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Cold email tips I used to get 60K signups (medium.com)
202 points by mustafabisic1 on Mar 13, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 61 comments

Some comments here aren't grasping the idea that some people's legitimate job involves sending cold emails to targeted individuals, and some people's legitimate jobs rely on receiving those emails.

If this concept is foreign to you, then you may only read the story as tips to spam people. That knee-jerk mostly just indicates you have never been in one of the two above job roles.

For clear examples of what op is talking about:

Guess blogs — PR — Reporters — Co-marketing with partners —Guests on podcasts — Most notable speakers at conferences

All require one party to make first contact. That first contact is often a "cold" email.

It's a bit embarrassing reading the comments. It makes painfully clear how ignorant the tech side of an org is about how their employers marketing and lead-gen departments work. That blog about a partner's integration that was published on the exact same day as the parter published about your company? Yeah, that's not magic.

Hey everyone, thanks for defending me in the comments here :D

I'm the author of the article, you can ask me anything :)

I would love to see some examples on the process, e.g. how much you pre-interacted on Social Media before sending your mail. But also a few sample messages you sent. Even if they were for imaginary adressants.

I use toggl and love it! Thanks for this article.

1. Did you find that some people were flagging you as spam, and then your legitimate emails were not being delivered? I guess since you sent these emails individually and personalized them, the spam flag did not get hit often?

2. For the content partnerships, what kind of content did you find to be most attractive?

Your article has a photo of a football game with the subtitle "Every pitch counts." There are no pitches in football.

What do you call a short, backwards pass, say on a reverse or double reverse?

Typically how long are your emails? I do a bit of outreach for the startup I'm involved in but I never know whether to keep it as short as possible or whether to have a bit of bulk while trying to keep it concise.

I try not to go over 3 paragraphs, the truth is - you need them interested enough to ask for more info and not give them all at once.

I loved the article. I'd appreciate some examples of the process you went through, changing the names to protect the guilty or making up something similar to how you usually do it.

This is one of the most thorough, thoughtful posts I have read in a long, long time. In the land of generics that rule startup advice often rehashed with a few additions (not that we don't need it. In spite of reading them often, I still, on every subsequent read, recognize some mistake I am are doing. These posts are reminders to self-evaluate), this particular post has been a breath of fresh air. As an engineer, this is the post about marketing that makes the most sense to me.

It also reflects how much she believes in the product, to put so much effort in the emails day in and day out.

What is the difference between cold mailing and spamming?

If you do it it's 'cold mailing'. If someone else does it it's 'spamming'.

Nearly lol'ed on that. I would add that if you're actually doing what the OP claims:

> I’ve personally typed and carefully went through every single email I sent.

Then I would definitely consider that cold mail, and not spam. A targeted, personal, concise email is worth 1,000 spammy emails (and perhaps approaches infinity if you factor in negative strikes against "good faith"). The difference is more qualitative than quantitative.

Cold email is unsolicited, but not necessarily spam. Here's the FTC CAN-SPAM Compliance Guide For Business:


Source and another informative read: https://www.leadfuze.com/what-is-cold-email-and-is-it-spam/

I firmly believe that the recipient, not the sender, defines what SPAM is. "Cold emails" are marketing emails that the recipient is unlikely to define as SPAM.

As someone who coaches job seekers, I couldn't help but notice that these are identical tips I give to my clients when sending out a contact to a potential new employer. Most "cold" email techniques can be boiled down to "just don't make them feel cold".

As someone that gets a ton of recruiter emails, I really dislike when they try acting like they're my friend or try relating to me. I can see right through those as the person being fake.

Funny enough, I'm a recruiter by trade. We walk an impossible line with candidates, particularly when demand is so high (candidates care a lot less when the economy is down, and I used to get job seekers acting like my best friend in the early 2000s).

If it's "too generic" the recruiter is dismissed as being lazy and spamming - "too personal" and the recruiter is fake.

I do understand what you mean and have seen recruiters that try to get a bit too chummy. By relating to someone, I might mention if we went to the same college or if I know people from their company or group they belong to. I'm not going to ask about their kids or spouse unless it's someone I know well.

Naively, it seems to me that the thing to do here is to mention something about the person's work.

I would dislike someone saying they went to the same university as me, because I don't care - I recognise that others differ, but to me, it seems fake and try-hard.

But I would like something like "your $project on github is interesting", or "I liked your blog post about".

(Attempting to fake this can go wrong. I've had emails that said things like "we were impressed by your github portfolio, particularly in Python and C", which sounds spammy because you could easily generate that by scraping Github, and I barely use C.)

