Cold messaging has boomed in the era of widespread electronic communications and social networks.
Now, during Covid-19, where many routes to build new relationships in person are blocked, the importance of being able to build an effective strategy is key.
This strategy could be to find prospects as part of a sales process, to search for talent to bring into your company, or to secure funding from investors.
Regardless of the objective, the vast majority of messages fail to have the impact that the sender desires.
Reflecting on my own experience of receiving messages from entrepreneurs seeking funding for their companies, here are the six most frequently repeated – and most easily avoidable – mistakes.
Wrong name or company. This applies in many contexts, but attention to detail is everything. If you get the name of the person – or the company – you are writing to wrong, your message is not getting replied to. Even worse if you mention one of their competitors from a clear copy and paste misfire. Double-check before sending.
Over-familiarity. Something of a recent trend, but sending a one-line message with something like ‘Hi, how are you today?‘ is not only unlikely to get a response, it is also a bit weird, especially in a work context. When you have never spoken to the person before, some degree of introduction and scene-setting is appropriate.
No call to action. Another strange phenomenon is messages where it is unclear what the sender is asking for. If there is no clear call to action, it is likely that the recipient of the message will simply ignore it – most people do not have time to write back and clarify the intentions of a stranger. Spell out your request in the message.
Unreasonable call to action. Messages that ask for a call ‘later today or tomorrow‘ or for an hour-long introduction can come across as a little disrespectful of the recipient’s time. Remember that they already have a busy schedule and you are trying to find a way into it. The initial call to action should be a short time commitment – say a 15 or 30-minute introductory call – which can be booked in the next few weeks. Lack of time will be the primary reason recipients will say no, so try and mitigate for that.
Lack of customization. As it has become easier and cheaper to send messages, the general quality of them has reduced and it is usually obvious when you are reading a template that has been sent to many people. The flip side is that a little time spent crafting a customized message can be well worth the time investment as they now stand out from the noise and are more likely to get read and replied to.
Lack of research. To effectively customize a message, you need to understand the recipient. This is time-consuming, but will materially improve your conversion rates. Something a simple as ‘I read about your recent investment in [company] and was particularly interested in…‘ can make your message stand out from the crowd. It does not guarantee a reply, of course, but it shows a higher level of engagement.
Reading this, many entrepreneurs may be thinking that venture capital firms are unlikely to back companies that approach them via a cold message and conclude that time invested in research and message customization is a waste of time.
This may have been true in the past, where more weight was given to the importance of a ‘warm introduction’, but today the industry is taking positive steps to become more open and most investors are actively looking to meet entrepreneurs from outside their immediate networks.
However, investing time in your cold outbound strategy is about more than just improving conversion rates and outcomes. Continuing to send poorly thought through messages can over time come to reflect badly on you and your organization.
For entrepreneurs, spending a few moments to think through all the content that gets sent out on your behalf is a useful exercise to protect your personal brand and reputation in the market.