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A brief guide to emailing strangers

Written 07 May, 2019, 4 minutes to read

You can’t scale your business in a vacuum. Appeal, authority, value and trust all depend on people outside of you buying into what you’re selling. And if the boom of influencer culture has taught us anything, it’s that community approval still rules the marketing roost.

So whether you want to collaborate with a big personality, get a big publisher to share your ideas, or secure a pundit for your podcast, you’re going to need to master the art of contacting strangers.

The internet is full of tons of examples to help you shape the perfect email, but really the only advice you really need is to keep it short, get to the point and don’t be sickly. Start getting quality responses with our very brief guide to emailing strangers.

How to email strangers

So, you want a complete stranger you’ll never meet to do something for you. Of all the quirks of internet culture, this has to be one of the weirdest. But cold emailing has become a highly coveted skill, especially since our daily saturation of digital communications means only the very best ever get picked up.

So, what’s the winning email formula? Before putting finger to keypad, consider these basic best practices for emailing strangers:

  • Keep it as short as possible. No one has time to wade through your babble, and they don’t need to become your intimate friend by the end of the email. Keep their attention by using three short paragraphs maximum.

  • Provide an easy structure. Even if you’ve kept it short, people will still try to scan your email for the main information. So make it easy for them: Front-load what matters, use “bold” to highlight key information, and end with an action.

  • Be upfront about what you’re offering. Don’t try and pull the wool – people know you’re trying to sell them something, so be completely transparent from the outset. Clearly lay out your motives, who you represent and what’s in it for them.

  • Be charming but keep it professional. No one wants to receive an insipid, overfriendly email from a stranger. Be polite and enthusiastic without being overbearing or desperate.

  • Don’t act entitled. Saying that you expect a response from your stranger, or continuing to hound them with follow-ups immediately negates your efforts. Remember: they don’t owe you anything; you’re asking them for a favour.

  • Include your contact details. Obviously they can get your email address from the message, but include it again at the end of your message for easy reference, along with any alternatives like your mobile phone.

A winning cold email template

We use this basic 3-paragraph email template for almost all our stranger communication – and it’s proved to be extremely effective!

Emailing-strangers-guide

1. Subject line

This is the crux of your proposition — it should immediately communicate why you’re bothering this person (e.g. you want an interview, a pitch, a quote). Consider framing it in a way that benefits them, not you (e.g. a podcast feature or call for expert opinion).

2. Addressing your stranger

Your email opener should take into account your stranger’s public image. Sometimes a “Dear” is appropriate, sometimes it’s too formal. While first names are great, they can be overly familiar. Know your audience and you’ll know how to address them – we tend to stick to the simple respectful-but-personal “Dear <first_name>” combo. Just remember to include any professional accreditations (Dr, professor etc.), if they have them.

3. Lay it open

Paragraph 1: In one or two sentences, briefly explain how you’ve come across them (mention a specific piece of their work that engaged you) and why you want to talk to them (your proposition).

4. Provide context

Paragraph 2: Lay out your motives and company background, being specific about the size of your audience and including links to your website for full transparency. Then explain what’s in it for them – apprehend the main draw and provide appropriate extra detail (like the type or size of exposure your collaboration will bring them).

5. Close it with an action

Paragraph 3: Round off by pinpointing the topics you want to talk with them about, and propose your next contact (e.g. a short call). Show you’ve actually done your research on them and are actively interested in their work.

6. Sign-off

Don’t try and be clever; a dignified, short-and-sweet sign-off is all you need.

The average worker spends 23% of their day on email – let's cut that figure way down.

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