In grade school, I was that kid who had no problem going up to any other kid and starting a conversation.
Yes, I’m an extrovert. What gave it away?
But I happen to be an extrovert who likes to spend a lot of time by herself.
80% of the time, I work from home in my little studio apartment. The rest of the time, I’m either borrowing my mom’s WeWork office, sitting in a coffee shop or sitting across from my partner at a table while we both work quietly.
Even as an extrovert, I do very little socializing day to day… in person. That’s why I have a love affair with email.
Email is the best medium of communication for extroverts, introverts and all the ‘verts in between.
You can communicate on your own time. You can tailor your message perfectly. You don’t even have to get out of bed to do it. It’s the best!
Of course, not all emails are treated the same.
Emailing colleagues and friends is one thing. But emailing people who have literally no idea that you exist is another animal.
It’s especially nerve-wracking when those people are the key to something you need and/or want.
Maybe you’ve always wanted to reach out to your favorite blogger. Or maybe it’s your favorite author. Maybe it’s your job to email people and make connections (like mine!).
No matter what, learning how to send emails that get opened and responded to is a skill that comes in handy.
In this post, I’m going to walk you through the process that earned me a 57% response rate at my job as a Contributing Writers Recruiter at Elite Daily. There, I emailed dozens of authors, bloggers, CEOs and influencers a week to get them to contribute written content for free. I haven’t been in that role for almost a year, but I’ve maintained many of the connections I made during that outreach project.
I’m not guaranteeing that these techniques will always work. You can’t control every factor, like how someone’s day is going or how many emails they have sitting unread in their inbox.
It never hurts to try. It’s just email! Here’s where I always start:
1. Follow them on one social platform AND subscribe to their email list.
Chances are, the person you want to reach out to has some social media presence and an email list to subscribe to.
My rule of thumb: follow the account they’re most active on. No need to go on a follow spree.
But just hitting that “follow” button isn’t enough.
Read their latest posts. What are they promoting? What’s happening in their world right now?
Take note – it will be useful when you’re crafting your email.
Even if you’re not a fan of subscribing to newsletters, do it if you’re trying to get in touch with that specific person.
Pro tip: If you really don’t like email clutter, make an email account just for subscriptions.
I have a separate subscription email and it’s great. Because who needs this in their main inbox?
Subscribing is important because you can learn a lot about the person you’re reaching out to that way.
Plus, in most cases, the “reply” address on the emails you get from that person are legit. Meaning, you can use that address as contact information.
Which brings us to step two:
2. Find their contact info.
Some people are very easy to reach (like me) and some aren’t. But there are a few ways to find the contact info you need.
The first place I look is obvious: the “contact”or “about” page on their website. Sometimes there’s an email address and sometimes there’s a form. Normally, there’s instructions about how to get in touch.
Don’t get discouraged by the form! I send emails through contact forms all the time and still get responses.
Another place to find an email address is Facebook — if they have a page (not a profile). Look at the “about” section. You can usually find it there.
Here’s what it looks like:
If you’re really stumped, you can use Rapportive to basically guess their email address until you find the right one.
Between their newsletter email, website and Facebook page, you should be able to find the right contact info.
You can also shoot them a quick Tweet or Facebook message if you’re feeling up to it! Which brings us to step three:
3. Create a first point of contact.
This seems like a lot of work for one email, doesn’t it? Well, with practice, you’ll be able to do all of this less than five minutes.
Creating a first point of contact means doing one of the following:
- Commenting on a recent blog post
- Retweeting them
- Tweeting at them
- Quickly responding to an email newsletter
A lot of people on Twitter have automatic direct messages sent to new followers. Replying to that auto DM is a great way to get in touch with whoever you’re trying to reach out to!
The more authentic your response, the more likely you’ll grab their attention. I’ve connected with huge* influencers this way.
*huge just means they have a ton of followers and a successful business.
Here’s an example of first point of contact with Aaron Orendorff of iconiContent, an awesome copywriter I connected with recently.
That first message from him was automatically sent to me after I followed him.
Creating a first point of contact helps you seem like less of a stranger when you make that leap into their inbox. They might recognize your name from a comment or retweet — and that boosts your chances of getting a response.
4. Actually write an email (finally).
So at this point, you know what’s going on in their world. You’ve interacted with their content. You’re ready to write!
I’m about to give you some email writing advice you’ve probably already heard, but there’s a reason why this advice is repeated so often — because it’s freaking important.
You have to keep it short. You have to be concise.
Your email should do three things:
- Give them some love and/or value.
- Give them a snapshot of who you are.
- A clear call to action.
