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Is it real or is it spam?

The wanted but unexpected email is one of the major challenges facing ISPs and filter developers. If there was never any need or desire for people to receive email from someone they don’t know, then mail clients could be locked down to only accept mail from addresses on a whitelist. It wouldn’t completely solve the spam problem, for a number of reasons, but it would lessen the problem, particularly for average email users.
But, we don’t live in a world where we know beforehand who will be sending us mail, so we can’t just whitelist correspondents and reject everything else. I think this is a good thing. Email can be used to meet new people, develop new relationships and introduce new opportunities.
While the “cold call” email isn’t much talked about I think it’s worth some discussion. What makes a good cold email? What makes a bad one?  We can use two recent emails I received as examples.
Example 1:

Hello! I regularly read your Word to the Wise blog and would love to have someone from your organization present a webinar about email deliverability for one of our clients, [Client]. [Client’s] webinars typically have between 100 and 150 registrants, the majority of whom are in marketing and responsible for their organizations’ email marketing programs. The webinar will be promoted to approximately 3,500 education marketers via email, Facebook and Twitter. The Word to the Wise brand, info about your services, and links to your web site would be featured prominently. We would also supply a list of registrants for you to follow up with after the webinar. This would be a good opportunity to get in front of some potential new clients and showcase your expertise.
Example 2:

Hi Laura,I’d love to have you as a guest on my show to talk about content marketing.
To learn more about my audience and show, please visit [link]
If you are keen to learn more, please book a short pre-interview at http://goo.gl/[tag]

The first one provides enough information that I can make a decision immediately about whether or not this is worth my time. I get their audience size, how they’re going to promote it and the opportunity to find new clients. The email had full contact information of the sender, including the full name of the person who was inviting me and her phone number. And, yes, I did accept the invitation and had quite a successful webinar.
The second one tells me nothing. I don’t even get a last name of the person who was inviting me. All I get is a link to his website. I’ll be honest, I actually spent time trying to figure out if this is spam or not. Even if it’s not, the fact that I don’t have all the information about the invitation at my fingertips means I’m not going to bother looking any further. For all I know, this could have been sent to thousands of people and the “survey” link (behind a generic link shortener) is actually a phishing attempt or a virus site.
What are the key things to remember when writing a cold email?

  1. Do not send cold emails in bulk. If there is one thing you should remember is that cold emails are best when personalized and establish that you value the recipient’s time.
  2. Make it easy for the recipient to know what you’re offering. The first email is offering me an audience for my expertise, in a webinar format. The second email? I have no clue who this guy is and he values my time so little he expects me to go digging around his website to figure it out.
  3. Make it easy for the recipient to know what you want from them. The first email tells me they want me to do a webinar.  That second email? I don’t know if he wants me to do a webinar, come on a radio show, visit him in person. There’s no information about what he wants me to commit to, unless I go digging around his website.
  4. Tell the recipient who you are. For the first email, I have full contact info including a last name and a phone number. The second one? I don’t even have a last name of the person.
  5. Don’t hide useful data behind URL shorteners. As a general rule I don’t visit unknown links sent to me in email. I may rarely visit an unknown link if I recognize the sender and I trust them. But in the second email I’ve got a person I don’t know, sending me mail to something other than my contact address, asking me to visit a goog.le link? OK, the chances of this being an elaborate spear phishing scheme are slim to none, and I do expect this isn’t some malicious email. But I have zero reason to take that chance.

Don’t give up the cold emails. They are valuable parts of commerce and it would be a shame to lose that email functionality. But don’t be stupid when you’re using them. Treat your recipient as if you value them and their time. Introduce yourself. Introduce your proposition. Don’t be an anonymous person asking for something. Be open, be a partner.
What are your experiences with cold emails?

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