Dissecting a Cold Email

I don’t believe in shaming, but I do believe in educating.

Sometimes they look similar.

Every once in a while, I get an email from someone that is just terrible. Having spent a fair amount of my career writing and involved in sales, I cringe at some of what comes across my desk.

Sometimes, I’m compelled to respond because I really do believe it teaching people to improve.

The original email was as follows:

Hey Team LIFX,

I noticed your awesome campaign on Kickstarter. As we work with many crowdfunding campaigns, we know how important it is to get your product strategy, marketing, and product development right. Moreover, I know that you finished the delivery of your product and you now need to move forward. Why not with us?

I would love to schedule a quick call to explore how we can help. Email me at someaddress@somedomain.com.


Person’s Name

The Digesting Period

But Jon, what’s wrong with that email, it seems pretty straight forward.

If you are in this camp, you’re not alone. In fact, I would venture a guess that from my experience, most of the salespeople I’ve worked with would all consider this to be an acceptable and passable email for their SDRs to send out. They measure things in emails sent out, response rate, calls booked, etc.

One day, they’ll realize that there is only one metric that matters, conversion to paid customer.

Here’s why this is not a good email.

Comments are added in Italics


Hey Team LIFX,

Use “Hi” unless you are familiar with the person. Odds are you’re dealing with an adult and “Hey” can come off weird.

I noticed your awesome campaign on Kickstarter.

Our campaign ended in 2012 you’re sending this in 2016, there are far more relevant pieces of information to glean about our company that have taken place in the last 6 months. Focus on what’s next. Product cycles happen twice a year at least and most companies are already road mapped more than 18 months out at a minimum.

As we work with many crowdfunding campaigns, we know how important it is to get your product strategy, marketing, and product development right.

We’ve moved to the “we” rather than the “I” it seems. I’m OK with this.

The amount of passive voice in this kills me.

Try, “We work with companies that have successfully crowdfunded their initial products to ensure their product strategy, marketing, and ongoing product development are ready for continued growth.”

Give me something that I can sink my teeth into.

Moreover, I know that you finished the delivery of your product and you now need to move forward.

Get rid of “Moreover” it’s a waste. You’re back to “I” instead of “we” but this line shows me that you did zero research. If you Google LIFX I’ve done if for youhttps://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#safe=off&q=LIFX+color+1000

You’ll see that we are in BestBuy, Lowe’s, Amazon, and Walmart. You’ll even see on the first page a recent press release showing that we have released even more products from our first round of Kickstarter products. I’m pretty sure we’ve been moving forward at a good rate, just check out our homepage to see the companies we work with. Also, look at Crunchbase and you’ll find that we raised $12 million in series A funding.

Why not with us?

This is easy, you can’t write, which means you can’t market. You can’t conduct research which means using you for product strategy and development are out and your company is pretty lazy in general. Crowdfunding is a broad group of everything so it shows no domain expertise. Your website has nothing listed under our space link redacted. I could go on, but you get the point.

I would love to schedule a quick call to explore how we can help. Email me at someperson@somedomain.com.

Don’t ask for a phone call to explore, if there was anything valuable in the email as you presented it, I would be asking to set up a call. No joke, people like me rely on media and partnerships. Seriously, we do and we listen to interesting propositions. This though was one of the worst most half-assed emails I’ve had passed to me, why would I respond?

By the way, the email to someperson@somedomain.com bounced.


Business and learning go hand in hand, but the amount times people skimp out on the basis is staggering and leads to missed opportunities for revenue that are often the difference between success and failure.

This isn’t the rep’s fault. If you’re in sales and you read this post and you were in the group that didn’t see anything wrong with the email, it’s your fault.

I doubt this rep was ever given any coaching on how to send out email, propose a value proposition, how to do research, etc.

This is a reflection on you, whoever is running the show, for not proofing, working through the basics and not supervising. Every email matters. Every action and moment spent at work should matter, it’s not about a response, it’s about conversion.

Bonus, how I would have written the email and why

Hi LIFX Team,

I saw your release of the Color 1000 in October and am very interested in your next product launch.

References a recent event, asks for a future event, so no immediate commitment. People plan things out months in advance.

