A Cold Email That Worked

I, like you, receive cold emails all the time; most of them I delete and I get on with my day, slightly annoyed that I even had to deal with it in the first place.

But, I got one that immediately felt authentic, genuine, and it got me to not only read the entire thing but we managed to connect and setup a call! In fact, we were able to connect early this morning:

I had a wonderful chat with Charlotte Zhao of avid.fm and, after getting her permission, I wanted to share with you her email so you can model your own cold-ish email efforts — here it is:

Hey John,

I enjoyed your vid of a CEO of a VC-backed company and I thought I'd take a chance & reach out! I'm trying to make online course creation less of a pain through audio learning. Nothing to sell, but want to make sure that we're building a product that actually helps.

I've spoken to a few creators, but not vloggers, and I'm having a hard time understanding their experience. You've been successful at it for a while, would you have time in the next couple of weeks to chat?

Thank you and I hope this message wasn't a bother for you since you must be working hard at it building your empire!


A few things that I appreciated:

  1. Her first line makes it crystal-clear that she's done her "homework" on me and feels personalized, even though anyone could find this information out there (they usually don't spend any time at all) — hits me hard, upfront.
  2. Her second sentence doesn't waste anytime getting to "the point" of her email, which I entirely appreciate. The third line about "not selling anything" is probably unnecessary, but, was acceptable and appreciated.
  3. She's shown that she's done some work and that she's generally curious about my process — she gives me an open invitation to engage in the "next few weeks" which I appreciate since my calendar is pretty full. This makes me feel a bit less pressured to turn-around a meeting that week or the next. Appreciate that!
  4. She ends it perfectly.

And, there was something really, really... "familiar" with her format, so-much so that I mentioned to her that it was not just effective, but, I'd like to share her process with my team and my community:

She immediately shared with me that she was borrowing heavily from @robfitz's material from "The Mom Test"! I knew I had seen it somewhere:

Here are the five key elements that Rob suggests you have:

  1. You're an entrepreneur trying to solve horrible problem X, usher in a wonderful vision Y, or fix stagnant industry Z. Don't mention your idea.
  2. Frame expectations by mentioning what stage you're at and, if it's true, that you don't have anything to sell.
  3. Show weakness and give them a chance to help by mentioning the specific problem that you're looking for answer on. This will also clarify that you're not a time waster.
  4. Put them on a pedestal by showing how much they, in particular, can help.
  5. Explicitly ask for help.

So, a huge high-five to Charlotte and Rob! Cold emailing isn't hard, but, it does take a bit of time to find your "angle" and "approach" and using Rob's suggested workflow really does work.

  1. 7

    Thank you John @8bit, for taking the time to not only chat with me, but also share the lesson here with the community! Glad it's helpful to many of you :)

    1. 2

      yay! thanks for giving me permission to share!

  2. 3

    thanks for sharing. I struggle with the subject line with cold email - specifically how to not make it sound spammy. Any suggestions?

    1. 1

      honestly, i think her title "a humble ask?" was great. it was short, and not long.

  3. 2

    Awesome case studies @8bit

    Also saw this template on CopyHackers in the 5 Days $5K Challenge. Charlotte did a great job and applied very well. Thanks for your detailed breakdown too!

  4. 2

    Thanks for sharing! This was incredibly helpful and it inspired me to reach out to industry leaders and ask them for feedback about my product

    1. 1

      what was the most interesting?

  5. 2

    Funny I also met Charlotte online! It is a little world :-) And thank you for sharing, this is very helpful!

    1. 1

      she's awesome! :)

  6. 2

    a good email always resonates with you!

    1. 1

      it really does. sets the stage!

  7. 2

    Thanks for sharing this John. The format is simple and effective. I'm going to try this method :)

    1. 2

      lmk how it works!

  8. 2

    Really nice post John. Authenticity is key in all growth and sales work. Love it!

  9. 2

    Yes, a great example and seems to be effective in this scenario. Will this apply if you DO have something to sell, though?

    1. 1

      i think so. there's no reason not to... i mean, eventually, i'll sell something to charlotte and vice versa... it's kinda understood.

      but, it's all about the relationship!

  10. 2

    As someone who deals with cold emails almost every day (I mean writing them) this one is really, really good!

    1. 2

      wow! that's saying something!

      1. 2

        I actually really liked "nothing to sell here" - it was perfectly added at the point where you are about to lose a person as it started to sound like a "sales pitch" so this reassured that there won't be a "hidden intentions" thus you keep on reading.

        1. 1

          it really was. it hooked me, for sure.

  11. 2

    Very few wizards properly ask :D

  12. 2

    Hey John, this is awesome. Thanks for sharing. Def. some great learnings in there. I'm also going to go and buy the book now.

    1. 2

      it's one of the absolute best. you won't regret it!

      1. 2

        I'm halfway through the book already.

        1. 1

          i've re-read it many times. won't be the last!

  13. 2

    Thanks for sharing that!

  14. 2

    Great share. Thankyou

  15. 2

    Very timely! Just working on some green outbound email initiatives now and these tips were helpful 😀

    1. 1

      great! lmk how it goes!

  16. 2

    Great example. The cool thing about The Mom Test is that the ideas can be applied to so many other things.

    1. 1

      you're absolutely right... these principles can be applied liberally to many things!

  17. 2

    Great example and advice, thanks for sharing @8bit and Charlotte!

    1. 2

      sure thing friend!

  18. 2

    Awesome strategy! I'll be sure to improve this skill 👍

    1. 1

      it really is. it's great.

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