You know your job better than me, but that's how I would think to avoid seeming either too spammy or too chummy.

> I’ve sent about 500 emails, resulting in 94 new, high DA backlinks. [...] The conversion rate from visit to signup on these articles is at a staggering 40%.

These are great tips and the results speak for themselves. Kudos.

When I get such an email, I reply and ask them to not contact me any more. If they reply and say "no problem, but <keep pushing>", I reply "it is no problem, that's what Gmail's block button is for", then block their entire domain.

On the same subject, here are some tips I gleamed from Heather at SalesFolk:

One email, one focus. Send 8 different emails to every prospect. Four days apart. 30% responses come from email 5-8.

Keep it conversational, in first person.

Create benefit driven messages. How your product can help solve their problems?

Cold emails should be 2-5 sentences.

Again keep it conversational.

Keep words and sentences bare minimum.

Prove your worth. Show social proof or case study.

A/B test your message. Different value propositions. Different time/day.

Thursday Friday better than Monday.

> Send 8 different emails to every prospect.

I'm honestly surprised that this works. If someone sent more than 2 or 3 unsolicited emails to me, they would end up in the killfile really fast.

It's phrased a little oddly, but maybe 8 different emails 4 days apart with a conversational tone means actually having a conversation with the other party. But if they're not responding, how can it be conversational without being super-sleazy-salesman fake? Why wait days in between replies?

If they are relevant and personalized, these can be very effective. I've had people respond sincerely on a 7th or 8th attempt.

> Thursday Friday better than Monday.

I should probably do my due reading on the subject before asking, but why is that so?

I used to work for one of those big email marketing software companies...we gave out the same guidelines.

Looking at the statistics, from what I remember, I believe Thur/Fri had the best open rates. (end of week, people catching up on emails before heading out, creating todo lists, ect...)

I flag all these emails as SPAM.

The author here takes the average of the conversion rates from different websites. Am I wrong in saying that isn't quite right? Shouldn't the "average conversion rate" be just the sum total of users that go to Toggl and sign up over the total number of users that went to Toggl?

It's obviously still useful to break it down by the referring website, it just seems like an opportunity to inflate your conversion rate numbers.

> The author here takes the average of the conversion rates from different websites. Am I wrong in saying that isn't quite right?

Yes. It gives too much weight to sites that referred a smaller number of people, and too little to sites that referred a larger number.

> Shouldn't the "average conversion rate" be just the sum total of users that go to Toggl and sign up over the total number of users that went to Toggl?

Not "users that go to Toggl", but "users that are referred to Toggl from one of those sources", on both sides of the fraction. (Possibly you knew this, but it seemed worth clarifying.)

Equivalently, a weighted average of the conversion rates, weighted by the number of referrals from each source.

> it just seems like an opportunity to inflate your conversion rate numbers.

Note that this could deflate numbers just as well as inflate them.

Yep! I agree with everything you mentioned, and should have been more clear in my description of what I meant by a fairer way to average the results.

Reminds me of two emails that I got that tried to look like "cold emails."

One email promised to give our company access to one of our major customers... That we show prominently on our web page as a major customer. They also promised to give us access to our previous parent company that still held a minority stake in the company, and who we still sell package deals with.

Another email was from someone who went through my linkedin and was trying to sell me something. I wasn't sure what it is and I was too busy to take the 20 minutes to figure out what it was and why it was useful. I think the email was hand-written, but as I couldn't figure out why this was useful, it was easier to ignore than engage.

The author should take her own advice : "7. Make it short and simple".

Lol, thanks :D

The Author’s name was familiar and I’ve written about Toggl [0] on my person blog before, so I checked my email. While my blog post was organic, turns out I’ve corresponded with this employee, when they suggested I update my post with their revised pricing.

Here’s the message she sent, it’s obviously a mass email they sent to everyone with existing posts.

Please update the content on your website if you mention Toggl's old pricing structure.

Hey, thanks for mentioning Toggl at Mark Lyon. We just had a major update I think you should know about - we made changes in the pricing structure.

For starters, the existing pro plan now costs $10 per user per month. We have added the options to pay either annually or monthly, depending on the user’s preference.

You can see the full new pricing structure here - https://blog.toggl.com/2016/03/pro-plus-and-pricing/

NB: If you mention Toggl out-of date pricing of $5 per user anywhere on your website, please change it to $10 when billed monthly and $9 when billed annually.

You can find the latest screenshots and logos here. Please make sure Toggl's listing on your website is accurate and up to date.