My company, Acme, Inc., works exclusively with IoT companies(up to this point is visible on mobile email) to help them launch new products and ensure execution of marketing campaigns that align with your product strategy and ongoing product development.

Shows domain space expertise, explains what they do and how they operate. Complements current strategies, doesn’t try to sell all the services.

We’ve had great success with Company, Company, and Company.

Examples of who they have worked with which gives me the ability to look up recent product launches. Also lets me call people for references.

If you’re interested, I’d love to get LIFX’s demographic profile and work up a strategy to assist you with your next launch.

An ask with an offer that doesn’t take me that long to respond to.



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Mobile First

It’s a reality, it happened.

If your website isn’t optimized for a mobile experience, you’re missing out big. I know if you’re like me, your phone is something you check before you get out of bed, in most cases it’s the last thing you look at before you go to sleep. I check my email on it, I read the news on it, I control my lights with it.

They go with me everywhere, both of them. Yup, I like many other people have two cell phones, one for work, and one for personal. I am a pro when it comes to deleting emails and I’m not afraid to judge. You have a subject line and the precious characters that my iPhone shows me get me to open up your email. Choose wisely.

It today’s connected world, the phone is the first thing people reach for.

I look up everything on my phone, because of the way my brain works, if I think of something or I remember it, I search it. 99% of the time this is on my smart phone.

It’s simply the way that people work these days. I had a conversation with a company the other day about their strategy to go live. We talked about their product and the desktop app they were building, but their product interfaced with the real world, which begged the question, why not an app or a mobile platform?

As much as html5 has been hyped as the perfect way to have a non-app version of your website, the culture is still around apps when it comes to mobile experiences, they are just better.

Facebook’s traffic now is dominated by mobile.

Create content that is designed for mobile. Know that people will see it on their phones before they see it on a desktop. Purchasing is now skewing in the direction of mobile first as well. Don’t get left behind.

Yet, most companies still do all their email mockups on desktops and a good amount of them don’t even bother to see what it would look like on mobile displays before hitting send.

Improve your conversion rate, write for mobile.

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Lack of Communication Breeds Confusion

Most companies have multiple teams, those teams don’t always see eye to eye.

Strategy is lost between them, one goes one way one goes another. You see it all the time.

The Product team is working on something that Marketing and Sales know nothing about.

The Marketing team is doing something that Sales knows nothing about.

The Sales team is promising things that Marketing or Product know nothing about.

Breaking down and working through these gaps in communication helps to streamline processes. Everyone hates a big meeting, but at least once every two weeks the team leaders should collect questions from their respective teams and sync up to ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals.

Keep the meetings to less than 30 mins of talking and 30 minutes of genuine Q & A. Come with a good statistical backing if you are asking a question or presenting something. People listen to evidence, not opinion.

Have all of your employees keep a log of ongoing questions, employees that are involved are less likely to become reclusive and shy away from being proactive.

A reactionary company environment zaps creativity and destroys morale, as it feels like everyone is always scrambling to fix a problem. Problems then become the focus rather than the solution.


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Accountability matters

I’ve been in meetings with people and I’ve heard great things suggested and you hear the same response,

“Yeah, not a problem, so-and-so can knock that out in a few hours.”

You know who didn’t knock it out in a few hours, days, weeks, months, I think you get the point.

We live in a culture today that has a very loose understanding of what it means to be accountable. Most people say they will do something, or work on something, but unless there is a penalty for not doing it, forget about it. Going above and beyond to solve a problem simply isn’t worth it.

Ironically, it’s these little things that really save time. What if someone built a video library to replace the need to give live demos that were the same every time, you could scale a whole sales team and double it’s use as a training vehicle for new employees getting used to the platform. Sure your productivity would be switched up for a few days, but the benefits long term far outweigh the short term.

At the end of the day, it’s up to the individual employees to be accountable and for management to lead by example.

One manager told the sales team that sales would be better if the entire team made more phone calls. An employee responded that they had made five calls to the UK before then came into the office and asked the manager how many they had made. Their response, none.

Accountability means practicing what you preach. It means that senior management should work the phones every once in a while, they should talk to other employees, they should still make calls and take calls. If they aren’t willing to be accountable for the actions they are asking their teams, everyone loses respect.


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Respect begets respect

Proper communication is the hallmark to respect. Without it, nothing can be accomplished.