You don’t need to send a novel-length email to accomplish those three things.
Let’s break those three elements down.
Love and/or value: Whenever I reach out to anyone, I always approach them as a fan. I find something about their work that genuinely makes me feel something. Maybe it’s curiosity. Maybe it’s inspiration. Whatever it is, I lead with that.
But here’s the thing about praise. You can’t just say, “I’m a fan of your work.”
You have to say why. Did you get results using their material? Tell them how! They will LOVE that.
A snapshot of you who you are: This is a quick line about you that gives the reader some context. For example, I say: “I’m a freelance writer and outreach specialist.”
It could also be a few bullet points to paint that person a picture of where you’re coming from. I do this whenever I reach out to someone to pick their brain. Here’s what it looks like:
- I’m interested in learning more about the work of a zookeeper because I love taking care of animals.
- So far the only experience I’ve had with animal care is just taking care of my dogs.
- I’m thinking about taking on a side gig at my local zoo.
Simple, easy to digest, concise.
A clear call to action: This is where people tend to get hung up. This is basically where you have to let this person know WHY you’re reaching out and what they can help you with (if anything).
But remember that less is more.
The goal of the first email is to get a response, not necessarily an answer to your question or request.
Doesn’t that take a lot of pressure off?
Sometimes, a bit of back and forth is a good thing because that’s how you start building a relationship.
Instead of going directly for an ask, that first email should prompt them to respond. It should pique their interest. And above all, it should be easy for them to see who you are, what you want and what you’re interested in communicating about.
A note on asking for meetings:
If you’re emailing someone you want to have a informational chat with, propose a 20-minute phone call or give them the opportunity to answer questions via email.
This is better than proposing a face to face meeting right away because it’s much easier for that other person to commit to.
Taking a phone call or answering an email is something you can do on the go, while meeting in person involves more coordination. No thanks.
A note on subject lines:
There’s way too much information about subject lines on the internet. And it really depends on WHY you’re emailing that person.
When I email someone new to pick their brain or just make a connection, I always use “Reaching out” as my subject line. It works for me and feels most natural.
Sometimes, while looking through their social accounts and blog posts, a subject line idea will come to me.
For example, I reached out to this blogger who wrote a guide to cold emailing and my subject line was, “Cold email coming in hot.” I knew a cute subject line like that would work on that specific person! It’s truly a case by case basis.
When I’m cold emailing on behalf of a client, I take a more strategic approach.
But to put it simply, you want to be clear about why you want to connect without giving it the message away.
If you want to get the exact templates I use for cold emailing, you can subscribe here.
5. Don’t forget to add a PS.
There’s a lot of power in a good PS.
The PS (or post script, by the way) is where you can say something that will either make you stand out or reiterate your request.
This is where you can sprinkle some personality in your email.
Let’s say I read in someone’s blog post that they have always dreamed of swimming in a giant pool of M&Ms — which would be something we have in common.
At the end of an email, under my signature I would write:
PS: We share the same dream of swimming in a giant pool of M&Ms. Loved that blog post about going after your goals!
6. If you don’t get a response, here’s how to follow up:
Give it a week to 10 days.
If you don’t get a response, respond to your original email and says something like this:
“Hey (Name), just floating this to the top of your inbox in case you didn’t see it!”
One sentence, no pressure.
Don’t assume that just because someone didn’t respond means they don’t want to connect.
You have an inbox. I’m sure you’ve missed a few emails in your day too. And you never know what’s really going on in their personal lives.
For example, one time I emailed someone pretty important and didn’t get a response. After a few days, I saw in one of their Instagram posts that they experienced a minor injury in a biking accident. That’s a pretty good reason to not read my email.
So don’t beat yourself up if you don’t immediately get a response. You can always follow up or send another one after some time has passed.
After all, it’s just email!
You will become more comfortable with emailing strangers by just doing it. And the more you do it, the faster you get.
Here’s what you can do TODAY to get started.
Make a list of three to five people you want to connect with.
Then take these steps:
- Subscribe to their email list and follow them on their most used social media account if you’re not already.
- Find their contact info and put it in a safe place, like an excel grid (what I do) or in Evernote so you can remember it!
- Comment on one of their blog posts, answer an email from their newsletter or shoot them a Tweet to create that first point of contact.
- Actually write an email! Tell them why you like what they do, give them a snapshot of who you are and include a clear call to action.
- Don’t forget to add some personality or reiterate your request in the PS!
- Hit send.
That’s it. Happy emailing!
In my next post, I’ll talk about the uses for cold emailing and WHY it’s important to email people you don’t know, even if you’re not doing it for anything business related.
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