Finally, let me introduce myself - I'm Dunja, I'm the Media Manager at Toggl and would love to work with you in the future! We always have something to share and would love to see how we can work together.

Please let me know after you've updated the prices, and include your postal address, I'd love to send you some Toggl swag to say thank you!



I replied, letting them know I appreciated the updated info and had made changes as a result. It went into a ticketing system and they thanked me for doing so. A few weeks later, a bunch of stickers and a bag arrived via air mail. That was nice.

As much as I hate spam and “content marketing”, I was actually pretty happy with this contact as it helped me provide better information. I also really like their service, which also probably contributes to my desire to interpret their actions in a positive light. Contrast with the regular parade of cold “guest post” emails all websites seem to get. [1] No “trick” or “funnel” is going to get me to write a post about something that interests only the person who gets paid to promote it.

[0] https://marklyon.org/2013/04/tools-time-tracking-with-toggl/

[1] https://www.popehat.com/tag/ponies/

What is DA?

Domain Authority

> 10 spamming tips I used to get 60,000 subscribers

This is the distinguishing factor for me (from the article)

> It’s important to clarify at first: I’ve personally typed and carefully went through every single email I sent. Talk about scalable, huh?

She goes on to suggest a number of things that involve research and effort that puts a natural limit on how many she can send.

If "spammers" were to follow this advice and take the time to research me and my business, follow me on social media, and then type up an individualised e-mail to my business account, spam would not be a huge problem.

In part because I have a lower threshold for what I consider acceptable to send to my business account, and partly because if they invest that much effort in each e-mail, the volume would drop far down.

EDIT: Pronouns...

Just because it isn't automated doesn't mean it's not spam.

It can still be spam, but we care so much of spam largely because of the volume and lack of targetting. If everything I received was carefully manually targetted and researched, you could call it spam all you'd like - I would still be perfeclty fine with receiving it to my busness accounts. Less so to my personal accounts, but even then I'd be far less annoyed.

The article is written by a she btw.

Doh. Thanks, I've edited the comment accordingly.

They sent out personalized emails to single recipients who might have an interest in what they're doing. That is the opposite of spam. Unsolicited is not necessarily bad. To anyone who is just involved with communicating internally or with customers/vendors it might seem off. But it is pretty much par for the course in a lot of roles.

I think it would still count as spam in the EU, although I'm not certain what "direct marketing" means.

(UK law here, implementing EC directive)

> a person shall neither transmit, nor instigate the transmission of, unsolicited communications for the purposes of direct marketing by means of electronic mail unless the recipient of the electronic mail has previously notified the sender that he consents for the time being to such communications being sent by, or at the instigation of, the sender.


It's unlikely anyone would bother with someone who sent 600 emails, especially if she agrees not to send any more to an individual that complains to her.

Edit: bprieto's point about individuals vs businesses is very relevant -- the emails were sent to marketing companies, so they aren't spam under this directive.

I think it wouldn't, at least in Spain, if those receiving the emails are acting not as individuals (final customers) but as company representatives. So it's OK to send an email to Jane at jane@somecompany.com but not to send another email to the same Jane at jane@gmail.com.

I'm no lawyer but Direct Marketing is a specific term and not just two words put together. I'd typically interpret it as spam but for a legitimate product/company such that it has some legitimacy. The snail mail equivalent of online Direct Marketing is very common in the UK (or at least is was - I'd hope legislation similar to the above would have clamped down on it).


These emails were pitching the product to media outlets, and trying to create connections for business partnerships. How would you propose businesses reach out to other businesses and to the media?

> It’s important to clarify at first: I’ve personally typed and carefully went through every single email I sent

I think if this is true then it's really not spamming. At least if someone was to do proper research and mail me without being too salesy (e.g. not including a link) then I would be okay with it.

Spamming is more like mailing a hundred people without trying to communicate just trying to make people click a link.

if you believe your product brings value to a potential customer then it's not spamming.

Unsolicited messages sent to push a product are spam by definition.

everybody thinks their product brings value.

Everybody's product brings value. But only some products bring value to the customers. ;)

SaaS (Software as a SPAM)

SPAM = the meat product

Spam or spam = unsolicited emails

In Germany it is. You may get fined for that and it may get really expensive quickly.


This list can be summarised as "try genuine interpersonal engagement". A lot of great friendships and work relationships start from business outreach.

So this analogy :/


sending an email might be annoying to some, but i'm sure it's the least invasive type of cold calling.

Maybe sponsoring a mailing list would be less invasive and you can target people that are ok with getting info about that product.

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