Starting out as a one-person evaluation consultant in 2008-09, the main outreach/marketing “hustling” tool that I knew well was writing cold emails to prospective clients – all at various research and evaluation firms in the beltway area. I had just completed my Ph.D. and was “so ready for the consulting market to give me work,” or so I thought.
It was hard labor with an often very low success rate. It was disappointing at best.
Mostly people were courteous, some politely refused, and/or deleted my emails with/out reading the content, or my emails went into their spam/junk folders (from an unknown sender).
Many congratulated me for completing my Ph.D. and wished me luck. Some offered advice on where to look for work – both in the industry and academia.
Sometimes, when I think about those days, I wonder what could I have done right/better or maybe faster to build my business and my brand earlier on.
Today seems to be one of those, “Should’ve, could’ve, and would’ve,” for some reason. No regrets, though. Only lessons learned.
Here’s what I have learned: There are no short cuts.
1. Do your research about your prospective client(s) (e.g, read about them, their areas of expertise, current research, grants, publications, workplace).
2. Tailor your message to the recipient (e.g., a personalized message helps, always use their name/title to address them).
3. Make it relatable to the extent possible (e.g., do you have a common reference/contact, maybe you saw them at a conference, read their work, maybe heard that they were hiring).
4. Give them something they (may) want. What is it that you are offering? (e.g., your skills/time/talent, unique contribution to help with their work/needs) (this could be a bit tricky as most often, we don’t know what we don’t know).
5. Keep it short, easy to read, and actionable. Maybe include a one page CV/summary or a web link.
6. Be courteous and professional.
7. Be grateful. Being humble or even a bit vulnerable may go a long way.
8. Don’t resend the same email with added “selling” content – that shows desperation. (I know some people may say, send the email at least twice but I try not to.)
9. If they do respond, always revert with a short “thank you note” and be grateful for their time (and advice, if they provide any).
10. Don’t use a template. (I just dislike them.)
Although, I don’t recall how often I’ve been successful getting evaluation consulting work via cold emails, I can say for sure that when I did try a bit harder to not please anyone or look desperate in my emails, I was much more happier and perhaps successful too.
I often remind myself – what’s the worst that would happen when you cold email? They would simply say “No, thanks,” or just ignore your email. But, life goes on.