It is not uncommon across businesses that people that have a supervisor honestly believe they are smarter than their supervisor. Most of the time, some actually are. There are two different ways these situations play out, the first is that the supervisor realizes that the person under them is actually smarter than they are and relies on them to help them grow their own career for a period of time. The second is a bit uglier, they play nice, try to give them more stern direction on how they work and ultimately make an enemy incredibly quickly.

I have witnessed first hand new managers who have not even bothered to introduce themselves before giving an employee constructive criticism. Not a good way to start a relationship. It was akin to someone coming over to dinner and before even saying hi, taking a bite of food and saying something like

“this could use some more salt”

Everyone deserves respect in the workplace and for any and all new managers out there, you should have a very good 90 day plan in order and ready to present to your team so everyone is on the same page. Don’t disrespect your employees intelligence or inherent skills on day one without a thorough understanding of the business, something that can only be gleaned during the first 30 days.

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The power of listening

We are all far too quick to talk these days, we love to hear ourselves talk, I’m part of this club at times, but I’ve learned that I’m better served avoiding this trend. I strive every day to talk less and to listen more.

When we talk over people or tune out we miss valuable information all around us. We miss language cues we miss the messages that people are trying to tell us.

Every meeting I hold now, I repeat the first item on the agenda, then I ask for thoughts from the team I’m working with no questions asked. A meeting pulls people away from their normal work, it disrupts a day often, giving the team a chance to talk first is the best first step to running a productive meeting, one where people feel genuinely empowered. As a leader, this is your time to shine.

Managers that listen well, leave every meeting with any employee learning something new either about them, their role, their struggles, or the business they operate in.

Not every meeting is going to be a good one, not every meeting is going to have good news either. There will be some meetings that have nothing but bad news. This is the best time to listen. When things are not going well, listening will help you understand where their might be room for improvement.

Reflection on what you have heard is the best way to start with a clear head and path towards improvement.

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Friday Afternoons

Employees hate Friday afternoons. Nothing gets done.

Some companies try to offset this by providing beer and then breaking up the teams to do prep work or recap work on Friday afternoons. This is a waste of time. People check out.

Unless you’re in the hospitality industry or your company is hosting or participating in an event over the weekend, don’t plan anything productive for Friday afternoons.

Give your employees a break, honestly, they’ll work harder the other days of the week if they know they’ll be able to get out of the office a bit earlier on Friday.

One company did this, every Friday, they let everyone out at 2pm and paid them for the full day. It was great and all the employees loved it. They all genuinely wanted to do more work, but knew that no one would pick up the phone on a Friday afternoon and they were in real estate who usually show houses on the weekends.

In contrast, another company decided that Friday afternoons would be the best days to hold roundtable discussions and provide beer and wine. Some of these ran til 6pm. No one liked these at all. In fact, people questioned their value and eventually just started leaving early because of pre-existing dinner plans, if you miss happy hour on a Friday because of some rambling meeting that doesn’t really add value, your company morale will suffer.

In today’s modern world, most employees set up the next week on either Friday morning or Sunday evening. As far as anything productive happening on a Friday afternoon, just be grateful they work longer than 8 hours a day the other four days of the week.

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Why it’s time to ditch the testimonials

You see them on nearly every website, speech bubbles from “actual customers” telling you to buy the product of the page they appear on.

They say things like,

“Before Acme, Inc. I used to spend 1o hours invoicing, now I can do it all in less than 4 hours!”

Most people at most companies would think this is great and that it’s exactly the type of thing that will sell their product. The problem is, it tells most people nothing. If you were lucky enough to get someone down that far on your page to read it, you’ve failed at giving them anything.

People care about stories, about other people they can relate to about struggles and triumphs over them.

What the don’t care about is vague claims that aren’t backed up by anything actionable.

How did you save 6 hours, did you outsource your work to someone else, did you find someone else more skilled at doing the work, did you cut your staff so there was less work, did you realize that you were adding work by not automating a process?

You can see where not giving the full story is enough to tease people, but leaving it like that doesn’t really make anyone want to do anything more than find out a bit more. If that’s what you’re after good for you, it may work, but most people also know these testimonials are scripted and arranged, that’s how they make it on your website.

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