cold emailing in the music world is less overwhelming than it can be for tech angels or investors (which is both highly probable and understandable), but experience has taught me that Walk’s approach has benefits which far outweigh the drawbacks, so far as I can see. In opening his mind and palate up to what could be out there, Walk greatly increases his chances of striking upon a beneficial new contact and/or relationship. He does this because cold emails tend to go unnoticed or unanswered by some, and thus provide fertile ground for Walk to mine out new opportunities in an area all his own.

Where Some of the Greatest Opportunities Lie

Time-consuming though it may be, I think Walk’s proposed solution of setting aside 60-minute windows in which to go through these emails is precisely the right course forward. He is upfront about his limits (simply as a human with a life and a job) and does not set out to promise responses within a 24-hour period; everyone has a limited amount of time in the day and that’s just life.

Yet, when the opportunities are literally on your (digital) doorstep, I think the worst thing one can do is simply ignore them. In the music industry at least, one of the first things you learn is to look where no one else is looking. Taking the time to do so usually ends up being the best decision you can make; that’s where some of the greatest opportunities lie. I would be surprised if the same couldn’t be said for at least some level of the tech/investing space as well.